Entering the world of sports betting is often intimidating and overwhelming. There’s an entirely new language to learn, huge money swings happen in seconds, and staring up at an odds board is enough to make anyone’s head spin.
Below, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to sports handicapping. From basic terms to advanced concepts, gamblers of all skill levels will benefit from our expert information and insight. While many sharp bettors are generally private and unwilling to share information, we’re not holding back any tips that have made gamblers profitable over the decades.
Whether you consider yourself a whale or just want to throw a few bucks on the home team once in a while, you won’t find a more thorough resource than this. From betting terms, handicapping tips, stats and analytics, wager construction, bankroll management, and more, it’s all inside and here to help you become a successful handicapper. There’s definitely no silver bullet in this business, it is called gambling, after all, but with our tips and a dedication to research, you’ll be on the right path to turning profits.
Table of Contents
Glossary: Terms to Know
Action: A bet or wager
The favorite: The team favored to win the game.
Point spread: Margin of victory set by oddsmaker to attract bets action.
Hook: A half point in the point spread. Some books allow you to “buy the hook,” or add 0.5 points to the spread on your chosen side.
Juice: A commission books wins on each bet. Basically why the spread is -110 rather than -100. That 10 dollars is the book’s commission. Juice is also commonly referred to as vigorish or “the vig.”
Pick em’: A game with no favorite or underdog.
Money Line: Picking an outright winner with no point spread.
Odds: Also called lines, the chances of your bet hitting.
Chalk: The favorite bet or “lock” in a game.
Book: Where a bet can be placed. The person who runs the book is known as the bookie.
Action: A bet or wager.
Cover: The betting outcome of a point spread bet. For a favorite to cover, they have to win by a number greater than the spread. For un underdog to cover, they have to lose by a number less than the spread or win the game outright.
Hedge: Betting the opposite of a previous bet to guarantee winning at least a small amount of money.
Parlay: A bet that combines multiple games for a higher payout. Higher risk, higher reward. All of the outcomes must win for the parlay to payout.
Teaser: A teaser is a parlay with reduced odds because you’re adding points to the spread in your favor. NFL teasers can add four to six points to the line, and typically three selections need to be included in the wager.
Reverse Teaser: Giving up points to increase the payout. (Example: Chiefs are -1 against the Jets, you think the Chiefs are going to win by more than a touchdown. You bet Chiefs -7.5. Increasing risk and payout).
Buying Points: Paying more in order to get a game at better odds. Putting the odds more in one side’s favor, less risk, more security.
Total Points Over / Under: Combined score total of both teams.
Over: The combined score of the teams in a game is greater than the set line.
Under: The combined score of the teams in a game is less than the total over/under.
Prop Bet: Betting on specifics in games. (i.e., who will win a coin toss, who will score first, etc.)
Middle: When you bet on both sides of a game and have a chance to win both bets. For example, if you bet on Team A +15 and Team B -10, you win both bets if Team B wins by 11-14 points.
Handle: Total dollar amount wagered on a game, usually available for major sportsbooks.
Push: Simply refers to a bet that ties. If you had Arizona -3, and they won 27-24, your bet has pushed, and you’ll receive the cost of the wager back.
Futures: A future bet allows you to pick winners of major sporting events long before they take place. Anything from title winner to individual awards markets are available at most books.
Chapter 1: How to Become a Great Sports Bettor
Understanding the Lines & Payouts
In order to become an expert sports bettor, you need to understand how lines are created and how much money you will make on each bet based on the odds. Afterall, that is why we are here, to make some money.
First things first.
Betting the spread is one of the most popular ways to bet on sports. Mainly because it is easy to understand and usually has a good payout.
The point spread is a number set by the oddsmaker that serves as a margin of victory. The team you bet on has to ‘cover’ or beat that margin for you to win your bet.
The spread is also known as the vigorish or “vig” for the sportsbook. Bookmakers created the spread to make games more even, increasing odds for bettors.
For example, in the image above, 49ers vs Jets spread is:
49ers -7 vs Jets +7
Oddsmakers believe that the 49ers will win by a touchdown. If you take the 49ers spread, the 49ers will have to win by more than 7 points in order for the bet to payout.
Point spreads are usually set with -110 odds, but pricing often changes. Meaning, it takes $110 to win $100. Bookkeepers add the “juice” ($110 – $100 = $10) as a commission so they make money regardless of the outcome.
The spread may move if people are hammering one side of the bet in order to have some players bet the opposing side. If you place your NFL bets early in the week you can take advantage of good lines before they move. However, this can also work against you where lines may move out of your favor, giving better odds to last minute bettors.
The spread is a great way to gage what the outcome of a game. Bookmakers make money for a reason; they are extremely good at what they do. Use the line as a resource to who the favorite is and the projected total number of points in a match.
Betting on the moneyline is the easiest and simplest way to bet on sports. It is just a pick em’. Out of the two teams playing, pick one to win outright. If you are correct then you win money, if you lose, well, might be time for a new rabbit’s foot.
Moneyline payouts fluctuate a lot more than spread payouts. Since it’s a pick ‘em, oddsmakers have to adjust the odds accordingly to the matchup.
Looking at the Packers vs Lions Moneyline in the image above, you see a drastic difference in odds between the two teams.
The Packers are the clear favorite to beat the Lions in this matchup and the moneyline proves it. Bookmakers set a highline for the Packers of -265 (bet $265 to win $100) to manage the number of bets placed on the packers. Less risk for bettors, less reward.
The Lions are the underdog at +225 (bet $100 to win $225). Bookmakers want the payout to be high enough, so bettors actually place bets on the underdog. Greater risk, greater reward.
Point Totals – Over/Under
Betting on totals has nothing to do with the outcome of the game just the amount of points scored. Bookkeepers set a point total for the game and you decide whether they go over or under the total.
