If a pitch is fixed, the bookies have a greater control over the odds they give for the match. The odds vary from predicting the winner to session-events. ‘Session’ can denote different things – it could be a pre-lunch period in a Test (no. of wickets/runs/bowling changes); a Powerplay in T20s; or even one ball or one over. By fixing the pitch, the bookies can manipulate the odds they give to various possibilities, including the result, and create events for betting in sessions.
A match like the India-Sri Lanka Test at Galle last year — where the pitch was allegedly fixed —allows a possibility of the team batting first pile up mammoth runs. The bookies then control the odds — and people who are betting are almost playing against them. The bookies have the knowledge (or confidence based on the pitch-fix) that the first-innings score would be huge. They can stack up the odds accordingly, and not many people who bet would be aware of the high possibility of big score. Similarly, a rank turner might mean a 2-3 day game, as was the case with the Sri Lanka-Australia Test at Galle. A constant stream of frenetic action – be it wickets or bowling changes or runs — allows the bookies to create events for betting and place odds on them.
This wild swinging from one side to another is a crucial characteristic in T20 betting in particular: The bookies and the punters know it as “colour” game.
What is a colour game?
Simply put, it means the match would go up and down. One team starts as a favourite and it then swings the other way. Normally, the people who bet big and regulars won’t know how many wickets would fall, but they get information from their bookies that this match has “colour”. Often, they get information that it would be a colour game, an hour or two before the game starts.
The talent of the betters, the ones who place money, is to place the bet at the right time where you can make a greater killing. In all this wide flux of events in the match, the temptation is to keep riding the ups and downs, and wait out for the big kill. In the IPL this season, 50 of the 60 games were denoted as “colour” in the betting world.
How do bookies benefit from this colour?
It not only helps in placing the odds on the winner as fluctuations obviously rack up the odds, but it also helps in the “session” bets. When a team on top suddenly starts flailing around, the odds on all possible events in that immediate phase of play begin to flux. You can bet on top batsman, bowler, higher innings of the two teams, number of runs in that session, and who would bowl next or get out next. The betters start placing the bets, or cutting their previous bets. Both the bookies and people who bet prefer a colour game for this reason as it allows them to place, cut their bets.
Do bookies know what happens on field before television shows?
Already there are apps that anyone can download on phones to keep track of scores. These are different from your regular cricket sites — who normally do scoring, and give description of what transpired in a delivery, after watching on television.
One specialist app called live line updates on what happened one ball before you saw it on television. The bookies have something called “popat line” (parrot line) where it’s said that they get it two balls before it appears on tv. One ball quicker than the app — which means the rest of the world. The bookies usually have watchers in the ground who populate this popat line. The bookies who take bets use the popat line.
It’s clear that if they know two balls before anyone else (not present in the stadium), they can manipulate the “session” events accordingly. They will know a four or a six has been scored, or who the next bowler is going to be and such.
They get session data earlier than anyone, and thus tweak the odds. There is no fixing — that is it doesn’t need the involvement of players or anyone. It’s just a way where the bookies get earlier than anyone. Needless to say if they have a player or a umpire or anyone directly involved in deciding the fate of the delivery or bowling change, then that fix directly plays into the bookie’s hands. But even getting the data quicker than others helps. The end of session bet is usually the final score in the first innings of a T20. If adequate information is available on what’s happening, then the bookie would let’s say know that it won’t cross 170. People are now playing against him. Anyone who is betting more than 170 is going to lose.