In 2020, sports gamblers bet $6 billion in New Jersey alone. That’s an incredible number considering all major professional sports leagues ceased playing for three months.
Sports betting is a popular activity that will only grow more popular as legalization spreads and more people play online. Laying action on a game increases interest and enjoyment.
The rush is fun, but gambling is more fun when you win money. You need a good sports betting strategy to turn a consistent profit.
You can spend days reading about the tips and tricks of the game. There’s only one method worth your time. Read on to learn more about value betting, the best sports betting strategy.
What is Value Betting?
Betting on favorites might mean you pick more winners. Picking winners is only one part of sports betting. You have to pick winners that make you the most money.
Doing this means finding games where a sportsbook over or undervalues a team or player in a particular game. Does this sound complicated? It can be if you don’t understand the concepts.
Understanding American Odds
American odds are based on $100 increments. Favorites are marked with a ‘-‘ while underdogs are marked with a ‘+.’
Let’s use the standard NFL spread odds to explain this. Both sides of a standard NFL spread bet have -110 odds. To win $100 you risk $110.
If you see +110, you win $110 when you risk $100.
Every odds number has a break-even percentage. This formula tells you how often you have to win at particular odds to keep from losing money long-term.
The formula for negative odds is 100/((100/x)+1).
The positive odds formula is 100/((x/100)+1).
With the standard -110 odds, you calculate starting with the formula 100/odds, 100/110, equaling 0.91. This means you win close to 91% of your risk at -110 odds.
Add 1 to that number to include your original risk, giving you 1.91. After you add 1, divide 100 by that number, 100/1.91. That equals 52.4.
For -110 odds, you have to win 52.4% of your bets to break even.
Let’s look at positive odds. Take an underdog bet of +110. You must win only 47.62% of those bets to break-even.
Betting on overwhelming favorites means you have to win many more bets to break even or make money.
Develop Your Handicapping Method
At its heart, sports betting is a numbers game. Finding value is the combination of your predicted outcome vs. the probability and the sportsbook’s predicted outcome.
You’re on the hunt for “soft” numbers. Soft numbers are lines released by sportsbooks you believe are incorrect. To find these numbers, you have to develop your handicapping method.
Any top betting strategy requires research. There’s no way to profit without it. A key to any handicapping method involves you evaluating an individual matchup or game.
Is a team healthy or injured? Are both teams an even match?
The linemakers get paid to take all this into account. They also use sophisticated line-making software. It’s hard to gain a knowledge advantage, but a knowledgeable better will always yield more profits.
A lot of bookmakers rely on probability algorithms and other sophisticated software models to make their lines. Watching trends develop is a great way to find soft, value numbers.
For example, this past NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers started 11-0. Troubling trends developed in the final quarter of the season, and they limped into the playoffs with a record of 12-4.
Their first-round playoff matchup was against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns won three out of their last five games heading into the playoffs. The books had the Steelers as -5.5 favorites.
If you tracked each team’s performance over the last five weeks of the regular season, you’d see that the books handicapped this game wrong. The Steelers faded while the Browns were hot.
Learn How to Play the Numbers Game
Having a honed handicapping method is a good sports betting strategy, but it’s time-consuming. It’s only one part of the way you find bets of good value.
At its heart, sports betting is a numbers game. You have to know what the numbers mean and why they move.
Cruise Multiple Books
Most novice gamblers use one service to bet games. A single service works if you’re looking to lay action for fun, but it won’t help you find value.
Sportsbooks and betting lines aren’t a monolith. Though the books often release similar lines, they’re not always the same. Half a point difference on a spread could increase or decrease the value.
Reverse Line Movement
Lines move based on the amount of money coming in on either side of a bet. The books adjust the line-up or down to get an even amount of money bet on both sides.
Reverse line movement is when a line moves in the opposite direction of the number of tickets on a side. Say the Steelers vs. Browns at -5.5 moved down to -5 even though 80% of the bets were on the Steelers.
That means a sharp bet a large sum on the Browns at +5.5 and moved the line. You will find great value if you spot these number trends.
Bet Against the Public
Sports betting could not be such a profitable enterprise if the public is good at it. Following public betting trends and betting against them is a great way to find value.
The public loves a favorite, so you’ll back a lot of underdogs using this method. If you look at the above break-even percentages, underdog backing shouldn’t scare you.
Focus on Key Numbers
Football scores in different amounts. Three points for a field goal, six for a touchdown, and so on. The key numbers in football are 3, 4, 6, 7, and 10.
Why are they important?
A 3 point margin decides the majority of NFL football games. That means line movement from -2.5 to -3.5 is critical. At -3.5, you’re really betting that the favorite should win by a touchdown.
How do you find value in that? Let’s use the Steelers vs. Browns example. The Steelers are at -5.5. To cover, they’ll more than likely win by a touchdown or two field goals.
You believe the Browns will lose by no more than a field goal if they lose at all. Therefore, +5.5 is of great value to you.
Bet on Smaller Events
Sportsbooks love football. Americans watch, talk about and bet football more than any other sport. Most of the games occur simultaneously, and each team only plays one game a week.
That means the line-makers are better able to craft tight lines. Bookmakers don’t like baseball season. There are so many games and trends.
As a bettor, you’re better able to find value in less popular, less wagered sports.
Find Positive Expected Value
Expected value or EV is the probability gap between your expectations and the sportsbook odds. Line-makers express their probability through their odds.
Let’s take a look at the numbers. The Steelers are at -5.5 vs. the Browns, but the odds aren’t even. The book has the Steelers -5.5/-105.
To find the implied probability of the book line, you follow a simple formula. Negative odds/(Negative odds+100)x100=implied probability.
In this example, the sportsbook implies through its odds that the Steelers cover that spread 51.22% of the time.
If you believe the Steelers have a greater chance of covering, you’ve found your positive expected value.
Consider the Vig
The vig is the percentage a sportsbook keeps on each bet. If you take the standard spread odds, you’ll notice the implied probability of each side added together is over 100%
That’s because the book adds the vig into their odds.
Let’s figure this out using the Steelers vs. Browns. The Steelers are at -5.5/-105. The Browns are at +5.5/-115. The implied probability of the Steelers covering is 51.22%, while the Browns probability is 53.49%.
That adds up to 104.71% thanks to the vig.
Take the Steelers 51.22/104.71×100, and you’ll get 48.91. That means the book actually believes the probability of the Steelers covering the spread is only 48.91%.
If you believe the Steelers cover a higher percentage than the book does, you’ve found your positive expected value.
Finding Value Means Keeping Calm
Value betting means trusting your eyes and trusting the numbers. Novice bettors tend to overreact to game-by-game developments, but sports trends develop over time.
If you follow hockey and a team won 8-1, there’s no guarantee they’ll win the next game by such a big margin. Even the worst teams have a hot game where they receive all the lucky bounces.
That’s what you have to remember. Value sports betting gives you the tools to develop a profitable sports betting strategy. It doesn’t mean you’ll always win. The best strategy can’t control what happens during gameplay.
The Best Sports Betting Strategy is Taking Bets
Sports betting strategy is all about finding a method to beat the book and win money. Sportsbooks always have the advantage. How do you know?
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