I want to take the time to run through some of the most crucial things I’ve learned in my time sport betting. I’ve been doing this professionally for several years, and I’ve definitely paid my “bettor’s tuition” in order to learn and, more importantly, follow these principles.
Keep detailed personal records.
Moving from third-party trackers to detailed in-house documentation has helped me a great deal. When you use a third party tracker it isn’t as accurate, detailed, or personal. You can add whatever metrics you want to your in-house records to make them more detailed and helpful to your growth as a sports bettor.
Here is a link to my detailed in-house records: Record Keeping Archives
Performance tracking goes far beyond W/L, win percentage, and units gained.
You need to track market agreement to truly gauge the value you are cultivating. CLV (closing line value) is a very important tool for assessing market agreement. It’s like the stock market; if you bet a play 5 minutes before close just because you are too busy/lazy or indecisive to make a move earlier, it’s like buying a stock and selling it 5 minutes later at the same price. But there are exceptions, like when new information breaks late and you have to make your move within 5 minutes of close; but it’s likely you will grab CLV in those 5 minutes if that’s the case.
W/L records are full of variance, but there isn’t any variance in CLV. Either the market agrees and is heavy enough on your side to move, or it isn’t. There aren’t enough accidental bets (variance) in the world to influence your CLV substantially. If you are beating the market consistently and not churning a profit, you can be fairly certain that your luck will change. You are on the right track if you are grabbing a ton of CLV consistently.
I don’t take anyone who claims to be a professional sports bettor seriously unless they track CLV and beat the closing line consistently.
Use models to create your own spreads and expected win percentages.
If you are betting with your gut, you’ve already lost. You have to create balanced probability distributions that are accurate. This isn’t easy to do, and requires a ton of knowledge and trial/error.
Bankroll management is as important as the picks you are betting.
A sports books biggest boon, along with parlays, is the fact that most people are AWFUL at bankroll management. I’ve met accountants, financial advisers, investment consultants, etc. who don’t have a clue about how to manage a gambling bankroll.
There are pretty much two viable options:
Your first option is a compounded flat bet. Establish a bankroll, let’s say $5,000, and bet no more than 3% of your bankroll per pick. After each month you compound your bankroll, so if you started with $5,000 and had a good first month, winning $600 @ $150 per pick ($5,000*.03= $150) you will have a new bankroll of $5,600 and a new unit of $168 ($5,600*.03= $168). It works the same way, but your unit decreases, if you have an awful first month and the cycle continues in perpetuity.
If you are someone who has managed to create an accurate model that has shown an ability to create BALANCED probability distributions that can pinpoint, within reason, how often an event will happen over an enormous sample of bets, then you can use Kelly Criterion. I won’t go into Kelly Criterion in detail, but I will say that you should never surpass 1/2 of Kelly’s recommended stake. If you have a large bankroll with life-changing amounts of money, never surpass 1/4 of Kelly’s recommended stake. Here is a Kelly calculator for you to play with. Note that the odds are flipped, -110 is 10/11, not 11/10 so something like -140 is 10/14 not 14/10. Remember to compound your bankroll monthly.
There are no such things as “locks”
This is one of the biggest mistakes I see amateurs make. It is a cardinal bankroll management sin to bet something as if the result has already been decided.
Everything falls on a probability distribution. Any possibility is possible, that’s why it’s called a possibility. Just because a team gets mashed by 30 points doesn’t mean that if they run it back the next day the losing team from the day before can’t win by 30. Both events fall somewhere on the probability distribution.
Another related issue is bettors measuring their expected value based on a lopsided, or a series of lopsided results that go for or against them. Singular results are irrelevant for future predictive purposes. The event happened, but that doesn’t mean that the result represents the median distribution. You could land on the tails (unlikely part) of a distribution for 10 plays in a row; they are all unexpected results that are very unlikely, but they will happen occasionally, and sometimes frequently over a small sample. If you land on the right side of these distribution tails you may think you are a god and you will get pounded back to Earth for your irrational exuberance. If you are on the wrong side of these distribution tails you may completely scrap a good model because you are using the wrong information to judge your future expected value. Either way you are getting fooled by singular results and you deserve what’s coming to you.
