Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Introduction: Why (Almost) No one Wins at Sports Betting

(please see the "A Word From the Guy" section for a disclaimer)

Have you ever stood at a roulette table and tried to guess whether red or black was coming up next? Or tried to predict a series of coin flips? Or maybe even tried to predict if a dice roll would come up odd or even? If you have, then you’re basically the average sports bettor.

Let’s say you’re a professional coin flip picker. You’ll have big runs when you’re guessing right and also some huge cold spells when you’re guessing wrong. You’ll question the system you use and try to make adjustments. “Heads-Tails-Heads isn’t working? Time to switch to Heads-Heads-Tails! That ought to work!”

Maybe you’ll make some money and maybe you’ll lose some. You might even win a lot or lose a lot, or maybe just hover around even. And then you’ll try to tell your friends that you’re either a good or bad coin flip prognosticator. But in reality, coin flips are just a 50/50 proposition no matter how you try to spin it.
As ridiculous as trying to make money flipping coins sounds, it’s remarkably similar to how most people go about sports betting. They have their analyses and their breakdowns and their trends, but essentially they are just flipping coins.

Bookmakers generally know how to set proper point spreads, and the reasons people generally come up with for picking teams are almost as useless as the reasons for picking heads or tails. It’s essentially the same thing. If things like streaks, momentum, emotions, etc. actually had a predictable impact on the outcome of a game, don’t you think Vegas would know it too? Most people are too arrogant to believe that the guys who set the lines are exceptionally good at their jobs, and too clueless to realize that these line-setters have a significant advantage over just about anyone.

But sports betting is actually worse than coin flipping. In the coin flipping example, there are no odds or vig. You get your money back when you win, and the house doesn’t get a cut. In sports betting, however, the books set the standard price at -110, so that it costs you $11 to make a $10 bet. This extra dollar may seem insignificant, but would you really bet to win $10 on heads if you’d have to pay $11 every time tails came up?

With all of this knowledge, doesn’t it seem insane that anyone would bet on sports at all? You’re virtually guaranteed to lose in the long run with such a steep hill to climb, so why even try? The reason people do it though, aside from the entertainment factor, is that sports tend to seem predictable. You can always attribute reasons as to why a team won or lost, after the fact, and then try to use that hindsight going forward. In the long run, this doesn’t work. And having to bet $11 to win $10 makes it even harder because it means that you need to win 52.4% of your bets just to get your money back.

So how do you actually win at sports betting without merely getting lucky? It’s not impossible, and there are actually quite a few people out there who are doing it. Beginning with this post, I will be detailing the methods that are necessary to employ in order to win at sports betting in the long run. Stay tuned.

(Oh and of course there will be plenty of picks, because obviously that's what you're all here for!)

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