Math Sports Betting

January 11, 2023

Most people who want to bet on sports are fans. It’s common for gamblers to place some sports bets, especially on big games like the Super Bowl or the NCAA Basketball Final Four. Still, for the most part, sports bettors are sports fans looking to capitalize on their knowledge of the game, or gamers Earn a little extra cash. Being a fan of a particular sport, team, college, or pro team is a prerequisite for sports betting. Sports betting is also a way for fans to get involved in the game, and it’s not just about self-esteem.

All gambling is math, even games of chance. If you understand the math behind the game, you know the game and can give yourself an edge. Many games, such as penny slots or poorly wagered roulette, are so bad that smart bettors gain an advantage by avoiding them altogether. In sports betting, the math is more complicated. Depending on your favorite sport, consider things like bye weeks, underdogs, quarterback ratings, and injuries, the same enthusiasm that other connoisseurs reserve for fancy cringe.

So how hard is math sports betting? The math behind betting a winning bet is relatively complex, but the method of staying ahead of the bookmaker is reasonably straightforward. If you get 52.4% of your Bets, you break even. We’ll provide more details on that number later, including why you need a win rate of over 50% to break even, but first, some common sense about sports betting and the numbers behind it.


Basics Sports Betting

The easiest way to demonstrate the math behind sports betting is to make an example. Let’s say you and your buddy walk into a casino with $200 each in your pocket. There’s an important game tonight between the Cowboys and the Commanders, so browse the sportsbooks to see the latest news. As you sit there, you’ll know the betting board with some interesting numbers. It looks like this:

428 Cowboy +175

429 Commander -4 -200 38

Some of them are easy to read. Commander -4 means Commander has a chance to win and must win by at least 5 points for bets on Commander to paid-out. The following number (-200) is the tie line, wherein the Commander is the 2/1 favorite. The last number (38) is the total score, the over/under-expected score in the game.


More information on placing sports bets

Look at the greater/less than a number, in this case, 38. If you or a friend thinks it will be an exceptionally high or low-scoring game, or the playing conditions could be better, based on your knowledge of the team’s offense and defense, or information about injured players, you can make a bet.

So how should one know how to bet on sports? You need to know three things:

#1 – The type of Bet you want to bet

#2 – The number of the corresponding team of your choice and

#3 – The amount you wish to bet

Knowing this upfront information allows the biller to get the details they need to bill without wading through your bets.


Tipping and Sports Betting

If you bet twice the $100 and win, you’ll get $440. It would be best if you considered leaving a tip off about 5% of your bonus. Yes, that’s a $22 tip, but you’ve just won an enormous win, and you’re sure to score 20 for whoever helped you win it. If you regularly tip around 5%, you’re more likely to get a free drink when you win, which is all you’ll ever get at sportsbooks.

So, back to the basic math of sports betting. After much deliberation, you and your partner decide to each Bet $100 on your favorite team. What should we do now?

Your Bet calls a ‘spread’ To bet on the Commanders using the point spread. For your Bet to pay off, the Commander must win by five points or more to make up the point difference. Remember, if The Commander wins by precisely four points, the game is a draw, and both players get their bets back. Another option is known as “taking points” with the Cowboys. It means the Cowboys must lose by three points or less for your Bet to win, or if the Cowboys win. So you and your buddy start betting $100, discovering that the standard straight bet odds at any bookmaker are 11/10. To win $100, you have to wager $110. You and your buddy pay the bookmaker $110, sit back with a drink, and watch your bets come in.

These are deceptively simple bets. They are deceptive because they make a football match look like the result of picking marbles out of a bag. Put one black marble and two white marbles in a bag, draw one randomly, and this is your soccer game. After all, the odds are the same: 2/1 for White.

But as sports fans, we know that the math of sporting events is much more complicated. Sports bettors deeply committed to their hobby will subscribe to weather bulletins from the major cities involved in their sport, making huge betting decisions based on a few mph winds in one direction or the other. Then there’s the unknown did any players get injured in the first quarter? Will the weather be a factor? Is a particular player “in the zone”?


How do bookmakers make a Profit?

As we wrap up our reflections on complex mathematical concepts in the context of major sporting events, we’ll return to the more superficial aspects of sports betting. Bookmakers profit from liveliness. What is vitality?

