By Randy Ray
Few forms of gambling give you a chance to win long term profits. This is what makes sports betting special because you can win money over the long haul.
An added bonus is that fans can watch the games with their money on the line.
Of course, it’s far more fun watching the games when your bets win. And to improve your chances of winning, you need some good strategies.
Check out my list of the best sports betting strategies, which accounts for ease of use, advantages, and drawbacks.
1. Focus on One Team
How It Works
On any given day, you’ll find hundreds of betting lines across multiple sports. With so much variety, it’s easy to get sucked into making multiple bets on different teams.
This is fine if you’re a casual bettor who has a big bankroll. But it doesn’t give you a true chance to learn everything you need to make an informed bet.
If you’re a new to intermediate bettor, I highly suggest that you focus on one team and one sport. This helps you gain in-depth knowledge on the team and reduces the time that you need to spend researching each matchup.
Good ways to implement this strategy include DVR’ing games of your preferred team, then closely watching them for player and coaching tendencies. You only need to pick up on a few subtle tendencies to gain an edge over the average bettor.
If you love sports betting, then pick up a new team in a new sport when the season is over with. But once you choose a team and a sport, stick with them throughout the season.
Pros of Focusing on One Team
When you already know a lot about one team, you can spend more time researching the other half of the matchup.
Another benefit is that you’ll gain insight that most bettors won’t have into the matchup. Sure this insight won’t always result in a win, but it will give you a long-term advantage.
If you want proof that this strategy works, then consider that Haralabos Voulgaris made millions of dollars by the learning substitution tendencies of NBA coaches Eddie Jordan and Byron Scott.
Cons of Focusing on One Team
While winning profits is exciting, sticking with one team the entire season isn’t. If you’re really into sports betting, the temptation to waver will be great.
Another problem is that you’ll miss out on juicy lines involving other teams / sports when you’re focused on a single team.
The long term advantage outweighs this problem, but it’s still hard to keep yourself from worrying about missed lines.
2. Fade the Public
How It Works
This strategy is easy because you merely need to bet against the public.
The concept behind doing so is that sports books shade lines to reflect what they think the public will do. After all, a sports book’s primary objective is to set lines that draw 50 / 50 action – not predict game outcomes.
This leads to some soft lines, where, if you go against the public, you’ll gain an edge. But how do you find out which team the public is backing?
Given that sports books don’t release reports on betting patterns, this requires some guesswork. Good ways to figure out which way the public is betting involve asking yourself:
- Is a perennial winner involved like the New York Yankees, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Antonio Spurs, or the Golden State Warriors? Lone-time successful franchises draw more betting action.
- Is there a team with passionate fan bases involved? Fans of the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Boston Red Sox, and New York Knicks are more likely to bet on their favorite teams.
- Does a team have a marquee player who draws tons of attention? Love or hate them, players like Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Clayton Kershaw of the L.A. Dodgers, and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals draw attention and bettors.
- Does a team get excessive sports coverage? If you watch ESPN, you can quickly spot these clubs.
The key is to look for matchups where you think public bias is driving the betting action, then wager the opposite way.
Pros of Fading the Public
If you don’t want to spend hours researching games and analyzing statistics, fading the public is a great strategy to employ.
You just need to look for big-market teams, perennial winners, clubs with diehard fans, and major superstars to get started. And you can win some profits if you’re really good at spotting teams that are being overvalued on lines for the public’s sake.
Cons of Fading the Public
The advantage of fading the public is also the biggest drawback: it’s too simple.
Anybody can employ this strategy, which brings up the notion that if it works, then everybody would be doing it.
This isn’t to say that there’s no skill involved in fading the public because sharp or skilled bettors have made a fortune with this tactic.
But if you think that you’re going to retire early just because you bet against the Yankees every time, then you’ll be severely disappointed.
One more drawback is that online sports books have software in place to spot bettors who only fade the public. If a sports book believes that you’re a sharp who only fades the public, then they may just refuse you service or even withhold your winnings, if covered in terms & conditions.
