I’m known as a skeptic among handicappers when it comes to the numbers-based systems used to determine the best sports bets. Basketball, baseball and American football pundits (and especially high-roller sharks) can get pretty far up the road with their quest to “find the number,” focusing more on the Vegas and London odds than the game or season itself.
As Marcus Aurelius said, “What of it?”
The outcomes of competitions are determined by what happens in – duh – the actual competitions. While bookies and betting junkies sit around putting numerical values on teams, coaches, and players, the battles themselves are full of twists and turns which are impossible to quantify.
The reason a Queen is worth 9 units on a classical chess board is because the squares and the circumstances of Move 1 never change unless you switch from white to black. On the gridiron, Tom Brady might be worth 4 or 5 touchdowns in one 60-minute outing. But at the recent Super Bowl he only produced a small handful of points.
Long-time sharks like to talk about having the best “information.” Well, information is great. But you’ve got to understand and appreciate the sports themselves in order to know how to react to the information. Otherwise, you’re making picks in a vacuum.
However, it’s wise not to overlook the value of betting stats. Statistics collected on gigantic sample sizes of won/lost wagers over time can give us insight into where the bookmaker’s advantages and weaknesses lie.
Having a bead on the likely outcome of a contest is only one step. The next step is to invest your stake in ways which reduce the ability of online betting sites to always win on aggregate no matter how accurate the gambler’s handicaps.
That means knowing exactly what betting success looks like – and knowing how to identify a stupid bet before you err and make one. Here are 4 sports gambling statistics to inform your next round of wagers on the internet or at the betting book.
Point Spread Betting: Surpassing the Magic Number
Given a standard (-110) payout line on every point spread wager (not that that’s the scenario in real life, but we’ll call it an average) it takes winning 52.4% of your ATS bets to break even at the sportsbook.
The number probably makes it seem like sports betting sites have less of an advantage than they really do. I nailed 61% of my point spread and Over/Under picks (which also carry a standard (-110) payoff) for NFL and NCAA football a season ago. I didn’t get rich. Part of that is because I don’t gamble all the time, but another factor involves the ways in which the sportsbook lures clients into a scenario where it takes a lot more than a 52.4% winning clip to get above the water line.
Here’s a pair of dangerous betting tropes that allow the house to get ahead even if the bettor only picks out ATS and O/U total markets:
- Always playing the side of the line Vegas is leaning to
A sportsbook might offer a “pick’em” spread on a match that handicappers in Las Vegas (or London) really do not expect to end in a tie. The slightly-favored team or athlete is given a payoff line closer to (-115) or (-120) than (-110) in those circumstances. The gambler, having analyzed the bout in a similar fashion to her bookie, plays the pick that feels like the right one without regard for the casino’s %.
But when the vig is increased to 15% or 20% much of the time, that easy-sounding 52.4% milestone becomes nill, null and void.
My advice is to play contrarian against the handicappers’ consensus whenever possible. Or at least against the public consensus. Sometimes the betting public can drive the vig higher for a certain market due to the popularity of gambling on the Dallas Cowboys, the Duke Blue Devils, the L.A. Galaxy and other marquee teams in various sports. The bookmaker knows that the game is a toss-up. But he’s compelled to raise the house % for the more popular of the picks. That means that the payoff line for the less-popular club or school will be adjusted to (-105) or a similar number.
Try to make sure all of your ATS and O/U picks average a 10% vig or less. If you can make your average gamble a (-110) or (-109) payoff, you eliminate any additional advantage on the sportsbook’s side. If you can make it (-107) or (-106) on average, then you don’t even have to nail 53 out of every 100 bets to turn a profit – the 52.4% benchmark actually begins to shrink slightly.
- Letting the spread or O/U affect your handicap
Try not to look at the betting lines before making a prediction on the outcome of a ballgame. The technique is called “line-forecasting” and helps avoid the psychological foible of letting the sportsbook’s offer change your mind.
The gambler might believe that Clemson is going to win by 2 touchdowns, but when she sees (-24) at the betting site, that belief is shaken. They must see something I don’t, she thinks. What if it’s the other way around?
Looking at the odds before even considering a match-up is a daily habit for most of us. I’m guilty too! But trusting your own analysis is crucial in avoiding the “randomization” trap that bookies are hoping to snare us into. 100 random picks with 50 wins and 50 losses equals less $ than what you started with. When the sportsbook makes a clear mistake, don’t question your prediction. Pounce!