Look at the example above again. You and your partner pay the bookmaker $10 each to place a bet. It is what the standard 11/10 odds in sports betting are all about. You bet on the Cowboys, and your partner bets on the Commanders, for a total of $220. Sportsbooks must return $210 to the winner, leaving a tidy $10 profit no matter what happens on the football field. That $10 intrinsic profit is called the vigorish, the last monkey wrench in the cogs of sports betting.

Sportsbooks will place more than two bets on any match, but this example is for simplicity. Looking at betting totals for different games over the week and adjusting the money line and other figures is another way bookmakers make money. Tweaking the odds by a small percentage point in either direction can affect the balance of the beat and make the book more likely to be profitable anyway.

Essentially, a bookmaker holds bettors’ money, paying them if they win and keeping their money if they don’t. That’s the nature of work.

When a bookmaker sets odds for a match, he includes what the bookmaker calls a “round” into his odds set. Another slang term used for this formula is “juice.” For the sake of simplicity, let’s look at a boxing match where both competitors are equally talented, have equal status, etc. Casual bets can lose money since they have an equal chance of winning. You give $20 to one person; your friend bets $20 on another person. Bettor awards $40 regardless of which boxer wins.

In casual gambling situations, bookmakers don’t even offer money like friends. In the example above, with two evenly matched boxers, an innovative bookmaker would offer 5/6 odds on each. This way, a $10 winning bet returns only $8.30 plus your stake. What does this do for bookmakers? He can put an equal amount of money into both fighters, and he wins whichever fighter wins. If they bet $1,000 on one boxer and $1,000 on the other, the bookmaker would get $1,000 but pay only $830, a guaranteed profit of $170 regardless of the outcome.

Bookmakers are constantly looking at the weighting of their bets and adjusting odds and other factors to ensure their Bets are balanced. While it’s impossible to balance a book perfectly, bookmakers who go too far on one side risk losing money, and losing money in gambling is the fastest way to find yourself in another industry. These factors are why bookmakers usually favor the underdogs over many winning favorites in a short-season sport (e.g., NFL) can cause the bookmaker to lose money. At the same time, a string of upsets (like you get in college, As is often seen in football) is the bookmaker’s guaranteed profit.

The short answer here is that the bookmaker makes money having absolutely nothing to do with your betting. It is almost unheard of for a single customer to be allowed to wager enough to sink a book all by himself. High rollers in sports betting have special perks regarding maximum bets, but those perks often change with the bettor’s luck; maximum Bets increase after bettors see significant losses. When bettors start getting lucky, the maximum bet amount drops (sharply).

In short, the profits of sports betting are not necessarily directly affected by how individuals bet. Unlike casino games or slot machines, sports bettors power the bookmaker’s business, and individual bettors rarely bet against the bookmaker.


Sports betting odds

Remember at the beginning when we talked about the magic numbers necessary to guarantee a sportsbook breakeven week? If you know enough about sports betting, you’ll hear this number: 52.4%. If a bettor can win 52.4% of his bets, he will break even. Where does this number come from?

When placing a spread bet, your odds are -110. Sometimes bookmakers offer the -105 line as a promotion or to welcome new business. But in most cases, if you bet on the spread, you will get -110.

We get a 52.4% breakeven number from the odds. -110 is equivalent to 11/10. If you bet on 21 games, you would have to win 11 and lose 10 to break even. Even at -105, you still need to win a staggering 51.2% of the time to break even.

Look at another real-world example if you need more convincing of the basic math behind this breakeven principle. You got into sports betting after the Cowboys beat the Commander and came home with a nice fat wallet. You then bet on the next 10 Cowboys games, winning six and losing 4.

A 60% betting record (at odds of -110, which is traditional football spread betting odds) would give you a profit of $160. Think about it your $600 profit from 6 winning bets minus the $440 you lost on losing bets leaves you with $160. You spent $1,100 to win $160, which means you would have to wager $6.87 to win an average of $1. So you can see the tiny difference between a 52.4% win rate and a 60% win rate; hundreds of dollars in profit are hiding within those 7.3 percentage points.