3. Only Bet 1 to 2% of Your Bankroll
How It Works
Most low-stakes sports bettors puts a large portion of their bankrolls into each bet. The reason why is because they don’t make very large wagers, thus they aren’t as worried about losing money.
Here’s an example: you have a $100 bankroll and bet $25 on a single game.
But if you want to take your sports betting to the next level, then you should limit the amount you spend on each contest.
The reason why is because sports betting is a streaky activity, and even the best go through lengthy losing streaks.
Professional bettors only put 1 to 2% of their bankroll into each contest, which lowers their risk of ruin dramatically.
But what if you only have a $200 bankroll?
In this case, you may need to bet $5 to $10 per contest to meet the minimum bet. But even in this case, you’re only risking 2.5% to 5.0% of your bankroll, which will still lower your risk of ruin.
Pros of Betting 1 to 2% of Your Bankroll
If you have at least a $1,000 bankroll, then the benefits of only wagering 1 to 2% per game are immense.
Provided you have good betting skills and put the work in, then you’re more likely to earn profits with this conservative strategy.
Another benefit is that you don’t have to stress out as much about games when you bet 2% or less of your bankroll. In contrast, betting 25% or more causes far more anxiety when the game/line isn’t going your way.
Cons of Betting 1 to 2% of Your Bankroll
The main problem here is that the average bettor doesn’t have $1k lying around to bet on sports. This makes it difficult to be conservative because 1 to 2% of your bankroll will either fall short of the minimum bet, or result in an insignificant amount of profits when you do win.
You’ll also find it extremely difficult to remain disciplined and make such conservative bets. Pros can do this because their winnings pay the bills, but what about when you don’t depend on the money?
4. Use Software to Create Advanced Strategies
How It Works
You can purchase software from companies like Swish Analytics and Sports Insights to develop your own strategies.
These software programs amount to huge databases that include categories like conference team rank, opponent rank, money line range, team vs. team, what month/year they played in, and if a specific team is the favorite / underdog.
By inputting a number of variables, you can see how teams fare against specific opponents and spot trends that the public doesn’t know about.
On a simpler level, you can find free database calculators that give you a fair amount of options.
Here’s an example using football: you enter the Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders, last 10 meetings, October games between these teams, regular season matchup, road games for Broncos, and how Denver fared against Oakland as a +3 to +7 favorite.
Once you input this information, you can find out how often Denver covered this spread range in the last 10 meetings with the Raiders.
Pros of Using Software
With all of the sports betting tools available today, serious bettors use database and software programs to find trends and put together strategies.
Using these programs is intimidating at first because you have so much available information. But if you play around with the tools and sort out the most-important data, then you can quickly get the hang of things.
With enough experience, you can spot advanced trends that can give you a serious edge.
Cons of Using Software
While it’s helpful to gain advanced statistics for games, this by no means guarantees you a win. Instead, you’re looking for any small stat that will increase your odds of winning.
Another drawback to using software is that it takes some of the enjoyment out of sports betting.
Most bettors get involved because they envision picking winners and watching games from their couch. Sorting through dozens of available statistics to gain a long-term edge is the exact opposite of this vision.
5. Bet Based on ATS Records
How It Works
One of the most-emphasized pieces of information is how teams fare against the spread (ATS), as determined by Vegas lines.
It’s easy to find ATS records because this information is published on a variety of sites for all major professional sports leagues.
Here’s an example: you look up the Boston Celtics, who have a 17 – 12 win-loss record. While this looks promising, you find out that their ATS record is only 11 – 18.
Judging Boston solely by their ATS record, they would be a poor bet.
What’s even better is if you can back up ATS records with trends. One example is that NFL underdogs went through a 5 year period where they were 29 – 57 – 2 which is 33.7% under the following conditions:
- Underdog by less than 7 points.
