Fading the Public Sports Betting Strategy

Fading the public is a simple, time-tested way sharp sports bettors find an edge. The idea is simple enough: bet against the public when it favors one side over the other for irrational reasons. Many times, the recreational gambler will bet on a team merely because they’ve been a longtime fan.

When many thousands of people do the same, the team’s line moves into heavy favorite territory, making the underdog a more appealing wager. Fading the public is similar to shorting a popular stock. If the crowd is buying a stock irrationally, there will come a time when shorting it is a better idea.

Keep this betting strategy in your handicapping arsenal, particularly for major sports matchups with large and liquid betting markets.


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Table of Contents

  1. Fading the Public Defined
  2. Unbalanced Markets
  3. Example
  4. How to Fade the Public
  5. Public Betting Biases
  6. Betting Events

What is Fading the Public?

Fading the public is betting against uninformed gamblers that have placed more wagers on one side than the other, while the actual money bet on each side is about the same. The imbalance in the number of wagers versus the amount of money bet offers an opportunity to go against the crowd.

It’s likely many backing the favorite side are doing so for sentimental or emotional reasons. This might artificially make the side more of a favorite than it actually is. Therefore, backing the other side – going against the public – is actually the better bet and potentially more profitable.

Like Contrarian Short Selling

Fading the public is similar to short selling an overvalued stock. This happened quite a bit during the dot-com bubble that took place from the late 1990s to 2000. Novice investors frantically bought any and every internet startup that went public, hoping to become rich in the process.

In reality, these stocks quickly became overvalued. The crowd that was chasing them ignored obvious signs that these businesses were unlikely to last. In stepped experienced short sellers, profiting as the stocks rapidly lost value. The short sellers effectively faded the public, profiting when uninformed investors didn’t realize the true value of the companies they were backing.

The same thinking can be applied to sports betting. When you can identify a betting market with a number of wagers irrationally backing a favorite, you can then fade the public by taking the underdog.

Unbalanced Markets

You’ll need to identify an unbalanced market before you decide to fade the public. There are two variables to consider: 1) The number of wagers on each side and 2) The amount of money on each side.

You should bet against the public if and only if the results of your research show a high number of bets for favorite side with relatively even amounts of money wagered on both sides.

Unbalanced Market Example

Imagine a sportsbook has taken 10 bets for an NFL point spread betting market. Assume the average bet value includes the vigorish.

  • 7 bets averaging $10 each back the favorite side. 7 bets x $10 average bet = $70 for the favorite.
  • 3 bets averaging $25 each back the underdog. 3 bets x $25 average bet = $75 for the underdog.
  • The market total is $145 = $70 favorite + $75 underdog.

As you can see, more gamblers have taken the favorite with the amount of money wagered on each side being about equal. The 3 bets for the underdog are sharp bettors fading the public. They believe the favorite’s betting line doesn’t represent a probable final result.

The sportsbook doesn’t need to move the line just yet, as it has taken roughly the same amount of money for each side. It’s not exposed to any losses since the market is balanced. Whether or not the point spread line is accurate doesn’t matter. It’s actually more important that the sportsbook has minimized its risk.


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Fading the Public Example

Imagine the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC championship game. The Cowboys open as the -2.5 favorite.

Most consider the Cowboys to be one the NFL’s most popular teams. The Arizona Cardinals, however, don’t have nearly as strong of a following as the Cowboys. And the Cardinals haven’t made the Super Bowl since the 2008-09 season, when they lost 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As expected, Cowboys fans begin backing their team in large numbers. A smaller number are taking the Cardinals. Three days before the game, the sportsbook needs to encourage more action on Arizona. So they make the Cowboys a -3.5 favorite, which means the Cardinals are now +3.5. underdogs.

Some sharp bettors jump on the Cardinals at +3.5. They believe the final score difference will be much closer than the line suggests. In fact, they suspect the Cardinals will likely finish within 2-3 points of the Cowboys. A +3.5 line gives them plenty of room for error. Betting on the Cardinals is a no-brainer, even if their hearts are with the Cowboys.

Minutes before kickoff, the line moves again. Now the Cowboys are -4 favorites. It turns out many thousands of recreational bettors are lining up for the Cowboys. Meanwhile, a comparatively smaller number of smart gamblers are betting big money on the underdog Cardinals.

The Cowboys win 21-20 and head to the Super Bowl. But the gambling public that backed them get beat badly. The sharp bettors who took the Cardinals at +2.5 to +4 prevail, cashing in big time on a sentimental favorite that failed to cover the spread. It turns out the recreational bettors, as usual, were wrong.

How to Fade The Public

Time needed: 6 minutes

How to Fade the Public

  1. Review upcoming sporting events with strong public interest.

    Review big upcoming matchups that are likely to draw a substantial amount of public betting interest. Stick to major sports leagues. Common examples include the Super Bowl, NFL Playoff games, Final Four, College Football National Championship, and major league rivalries.

  2. Research the number of bets and money wagered on each side.

    See if one side has a higher number of bets than the other, while the amount of money bet on each side is about the same. These occurrences are ideal for fading the public.

  3. Shop lines and odds.

    Compare lines and odds at multiple US sports betting sites. Find the most favorable line and odds for the side you want to back.

  4. Place your wager.

    Place your wager and wait for the sportsbook to grade the game’s result.

Public Betting Biases

The uniformed betting public will frequently back a side for irrational reasons. Often, these reasons have nothing to do with the matchup’s opening line. Smart sports handicappers bet the numbers, not how they feel. The following is a shortlist of common public betting biases:

  • Fan Favorite Team – Popular teams will almost always get more bets from their loyal fanbase.
  • Supporting Star Players – The public loves to support All-Star players, even if it means placing a bet against their own interests.
  • Chasing Streaks – A team on a roll will often win outright, but whether they cover the spread is a separate matter. The public will often bet on a team on hot streak, not realizing the final score will be closer than they expect.
  • Influential Marketing – Sportsbooks and adjacent sports media will often market a narrative or storyline for a particular matchup that doesn’t match what’s likely to happen.
  • History-Making Events – When the favorite team is on tap to repeat, three-peat, or potentially achieve some other rare milestone, the gambling public will frequently back them.
  • Pregame Hype – Journalists, podcasters, and celebrities talking up a particular team often convince recreational bettors to support one side over the other. Many times, those hyping the game as just as clueless as those following their advice.
  • Sentimental Journey – A star player’s retirement, stadium closing, or some other once-in-a-lifetime event often convinces people to bet on a certain side to be “part of history”. Many times, these sentiments lead to losing wagers.

Fading the Public Events

The following are common sporting events where sharp bettors often fade the public. Remember to carefully analyze the lines, odds, and public money before placing a bet.


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FAQs on Fading the Public

What is Fading the Public?

Fading the public is betting against uninformed gamblers that have placed more wagers on one side than the other, while the actual money bet on each side is about the same. The imbalance in the number of wagers versus the amount of money bet offers an opportunity to go against the crowd.

How to identify an unbalanced betting market?

You’ll need to identify an unbalanced market before you decide to fade the public. There are two variables to consider: 1) The number of wagers on each side and 2) The amount of money on each side.

What are some common public betting biases?

Common public betting biases include fan favorite teams, supporting star players, chasing streaks, influential marketing, history-making events, pregame hype, and sentimentality.

Which sporting events are best for fading the public?

The best events for fading the public include the Super Bowl, AFC and NFC Championship games, College Football Championship game, NBA Championship games, March Madness Tournament games, the Final Four, World Series, Stanley Cup, and popular rivalry matchups. Basically, any major US sports league event likely to draw a substantial amount of bets from the general public.