Imagine losing one of those six winning bets, leaving you with a 50% betting record. You spent $1,100, won $500, and lost $550. It means that 50% of your records drain your wallet of $50 overall. It is where the energy comes in. More than winning half the time is needed to break even in sports betting.


Professional sports bettor

Believe it or not, some people gamble for a living. Maybe they work part-time at sportsbooks or in other minor jobs in the casino industry, but a class of gamblers spends their entire lives betting on sports. With all the math swirling around in our heads after the last part of the article, it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to do it for a living.

If you know that a 52.4% win rate means you break even, then the easiest way to turn sports betting into a career is to bet enough so that a 53% win rate record will bring you the money you want.

Another example. After completing the Cowboys experiment, you decide to invest $10,000 in sports betting for the first four months of the next football season. This $10,000 is set aside for winning or losing in sports betting.

You plan to bet on 160 games over the investment period. You dream of having a 55% winning record because you win, and losing with a 55% winning record will give you an 88-72 Record. It is an expected profit of +8.8 units. How did we get this number? To calculate your Unit, subtract your total loss from your win (multiply by 1.1 to include vig), and you will have a unit profit.

On each of these games, Placing $460 bets, this number derives from some quick and dirty math on how much you can bet on a week of NFL games without blowing your bankroll. If you maintain a 55% win rate, that will generate a record profit of $4,048. Turn $10,000 into $14,048 in just four months, an ROI of 40.48%.

But that’s all, assuming you can pick a winner 55% of the time. Do your research and look at the records of professional sports gamblers. 55%, while not impossible, would put you among the elite sports bettors in the country and the world.

Professional sports bettors have more to worry about variance than any other type of gambler. Fighting the forces of change means managing your bankroll throughout the season to avoid the negative possibility of completely emptying your betting account. Professional sports bettors have the time and resources to calculate these variances; even software can help you figure out your ideal Bet when faced with negative conflict. But most importantly, professional sports bettors would dream of having a 55% winning record simply because it guarantees you beat the house.


Further information notes:

Professional bettors make money on bets offered by sportsbooks, even with the slightest betting edge. The key to being a profitable sports bettor is finding the border. The line of opportunity that the books offer is vulnerable.

It is why many long-time sports bettors are math freaks. Good sports bettors understand statistics, especially inferential statistics, although advanced mathematics will help when placing bets.

Here’s what a professional baseball bettor might have in mind. After looking at MLB stats from 2000 to 2010 (faithfully kept by various bloggers, data archives, and magazines), he noticed that one particular stat popped up. Example: When the home team starts left-handed pitching the day after a loss, that team has a 59% chance of winning. Good sports bettors can do this kind of math quickly in their heads or on paper. From this information emerged a new betting theory, finding game situations similar to the above example and betting on them. That means he will only bet on games where the home team starts with a left-handed pitcher the day after a loss. Did he jump in and start betting based on the math on the back of a napkin? Impossible. More statistical analysis is needed; he might find that it was a fluke of that particular decade rather than a trustworthy statistic, or he might find a more favorable bet based on his original theory.

Professional sports bettors also keep track of their bets almost obsessively. There is no edge in sports betting that lasts longer than a game. Taking proper notes will also help you test theories about left-handed pitchers and losses, such as the one above. Sports bettor’s bankroll will only last long with a solid track record.


What is a good track record for a sports bettor?

So, when it comes down to it, what is a “good” track record for a sports bettor? Most recreational gamblers who research sports betting see a professional touting his 1100-900 record and shake their heads. It’s a 55% win rate, which suggests to those in the know that this bettor is making money from sports betting.

A good record for sports bettors is any record equal to or greater than 52.4%, as this number or higher means you have not lost money. A winning record of 53%, while not impressive on paper, means you’ve actually beaten the sportsbook and put your money back in your pocket. Ask friends who play slot machines or online poker how often they put money back in their pockets.

A wager of -110 is standard for NFL spread betting, giving the bookmaker an advantage of 10%. It means that even if you do win and you line up to claim your $100, some idiot behind you pays $10 to hand over $100 to the casino.

A good record for sports bettors is anything that ensures they at least break even. You probably made money if you bet on 16 games this NFL season, and you won 9 and lost 7. Taking money from a casino is always something to be proud of.

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