Betting on point totals is super easy and has good odds at -110. Point totals also fluctuate throughout the week as bets are placed and news about the sporting event comes out.
The Steelers and Broncos have one of the lowest lines of the week with an O/U of 40.5 points. They do a half a point so there is no push if the final total score is 40.
Point totals give you insight into the game script and how Vegas thinks the game will play out. You can bet on quarter, halves, and the entire game point totals. So if you think a team will come out of the gates rolling then bet the over for the first quarter.
If they are a late blooming team and wait until the second half to pull out the tricks up their sleeve, wait to bet the second half over or bet the first half under.
Payouts are the reason you are here, to capitalize on great odds and make some money. At first glance payouts may seem confusing but after placing your first few bets you will understand them completely.
You might be used to seeing gambling’s payouts in odds such as 3:1, 2:1, or 1:1 in blackjack or roulette. Vegas does this because the payout changes depending on the amount wagered.
Sportsbook’s payouts are a little different, they are based on a $100 bet.
What does this mean? Do I have to bet $100 to bet on sports?
Calm down cowboy, you don’t have to start betting $100 to be able to bet on sports. It just makes for easy math.
Let me explain.
Looking at the image above, you will see that multiple bets say -110. This means that you have to bet $110 dollars to make $100.
But what about if bets are positive, like the Jets moneyline at +270?
A positive payoff number shows the amount that you would win per $100 bet. In this case, if you bet $100 on the Jets to beat the 49ers and they actually do (not likely, don’t make stupid bets like this) you would win $270.
- If the payout is negative (-110) that is the amount of money you would have to bet to make $100.
- If the payout is positive (+270) it indicates the amount of money you would make if you bet $100.
Most payouts on the spread and point totals will be -110. This is a standard line because it almost pays 1:1. How the bookkeepers stay ahead is by adding juice or a commission fee to bet. It’s like adding a commission fee for the bookie to place the wager. Just like we briefly mentioned before.
Managing Your Money
Bankroll management is an essential skill of the profitable sports bettors. Because this is such a key factor we have a section later in the article dedicated to bankroll management tips so we won’t go into too much detail here. If you are a beginner, here is what you need to know about bankroll management.
In short, keep track of your money, how much you are betting, and how much you are winning/losing.
Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket unless that basket is an absolute lock. Put a percentage of your bankroll towards each bet rather than a random amount of money.
One way to do this is through the “units” system.
Sports Betting Units
A sports betting unit is a measured amount wagered on a sports bet. Bettors use units as a universal currency to show profit and loss. All bettors, large or small, have 100 total units. The value of the units varies depending on the bettor’s bankroll.
Sharps might bet $1,000 on a game, which seems like a lot but they have $100,000 in their bankroll. Little Timmy might bet 50 bucks which may seem conservative but this is his entire bankroll. The Sharps are betting 1 unit while Little Timmy is betting 100 units.
Little Timmy is taking a much greater risk than the Sharps.
Basically, it’s a way to show the percentage of a bankroll someone is risking on a bet and taking the money at risk out of play.
Dividing your bankroll into individual sports betting units helps control risk by only putting a percentage of your bankroll at risk.
Some sports betting experts release their units in play for a specific bet. This shows how confident they are in a bet, giving you more information of what your play and wager should be.
Sports Betting Strategies
We all want to know that one sports betting strategy that will take us to the promised land. Sadly, there is not a lock strategy that can win every bet you place.
Like in actual sports, you are going to lose some games. Even if it takes until your second year of college football like Trevor Lawrence, you will eventually lose.
There are a ton of different strategies out there that you can research and implement. Honestly, some of them are actually pretty comical while others actually provide some value.
We are not going to tell you which strategy you should use. We will tell you to create a personal betting strategy. Rules that you follow in order to keep your betting consistent.
Find out what works for you and create a strategy that you are confident in. Absorb pieces information from all the resources you can find and build your own strategy.
Maybe you bet on one sport that you like the back of your hand, or bet on certain odds, or maybe you don’t bet on division games.
Find out what works for you and stick to it.
A betting strategy, or betting rules you follow, will make your betting more consistent. You can sharpen your strategy and guidelines each week and make tweaks to put yourself in the best position possible to make bank.
What Impacts a Winning Sports Bet
Most sports bettors will tell you it’s their pregame ritual that is the reason for a winning bet but it’s never just one factor that determines a winning sports bet. Even if you are wearing your lucky pair of underwear.
Sports betting is all about odds. Odds are the probability of your betting hitting pay dirt. The greater the odds (and payout) the less likely the outcome is going to happen. Vice versa, a bet with a small payout is more likely to happen. Less risk, less reward.
In sports betting you can calculate your odds of winning based on the payout of the bet. Use this free odds calculator tool to calculate the probability of you winning your bet.
*find more tools and calculators in the Tools & Resources Chapter*
This tool will provide you with the fractional odds, decimal odds, and implied probability.
The number you want to pay attention to most is the implied probability. This is the percentage chance of the outcome happening. You can find favorable picks by creating projections for the game before looking at the lines and comparing your lines to bookmakers. This gives you a fresh look at how you view the outcome of the game and how it differs with the linemakers outcome.
Find which games are most favorable based on your predictions and place your bets.
Timing is everything. Sports betting lines are set in advance allowing bettors to bet days or weeks prior to the event all the way up to game time. Because of this, the lines change.
Linemakers adjust according to the bets that have been placed. If people are hammering one side, bookies will either increase the spread or line of the favored team to encourage people to bet the other side.
Placing your bets early allows you to take advantage of profitable lines before linemakers make a correction.
Bookies are not perfect, they make mistakes on betting lines and how the public perceive a matchup. Betting early allows you to capitalize on these mistakes.
