WHY SPORTS BETTING IS PROFITABLE
by Bill Burton
Bill Burton is the author of1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets available at www.billburton.com, and Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em available at www.bjinsider.com. He is an instructor for Golden Touch Craps: www.thecrapsclub.com
Sports betting appeals to the smart bettor because it is not a game with a fixed house edge where the casinos are raking off a fixed percentage on every bet. Sports betting requires more skill than luck similar to Blackjack and live poker. You wonít win every time but the skilled handicapper has a huge advantage over the recreational bettor. Before going into more detail you need to understand how sports betting works and Iíll use betting on a football game where a point spread is involved as an example. (Basketball also uses a point spread.)
The casino Sports books make their money on sports bets by collecting a commission on losing bets. This is called the Vigorish or Vig for short. The most common odds are 11 to 10. This means that if you want to win $100 you are risking $110. For example, you place a bet on the Giants at the casino sports book and pay them $110. If the Giants win you collect $210 when you cash your winning ticket. If you lose your bet, you lose the $110.
Ideally the Sports book would like to have the same amount of money wagered on the two teams playing. If the Giants are playing the Colts and they have one bettor wagering on the Giants and another wagering on the Colts they would pay the winner $100 but collect $110 from the loser. This gives them a $10 profit so they really donít care who wins as long as they have an equal amount bet on each team. To accomplish this they assign a line or spread to make the contest equally attractive for both sides.
The Point Spread
Many people believe that the point spread is the predicted margin of victory by which one team will beat another team. This is not true. The line is the handicapperís prediction of what number will be required to split the wagering evenly on both teams. For this reason the line may change from the opening line to the line at game time. The Sports books goal is to have the betting as evenly as possible.
If the public is swayed by sentiment to bet on a certain team then the odds makers need to adjust the line to get some action on the other team. Otherwise, the betting would be heavily lopsided. The general betting public reacts from the opinions of others. This is why you see so many people "jumping on the band wagon" of a winning team.
For the sports books, the line is flawed if it does not attract the same amount of action on both sides; however, from a smart handicapperís point of view, the line is flawed when it does not compute to his predicted outcome of the game. A weaker team can actually become the favorite if public sentiment is with that team. When this happens the underdog presents a huge overlay for the seasoned handicapper meaning that the odds are in his favor. For example: Team A should be a 3 point underdog to Team B; however, the public loves Team A and are betting on them and the line moves to make Team A one point favorite, then Team B becomes an excellent bet. This is the contrarian principle and why many smart handicappers go against the general betting public.
The Money Line
A money line wager is a bet placed without the point spread. Baseball and Hockey wagering use the money line but you can also bet football and basketball games on the money line. When you do this, you are betting on the team to win the game outright, which is also called winning "Straight UP." When you bet a game on the money line you will have to pay odds other than the normal -110 that you would pay for a straight bet using the point spread.
Obviously if you want to bet on the favorite to win straight up, you will have to risk more to win less. If you bet on the underdog, you would bet less to win more. The money line bets are based on a $100 bet. When you see a money line listed, the favorite will have a figure with a minus symbol in front of it and the underdog will have a plus symbol in front of it.
For Example: The Boston Celtics are 5 point favorites over the Atlanta Hawks. The money line is listed as:
If you wanted to bet the Celtics on the money line, you would have to wager $220 to win $100. If you want to bet the underdog Hawks, you would wager $100 to win $180. Your team would have to win straight up to win your bet.
A winning handicapper formulates his own opinions about the game and ignores most of the public sentiment. A handicapper takes information from numerous sources, and then assigns weights and values to it. They will make their own power ranking and predict what the point spread should be without looking at the official line first, and then compare their predictions to the line to look at discrepancies. The large amount of data available via the internet and other sources means that the handicapper has more information but it means there is more to sift through to find the gems. The use of computer programs can help when searching through the data.
Why donít more people win at sports betting? Like any other endeavor it takes time, patience, and practice to become successful. A person of average intelligence can become a winning handicapper if they have the desire. Based on the odds of -110 for a straight football or basketball bet a handicapper only need to be right 52.38 percent of the time to break even; however, many sports bettors canít achieve that winning percentage over the long run.
The chart below shows the break even points for the various odds you will encounter when you make a bet on the money line. With higher odds you have to have a higher winning percentage to break even. If you bet the underdogs, you can have a lower win percentage and still make money. Many smart handicappers will make the majority of their bets on the dogs. In Baseball, the underdog wins about four out of 10 times. My mentor who taught me how to handicap sports would never bet a favorite team. He would always tell me: "If you got to lay it, donít play it!"
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