Sports Betting – How do you make your betting decisions?

Sports betting is an interesting pursuit: on one side are the sportsbooks, who rely on estimated odds and lines plus “juice” to make a profit; and on the other, you have sports bettors who have the ability to spot weaknesses in sportsbook lines and exploit them.

Such is not the case with casino gambling, where the odds are fixed and never change. You can improve your odds at blackjack by counting cards, but you can never level the house edge to zero. There are only a handful of exceptions in casino gambling where odds might be favorable to a player, but these cases only occur when highly experienced gamblers make the right call at the right time. Otherwise, if you’re just a recreational casino player, you’re no better off than the next guy sitting next to you.

Sports betting, on the other hand, can be beat. As we mentioned, the odds and lines on sports are not true odds. In fact, there is no way to discern exact odds on a sports contest, because you have to factor in the unknown; which by definition, is unpredictable and unforeseeable 🙂 . Therefore, sportsbooks can not always set up betting markets that favor the house. Instead, they must rely on oddsmakers to correctly assess the betting market, and hopefully setup a situation that yields profit. You may have heard people say, “…the books got crushed last weekend…” or “…the players beat the books…”. Essentially, this means that player wagering outweighed the predicted action suggested by the sportsbook’s odds, and the sportsbook ended up paying out more than it took in. In more technical terms, the sportsbook’s “hold”, or percent amount of the total handle kept by the house, was marginalized.

This leads us to the next logical question: how do you make your betting decisions? Well, the answer to that question is truly the proverbial “can of worms”. We profiled various types of sports bettors, and condensed the results into 4 different bettor stereotypes. See which one describes you.

4 Types of Sports Bettors

  • You Use the $19.95 Ronco Sports Betting System, as seen on a late night infomercial. – Let’s be real, folks. Do not ever waste your time or your $20 on a system hawked by infomercial marketing wizards at 3:00 AM in the morning. If all you had to pay was $19.95 to learn to beat a sportsbook, there would be A LOT of rich people and very few sportsbooks. The simple truth: any “system” advertised on TV or the internet is really just a way to scam you out of your money. Remember, every customer testimonial in these advertisements has the following caveat emptor: “Results not typical, Your results may vary”. That’s the catch: they found 3 guys who happened to get lucky, and turned their experience into a 30 minute ad. Don’t ever make betting decisions by these so-called “systems”. Would YOU part with a way to beat the books for only $19.95? Probably not.
  • You Buy a Pick from A Handicapper – This point is where the scale slightly moves in the player’s favor, but only by a nominal amount. Sports handicapping, like any “predicting the future” business is full of charlatans and halfwits who try to make you believe that they know the result of a matchup before it ever happens. Most of these people are in a sales boiler room, trying to hustle as much money out of you as possible. What’s more, they probably just flipped a coin for their so called “prediction”. There are, however, some professional handicappers that do actually research their games and provide worthwhile analysis of a future sporting event. Remember, though, that even the “best” handicappers never average better than a 60% win percentage in a given season (or life time average), while the vast majority of “cappers” barely crack 50%. In other words, flip the coin yourself: you’re no better off spending $20 on a pick.
  • You make decisions Watching Sports Center, Reading Sports Illustrated, and Analyzing Box Scores – If you make betting decisions based on your own research, you’re moving into a much better light. If you can intelligently come to a conclusion about how to bet on a given matchup, you’re essentially becoming your own handicapper, and the best part is that you’re not paying anyone for picks. Remember, though, that relying on sports media publications isn’t a surefire way to win at sports betting: every magazine, TV show, or radio broadcast has its slants and biases, so you’re going to have to separate the facts from fiction. As always, make sure you watch your games and take mental notes. Also, it helps if you bet on one or two teams that you follow closely, opposed to trying to make bets on teams that you know little about. It makes little sense to bet on the Chicago Bears, for example, if never watch any of their games. Stick to what you know, and you might surprise yourself.
  • You Make Betting Decisions by Analyzing Sports Results AND Analyzing Sportsbook Odds/Lines – This is the top end of sports betting decision making: not only do you study sports, but you also study sportsbook lines and plan your bets around spotting “bad lines” or other inconsistencies. The sportsbooks like to call these players “sharps” or “wiseguys”, because they know the ins and outs of how sportsbooks work; and use that knowledge to their advantage. As we mentioned at the top of this article, sports linesmaking is not an exact science. As a result, this means highly experienced sports bettors can figure out when a sportsbook is vulnerable, and exploit this weakness for profit. If you’re a wiseguy, chances are, your sportsbook probably offers you special lines, because they don’t want you to clean them out. Some “recreational players only” sportsbooks may even ban you from playing. Congratulations, you’re at the top of the sports betting food chain: and there’s always someone willing to take your action.

In sum total, it literally pays to know your stuff when it comes to sports betting. Unlike casino games, which are fixed against the player, a knowledgeable sports bettor can learn ways to beat the house and make a killing. To be sure, we’re not talking about guys that somehow manage to hit 10 team parlays; that is just pure luck. Who we are talking about, however, are the players that pick away at a sportsbook making wagers “here and there” on games that they know will turn out in their favor. So, just like anything else, practice and study if you want to get better. Otherwise, bet small amounts of money, enjoy occasional wins, and don’t quit your day job.

Good Luck from!