The Near-Impossibility of Winning a March Madness Bracket Sweepstakes
March Madness is a time of year in which the phenomenon we’ll call “soft gambling” or “stealth” gambling takes place. Mainstream websites and sports news providers offer national sweepstakes on picking a close-to-perfect NCAA Tournament bracket that beats all-comers in accuracy.
Customers buy-in hoping to get lucky and call 32 correct outcomes in the Round of 64. If they fail to reach that number of successful picks or anything close to it, the bracket is quickly “busted.” So some fans wind up playing multiple brackets in many different sweepstakes to try to compensate for the likelihood of getting tossed out of the running early-on against thousands or millions of others.
Many such “soft” gamblers look down on full-time handicappers and sportsbook junkies. They’re gambling too, though, just like buying a lottery ticket is gambling. The problem is that you’ve probably got a better chance to win a small lottery or raffle than to choose an immaculate March Madness bracket.
The odds of predicting every winner in every March Madness contest in a given year – i.e. that elusive perfect bracket – are a staggering 1 in 24,000,000,000,000 according to (of all places) Duke University.
At least the chances of Duke going to the Final Four are usually – ahem – slightly better than that. Instead of “soft” gambling on sweepstakes at fantasy sites, try betting on individual games and teams. Making a futures wager on a single school from each Region bracket of 16+ teams is great fun thanks to the thrill of cheering “your boys” all the way to the Final Four.
And you don’t need to turn a notebook sideways to jot down your odds of success on those bets.
Another Virtual Lottery at the Racebook
We’ve had a lot of fun (and success) on our blog predicting Tiger Roll’s past and current glories at the Grand National in England. The horse won last season’s Biggest Race of All despite doubts about his age and experience.
But notice that we never recommended a wager on “Tiger Roll plus Thoroughbreds x, y, and z” in a trifecta or superfecta. That’s because those markets give such a crushing advantage to the bookmaker. While the promised payout might look great on a betting slip, the actual chances of predicting a 1-2-3 finish in a race are 1 in 336 on average.
The media doesn’t help with its lore and legends about winning long-shot combinations at the track. There are stories every year about how some old woman made a trifecta or superfecta pick with hatpins or some other random method and won untold riches. It happens…about as often as people win Powerball drawings.
Pick a single animal to win, place or show at the Kentucky Derby or Grand National. It’s the only way to minimize the odds-on advantage enjoyed by the racebook – usually a much greater odds-on advantage than is ever enjoyed by the most celebrated Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds.
Our 10%-Plus Rate of Return on Recommended Bets
Finally, at the risk of “tooting our own bugle” as they say, I’d like to point out that LegitGamblingSites.com reeled-in more than a 10% positive rate-of-return on all recommended bets in 2018. While the streak of success is thanks to my coworkers’ passionate love of sports and wise predictions, it’s worth mentioning what Legit Gambling Sites authors are not. We are not employed by sportsbook bosses and we don’t contribute to the sportsbooks’ own “handicapping” blogs.
You probably didn’t read a lot of Los Angeles Rams touts for the Super Bowl earlier in February if all you did was click around the site map of various betting sites and sportsbook affiliates. That’s because, while handicappers almost always sell ads (or picks) on their blogs, the bloggers working directly with bookmakers are salespeople instead of genuine pundits.
“The Boston Celtics have covered the spread 6 times in a row when playing in the Central Time Zone on Tuesday!” a sportsbook’s “trends” section may exclaim. Except there’s no betting value in that sort of trend. It’s just a coincidence. Another blogger may point out that Boston’s fierce outside defense is likely to help prevent an NBA point total from going over the Vegas O/U line. That’s a wiser angle. But you aren’t likely to find it by clicking around any website that itself books action.
I’m not saying the people who post trends and information at betting sites are sabotaging the gamblers. They’re not told to post bad predictions on purpose – just shallow ones.
Good predictions come with background, analysis, and an eye toward how the betting public (and Las Vegas) is feeling headed into a sporting event. You can find such predictions on our blog, but we’re not the only one! For instance, fans of horse racing should check out Bloodhorse and similar sites to find other honest and in-depth stories dedicated to helping bettors find the right picks.
Last but not least, remember to use your noggin and trust your own instinct when finding the best bets that fit both your bankroll-management method and the sporting scenario at hand.
We can show you how to get to 52% or 53% or even 55% accuracy on picks – but wagering on those picks in a smart, responsible, and profitable way is ultimately up to the gambler.
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