Sports betting 101-school is never out

Sep 19, 2018 3:00 AM

Sports betting can be both fun and profitable, but for the sports betting pros the fun does not come from being fans of the game but in winning the bet and getting a return on investment. This simple point makes a world of difference between a sports fan who bets for a cheering interest in a game and a sports bettor looking to make money.

Let’s go over some basics. When you make a sports bet, while you make the bet with the book, if the book is run properly you are really betting against other sports bettors as the job of a good bookmaker is to try and balance the book’s exposure such that it makes money regardless of the outcome of the game.

Though the common notion and sentiment is you are betting against the book, the cold truth is you are betting against other bettors and this is something to remember when deciding what games to bet. Games that attract a lot of interest on both teams playing will not always give a fair price as the books know the game will get a lot of interest and the fans will bet into the game regardless of good or bad price/value.

On the other hand, games with high interest on one team and low on the other will usually have attractive value as the book will be trying to attract action on the less popular team. And yes, by logical extension a game with two unpopular teams will usually give the best value as any betting can start a teeter totter of line changes, particularly with small books, and potentially set the stage for the book to be middled (a circumstance where the pointspreads have moved enough that sports bettor can get a bet on both sides of a game at different pointspreads such that they can win both bets if the game result falls between the two numbers. It is the holy grail for most sports betting pros).

Second, the better value is often in the underdog of a game in both price and possible outcomes. Think about this a moment. When you bet on the favorite, the favored team must not only win but beat the spread, where as when you bet the underdog they can win outright, they can lose but as long as they do not lose by more than the spread the bet on the underdog still wins.

Think of it another way. There are four events in a game that can happen: 1. Favorite can win and cover the point spread; 2. Favorite can win but not cover the spread; 3. Teams can tie; and 4. Underdog can win the game.

Of those four possible events the underdog is a winning bet three out of the four possible outcomes and the favorite is a winning bet in only one. So before even considering what the pointspread is, the underdog has 75 percent of the possible outcomes in its favor.

The pointspread is the great equalizer, most of the time. When linemakers cast their chicken bones, read tea leaves, run their computer models, and study their power rankings they will try and come to a pointspread of where they estimate a game will fall; then they will try and estimate based on team popularity and preferences of the betting public what line will attract equal wagering interest on both sides of the game.

The best linemakers, in my opinion, will provide both numbers to the sportsbook operators and continually adjust their prognostications based on continually updated information while others will just provide an opening line and leave the book operators to fend for themselves.

If you are wondering why not just use the linemaker’s number as to where the game will fall, as has been stated here and in past columns, the bookmaker’s job is to balance their exposure on a game, not worry about who wins it. That means from their perspective the pointspread needed to get equal action on both sides of a game is the more important number, but if they have to take exposure they want to be on the expected winning side of the bet.

Sports betting professionals keep all the above in mind when they start studying game match ups and looking for those games where their own calculated expectations have the biggest differences with the sportsbooks and then target those games for their investment/betting dollars.

Over the years I have learned the best sports bettors are fans of the sport they bet, but not fans of players or teams, so they rule their bets with logic not their heart. They also have sharp eyes for team and player stats along with performance history while looking for any information that will give them a leg up with their bets.

While there is no perfect betting prognostication that can tell when an injury will occur, or a referee will blow an unreviewable call, or even when a fumble or interception will occur, keeping a few of the above points in mind might, when choosing what games to bet on and in making your bets, provide surprising dividends. In the words of one the best sports bettors I ever met, “betting on the favorites makes watching the games more fun but not necessarily more money.”

As legalized sports betting continues to expand and suffer the fumbling of growing pains of inexperienced book operators, and with regional team favorites creating gaps in point and money-line spreads from book to book, the next few years are looking good for the professional sports bettors as well as the disciplined sports betting enthusiast to make more than just a few dollars on their sports investments/wagers.