Placing your bets later or the day of the event gives you more time to gather information before you make your decision.
If Mahomes gets injured at practice during the week that is going to affect your decision of betting on the Chiefs.
Adopting the contrarian approach to sports betting is extremely popular as you have probably heard the advice “bet against the public”. Betting late allows you to see how the lines have changed throughout the week and where the money is going.
You might see the Bills +5.5 Monday and want to hammer it because you think the line will change by Sunday. Come gameday you notice that the line hasn’t changed. This should be a red flag that it’s a trap game, and to stay away or fade the public who most likely will be hammering the obvious choice.
There is no perfect answer for whether you should bet early or late, try both and see what works for you. Keep track of the lines throughout the week to see if and how they move and act accordingly.
If you want to be a profitable sports bettor you need to find value in your picks. You can win 9/10 bets but still lose money and you can lose 9/10 bets and still win money. It is all about finding value in your bets. It is not about being right necessarily, it’s about getting the best odds.
Best Sports Bets for Beginners
If you are new to sports betting it is best to start off with some easy bets. The bets that we recommend to beginner sports bettors are betting.
- Point Total
These are the three most common bets you can find. They are all easy to understand and will make you much more comfortable with the betting process. You will learn how lines change, how payouts work, how to identify favorites, and how to calculate odds.
These three bets are the cornerstone of sports betting. Once you understand how these lines work, they become a helpful resource of information that can be used to improve your odds.
Chapter 2: Game Selection
There are many different ways you can bet on sports, and it can get a little overwhelming. You can bet on one sport, all the sports, bowl games or small school games, money lines, or ten team parlays. Game selection plays an integral role in building a successful betting strategy, and often our own biases get in the way of winning wagers. Consider these tips on game selection when constructing your tickets.
Find a Niche
To find an edge, you’ve got to be open to new ideas and constantly researching, no matter how obscure the sport might seem. Many bettors shifted focus to Asia during the beginning of the pandemic to find action on baseball. This led to many foreign-language news outlets and stat providers becoming go-to resources for sports bettors. By keeping their options fluid, many bettors could find success betting on leagues they never knew existed.
So, one way to become a winning sports bettor is to focus your time and energy on lesser-known leagues, conferences, and teams. Sportsbook handles are much more significant for NFL games than MAC football or Mountain West basketball games, meaning they have to spend more time and resources focusing on those high-dollar matchups. Sharps have been exploiting this disparity for years and make good profits on sports and teams you’ve probably never heard of.
Don’t let marquee names blind you and only wager on significant events. There’s often more value to be found in a Sunbelt Conference game than an SEC matchup. Focus on one or two lesser-known leagues; research team history, style of play, and stay connected with news within that small world to try and catch an edge over the books. Remember, while they don’t have as much time to research these smaller matchups, they’re still doing some research, and they’re very good at their jobs.
Game Selection Within Wagers
Choosing the right game for the right wager is also imperative. Most professional sports bettors aim for the holy grail of a 60% win rate. This enables them to turn a profit even after paying juice. You can pick at 70% and still lose money, which makes game selection an essential piece of the profit puzzle. Here’s how game selection should factor into your wagers.
Most profitable sports gamblers lean heavily on straight bets. If you can stomach the juice, it’s the safest wager available to bettors. While there’s not much to game selection when making a straight wager, there are some things to avoid.
The main mistake bettors make with straight wagers is overconfidence. Sometimes, you’ll find a bet you think is a can’t-miss guarantee, and you’ll bet way more than you should. Sticking to a unit-based system will keep you from risking substantial portions of your roll on emotional picks.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t fire heavily if you find a line you think is good. Especially if it’s in one of the less popular competitions you’ve become an expert in. Don’t shy away from firing your max bet if you think you’ve found an edge on the book; just don’t risk more than you’ve allotted within your system. Straight bets offer less risk and are a great way to build a bankroll.
Straight bets should be a large part of your overall strategy, but parlays and teasers offer odds that are often hard to pass up. These bets offer increased odds for grouping multiple selections together, but there are many factors to consider when building your bets.
Ticket construction can make or break your bankroll. As mentioned above, you can pick 9 of 12 winners and lose three individual four-leg parlays. It’s all about finding the right combinations and a little bit of luck. There’s no sure-fire method to build a winning ticket, but constructing smart wagers using your knowledge is the surest path to a profitable banking career.
Parlays should be limited to grouping together your strongest plays, and betting early can provide many advantages. Consider grouping top picks across multiple days to try and increase your odds of success. It’s tough to nail a whole slate but finding 3 or 4 strong picks across multiple days can help improve your odds of winning.
Parlays stretched over multiple days also offer unique opportunities to lock in profits. Most successful parlay players rely heavily on hedge bets to guarantee profits. Spreading parlay legs across multiple days can help you hedge your bets easily instead of trying to make live bets with all legs running at the same time. Try constructing tickets with the last leg running by itself to maximize hedging opportunities.
Another parlay pitfall many gamblers fall for is grouping point spread wagers. While a three-team, point spread parlay typically pays around 7-1, the odds of hitting three spread bets is closer to 8-1. This gives the house an enormous advantage and why they drool over point spread parlay players. Moneyline parlays are the safest bet to make, and game totals are also a popular inclusion.
Another popular option for grouping selections together is the round-robin bet. This allows bettors to easily place hundreds of combinations of parlays with a straightforward wager. Perhaps the most popular round-robin bet is the Canadian, which takes five selections and makes every parlay combination for you, totaling 26 bets total.
So, a $1 Canadian round-robin would cost $26 total and give you every combination of two, three, four, and five-leg parlays for $1 each. Round Robins are an easy way to handle your parlay needs and will guarantee you get some money back as long as you hit two legs or more. For example, a $1 Canadian round-robin would turn a profit if you hit three out of five legs which is the desired 60%.
