When it comes to sports betting, many novices believe they only have to win 50% of the time to break-even. While this may make sense in theory — to an individual devoid of sports wagering knowledge — it’s categorically untrue. The truth is you need to win a lot more than 50% of the bets you place, and below, you will see why.
The toughest reality for square bettors to accept is that a 54%-55% success rate is widely viewed as the ceiling amongst sharps relating to a standard 11/10 sports bet (risk $11 to win $10 — or anything with that ratio).
Overcoming the Juice
Much to the chagrin of novices, sportsbooks take 10% juice (a.k.a. Vigorish) from the losing side of a bet placed. So not only are you competing against your wager, you have to overcome the 10% Vig, too.
As a result, a bettor would need to win 52.4% of the time to beat the Vig and break even. While this doesn’t sound like a daunting number, a bettor would need to win more than the perceived 50% rate in order to compete with this tax of sorts. While not impossible, it’s not easy, and bettors will need to put in a lot of work when it comes to research and strategy.
Example of a Winning Bettor
By now, we’ve established that sports bettors need to win 52.4% of the time, or more, to be successful. But let’s discuss how much an individual stands to win by beating this number.
Assuming someone made 100 bets at $10 apiece and won 53% of the time, you would exceed the break-even mark by 0.6%. This would lead to a $6 profit after the 100 bets were completed. (0.0006 x $1,000) While this $6 isn’t going to lead anyone to a life full of riches, it’s a better success rate than most experience in their typically not-so-illustrious betting career over the course of 100 bets.
But let’s say you make 100 wagers at $50 a game and won at the same rate of 53% success. You would collect $30 (0.0006 x $5,000), which is greater than the $6 made before. While it doesn’t take Elon Musk-level intelligence to understand that, it does display the potential winnings that one could win if risking and winning just .06% more than the universal break-even point.
Mixing Bets on Favorites and Underdogs
A major factor in winning or losing money depends on the balance between wagers on the favorite or underdog. A standard risk management guideline, to begin with, would be a ratio close to 60% on favorites and 40% on underdogs, just to play it safe.
Favorite bettors will lose more money over time by risking a higher percentage of their bankroll because of smaller returns. More experienced bettors keep a ratio closer to 50% on each.
Experienced bettors exceed the 50% ratio plays on dogs when value is clearly presented. The five break-even percentages below are based on standards odds and the 52.4% break-even point.
- -110 = 52.3% +110 = 46.6%
- -115 = 53.4% +115 = 46.5%
- -120 = 54.5% +120 = 45.4%
- -125 = 55.5% +125 = 44.4%
- -130 = 56.5% +130 = 43.4%
While most bettors feel naturally inclined to wager on favorites, these percentages display a starting point where those serious about their craft can educate themselves on how to utilize both favorites and dogs to their advantage.
This isn’t to say favorites can never offer value, because they certainly can. Laying -130 at 56.5% success rate is an acceptable risk to overcome in the short-term. However, long-term profits are harder to turn when the Vig is working against you.
Overall, learning to mix and match favorite and underdog wagers, understanding the 52.4% break-even point, and the importance of overcoming the 10% juice owed to the book are the key to sustained sports betting success.
Jordan Anderson is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Jordan, check out his archive.