Six Steps to become a Skilled Sports Bettor

March 13, 2023

Millions of people have been introduced to a pricey hobby thanks to the growth of legal sports betting. Many new players quickly discover that it’s challenging to defeat the house. However, it is possible to give yourself a higher chance. Examining the practices and resources employed by professional gamblers, commonly referred to as “sharps,” “professionals,” or “wiseguys,” reveals how they maintain a successful track record.


The following six steps will assist you in standing a chance against the house.



Learn your break-even percentage

Simply put, the break-even rate is at which you would need to win a wager to break even over the long run. You have an advantage over the house when the odds are more forgiving than your bet’s break-even rate. The greater the discrepancy, the greater your benefit.


Let’s start with a straightforward coin toss. Betting on the result has a 50% chance of winning since we anticipate the coin to land on heads 50% of the time and on tails 50% of the time. The fair moneyline equivalent for such a wager would be +100 or a chance of $100 to win $100 in sports betting. The coin flip bet would eventually become profitable if you bet on a moneyline better than +100, offering a break-even rate of less than 50%. This is because the 50-50 odds are higher than the break-even rate. If the odds were less than +100, the break-even rate would be higher than 50%, and your bankroll would be reduced.


For instance, your edge would be worse than nonexistent if you were presented with odds of -110 on a coin flip — bet $110 to win $100, as you could see during the Super Bowl. It would be assumed that for every dollar wagered, you would lose $5. You could expect to win $5 for every $1 stake if the odds were +110 or $100 to win $110. Sports betting isn’t as clear-cut as tossing a coin, but if you can calculate the likelihood that a wager will win, you can determine whether you’re using your money wisely.


A moneyline of -233 or greater is required to turn a 70 percent chance of Team A defeated Team B in a baseball game into a profitable long-term wager. Like Team A, any odds better than +233 for Team B, representing a 30% probability of winning, would also be considered a good betting opportunity.


If the moneyline is positive or negative affects the formula for determining the break-even rate:


  • If the moneyline is negative, divide its absolute value by itself + 100. The break-even rate, for instance, would be 110/(110+100) = 52.4 percent for a moneyline of -110.
  • Take 100 and divide it by the moneyline plus 100 if the moneyline is positive. With a moneyline of +110, the break-even rate would be 100/(110+100) = 47.6%.


We’ve done the legwork and provided a list of famous money lines and their break-even points. Remember that you want your bet’s predicted winning percentage to be higher than the break-even rate.


Break-even rates for different money lines


100 50.0% 100 50.0%
110 47.6% −110 52.4%
120 45.5% −120 54.5%
130 43.5% −130 56.5%
140 41.7% −140 58.3%
150 40.0% −150 60.0%
160 38.5% −160 61.5%
170 37.0% −170 63.0%
180 35.7% −180 64.3%
190 34.5% −190 65.5%
200 33.3% −200 66.7%
210 32.3% −210 67.7%
220 31.3% −220 68.8%
230 30.3% −230 69.7%
240 29.4% −240 70.6%
250 28.6% −250 71.4%


Compare prices from multiple shops

You would only purchase a car after comparing prices, and you should do the same while betting on sports. It is more challenging to do this at physical sportsbooks or in states with restrictions on mobile betting, but as long as you have access to numerous shops, you need to compare costs to save money.


Many shrewd bettors view this procedure, often called line shopping, as a significant component of their success.


Jack Andrews, a veteran bettor and co-founder of Unabated, a website that provides line comparison calculators and other tools to educate the betting community, said that line shopping is the single sharpest thing you can do to improve your sports betting game. While line shopping, you seek out the lowest vig, such as -105, instead of -110. Also, if you pay less vig, you will gain more when mistaken.


The wager amount is known as the vig, and depending on the market, it usually ranges from 4 to 5 percent for a straight wager. The vig, or hold, is substantially larger on a futures wager.


No matter the sport, different oddsmakers may provide different pricing and numbers for certain games. For instance, here are the ticket costs for an Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres baseball game from June. The +100 pricing at DraftKings would have been your best choice if you had predicted that the game would end with fewer than seven runs. If the game ends in a tie, you could wager on over 6.5 runs at Caesars for +105 or Pinnacle for +107.


You might have taken a tiny profit no matter what happened by betting on both sides of the market. If exactly seven runs were scored in this situation, you would have pushed on one bet and won the other. Therefore, having access to several sportsbooks is essential for this strategy because each has a different price and selection.


Here’s another illustration from a Wimbledon encounter between Rafael Nadal and Ricardas Berankis. Berankis +8.5 games were listed as +110 at one sportsbook, while -140 at another. To be lucrative over the long run, the later wager would need to win more frequently than 58 percent of the time, whereas the former bet has a far more forgiving break-even rate of 47.6 percent.



Understand the value of a half-point, especially when betting on the NFL

Final margins tend to cluster around the crucial figures of 3 and 7 in the first place, followed by 6, 14, and 10, due to the way that football is scored (three points for field goals, six points for touchdowns, and seven points for touchdowns with the extra point).


Make use of this to your benefit. Yet when a point spread shifts from -3 to -212, converting a potential push into a victory for a three-point favorite, you need to understand how much a half-point is worth. The same holds when it changes from +3 to +312, converting a three-point underdog’s win into a push. In a seven-point game, the value of that half-point, which might transform pushes into victories, confusingly differs from the half-point difference between -7 and -612 or +7 and +712.


If the consensus line is -3 at -110 (bet $110 to win $100), and you can find -212 for -125 or better, you just earned an advantage over the house. I’ll spare you the math. If the underdog’s line is +3 at -110 and you can find +312 at -125 or better, the math still works. If the favorite has a line of -7 at -110 and you can locate -612 at -120 or better, that is also value. If the underdog is +7 at -110, your advantage requires +712 at -120 or better.


Point spreads of -4 and -5 should also be avoided. Simply put, there aren’t enough scoring margins covering these spreads to discover value shifting a half-point. Alternatively, move from -4 to -612 if you can locate a price of +120 or better to support the favorite, or from -5 to -612 if the price is +110 or better.


It’s easier to use this method than you may imagine. Thick lines are frequent in states with various books to select from, but you may also keep an eye on the lines at sharp, quick-reacting books like Pinnacle or Circa and take advantage of a bookmaker that updates its lines slowly. “Chasing steam” is what is meant by this.



Parlays should be avoided, especially single-game parlays

Parlays give the house a significant payout. Louisiana recorded $12.4 million in profits from parlays alone in May, more than 48% of its overall revenue. The state’s oddsmakers make an average of 32.1 cents for every dollar gambled on parlays, compared to just 5 cents for every dollar wagered on straight bets, according to research from UNLV’s Center for Gambling Research. Consider parlays as high-interest credit cards: Staying away from them will immediately improve your bottom line.


They are tough to win, and the odds offered in single-game parlays occasionally fluctuate significantly from those of straight bets, which is why they are so beneficial for bookies but disastrous for players. The latter is particularly true if the wagers are connected, which means that the outcome of one could affect that of the other. For instance, since home runs naturally boost the score, a parlay that includes a player hitting one and the overall number of runs going over is connected. The parlay will pay less than if you parlayed having a similar player hitting a home run with the total staying under, even if the over/under bets remained the same at the equal price.


If you wish to play a parlay, wait until bookmakers offer risk-free bonuses for the full wager rather than merely “insurance,” which reimburses you if one of the legs fails. It’s also best to go all out with these advertisements. They are, after all, risk-free. If you don’t want to wait, check that the odds on each leg are greater than the wager’s above-described break-even rate. This will guarantee that you are receiving a fair return on your risk.



Wait to place your bets at the last minute; do so early in the week

Every market begins with an opening line, the first one that can be wagered on. To reduce the house’s vulnerability, these often have lower limits than lines accessible closer to game time. After all, the first lines are a preliminary assumption regarding the target market. The prices are altered, and the limitations are raised as more information is gathered, such as player movements, starting lineups, injury reports, and sudden action. By the start of the game, conventional wisdom and betting activity have created a mature market with, frequently, lower pricing than what was initially offered.


Try to concentrate your gambling on the opening lines in football, especially those released a week in advance. 32 times in 2021, an NFL favorite started at -212, the crucial number already mentioned. There were just three occasions when the opening line grew worse out of the 19 times that the price improved and the ten times that it stayed the same. In 2021, a starting line of -612 improved on seven of 12 occasions. Blindly betting any opening or look-ahead line at those numbers is a good approach if the price is -110 or better.



Consider the closing line value

Although winning a wager is fantastic, it’s not the sole or best indicator of success. While playing poker, imagine going all-in against a pair of 3s with a couple of aces. You might lose, but it doesn’t mean your wager was foolish.


A similar focus in sports betting should be on closing line value, which is the cost of your wager in relation to where the line closes at a sharp book after the vig is deducted. Many no-vig calculators are available online; however, you should ensure that the book you are comparing your wager with is renowned for taking quick action (such as Pinnacle or Circa). If you wager on the Kansas City Chiefs moneyline at -160 and it settles at -200 after the vig is deducted, for instance, you have closing line value, which is a greater price than what wagerers were given at the very last second. The market informs you your worth is not as favorable if the no-vig closing line was -140.


Finding closing line value does not guarantee that you won’t lose, and it does not imply that you can’t or won’t still win your bet. Yet, it might help you gauge where you are concerned about accepted betting advice. The goal of wiser betting is to eventually win a more significant percentage of wagers with closing line value than those without.

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