6 Tips To Be a More Profitable Sports Bettor
I want to give bettors the advice I wish I was told when I started betting on sports. I don’t consider any of these strategies extremely complicated and many are easy ways to increase your profitability in the long-run.
Utilize Multiple Sportsbooks to Find the Best Numbers
Just like people shop at different stores to look for the best prices, bettors should utilize a variety of sportsbooks to find the best price. For bets on the spread and total, numbers will likely vary by a half-point to a full point from book-to-book. That seems small but matters a lot when hovering around key numbers (see tip number two) and your long-term expectation as a winning bettor. The amount of times you will either win or lose a bet by 0.5 a point is truly astounding. The juice may also vary from book to book. Some books may float a -110 Moneyline on a spread while another has -115. The margin is small but over the long run that difference adds up.
For bets on props and team totals, there can be a bigger variation that can be leveraged in a variety of ways. There’s a possibility of middling or just utilizing the best number on either side. Having access to multiple books is crucial for the success of a sports bettor.
Understand Key Numbers
“Key numbers” are the most commonly occurring margin of victories. For the NFL that’s 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, and 14.
The concept of leveraging key numbers goes hand-in-hand with shopping for the best number. If you are looking to bet on the Colts-Jaguars game in Week 1, Pointsbet is offering the Colts at -6.5 while FanDuel is offering the Jaguars at +7. If you want to back the Colts, betting at Pointsbet and getting -6.5 means the bet would cash if the Colts win by 7 points. If you want to back the Jaguars, grabbing them at +7 means a 7-point loss would result in a push rather than a loss. Line-shopping is important no matter what the number is but even more important around the key numbers I listed above.
Focus on Beating Smaller Markets
This could be the most important point that I make in this article. Beating closing-line NFL spreads and totals in the long-run for meaningful profits is nearly impossible. It's one of the most efficient markets in all of sports. If part of your “strategy” is betting spreads or totals on a Sunday, you are already putting yourself at a massive disadvantage and will likely be a losing bettor. So what should you bet on?
As many of you know, I love betting player props because it’s an exploitable market. The transition from fantasy football to the player prop market also wasn’t a difficult one and the lines are so much less-efficient than spreads or totals. It’s one of the rare markets where I thought there was reasonably-easy access to better projections than the market itself. What I’m saying is, smart people in the fantasy community legitimately make as good or better projections than sportsbooks. What’s interesting is bookmakers actually understand that there are people who put more time into creating good projections on a weekly basis. It’s why they decide to put lower limits on player prop bets and not worry about it too much. No matter what they do it will make up just a small portion of their overall handle (total bets they take).
Some say that lower limits are a reason not to get into smaller markets. Circling back to tip No. 1 in this section, having access to multiple books is crucial. For example, say the average sportsbook limits you to $200 per bet on a single player prop. That might not be worth your time to do a lot of research for only $200 in potential winnings. But if you have access to the ever-growing number of sportsbooks and mobile platforms, you can easily get down $200 at 10-or-more books. Also, to be entirely honest, unless you are absolutely burying the book you won’t get limited for a while. Player props are usually released late Friday or Saturday morning and are ripe for the picking at their opening numbers and often-times are still worth betting as closing numbers.
I just gave the player prop market as an example, but fellow 4for4 writer Ryan Noonan goes a good job breaking down team totals each week. It’s not nearly as small of a market but there are always a couple of team totals providing consistent value.
One of the syndicate groups I know absolutely hammers small-school NCAA first-half totals. I can’t say I understand how they win or their process, but they win at a rate that would be impossible in bigger sports and consistently beat the market over time.
Establish a Bankroll and Stick to It
If you are looking to take sports-betting seriously, treat it as an investment. Set aside a bankroll and establish a “unit size.” This is to keep all of your plays consistent. I’d recommend utilizing anywhere from 1-2% of your bankroll on a per play basis. Betting this amount consistently allows for variance to play out without going broke. If you are betting 10% of your bankroll, even strong bettors hitting 55%+ of their plays would go bankrupt with a bad run.
It sounds ridiculous to write but just because there is a game on TV doesn’t mean you have to bet on it. Sportsbooks see massive differences in dollars wagered during island games vs noon games where there are multiple contests going on at once. Recreational bettors bet on everything and oftentimes just want to get a good sweat going. Professional bettors and those looking to maximize their long-term profit only bet when there is value.
Track Your Bets & Closing Line Value
Start your own excel sheet or utilize one of the apps out there to track your bets. This not only helps to keep yourself honest but can also help for self-evaluations. After an extended period of betting you can go back and see which types of bets you were most profitable on (player props vs spreads vs totals etc).
By tracking “closing line value” you are looking at what you bet a number at, and what it closed at.
For example, if you bet the Chiefs at -9 when it opened against the Texans and it closes at -10.5, you got 1.5 points of “closing line value.” While it by no means guarantees a win, it helps you understand when you are beating a market and by how much.
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about where to start betting on sports or anything I wrote in this piece feel free to message me on twitter @ConnorAllenNFL