5 x 2 Commandments of Successful Sports Betting

What follows, along with my “Sharp Approach: General Approach to Successful Sports Betting” article, The Sharp Approach, are the cornerstones of my philosophy of sports betting.  Follow these tips with an honest, clear head, and you will outperform nearly all your friends/rivals when it comes to sports wagering.

1a: Thou shall focus on winning money, not games.

It is tempting to bet favorites who ‘usually’ win but provide a poor payout.  More often than not you will win your bet and be happy.  But, the payout usually does not justify the risk.  The value is usually in betting the underdog (with the moneyline).  For example, if the underdog wins a mere 40% of the time and pays +160, it is a PROFITABLE play.  0.4 (40%) x 2.6 (total payout 160 win + 100 payback) = 1.04 > 1.  This 4% edge is about as strong a return as a sports-bettor can expect long term.

Note: I know the math may be technical or frustrating.  Please review the ‘bet basics (glossary)’ sections, where ‘convert odds’, and ‘expected value’ outline how to make the calculations – http://sharpedgepicks.com/?page_id=255.  There are a few essential mathematical equations/conversions that are extremely helpful to long term wagering success.

1b: Thou shall focus on the long term.

You are not due to win today because you lost ugly yesterday (‘sick beat’ or ‘back door cover’).  If you make strong value plays you should end up ok in the long run – that may be after 200 or 500 bets, not 10.  Don’t focus on recent history, but ancient, long term results.   If you take a methodical approach to sports betting, focusing on value plays, your results will be much better than your friends’ long term.  However, anyone can get hot during the NFL playoffs or March Madness.  Stick to what works and track results over a long period of time.

2a: Thou shall see what your friends are doing and do the opposite.

Unless your friends are sharp professional gamblers (incredibly unlikely), they are likely the ‘square’ side of the bet.  I.e., they are betting QB Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at the Cleveland Browns.  They will explain that New England is a better team.  If everyone is betting one way, the value is the opposite way; sportsbooks know who Tom Brady is and know more about betting lines then your friends – take the opposite/sharp side.  The Wynn, Venetian, and Bellagio are some of the nicest hotels and sportsbooks in the world.  They have beautiful women giving you drinks as you watch games in comfy leather chairs.  They don’t do this to donate money to your friends.  They do this because they understand your friends are suckers.  One of your friends may claim to understand hockey (maybe because he grew up in Canada or played in college), this does not make him an expert.  The Wynn, Venetian, and Bellagio spent millions on a nice sportsbook and also spent money on expert ‘Linemakers’.  Your friends will not beat them because they know Crosby and Malkin of the Penguins are great hockey players or because The NY Rangers have won 6 of their last 7 home games on a Tuesday.  Sportsbetting markets are pretty efficient (knowledge by way of the internet gets around quickly).

2b: Thou shall read the ‘touts’ and do the opposite.

Like your friends, the media does not know who will win the games.  They report what they just saw and cannot predict the future.  During the 2012 nba finals Durant/Okc crushed in game 1 and Durant was deemed the best player on the planet.  When he missed a shot late in game 2 and the Heat won, Lebron was the best player on the planet.  Really?  Because of one game.  The media gets paid to talk and fools listen.  Do the opposite.  The Sports Illustrated (SI) Jinx has some merit.  After being on the cover, teams tend to play worse.  Why?

-regresssion to the mean: there is luck involved.  Without the Tuck Rule the New England Patriots never win their 1st Super Bowl.  Had David Tyree not caught a ball off his helmet, the New England Patriots would have gone undefeated and won a Super Bowl in 2008.  There is a fine line between winning and losing.

-ego/overhype: the team is dealing with the media sensation and not focusing on winning games.

-overvalue: the team is still very good, but not unstoppable.

The media tends to over-exaggerate everything.  Keep a steady approach.  Like stocks, buy low, sell high.  When a team has won a bunch of games and every newspaper/tv-station/online forum says they are a lock to win the championship or are proclaiming a dynasty, betting against them is good value.  Likewise, when the media is mercilessly making fun of a horrible team, bet them as its good value and they are professionals who tend to bounce back.

3a: Thou shall find the best/safest places to bet.

Getting paid when you win and coming out safely is important.  Do research and bet in an environment you deem to be secure – both financially and physically.  Trust your own judgement.  If you are an honest person, who pays when you lose a bet, you must ensure you will get paid when you win.  Wager versus a trusted friend, bookie, sportsbook, or website.

3b: Thou shall shop for the best lines.

Find the best odds for your particular bet.  Getting +175 vs +165 on a $100 wager is ‘only’ a $10 difference.  Do it on 10 winning bets, and you just earned yourself $100, or a ‘free bet’.  This provides the cushion for bad luck or a mistake.  Research sites/bookmakers for bonuses (money back for losing or for betting a lot) and compare ‘juice’ on various sites to determine the best fit for you.  Some sites give tight lines (low ‘vig’) for baseball but charge a lot for other sports.  If you mostly bet baseball, that’s a great site for you.  Likewise, some sites have generous ‘teaser’ odds.  If betting NFL teasers is your main bet, that is a site for you.