Round robins are an intriguing value play, providing some returns even if most legs fall short. One strategy round-robin players use is to balance them with favorites and underdogs. Let’s say you’re interested in five picks, three of which are favorites, and two are considered live underdogs. Doing a Canadian round robin with these selections can provide excellent profit potential. If your three favorites hit, you’ve already turned a profit. Throwing in two moneyline underdogs in the mix can provide large payouts while keeping risk low. Incorporating round robins into your strategy is often a wise choice.
Teasers are a fantastic tool for bettors but choosing the right plays can be tricky. Teasing totals has long been a popular technique, especially in NFL circles. Moving a line four to six points is often worth the grouped selections and lowered odds.
As you progress in your handicapping, making your own lines should become a large part of your daily process (more on this later), and teasing the biggest disparities is usually the safe way to play. If you think Tampa Bay should be -3 and they’re -6, teasing it to -2 or even Pick should make it less of a sweat.
The same is true with reverse teasers, which are basically a cranked-up parlay. If Tampa Bay is +3 in that same game, teasing them to -3 should provide you a huge payday. Comparing your own lines with those at the book can help teaser plays jump off the page at you.
Deciding What to Play
Bet against an NBA team playing their second game of a back-to-back. Always take an unranked college hoops team hosting a ranked rival. There’s a lot of lore in the gambling world but deciding what games to play and why, takes more than a catchy one-liner. Consider these factors when narrowing down what games to play.
This is perhaps the most significant factor overlooked by the public that sharps swear by. Sure, your baseball team might have the best record in the division, but they’re 3-7 in their last 10, playing a team that’s 7-3 over the same stretch. Since baseball is such a long grind, riding hot teams with poor overall records can provide an edge against heavily bet “good teams” that are in the middle of a slump.
Form translates in every sport for every wager as well. Offensive and defensive efficiency are hot stats in the NBA analytics world and reviewing a team’s numbers from their last three and last five games can provide a ton of insight. Looking at individual player performances in recent games can also offer information going forward. If Steph Curry has scored 30+ points in six straight and his point over/under is 30.5 for his next game, you’re probably safe hammering the over.
Play To Your Strengths
We mentioned earlier in this section to focus on a few leagues or sports with less popularity and become an expert. This will play a significant factor in deciding what to play. Let’s say you’ve decided to focus on Ivy League football. You’re familiar with the teams, know the impact players and play styles, and can’t wait for the season to start.
You might want to consider sitting out the first couple of weeks while non-conference games are underway, and opponents are unfamiliar. This will provide you additional time to evaluate teams and find strengths without risking bankroll on plays you aren’t feeling strongly about. Balancing your sports knowledge can help alleviate downtime, providing you betting opportunities while you’re waiting to fire on other sports. Sharp bettors spend hours researching sports all year long, so there’s never an off-season.
Don’t Force It
Profitable bettors don’t make bets just to have action. You shouldn’t make wagers unless you’ve got solid feelings and data to back them up. This is another area where unit-based playing can help keep you focused on stronger options. Looking at match-ups in advance will enable you to allocate your funds appropriately and reduce impulse bets.
Chapter 3: Stats! Stats! Stats! – What Stats are Essential
The rise of analytics has changed the game for handicappers and bookmakers alike. Information that used to require an inside source or meticulous record-keeping is now widely available with a few taps on your smartphone. Anyone can sift through stats, but knowing how to use them to your advantage is more important than finding them. In this chapter, we’ll show you how to use stats, which ones to avoid, and why they’re generally more trustworthy than your emotions.
The goal of all handicappers is to find an edge on the bookmaker and exploit it, and using statistical analysis plays a significant role in identifying disparities. Stats shouldn’t be the only piece of the equation, however, as many other factors like form and injuries also play a role.
One of the best ways to integrate statistical analysis into your handicapping is to become a spreadsheet wizard. Compiling game results, stats of interest, and detailed line information will enable you to track perceived edges and will make spotting juicy matchups so much easier.
Regression analysis is the staple to using stats in sports, and it’s not as complicated as you might think. We’re looking for winners when we make bets, and finding underlying variables that contribute to winning is the key. This might be road field goal percentage in basketball or a team’s third-down conversion rate in football. Finding independent variables that play a significant role in determining the outcome of a matchup is the goal.
Eliminating noise and distracting “bad” stats is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face when running statistical analysis. Here’s how to narrow down the focus when pouring through the numbers.
Using “Good” Stats vs. “Bad”
While all stats are helpful to some degree, you can quickly eliminate some from consideration. Many beginning players love to focus on points per game and live and die by those numbers when placing totals bets.
While these stats do provide some information, it’s almost always the way bookmakers determine the lines. Check out any basketball or football matchup, add the two teams’ points per game average together, and you’ll be right on or very near the line.
Remember that bookmakers set lines to draw equal interest on both sides. If you want to catch an edge on the book, you’ll have to go way deeper than standard stats like points per game. This is where analytics have helped change the game and where you should consider a subscription to a stat provider over someone who sells picks.
One of the most popular stat providers in the gambling world is KenPom.com. This invaluable resource has helped make college basketball handicappers stacks of money over the years. KenPom uses statistical analysis and analytics to paint a complete picture of each team in Division 1. These numbers will help you compare teams’ strengths and weaknesses, determine the pace of play, and much more. With some practice and more profound research on niche conferences, you should be able to find a consistent edge somewhere in the betting markets.
Perhaps the most significant benefit to using stats is their ability to remove any personal biases or gut feelings we may have. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t trust your instincts. If you have your finger on the pulse of a team and have a knack for predicting their performance, ride that as long as you can. Sometimes, a bettor’s intuition should be trusted, and until you lose the touch, you should trust the feeling.
