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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 17:37 GMT
Lecturers claim to beat the bookies
West Brom v Fulham
One of the most popular spread bets is on bookings
Economists in Nottingham claim to have found a way to beat the bookies and cash in on spread betting.

Two lecturers say the key thing is for punters to take advantage of different odds offered by spread betting companies in the city.

Their study was based on spread bets in one of the most popular markets - the number of bookings "points" in Premier League football matches.

This is where people gamble on how many points teams in a match will clock up, given that there are there are 10 points for a yellow card and 25 for a red.

'The Quarb'

The economists, Dr Leighton Vaughan Williams of The Nottingham Trent University and Dr David Paton of the Nottingham University Business School, presented their work to the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society.

Dr Vaughan Williams said: "Punters using the system pinpointed by our research would have won in more than 60% of matches examined over the last two seasons.

"The key to the system is identifying those cases where one bookmaker is offering prices out of line with their competitors."

A punter staking a modest 5 per point in each case would have won almost 5,000 over the two years

Dr Leighton Vaughan Williams

Dr Vaughan Williams - who is also the director of the Betting Research Unit at Nottingham Trent - says the trick is to add up the spread offered by all the bookies and then find the average.

If one of the bookies is offering a spread outside of this average, bet on that.

The economists have coined a new phrase - the "quarb" or quasi-arbitrage - to identify cases where companies offer prices that are different but not so far apart from the others that the bookies bring in an arbitrage.

An arbitrage position is opened by, Dr Vaughan Williams says, where one bookie is offering a spread which is very different from its competitors.

When that happens, bets are restricted because potentially it is possible for punters to bet so that they make a sure profit, by "buying high with one company and selling low with another".

Secret

He said: "Quarbs are more common than true arbitrages, and spread bookmakers are much less likely to restrict the number of bets on them.

"Although betting on a quarb does not guarantee you a profit, we found 140 cases during the last two Premier League seasons.

"Of these, 86 would have been winning bets and only 50 would have lost.

"A punter staking a modest 5 per point in each case would have won almost 5,000 over the two years."

He would not reveal to BBC News Online whether he had made a personal fortune from his calculations.

"That is between me and my book-maker," he said.

And he offered this warning: "Spread betting is notoriously volatile and it is possible to lose a lot of money in a short period of time."

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