Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our 101 section — including Common Sports Betting Terms — or head to more advanced strategy — like 10 Tips to Become a Sharper Sports Bettor — to learn more.
There are millions of sports fans around the world who watch games and likely think to themselves “betting on sports must be easy.” I have news for all who think like that: it is not. After accounting for the “vig” or “juice”, one must hit 52.4% of their bets in order to break even. The most successful “experts” generally get less than 60% of their bets correct. Everyone, no matter who they are will endure a cold spell mixed in as well.
There is no way to 100% guarantee success when betting on sports. However, there are certainly ways you can optimize your chances of success.
In this article, we explain a number of different strategies to increase your odds of making money betting on sports.
Quality Over Quantity
In a typical week in the NFL there are 16 games to bet on. Many bettors will place some sort of bet, whether it be against the spread or on the total of every game every week. Some bettors may identify a busy MLB weekend or night of NBA or NHL action and do the same thing.
While one may have success doing this some weeks, over time it is a losing proposition. Remember, the more bets one makes, the sportsbooks are taking more of your money in juice.
No reasonable bettor would argue they are extremely confident in every single game on a particular league’s slate. Some would admit they are doing it just to have action and be invested in every game.
Examine the games you are interested in betting on, and prioritize the ones you feel most confident in. As a rule of thumb, I would not place a wager on more than five games in a given day.
Avoid Big Parlays
Parlays are tempting to bettors because of the potentially big payouts if their bet cashes. A typical two-team parlay will pay out roughly 2.6:1 odds. If one were lucky enough to hit an eight-team parlay, they could stand to win 150 times their original wager.
Every once in awhile bettors will read a story about someone who turned a $10 bet into a five or six-figure payout. Those kinds of stories are nothing more than lottery tickets. Last time I checked, people were not so confident that they were going to win the lottery.
There is nothing wrong with making a parlay bet as opposed to individual bets on the same games. However, do not be tempted by the allure of a big payout while having to hit six or more legs of a parlay.
If you are going to bet parlays, stick to two or three team plays. You will not win 150 times your money, but you will have a much better chance of returning a decent payout than losing your original wager altogether.
Fade the Public
Experienced bettors have all heard some variation of the phrase “The house always wins.” What quotes like these imply is that gambling of any sort, including sports betting, often results in the bettor losing their money. Thus, casinos and sportsbooks are successful because they rarely lose.
In order for a sportsbook to take a big hit, they would need a large percentage of money to be bet on one side of a game and have that side end up being the correct side. If that happened, the sportsbooks would pay out more money than they collected from losing bets.
Since these types of occurrences rarely happen, it is often advisable to “fade the public” on many commonly bet games. This is especially true if the oddsmakers do not adjust the line out of fear of vulnerability.
Take this situation for example. Suppose the Dallas Cowboys were favored over the New York Giants by 7.5 points. There are many resources available to track the percentage of bets and the amount of money being bet on each side. What if 80% of the money was being bet on the Cowboys? Often times, oddsmakers would adjust the line and increase the spread, possibly making the Cowboys as big as nine-point favorites. If the oddsmakers do not move the line it would suggest they are comfortable with their position and don’t mind the financial vulnerability if the Cowboys were to cover.
In a situation like this, it is always advisable to fade the public and bet on the Giants. This strategy is not foolproof, but as long as sportsbooks are profitable, so will you be by employing this strategy.
Shop for the Best Lines
Many bettors have one “go-to” sportsbook that they are comfortable using. These same people may not realize that other sportsbooks may have better lines on games they are betting.
In many sports, even a half-point difference in a line can be significant. If one bet a team to cover an 8.5 point spread, that team would have to win by nine points or more. However, if one got the same team with an eight-point spread, they are less vulnerable since winning by eight is no longer a loss. Instead, that bettor would “push” their bet and get their money back.
With how secure sportsbooks are, there is no harm in opening accounts at multiple places. If you do, you will have the luxury of comparing lines at multiple sites and putting yourself in a position to take advantage of the best line each time.
Take Advantage of Live Betting
While placing pre-game wagers are the more common approach, in-game betting can often be more lucrative. Live spreads are more commonly calculated by sportsbooks using algorithms. Thus, the “flow of the game” is not factored in as much as one would think.
For example, let’s say one football team is favored over another by seven points to start the game. If the team that is favored scores a quick early touchdown, the live spread will likely be double digits. Thus, many bettors find success in live betting taking the underdog in a situation like this as oddsmakers’ original lines are often pretty accurate. One can take advantage of thinking there will be some “regression to the mean” and that the game will end closer to what the original line was posted at.
Do Your Research
It goes without saying, the more time one devotes to doing the research before betting the more likely they will be successful. Doing adequate research can be done in many different ways. One can research weather forecasts or stay current with injury updates. Also, things like how a team is currently playing or past performances against their opponent should also be weighed.
All of these examples can be classified as research that does not require one to dig too deep. If you have to do extensive research into players or teams and feel like you are starting from scratch, you probably should not be betting on those games. Stick to what you know instead of tricking yourself into believing you can be successful at betting on sports you are not knowledgeable about.