Few of us have that magic power, and statistics will help you form an opinion on matchups that are tough to handicap. Spend some time learning the basics of analytics, become familiar with terms like offensive and defensive efficiency, and look into sabermetrics for baseball wagers. Any effort you put into analyzing a matchup will be more than the general public does and will help you spot inefficiencies in the markets
Chapter 4: How Fantasy Football Diehards have an Edge
Diehard fantasy football players know about a coach’s tendencies, how a game script will affect a players output, how many targets you should expect, what teams are weakest against certain positions, The list could go on and on.
Sports betting is a great way to put this knowledge to work and actually make some money. Yes, I said actually make some money. How much have you spent in fantasy football league fees in the past couple of years? How much have you gotten back in winnings?
If you’re in one of my leagues, you probably aren’t winning much.
Most people probably aren’t breaking even. If you are in the green then clearly you are good at identifying key matchups to target, which is all the more reason to bet, especially on player props.
Player props are where fantasy football diehards shine. You can bet on an individual player’s stats for that game. Total yards, touchdowns, receptions, interceptions, you name it, you can most likely find a prop bet on it.
Knowing the key positions gives you an advantage in players props because you can exploit the favorable matchups for large gains.
Monkey Knife Fight
Monkey Knife Fight (MKF) is a sports betting site that has fantasy football related sports bets. You can find over/under bets for how many fantasy points a player might score. Monkey Knife Fight brings sports betting directly to the fantasy sports world. MKF offers wagers for all fantasy sports, baseball, basketball, hockey, football, and many more.
For professional fantasy football players this is the perfect platform to show off your skills. You are creating weekly projections and analyzing the defensive matchups for your players each week. Use all of this research to your advantage. Look for discrepancies in your projections and the lines at MKF. Find the value picks on the given slate.
Chapter 5: Data Models
As technology has advanced over the years, more and more bettors rely on data models to help them spot edges in betting markets. While these projects often take years to perfect, they can be insanely profitable when done correctly. With all sports betting strategies, it’s important to remember that data models don’t take multiple factors into account and won’t pick winners 100% of the time.
That said, putting in the work to try and gain an edge over the books is usually worth the effort. With just a laptop, you can build models and scrape the web for updated stats to help find the winning side. This chapter will discuss what it takes to build a data model, what stats are vital, and how to start one of your own. With patience and determination, it might just be the tool to take your handicapping to the next level.
Data Models, Explained
A data model is simply a computer program that will analyze statistical inputs to hopefully make accurate predictions on future events. Most handicapping data models have two main focuses: predicting point spread movement and final game scores.
By forecasting line movements, handicappers will be a step ahead of the masses, ensuring they always get the best line and opening profitable opportunities playing the middle. Choosing a suitable model for you is entirely personal preference, but plan on budgeting large amounts of time to perfecting whichever one you choose.
People with computer programming skills will have an easier time handling these tools, but there are tons of resources available to make a successful model with no experience. Taking a coding or programming class can help you fine-tune your approach and create profitable long-term data models.
How to Make Your Own Data Models
We mentioned earlier that spreadsheet skills could translate into winning bets and to create a data model of your own, that’s all you’ll need. The struggle is determining what stats to input and which ones to toss out. As you learned in the Stats chapter, there’s a lot of noise when sifting through the numbers.
Try creating different models for the specific types of wagers you like to make. If you want to focus on NBA totals bets, offensive and defensive efficiency will be critical factors. Include shooting percentage stats for both teams, including their defensive numbers in these areas. Factoring in things like the length of possession, steals per game, and points off of turnovers will help you understand how the game will be played before it even tips.
We could easily write a guide to building sports data models that rivals the length of this guide, but numerous resources exist to help handicappers build winning models. Consider the source, and constantly tweak numbers to try and find your edge. Most people online will give you the basics you need to be successful, but they’ll stop short at telling you precisely what inputs should be included. This is where your own experimentation will be invaluable. Click here for a great beginner’s guide to building sports data models.
Chapter 6: Sports Betting Expert Tips
Tip #1: Create Your Own Lines
If you are a bettor that really knows the individual teams and players and you think you have an edge there, create your own lines. BEFORE you look at ANY lines, go through each game on the slate, and put your prediction on the score, game flow, and winner.
This will give you an unbiased and uninfluenced thought process for the week. Take these predictions and compare them to Vegas’s lines. Find the biggest discrepancies between your lines and Vegas’ and focus your attention there for the week.
Do some research and find out why there is such a big difference between your lines and Vegas’. If you discover in your research that Vegas seems to be right and you aren’t as confident in your predictions, get off that game.
If you still love your thought process after doing some extensive research then HAMMER that game. This is a great way to find value picks for an entire game slate.
Tip #2: Predicting Gameflow
It’s helpful to think about betting (sports or fantasy) by predicting the gameflow. Break the game down into quarters. What are your predictions on the amount of drives in a quarter? How many should lead to points? Will one team go up big early?
Answering these questions can help you better determine the game script, and this will lead to better decision making and bets
The more detail you can go into the better insight you have to gain. The Eagles typically score on opening drives 71% of the time, and use up 8 mins of the clock, so there will probably only be 3 total possessions in the first quarter with x% chance in variance. Depending on the line for first quarter points this would create a great opportunity for the under in the first quarter.
Maybe based on coaching tendencies, the O/U looks fine at 55 for the game, but you know both teams will play conservatively in the first half, so you can exploit that by betting the under for the first half. This type of research can make you more money in the long run.
Gameflow affects players’ usage and scoring. Teams pass more when they are trailing and run more when they are winning to drain the clock.
To predict gameflow, compare each team’s last few performances to each other. Learn each team’s strengths and weaknesses and see how they size up against their opponents.
