Would you call yourself a fan of a particular sport? If so, it may be time to turn your knowledge into money.
In truth, most people betting on sports are that sport’s fans to begin with. Sure, a gambler may place a bet during big games such as the Super Bowl. Most of the time, though, it will be sports fans looking to get in on the game’s action.
Like any other bet, a bet on sports revolves around mathematics. If you understand the math behind the game, you’ll have a serious advantage. This includes keeping track of things like underdogs, bye weeks, injury reports, and so on.
Not sure whether this is the right hobby for you? Here’s how betting on sports works and what you can do to tilt the odds in your favor.
Let’s say that there’s a big game on tonight: Raiders vs. Steelers. You have a $100 burning a hole in your pocket, so you feel like making a bet.
Here’s what you might see on the wagering board:
356 Raiders +175
357 Steelers -4 -200 38
The -4 in the bottom line means that the Steelers must win by 5 points for a bet on them to payout. The -200 is the money line and it says that the Steelers are a 2/1 favorite. The 38 is the over/under on points scored in the game.
To make a bet, you’ll need to know three things:
- The type of bet you want to make
- The number of the team you want to choose
- The amount you want to wager
Keep these in mind to place an accurate bet.
The Math of Sports Betting
Using the above information, you decide you want to bet on your favorite team: the Steelers.
The simplest bet you can make is to use the point spread. Again, this involves the Steelers winning the game by 5 or more points to “cover the spread” If they win by exactly 4 points, the bet will push and you’ll receive your wager back.
One alternative is to “take the points” with the Raiders. For this bet to win, the Raiders would have to win the game or lose by 3 points or less. Either way, you’ll likely place a standard 11/10 bet, which means you’ll bet $110 to win $100.
The simplicity of the bet may make it seem like a game of chance. Of course, professional bettors know that the real math is far more complex. Sometimes, they’ll make wagers based on the direction of the wind during the game.
You may ask yourself, “How likely is it that the bookie will make money on my bet?” The answer is: fairly likely.
In the above example, you paid $10 to the bookie to place your bet. Let’s say you have a buddy who placed $110 on the Raiders, bringing the bet total to $220. The winner will get $210, and the remaining $10 stays with the bookie.
This built-in $10 commission is also known as the vig. Bookies also make a profit by looking at the total number of bets over a week and adjusting the money line. Doing so will bring balance to the books, making the bookie more likely to turn a profit.
The thing about your sports betting odds is that they have little to do with the bookies’ margins. A single customer will never place enough bets to sink an entire book. High rollers get some privileges, but their luck changes over time.
When it comes to sports betting strategies, your main goal is to break even. This involves you winning at least 52.4% of your bets.
This number comes from the odds themselves. Most of the time, betting the spread will see you get odds of -110. This is equal to 11/10, which means you have to win 11 out of 21 games played to break even.
For example, let’s assume you win 6 out of your next 10 games. This 60% record will leave you with a tidy profit of $160 on a $1,100 investment. The difference between 52.4% and 60% resulted in hundreds of dollars of profit.
Now imagine you lost one of those six winning bets, leaving you with a 50% record. This means you spent $1,100 to win $500 and lose $550. Your overall record will see you fail to break even and set you back by $50. This is how the vig gets you.
A professional sports gambler is a person who bets on sports for a living. By betting enough money, even a 53% winning record will have them turn a major profit.
For instance, let’s say you decide to invest $10,000 in sports gambling. You’re shooting for a 55% winning record, which means you must win 88 out of 160 games. This translates into an expected profit of +8.8 units.
By placing a reasonable $460 on each of these games, maintaining a 55% record would result in a $4,048 profit. Needless to say, no bank will give you that kind of return on your savings account. The key, of course, is to win 55% of your bets.
How do you get to this kind of record? In short, you have to be a math freak. In particular, you must be able to understand a thing called inferential statistics.
Let’s say you take a closer look at MLB statistics from 2000 to 2010. You may notice that home teams that start a left-handed pitcher the day after a loss win 59% of the time. After analyzing the stats, you realize this wasn’t a fluke.
What you should do here is create a betting theory based on this statistic. You would look for situations that mirror the example above and bet on them. To keep track of your theories, you also need to keep a detailed record of your bets.
More on How to Bet on Sports
As you can see, sports betting revolves around margins. A betting pro averaging a seemingly unimpressive 1100-900 record is making a big profit.
This is why winning 52.4% or more of your bets is a good track record. This may not look cool on paper, but it means you’re beating the bookies. How often do your friends who play online slots or poker end up putting money in their pockets?
Want to know more about how to bet on sports? Looking for other sports betting tips? Check out the rest of our betting-related content!