Every sports gambler wants to think of themselves as slightly better than the average fan. In reality, the vast majority of sports bettors fail to do the necessary research it takes to truly make money over time.
Sharps, meaning those who you would consider “professional” sports bettors, actually turn the hobby into a profitable business.
Unlike roulette, blackjack, or slot machines, sports gambling is less about getting lucky and more about making intelligent decisions that are based on research and data. Sharps have figured out which numbers are good indicators on how to bet, and they use the public’s money to their advantage.
While I can’t guarantee this article will have you quitting your day job in favor of gambling on sports, these tips will hopefully shed some insight on the methods used by those who make money doing something that most of us do for fun.
1 – Study Line Movement
If you’re a complete betting amateur, you might not even be aware that the betting odds change, sometimes significantly, leading up to a game. If you know what you’re looking at, you can take some good information away from these moves.
First, you need to understand what line movement is conceptually speaking. The term “lines” can be used in reference to pretty much all of the odds on an event, meaning the spread, over/under, etc. The numbers will change leading up to the game as money comes in on both sides of the line.
Sportsbooks want even money on each side so they will always win some portion of the overall pool due to the “juice.”
In order for books to achieve their even money goal, they’ll shift the numbers to encourage bets on either side. For example, if the Falcons are playing the Packers and 75% of the money is bet on the Packers at -4, the sportsbook might shift the line to -5, which gives more points to the Falcons, thus encouraging people to bet on Atlanta.
Another example of a line change could be observed when looking at the moneyline.
For example (we’ll stick with the same matchup), say the Packers have a -160 moneyline straight up, and the Falcons are at +150. If the Falcons’ moneyline moves to +180, you know the books are trying to create an incentive for people to bet on the Falcons. This means that most of the public money is coming in on the Falcons.
How to Take Advantage of Line Movements
Once you understand what to look for in line movements, you’re ready to start putting that knowledge into action (pun intended).
One major advantage of watching line movement is that it helps you understand if the line is moving away from the public money (normal line movement) or toward the public money (reverse line movement).
Because sportsbooks want the money to be relatively even in most cases, it can seem counterintuitive when a line moves toward where the majority of the money is on a game. For example, if the line is Packers -3.5 and the public’s money is on the Packers, then the line moves to -3, meaning even more money will be bet on the Packers, that is reverse line movement.
Reverse line movement is important because it’s an indication that sharp money is on the side of public money. People who support the reverse line movement theory would say to bet on the Packers in this situation.
2 – Look for Value
The goal of sports betting is not to be the guy with the highest winning percentage. The goal of sports betting is to be the guy with the highest bankroll.
The way to make money in sports betting is to stay away from the easy plays because the books set the odds accordingly.
Many amateurs get caught up in trying to win all of their plays and will bet heavy favorites time after time. It might seem like betting on a -500 favorite is free money, but it only takes one loss to really mess up your funds.
Simply put, betting on heavy favorites is an unsustainable strategy. If you’re in the “I like to bet $100 to win $20 because it’s a sure thing” crowd, I hope for your sake that sports forgets about upsets. Therein lies one of the key components to why betting for value is a good habit—you’ll rarely suffer “the big loss.” Not to mention, you’ll find that the underdog really is undervalued in sports.
With all that being said, I’m not advocating going out and betting on the biggest underdogs you can find and hope it works out. That’s not value. Value is finding a bet that is a perfect balance of winnable and monetarily favorable.
An example of a frequently available value play can be seen in the options of baseball moneylines. More so than in any other sport, any team can win on any night over the course of a 162-game season. However, underdogs are routinely available for +150 and higher. Research and data has shown that taking underdogs in baseball is profitable because the extra money will make up for the games you lose.
Another way to find value is with alternate lines.
Alternate lines are pretty self-explanatory, but here’s an example. You might be able to bet on the Steelers -4 at -120, but who wants to risk $120 to win $100? Instead, you might try checking out the alternate lines, which could have the Steelers at -3.5 at even money. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may even want to take the Steelers -2 at +115 (hypothetically).
Alternate lines allow you to give away more points, but often pay out in a way that makes it worth the small sacrifice. Again, don’t worry so much about the wins and losses, but the actual flow of money. It’s likely that you will suffer some losses that would have been wins at the original line, but you’ll also capitalize on the extra money you were able to gain through alternate line play.
It is worth noting, however, that there is no such thing as perfect play. Any time you’re looking to win more than you risk, you’re going to be taking an inherent risk. The trick is finding out when that risk is worth it, and then sticking to your guns.
How to Find the Best Betting Value
One of the things that can help greatly in determining which “riskier” plays are right for you is keeping a log of your plays. You might recognize that you lose frequently when you conceded two or more points as the favorite but are having success with betting moneyline underdogs.
Keeping a log will also help you to get a big-picture look at where your money is coming in and where it’s going out. It would be much easier to just say that a certain type of bet is always your best way to go, but it varies from bettor to bettor.
Logging your bets is the only way to find out your strengths.
Make it a goal to find the plays where you get the most value after 20 or so bets. Meaning, try to identify a type of bet where you may have lost more than half the plays, but came out ahead in the money. Those are the bets you want to continue playing.
Winning money in sports betting over the long term is a feat that few people achieve. The good news is that sharps are made, not born. With the right mindset and a little bit of discipline, it’s possible for anyone to have success.
As a parting word, I’d like to point out that it’s often the counterintuitive bets that win out over time. Stay away from the crowd, and you’ll stay away from the majority of the losers.