If the Titans are playing the worst run defense in the NFL you know Derrick Henry is going to get a ton of touches. More running plays means a running clock and a lower scoring game.
Tip #3: Always Shop Your Lines
There are so many different sports betting sites at a bettor’s disposal. Use this to your advantage and shop your line! What does shop your lines mean? It means finding the best odds offered on a game by browsing all the different sportsbooks.
DraftKings might have the Patriots -10 against the dolphins, while FanDuel has the Pats -8. Finding the best odds can increase the odds of winning your bet.
A great site to use for this is FTN Fantasy. It is basically Expedia, but for sports bets instead of airline tickets. It shows you all of the lines offered by the major sportsbooks so you can find the best lines without browsing 10 different sites.
There are a ton of different sites that do this but we are fantasy football guys and want to support our community.
Tip #4: Bet Against the Public
Let’s face it, the book is right way more often than the public. If the public was right more often then the book would lose money and not be able to payout bets. You want to be on the same side as the book, the winning side or “sharp” side.
The public loves to bet favorites and “overs”. Everyone loves to see a high scoring game and are reassured by the media how great the favorite is going to perform. Sportsbooks understand these human tendencies and shade their lines accordingly.
Line shading is when sportsbooks overprice certain bets knowing people will still bet on them. This happens especially with favorites and overs.
To find in depth information about where sharp money is and the amount of money placed on each side of the bet visit Sports Insights. They offer a paid subscription that allows you to see sharp vs public betting and how much money they are wagering.
Tip #5 Take Favorites Early, Dogs Late
As we mentioned above, the public loves favorites and overs, but mostly favorites. The casual bettor typically makes his bet later in the week or right on gameday.
Use this information to your advantage. Vegas corrects lines as bets as more bets are placed to shade their lines according to the public. If you are going to take a favorite in a game it is best to bet early before the lines change.
If you are going to bet an underdog in a matchup it is best to wait until the last possible minute to get the best odds. Once the odds for the favorite increase you get a greater payout opportunity.
According to Sports Insights, “since the start of the 2003 NFL season, at least 50% of spread bettors have taken the favorite in 2576 of 3218 regular season games. That means the public backed the favorite in more than 80% of all regular season games!”
If you are going to bet on the favorite, do it early to get the best odds. If you are putting your money on the underdog, it is best to do it late.
Tip #6 Use Information Available
When it comes to sports betting you can pretty much bet on anything you can think of which is pretty awesome. Everybody likes options.
It’s not all the different bets that you can place that are important its all the information on the bets that can be placed that is important.
A little confusing but hear me out. Just last week we were going through the Monday Night Football Game between the two top dogs of the NFL, the Chiefs and the Ravens.
DraftKings had the Ravens favorites I believe (Chiefs won by a landslide) but we were going to bet the over or under instead of the spread or moneyline because Chiefs had a tough game against the Chargers the week prior and Ravens have been spankin’ teams at home.
In order to get some more information for how Vegas believed the game would play out we looked at how many points each team was projected individually.
Then we moved on to look at the quarterback projections. How many yards and touchdowns was Mahomes and Lamar projected for. This gives you a little deeper insight to how points will be scored.
More passing usually leads to more scoring hence why teams who are behind throw the ball and teams ahead run.
Mahomes TD line was 3.5 touchdowns (if you see a high touchdown line like this start looking at anytime scorers on the Chiefs) and Lamar’s TD line was set at 2.5, so about 5 touchdowns between the two. Right there that is 35 points (if kickers make their PATs) not counting field goals or rushing touchdowns and we know Baltimore loves them some rushing touchdowns.
So we smashed the over on the point total.
Mahomes had 5 touchdowns in the first half and they steamrolled the Ravens for a point total of 54 on the game.
We missed the over by 0.5 and Harrison missed a PAT and a 30 yard field goal.
Had Harrison Butker (chiefs kicker) not wasted all of his perfect kicks against the Chargers the week prior we would’ve won.
The bet was wrong but the process was right. We went through all the information we had available to us just on DraftKings Sportsbook and made an educated decision.
Next time we know, just bet on the Super Bowl MVP and $400 million man to throw 4 touchdowns in the first half of a primetime game.
Chapter 7: Tools & Resources
Sports Betting Websites
If your state legalized sports betting you can bet on any U.S sportsbook website, if they are registered in your state. If not, than it’s best to bet overseas with offshore websites.
The following sportsbooks are operating in various states online, with a few physical locations existing as well. While sports betting isn’t legal federally, more states continue to adopt legislation that makes it legal for books to operate. As more states fall, nationwide legalization looks like it’s more a question of when instead of if.
While the legality of offshore betting has been a grey area for decades, the following books openly accept customers from the U.S. They are a popular option for bettors in states where online gambling bills have yet to be passed.
Onshore and off, big or small, all sportsbooks offer numerous signup rewards and promotions throughout the year. Many sharp bettors have accounts at every book they can to shop for lines and get the most out of their money. Be sure to research each book thoroughly and find one that fits your betting style. If you’re betting more considerable sums, you may be able to find better rewards and cashback opportunities at smaller books. No matter your preference, there’s a perfect option for you somewhere.
Best Betting Tools
Best Sports Stats Database Tool – SBD Sharp
This free stats database allows you to view league wide and team specific betting trends. You can view each team’s record for the moneyline, the spread, and the point totals. With SBD Sharp you can specify even further of the team’s records while home/away or favorites/underdogs.
Best Sports Betting Odds Tracking Site – Odds Checker
Odds Checker is a one stop shop to shop all of your lines any slate. They have the best odds on all sports bets and which online sportsbook offers them. Really easy way to make sure you are getting the best lines for your bet.