4a: Thou shall honor your bankroll and manage it.

You need money to bet.  Watch your bet sizing.  If you have a $3000 bankroll allocated for an entire NFL season, you cannot risk $2000 on week 1 or you will go bust.  Generally betting 1-4% of your roll per bet is a good rule.

There is a HUGE difference here between casual bettors and professionals.

A casual bettor simply needs to ensure (s)he can afford to pay if they lose and probably that they can continue betting (so as not to eliminate themselves from the enjoyment of placing bets).  If a casual bettor starts throwing things at the TV if they lose $100 on an NFL ‘back door cover’ then the amount wagered is too high.  If a casual bettor cannot take the bus to work Tuesday morning because (s)he lost all his money betting Monday Night Football, the amount wagered is WAY too high.  Manage how much you bet to make the wins fun and the losses bearable.

A professional bettor needs to strike a very difficult balance: bet an amount high enough that (s)he can earn a living gambling, yet not too high that the risk of ruin is likely.  Specifically, if you have an average 3% ‘positive expected value’ on your betting amounts and make 10 good bets a week averaging $5k each bet, your weekly expected earnings are .03 (3%) x 10 (good bets) x $5000 = $1500.  This means you expect to earn an average of $1500 per week gambling.  That is a very good wage.  But, you will go through horrible losing streaks.  Net of juice, a 7-19 stretch is going to happen.  This means losing 12 bets x $5k average bet, so if you didn’t have $60k+ to gamble with, you’d go bust.  Manage your bankroll, increasing your betting amounts slowly with time if you are profitable.

4b: Thou shall never steam.

Do not chase.  Do not press.  Do not double or quadruple your bet size because you are ‘due’ for a win.

You are not due – not today or tomorrow.  Keep your composure.  This is essential if you want to be a professional, or even a larger casual player.  It is tempting when you have lost 5 or your last 6 bets for $300 each and are down $1200 (5 losses x300 minus 1 win x300, higher b/c of ‘vig’) to go double or nothing on the Sunday night NFL game.  But if you lose you are stuck $2400.  Go double or nothing again Monday night and lose and you are stuck $4800.  (5k+ b/c of ‘vig’).  You were only down $1200, now you are down $5k.  Keep your composure and grind out the losing streaks.  They suck and are borderline unbearable, but a lot better than going bust and going home broke!

5a: Thou shall not get juiced to death.

Focus on your favorite bet(s).  Do not make 21 plays at a time or you will end up paying too much juice.  If you make 21 bets and go 11-10 and pay juice, you break even.  11 wins x 1 = 10 losses x 1.1 (standard juice).  Focus on your strongest plays.  The Wynn, Venetian, and Bellagio are gorgeous sportsbooks and make their money on ‘vig’, simple commissions every time you make a bet.  Betting lots of games means lots of small commissions into the casino’s pocket.  Do NOT pay them big fees.  Pay only when you have a strong play or ‘Sharp Edge Pick’.

Note: if you crave action, bet a buddy a beer or a burger, trash talk, and enjoy a game, but do NOT bet huge amounts just b/c the game is on TV.

5b: Avoid uncorrelated parlays and most hedging.

Do not parlay uncorrelated events.  You are simply adding to your volatility without increasing your expected value.  Instead of spending $200 on a 2 team parlay, bet each team separately for $100.  There is no additional juice paid and a split almost allows you to break even.  Similarly, avoid most hedging – why bet a parlay and then bet the other side?  Paying juice twice doesn’t make sense.

Note: I know most of your wannabe expert friends think the opposite- that hedging is smart financial management.  They are usually wrong; they aren’t the Warren Buffets of sports betting.  I will dedicate future article(s) to expand and explain this concept.  For now, go with this logic: you bet under 47.5 total points scored in an NFL game.  At halftime the score is 10-7 and the second half number is 24.5.  Your friend says to bet the over in the 2nd half and go for the ‘middle’.  Stupid advice.  Why?  A few reasons:

-you originally decided under the total was a ‘sharp’ play and so far you are right.  Did something happen in the 1st half to change your mind?  Not the score.  Maybe if 2 star DBs got hurt, but other than that, things look good, stay the course.

-you are now paying double ‘juice’.  Why pay more fees?  ‘Bookies’ and sportsbooks love getting twice the action but it doesn’t help you.

-you are now betting over the total, generally the ‘square’ side of the bet.

-sportsbooks know that the bettors most likely to bet the 2nd half total are those hedging so they inflate the number.  If only 17 pts were scored in the 1st half, why is the 2nd half number so high at 24.5?  Because your friends will tell you to layoff your bet and go for a ‘middle’ without even paying attention to the lack of value.