If anyone ever refers to a bet as a “lock”; run away, don’t walk. I’m not saying to fade them, just don’t let them have anything to do with your betting experience.
Shopping lines is very important. Create multiple betting accounts (outs) so you can get the best number available to you and increase the amount of money you can get down.
The heading is pretty self-explanatory. Just have enough outs at your disposal so you can shop for the best line. As I mentioned above, 10 cents makes a huge difference and some of the various outs you have could differ by 10 cents regularly.
You always need to understand what kind of lines your outs offer. For MLB and NHL you need to have 10-cent books like BetOnline, 5Dimes, Pinnacle, etc. A 20-cent book will offer -110/-110 (2.38% vig, -4.76% ROI), but a 10-cent book offers -105/-105 (1.22% vig, -2.44% ROI). All vig will spread out a little more the further you get away from 100 (you know this if you understand vig conversions), so a 20-cent book will offer something like +170/-200, while a 10-cent book will offer something like +175/-195. Most books only offer 20-cent lines on things like NFL spreads/totals, NCAAFB spreads/totals, NBA spreads/totals, and NCAAB spreads/totals, but there are a ton of books that offer 10-cent lines on MLB and NHL spreads/totals.
Understand sample sizes and what constitutes relevant information.
If you think the following is a relevant piece of information, stop betting right now and do not resume until you understand why it isn’t relevant: “Patriots are 23-9-2 ATS in their last 34 games after accumulating less than 150 yards passing in their previous game.” That’s on the tame side of situational trends, some include 10 years of team data. Do you think the Patriots were the same team 10 years ago as they are today? They could have the exact same record for 10 years straight and be completely different teams each year.
I won’t go into full detail about how awful trend betting is, I’ll just give an examples of how lazy and foolish it is. Can you predict how your morning commute is going to go because the last 12 times you ate eggs and bacon for breakfast you didn’t hit a single red light on your way to work? No. The same applies for sports betting. There are so many stupid trends that I could write about them for the rest of my life and never run out of material. And yet trend betting is the life blood for your average tout and Joe Schmo buys into it.
I need to be clear, situational trends are way different from overall functional trends in sports. There are useful oddities hidden in the dynamics of sports that are very useful. Here’s an obvious one: there was a time that odds makers split college basketball first half and second half totals 50/50. I think everybody now knows that odds makers allow for 7-8 additional points in the second half of college basketball games. The NBA is pretty close to a 50/50 split on first half and second half totals though. Those kinds of functional trends are still hidden in some sports, although they are much harder to find now than they were in the past. The key is that they are trends that encompass the game, not a single team or situation.
Sample size is related to situation trends. Trends have a very short shelf life because they are just small runs of major variance that stick out due to small sample size. I wouldn’t actually call it a shelf life because situational trends should never be on the proverbial shelf. You have to understand that variance is a function of sample size; the smaller the sample, the larger the variance. This is important to remember when building the models I discussed earlier.
An excellent book about sorting through relevant and irrelevant information is “The Signal and the Noise” by Nate Silver. It is a fairly casual read that provides the big picture of evaluating data.
I will update this page with more advice in the future.
I’m not saying these principles are anything groundbreaking, or anything that a lot of you don’t already know/practice. I’m just laying them all out there no matter how elementary some of them may be.
Choose to understand and practice these principles or not, it doesn’t really make any difference to me personally. The sports betting world is full of false dreams and misinformation, so I know that many amateur sports bettors have trouble deciphering what is true and helpful from what is complete BS. Most amateurs gravitate toward the BS because that’s where they find their cozy false dreams fed to them by shameless profiteers and overall uneducated people who don’t know any better.
However, if you follow these principles, you don’t need anyone to give you picks. You can bet safely and enjoy picking your own games. Although you’ll need to master these principles and then some to turn a large and consistent profit. If you aren’t content with safe, fun, recreational betting, and want to receive the bets I personally play on a daily basis, you can sign up here.