Best Free Sports Bet Tracker – Action Network
Action is a free betting tracker offered by Action Network. You can enter your bets that you place on a betting website and keep track of your past bets, money wagered, profits, and records. It is a really cool app to use and provides a ton of value for it being free.
Best Free Betting Trends Tool – Sports Insights +
Sports Insights offers data that is taken from real bets placed in actual sportsbooks. Find out who the public is betting on and make smarter decisions with real live information.
Best Way to Track Pros- VegasInsider
VegasInsider provides tons of information on weekly matchups, line movements, and also free picks. The odds page will show you lines from the biggest books in the desert and help you spot line movements as big bets are made in Sin City.
Best Place for Free Picks- TheSpread
TheSpread has a wealth of free picks from pro handicappers and tons of trend and game information. Check out the forum tab to get an inside look at paid service picks for the week.
Are Paid Sports Betting Subscriptions Worth It?
There are a ton of paid subscriptions that give you more insight and detailed information about the lines, and where the money is being placed. If you used any of the tools above you probably noticed some features were behind a paywall.
Betting website subscriptions can be expensive but they can provide you with a lot of value. They can give you access to see where the sharps are putting their money, which side the public is favoring, and how much money is being wagered on each side.
These subscriptions can be valuable and convenient. Most include all of the tools and calculators listed above in one place which is more convenient for users. They do provide a lot of value and can be found at a reasonable price.
Paid subscriptions can get pretty pricey but in the grand scheme of things if you are making money from the information you are getting, it’s worth it.
There are a ton of different paid subscriptions on the market that it can be hard to find a great value. Find out the key features that you are looking for and a sports service that offers them. If you are paying for betting trends or percentage information make sure the service pulls data from real bets on real sportsbooks.
Chapter 8: The Process
Pro handicappers are like machines, and almost all have a daily routine they follow to stay up to date on sports news and trends. Creating your own routine is vital to becoming a profitable bettor. This chapter will give the full breakdown of what it takes to become a better handicapper.
From finding information that matters to other factors to consider, try to mirror your capping process after this guide.
Starting Your Day Right
When you wake up, winning should be the only thing on your mind. It’s essential to take the necessary steps early to make your day profitable later. Complete your work, errands, chores, or anything else that will distract your focus from handicapping as soon as you can. This will leave plenty of time for research, analysis, ticket building, and winning.
As your routine becomes dialed in, you should have a good idea of the day’s slate and how teams perform. Check the daily schedule, and highlight any potential plays right away. Record the line, compare it with your numbers, and consider firing early if you don’t think you’ll see a better number through the day. Always be prepared for wagers, even if you’d like more information, to get the best odds or spread possible on your targets.
Leading Up to Game Time
Research never stops for handicappers, and the hour or so before game time might be the most hectic. Check team news, starting lineups, weather forecasts, and injury news as the game approaches. Many critical pieces of information break late in the day, so always keep your eyes and ears open to changing situations.
Depending on the side you’re betting on, you might be better served to wait until just before the game begins. If you’re betting underdogs, waiting as late as possible typically provides you with the best line available. If you like the favorite, betting earlier in the day will probably be safest. Consider the information from your data models to help forecast line movements, guaranteeing you’ll find the best price.
Live Betting, Final Analysis, & Look Ahead
As online sportsbooks continue to become available, live betting has become a profitable choice for many handicappers. Watch games you’re invested in, and look for opportunities to play the middle or capitalize on momentum swings. Live odds rely heavily on win probability, so if a team you love has underperformed in the opening minutes, you might be able to find incredible value during their slump.
Watching games will also help you form opinions on teams for future wagers. You can get a ton of information from paper, but there’s a lot to be said about actually watching a team play. This is crucial for spotting hot baseball players and crushing prop bets or spotting a Cinderella team for March that can hang with the power conferences.
As the slate comes to an end, you should input data into your models and start looking ahead to the following slate. Doing a late-night news check and highlighting edges in your data for the next day’s matchups will make the game day that much easier. As you start winning wagers, you’ll perfect your handicapping process and make the most out of the time you have.
Chapter 9: Gameday Morning Checklist
You’re now ready to start making bets. Before doing anything else, you’re going to need a checklist. This may sound elementary but making sure you didn’t skip a step is essential to seeing the whole picture and will ensure you’re taking the best side of the bet. Whether you’re brand new or a seasoned vet, run through this game-day checklist to never miss an edge.
Diligent record keeping is a common trait of winning handicappers. Whether you’re old-school pen and paper or like keeping digital records, get in the habit of taking notes. From injury news, player performances, line movements, and game notes, keeping detailed descriptions of each move is invaluable. Record why you’ve chosen a side and how it played out to make spotting an edge much more straightforward.
Examine the Slate
As we mentioned in the previous chapter, examining the slate should be the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night. Hopefully, you’ve circled some targets the night before and can perform a deeper dive on the matchups. This is also when you should compare your data model predictions to the betting markets. If you aren’t going to get a better price, go ahead and pull the trigger.
Check the Weather
One factor the public commonly overlooks is weather conditions for outdoor sports. Have you ever seen a total that looked so low you couldn’t believe it and then turned on the game to find out they’re playing in a hurricane? Save yourself the frustration, and check the weather in every city you’re making a wager in. Your future def will thank you.
Compare and Shop Lines
Profitable wagering goes beyond spotting edges and pages of statistics. Download every Sportsbook app you can and find the best odds for your target. Why pay more for the same thing when you can easily switch apps and get a better price? Consistently shopping lines is one of the fastest ways to get to regular profits.
Thorough research also involves being up to date on player and team news. You’d be shocked at how many public betters make wagers not knowing about major breaking news concerning a matchup. To make more intelligent wagers, tune in heavily to beat writers and other sources to never miss a scoop.
