One of the cool parts of writing what I write about all the time is that
you are rarely short of something to talk about when you meet someone new.
They ask what you do, and then want to talk about it – their favorite team,
their favorite league, or the foolproof system they have developed. For a
guy who doesn’t love putting a lot of effort into social interactions, it
comes in handy. But there is a downside. Too often, people want to talk
about sports betting even though they don’t know anything about it. It’s
not that they don’t know, it’s that they think they know all about it but
are completely wrong. Over the years, it has struck me how many people
don’t know the basics of betting on football – even people that bet
So, what I want to do through these lazy days of summer is go back to the
basics. We’re going to enroll in Football Betting 101. It’s an eight-part
course, and it starts now as we talk about value – what it is, why it is
crucial, and how to find it. So, sit back, buckle in, and get ready for the
Value is the holy grail of betting. Simply put, value exists when the
chances of something happening are greater than the odds offered to bet on
Expected Value in Sports Betting
It’s easiest to understand with an example. Let’s say that the odds on a
game are even-money – if you bet $100, you would make a profit of $100 if
you win. If the chances of the team you bet on winning are 40 percent, then
there would be no value. If you bet $100 on that team 10 times you would
expect to win four times, and you would make a $400 profit. But you would
lose the other six times, which would be a loss of $600. You would have a
long-term loss of $200. So, you would be making a bet that you would expect
to lose money on long term. That’s never a good idea. If, though, the
chance of your team winning was 60 percent, then you would wind up with a
long-term profit of $200 over 10 bets. That’s value. Without value, you are
just gambling – throwing your money away.
Why does value matter? Well, simply put, it’s how you make money. If you
were to always make bets that had value, and you are effective at
determining if value exists accurately, then you can’t help but make money
over the long term. You might go through peaks and valleys, but you could
come out on the right side. If I were to pay you $11 every time a coin came
up heads, and only asked for $10 every time it was tails, then you would
want to make that bet all day, every day. As long as your bankroll was big
enough to weather any rough patches, you would be sure to come out on top.
It would be a bet packed in value. But for me it would be a terrible bet –
one that I would be sure to lose over time. It would be terrible value.
On a theoretical level, then, value isn’t tough to understand – and it is
very desirable. The challenge, of course, is that it is much easier to
understand than it is to find. And a great fault of many failing sports
bettors is that belief in their ability to find value exceeds their actual
skill in doing so.
Common Mistakes Sports Bettors Make
There are four things to remember when you are seeking value:
The first is to really understand what the odds mean in a given situation.
If you don’t accurately understand what the payout means, then you can’t
know if a team has better chances than that. People often think that they
are making a value bet because they are betting on the favorite and that
team is solidly more likely to win. They will win more often than they
lose, so they think they are on the right side. But the odds very likely
reflect that the favorite is the more likely winner – oddsmakers aren’t
dumb. You need to understand how often you need to win a bet to make a
profit, so you can know how often a team needs to win over the long term to
give you that profit.
Second, you need to have a way of accurately assessing how likely a team is
to win. It can be your own system or handicapping approach. Or you can buy
the advice of someone who knows better than you. You just have to be able
to trust your information, though, or you are going to just be guessing.
Third, you need to have discipline. Chasing bad bets, betting because it’s
close enough, or making gut calls without doing your homework, are all ways
to sabotage your own success.
Discipline and Money Management Keys for Sports Betting
Finally, get creative in your search for value. A lot of people only think
of betting on the point spread when it comes to football. But those lines
are the most bet down and the ones that oddsmakers pay the most attention
to. Perhaps more total can be found in the total, or in an alternate line.
And very often the best value can be found in prop bets – especially the
ones that don’t get the most betting attention.
Totals Betting Explained
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham