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Matchup betting

What is it?
Matchups are hypothetical head-to-head matches between two players who are competing in the same tournament. They are sometimes referred to as match bets or 72-hole match bets to emphasise that they are matches for the duration of the whole event, rather than individual rounds (18-hole match bets). The winner is the player who finishes higher up the leaderboard. To cover situations in which a player withdraws or is disqualified, the Vegas rules state that the winner will be the player who has played the same number of holes and if these are equal, then the winner is the player with the lowest score. Thus a player who makes the cut, but is disqualified over the weekend will beat a player who missed the cut.

The advantages of matchups
There are many benefits to matchup betting. Whereas outright betting involves the study, or at least the consideration, of all players who are likely to be placed, matchup betting involves just the study of two players. Similarly, outright betting involves only the backing of players to do well, but matchup betting, like spread betting, enables you to oppose a player if you have a strong belief that a player will not play well.

And then there is choice. It can be difficult to find many different players of reasonably equal playing ability to pit against each other in matchups each week - and books do prefer to have balanced matchups - but the books do try to vary their own matchups from those on offer elsewhere. This is certainly true for books outside North America and while the North American market is dominated by books that use the 'Don Best' matchups, there are notable exceptions and these warrant a place on The List. The result is that there are typically over 300 different matchups available for PGA Tour events and over 100 different matchups available for European Tour events, which are listed each week here and here respectively. With that amount of choice there are usually plenty of opportunities to back or oppose the player of your choice. There are also typically several opportunities for 'scalping'/'arbing' with the PGA Tour matchups each week as some of the more popular matchups will be available at a number of books and initial prices and price movements do vary considerably from book to book.

The disadvantages of matchups
The main disadvantage of this market is simple: to maximise your number of matchups available you need to have open a large number of accounts at different books. If you are not going to tie up funds by having a balance at each book, then this brings in the issue of money transfer. For UK residents, this is a simple process with the UK books as they all accept UK debit cards and so money can be transferred to and from UK books without cost and with very little delay. For non-UK residents trying to deposit with UK books, or conversely with UK residents trying to deposit with non-UK books, the options are a little more time-consuming and may not be free. The primary options are either using credit cards, though VISA and MasterCard have tightened their restrictions on using credit for gambling purposes, or bank transfer which involves several days' delay and might not be free of charge for the receipt of funds.

The other option, where available, is NETeller. All of the North American books on The List use NETeller and some UK books have started to use this option for money transfer as well - Bet365, Sportingbet and BetInternet. This is an online money transfer program that allows the transfer of money to/from books from/to a central NETeller account to be done fairly quickly and, in most cases, without charge. There are a number of ways of depositing funds with NETeller and these are listed on the site. They do plan to increase the options for UK customers to deposit funds with them, including the use of debit cards.

What if the players tie?
In this situation there are different rules across different types of book. With the North American books, if the players tie, then the matchup is graded as a push. This means that the bet is void and the stakes are turned. With the UK books, the tie is offered as a separate bet and so if the result of the matchup is a tie, then a bet on either player to win is graded as a loss. It can be easily seen from the matchup listings (here and here) which books grade ties as losses from the third set of odds (usually between 14/1 and 18/1) in the list. The final set of books (involves Centrebet and Expekt) grade ties as dead-heats. That is, the stakes are not simply returned as with a push, but that the return on the stake is calculated at half the value of the original stake. Thus if an odds-on player ties, then there will be a small loss on the play and conversely for odds-against players.

There is one exception to these general rules: Intertops. Even though they do not offer the tie as a separate bet, they do not grade a tied matchup as a push or a dead-heat. They determine the winner to be the player with the lowest final round score and if still tied, the player with the lowest penultimate round score and so on. Only if the two players have the same score in every round, would the matchup be declared a push.

Why do you use American moneyline odds for matchups on this site?
It is not that this method of displaying matchup odds is superior to using the UK/fractional format or the European/decimal format, it has simply been the format that been always been used since Tour-Tips first came online in 1999. At that time, the majority of visitors were North American and there was a far greater proportion of matchup plays from the North American books. But books that target the North American market have tended to reduce their matchup offerings or simply clone the 'Don Best' ones. Moneyplays, GoTo Casino and Island Casino produced their own matchups up to a couple of years ago, but now they all use the Don Best matchups and there is little reason to have an account with these books for golf betting alone. Similarly, the best-ever online book for golf was North American-based - Camelot - but it went bankrupt during the 2002 season.

As the number of matchup offerings from the North American books declined, then so did the attractiveness of matchups at the UK books increase, particularly once the 9% betting tax was abolished. The UK books still insist on the tie as a separate bet and this hides the excessive juice on UK book matchups, but along with the European and Australian books, they try to offer a different set of matchups to one another (in stark contrast to the North American case) and so there is now much more choice from the books outside the North American market. To reinforce this process, a couple of important UK books for golf have recently come online or have lifted their restrictions on UK customers - Stan James and BetInternet respectively. This adds further choice in the list of matchups available each week, so although there are less and less North American books appearing in the matchup listing pages, it is a case of being 'locked in' to a particular format that keeps the matchup odds in moneyline format on this site. As an aside, it would be rather difficult (and messy) to convert, say, -115 into a fractional format. For a table for comparing odds in the moneyline, decimal and fractional formats, look here.

What if I can't get the published odds for a player?
As a general rule, the matchup play is still valid as long as there is no more than a 25-cent difference between the posted odds and those that you can find. For example, for a -110 play, take odds up to -135 for the same number of units/pts but no more. The odds of -110 represent a probability of 52.4%, whereas the odds of -135 represent a probability of 57.4%. That is a big jump in the success rate required to break-even, so don't go more than 25-cents from the original odds at the same number of units/pts.

But there is a big difference between not going beyond a 25-cent difference for a 1-unit play and for a 6-unit play. Let's term the standard unit/pt per Tour as 'Tour units/pts', so these would be 1 unit/pt for the PGA Tour, 1.5 units/pts for the European Tour (these will be reversed in 2004) and so on. Just look at the standard stakes for outright plays on the different Tours to gauge the relevant 'Tour units/pts'. So now the rule of thumb becomes:

  • if you can get the same matchups within 25-cents of the posted odds, stick with the same units/pts
     
  • if you can get the same matchups but at more than 25-cents and within 50-cents of the posted odds, stick with the play but at one less 'Tour unit/pt'. So for example, a 3-unit/pt European Tour matchup play would become a 1.5-unit/pt matchup play or a 1.5-unit European Tour matchup play would become a no-play
     
  • if you can get the same matchups but at more than 50-cents of the posted odds, stick with the play but at two less 'Tour units/pts'. So for example, a 4.5-unit/pt European Tour matchup play would become a 1.5-unit/pt matchup play or a 3-unit/pt or 1.5 unit/pt European Tour matchup play would become a no-play.

Remember, these are just general rules of thumb and you may want to adjust your plays within tighter ranges of the posted odds. This is a very profitable area for golf betting and the only real constraint is the number of accounts that you have. It is for this reason that the books on The List are ranked according to how many times they have been used for matchup and outright plays. Having accounts and funds available at the books at the top of the list is far more important for golf betting than having accounts and funds available at the books at the bottom of the list.

This is just an introductory guide, so please contact me on Stanley@tour-tips.com if you have any questions about matchup betting.