- Playing a non-divisional opponent.
- Playing next week’s game on the road.
These advanced trends aren’t found just anywhere (until it’s too late), so you’ll need to work with software to find them.
Pros of ATS Betting
Given that the goal of spread betting is to correctly guess who covers the spread, this is a very important stat.
I’m certainly not suggesting that you ignore other data, but ATS should be on your top 5 as far as the criteria that determines your bet.
Cons of ATS Betting
While looking at past ATS records is helpful, they aren’t always indicative of what will happen in the future. Every new opponent presents different challenges which aren’t covered by how a team performed ATS in previous games.
Like fading the public, betting off ATS records is so easy that anybody can use this strategy. It literally takes seconds to google “team name ATS record” and find out how they’re doing ATS.
I recommend using software to put more context behind an ATS record, rather than blindly making all your wagers off this one statistic.
6. Know Stats behind the Weather
How It Works
Look up sports betting strategies for five minutes and you’re going to come across advice about checking weather reports.
The reason is simple: you want to find out if offenses will be slowed down by inclement/cold weather on game day.
This is especially helpful when you’re making totals bets because extreme weather has a definite impact on the score.
Pros of Learning Weather Stats
Anybody can look at the weather report, which is why I also suggest that you dig for deeper trends
Sometimes weather trends are thrown right in your face, like when NFL.com wrote an article about how completion percentages drop 4% in November and January games.
While this stat may not get you a sure win, it’s helpful to know if you’re betting on totals or a team that relies on the passing game.
Cons of Learning Weather Stats
Let me start off by saying that weather is one of the most-overrated stats in sports betting.
Sure, offenses are going to be less effective when it’s pouring raining and the field is muddy. But handicappers take this information into account when forming their lines.
This isn’t to say that you can’t gain a small edge by looking at weather ahead of time because some bettors don’t even do this. But don’t fall into the trap of think you’re a sharp because you look at the weather forecast.
Even the advanced stats that we covered above aren’t going to gain you a huge advantage.
7. Betting Systems
How They Work
Betting systems filter their way into every form of gambling, including sports wagering. These strategies are betting patterns that you follow in the event of winning and losing streaks.
The most-famous example is the Martingale, which calls on you to double your bets after every loss.
The Labouchere system is more complicated since you write down a series of numbers, and add up the numbers on each end to make your bet.
When you win, you cross the two end numbers off. But if you lose, you have to add the losing amount to the end of the sequence.
Here’s an example, you write down 2, 3, 4, which adds up to a 9 unit profit once you complete the sequence. Adding the end numbers, your first bet would be 6 units.
If you win, you cross the 2 and 4 off, then move on to the 3 unit wager. If you lose, you add 6 to the end, making your new sequence 2, 3, 4, 6.
Your next bet would now be 8 units.
Pros of Betting Systems
Betting systems are a fun way to spice up sports betting and vary your bets. They also maximize your hot streaks because you’ll put more units into play.
In the case of the Martingale, you’ll theoretically never lose as long as you have enough money to keep doubling bets after losses.
Cons of Betting Systems
The only bankroll management strategy that you need in sports betting is the one that I discussed in point #3.
You can’t beat sports betting through manipulating wagers – you can only win through skill and research.
Some of these strategies can even ruin your bankroll, such as the Martingale when you go on a cold streak. I only recommend that you use betting systems if you have a large enough bankroll and can absorb big losses.
What I’ve discussed only covers a small number of the different strategies that you can use as a sports bettor. But these also represent some of the best strategies for skilled and intermediate bettors.
Much of what strategy you use will depend upon how much time you have and how serious you are about the matter.
As a beginning sports bettor if you don’t have much time and / or are only casually betting, then fading the public and focusing on ATS records are easy strategies. But if you want to become really good, studying one team, using software, and looking for weather trends can take you to the next level.
Like most things in life, your ability to win in sports betting depends on the amount of time that you can dedicate to the matter.