Now that you’ve got up to date on breaking news, weather, and line movements, it’s time to pull out the microscope. Keep a running list of matchup targets, and make notes about each during your research. Compare data models to actual line movements, and consider any red flags that may appear. Keeping an open mind will save you stacks down the road, so don’t wed yourself to specific selections until you’ve entirely evaluated the matchup.
Deep Dive Plays
While the microscope is out, take a second look at the matchups you’ve decided to wager on. This is when you should leave no stone unturned when gathering information. If you’ve subscribed to a pick service, compare their “expert” analysis to your opinion. Play devil’s advocate against your selections, and if they pass the test, you’re more likely to have a winning wager.
Now that picks have been made, you can start building teasers or parlays if you want more than just straight bets. Bookmakers like to advertise odds on these exotic bets because there’s more of an edge to the house. Don’t chase ridiculous payouts, and instead focus on combining your most confident picks.
Even two or three team parlays will pay out nicely, and as your bankroll builds, you can increase bet sizes. Remember, a $100 three-leg parlay turns way more profit than a $10 five-leg. Use teasers exclusively when you’ve found significant disparities between your line and the bookmakers’ line. This will open the door to reverse teaser possibilities and increases the need for line shopping.
You’ve weighed all the factors, you’ve tried to pick apart your selections with stats and logic, and you’ve built some quality tickets. You’re finally ready to make wagers and make money. Once again, shop lines relentlessly and only bet where you’re getting the best odds. And don’t tune out after making your bets. Live wagering can be very profitable, and your eyes can often be the best way to judge a team or player.
Chapter 10: Tracking Your Bets and Improving
Whether you are a novice bettor or a seasoned vet, you should be tracking your bets. You can write your bets down, use your sportsbooks history, or use a third party bet tracker.
Tracking your bets helps improve bankroll management. If you keep track of every bet you place you will have a much clearer idea of how much money you have risked and won, and risked and lost.
Looking at your betting history is a great way to learn from your mistakes. Look at the bets you have lost in the past and figure out where things went wrong. Do the same thing with the bets that you won. What did you do right? Use this information to give yourself the best opportunity to win money.
This is a great way to discover the type of better you are. Which games are you typically winning? Which games are you losing? Are you better in one sport than the other?
Figure out what your strengths are and stick to them.
Third Party Bet Tracking
If you are sharp then you probably shop around multiple sportsbooks to get the best lines. It’s great getting the best odds but it can be messy when it comes to tracking bets with so many different accounts.
You can lose track of how much money you are winning or losing fast. That is why you want to use a sports bet tracker, to have all of your betting history in one place. So you can control your bankroll with ease.
Information to Keep Track of
- Who you bet on
- The type of bet
- The amount of money bet
- Odds you got
- The Outcome
Where to Track your bets
There are a ton of free sports betting tracking tools that you can use. One that we recommend is the Action App, you can pick the sportsbook you use to get the exact odds for the game you bet. Most tracking apps offer features similar to Action where you can just insert your bets with live odds.
If you are not shopping around for lines then you can just use the sportsbooks history if they offer one.
Sports Betting Expectations
If you have ever searched how many bets you should win to be profitable you may have heard of the magic number of 52.7%. This is the percent of bets you will have to win in order to be profitable.
This is only the case if you are betting the spread or point total because the odds are typically -110. If you only bet the spread and point totals then yes you need to win about 6/10 bets to be profitable. However most sports bettors dabble in other bets with higher payouts, like live betting drives, who scores first, who wins the coin toss, you get the point.
There are a bunch of different things you can bet on that offer higher payouts than the standard -110. That 52.7% to breakeven doesn’t quite work when you are betting $25 9 team parlays to win $3,000.
You really only need to hit one of those to become profitable even if you lose 20 of them before you win one.
There is nothing better than smashing a bet and telling all your friends about it. You never really hear about how many bets people are losing though just the winners.
Nobody wants to brag about losing $100 while watching TV. It’s depressing to say, hell, it even made me a little sad just to type that out.
Not too many people keep track of their overall record in betting just their profits and losses.
So as a Sports bettor what should be the benchmark you are trying to hit to reach that Sharp Status?
According to professional gamblers, long term winning percentages of professional sports bettors rarely exceed 55%.
This is long term. Everybody gets on a hot streak, nailing 5-10 picks in a row but what goes up must come down and a cold streak typically follows.
If you are betting the spread or point totals you will want to win a little over 50% of bets to be profitable.
Bankroll Management Tips
Determine the Size of Your Bankroll
You should be comfortable losing all of the money in your bank roll. It will be tough to see it all go but you should still be financially stable if you are to lose the entire bankroll over the course of the season. Set a bankroll for the whole season or for a given week but know that you can lose it all.
Split Your Money Up
If you bet on a lot of different sports consider creating separate bankrolls for each sport.
Bet 1-5% on each bet
Don’t put your entire bankroll down on a bet, just bet small increments of 1-5% of your bankroll. 1-2% is really conservative but better if you are being risky with your money. Feel free to juice it up to that 5% on bets that are less risky and you are more confident in.
Sports Betting Units
A sports betting unit is a measured amount wagered on a sports bet. Bettors use units as a universal currency to show profit and loss. All bettors, large or small, have 100 total units. The value of the units varies depending on the bettor’s bankroll.
Never Chase Losses
It sucks to lose and you always think you can win your money back and will be right the next time but for most bettors you just end up losing more money. Do not chase losses and bet bigger next time to recover for the previous week.
Every week is a new slate. Go back to the drawing board. Find out what went wrong and learn from it rather than make more mistakes.
Throughout the season you will want to reevaluate your bankroll. Those 1-5% bets will change if your bankroll has increased or decreased so reevaluate to see where you stand. You always want to know where your bankroll stands.