Best Sports Betting Strategies

Best Sports Betting Strategies

Betting on sports can be a fun activity in general, but winning is a whole lot more fun than losing. Losses are unavoidable in this business, but if you find a strategy that produces more wins than losses, you can come out on top as a winner in the long run. Here are a few betting strategies that are included in the arsenal of many successful sports bettors.

Fading the Public 

The majority of people who bet on sports are not experts in the field. They are just fans of the sports they bet on. Some just wager based on instincts, others will look at a couple of basic stats like points per game for and against. These bettors do not handicap the game at a deep level.

If you are one of these casual bettors, don’t feel embarrassed. This is where we all started. But what separates the majority of the betting public that never improves from those that do is a willingness to learn and go against the grain. When you bet on a bunch of huge favorites and keep having losing seasons, it is a natural reaction to blame these superior teams for not doing a better job of crushing their opponents. The astute bettor, however, eventually realizes that the problem may be in the strategy and not just a case of perennial bad luck.

The betting public loves favorites, mostly due to the fact that these teams have more star players, are more hyped up and feel “safer” to bet on than underdogs. The public also likes betting the OVER on Over/Under bets, because rooting for points and offense is a lot more fun than rooting for defense. The sportsbooks know this and adjust the lines accordingly.

Take for example a potential showdown between the Oregon Ducks and the Oklahoma Sooners, two of the top offenses in college football this season. Even the most casual fan can predict a shootout in this one. All of the talking heads on TV are hyping this one up as a potentially record-setting day of offense. As a result, the betting public flocks to the betting windows to fire bets on the OVER.

The sportsbooks know how good these offenses are, too. They also know that the public will bet this OVER at any price. So even if they cap it out to be a game that will finish with about 75 total points, they may set the total at 79.5, knowing it will still bring in plenty of betting action on the OVER.

It isn’t easy betting on two explosive teams to go UNDER a total. Or betting on a cellar dweller basketball team with points against a top contender. But these sides, against the public, are unequivocally where the value lies as you are getting spreads and totals that will almost always be skewed a few points in your favor. 

Tracking Line Movements

When it comes to making wagers, getting the best price on your bets makes all of the difference. Getting in on a moneyline favorite at -120 (bet $120 to win $100) instead of -135 will save you a lot of money on your losses in the long run, while finding an underdog at +180 (bet $100 to win $180) instead of +160 will make you more money on your hits in the long run. And when it comes to spreads, even a half point can be the difference between a push and a win or a loss and a push.

Some betting lines don’t move much throughout the day or week before a game. Those that do should be analyzed. If the line moves due to betting action coming in on one side, that is standard; you should consider the side that the line has moved against as there is more value on it now. For example, if the San Francisco Giants are a -140 favorite at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks at +120 and the line moves to San Francisco -160 at Arizona +140, there may be some value in getting Arizona at this new price.

Reverse line movement occurs in rare occasions when bet tracking sites report the majority of betting action is coming in on one side, but the line moves in the opposite direction that it should. For example, if the Los Angeles Clippers are a 4-point road favorite against the Denver Nuggets and they receive 80% of bets, you’d expect them to move to -4.5 or -5. If they instead move to -3.5, this generally means that huge bets are coming in on the underdog from professionals, forcing sportsbooks to keep trying to get more action on the favorite. Follow the pros.

Along the same vein, when you see a sharp line movement right before a game begins, this is called “smart money” coming in on a game as it is usually caused by professionals hammering a side right before it is taken off the board. For example, the Minnesota Golden Gophers might be a +17 underdog against the Michigan Wolverines all week, and then 20 minutes before the game the line suddenly moves to +15 with no injuries or status changes reported. This indicates some big money came in on Minnesota, and even if you aren’t getting the more attractive +17 price, you may still want to join the wave. 

Focusing On One Sport

There are only so many hours in a day. Say that after dealing with your obligations at work and with your family and friends throughout the week, you are left with about five hours a week with which to study lines and teams and to try to hone your craft of sports handicapping.

Which do you think would give you a better chance at success; spending 30 minutes on 10 different sports, or the whole five hours on one? Devoting all of (or at least the majority of) your time to a single sport would allow you to become a specialist in that sport. Instead of barely scratching the surface across the board, you could get to know each team and its tendencies so much more in-depth.

Diving in even deeper, let’s say that instead of spending four hours a week on all of college football, you spend it on one conference instead. Now imagine the potential. With even fewer teams and players to keep track of, you could study every team’s reports and practice notes, keep up with injury statuses and much more.

Needless to say, you should find a balance of sports or conferences across different seasons that works best for you; it should always be fun and interesting. But the less you spread yourself out, the more knowledgeable you can become on the sports and teams you decide to hone in on.

Looking For Fatigued or Distracted Teams

If we were tasked with handicapping two computer programs playing against each other, our task would be a lot simpler. We could just focus on the X’s and O’s and trust that the game will be played as optimally as possible by both sides.

In real sports, however, there is a multitude of human elements to consider. The most obvious is fatigue. A basketball of hockey team playing in its second game of a back to back or its fourth game in six nights just isn’t going to have the same freshness as a team that just had two days off. A football team that is playing its second straight home game has had the chance to sleep in its own beds for the last two weeks while the team playing in its second straight road game and battling a time zone difference will not have the luxury of being so well-rested.

Mental fatigue can also come into play in the game after a huge win. “Sandwich games” are even worse, used to describe a game against a weak opponent that is sandwiched between two extremely tough games. How can a team be expected to get up and play 100% this week when it just battled hard last week and knows another battle is coming next week? It is human nature to not take this week’s underdog too seriously, which sets up a nice betting opportunity on those underdogs.

Late Season Home Dogs

Speaking of valuable underdogs, there is almost always value on home underdogs. This becomes especially true towards the end of the year. Bottom-feeding teams, much to the chagrin of their fans that are hoping for high draft picks, often get hot and string some wins together at the end of the season.

Why? Because they have nothing to lose. And after a disappointing season of loss after loss knocks them out of the playoff hunt, the chance to play spoiler (especially at home) can give a team new life.

When a team fighting for a playoff spot visits a lowly team that has long been eliminated, many bettors will take the superior team figuring that their team will be far more motivated. That may be true, but with that motivation comes immense pressure as well. The home underdog meanwhile will be playing without a care in the world, making them dangerous to the visiting team and profitable to the astute bettor.