Time to Go to Training Camp
If you were with me yesterday, you saw that I struggled REALLY badly in my first week of sports betting. I told you that I relied on making emotional decisions with no time for a second thought about whether my initial choice was a good one, and lack of strategy landed me a pitiful 35.7% success rate. So, after massaging my bruised ego, I realized that it was time to get to work on learning. If I’m going to be any good at this sports betting thing, I need to educate myself using the tricks of the trade. That is, whatever the professionals do, I need to mimic every bit of their process.
So, I watched a four-part Showtime series called Action to begin my education. The big idea was to see how experienced bettors behave and how they interpret sports knowledge and sports data differently from amateur bettors. In the first episode, it became immediately apparent to me that in order to succeed at this, I need to consume massive amounts of data. For example, one of the main figures of the show is professional bettor Bill Krackomberger, known simply as “Krack.” Krack is what’s known as a handicapper. Handicappers are bettors who assign advantage by equalizing chance. To clarify, handicappers will bet a large enough amount of money so that the oddsmakers in question will move the odds up or down in order to minimize financial risk for themselves. Basically, Krack will see a set of odds and then bet enough money to move the odds in his favor, by making the bookmakers wary of losing money thanks to Krack’s investment.
How odds work is fairly self-explanatory. Basically, if the odds are set at 10/1, it means that you would need to bet the second number and win in order to receive the first number. So, in this situation, you’d have to bet $1 to win $10, which would give you a grand total of $11 at cash out.
However, the odds are subject to change. Oddsmakers work on constantly adjusting the odds, or “the line,” until the game in question begins. Such factors as injuries or whether certain players are starting or not can cause the line to move. Krack will bet a lot of money on the score differential being under the line, usually $3,300, as he did multiple times in the show. This wager turns the heads of bookmakers because they realize that the financial windfall could be greater by increasing the spread.
It’s people like Krack that made me realize that I must immerse myself in statistics and statistical analysis if I want to succeed at sports betting. But here’s the best part: I already told you guys I was a pint-sized stathead, and I assure you that this hasn’t changed one bit. However, I need to make sure that I don’t get overconfident, since understanding statistics and how trends can affect a game comes extremely easy to me.
The main thing to understand in sports betting is called “regression analysis.” Don’t ask me what the specifics are, because I don’t know much beyond the fundamentals. The basics are that it involves looking at the relationship between a dependent variable (whether the team you bet on wins or loses) and several independent variables (statistics recorded in-game). The odds that you see in a casino are a result of predicting regression analysis based on prior events. Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re betting on the San Diego Padres to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers. Well, the oddsmakers will look at the two teams and determine that the Padres, having the worse win-loss record of the two, will go in as the underdog. However, if the game is being played in San Diego, this can sway the oddsmaker to level the playing field and bring the odds closer together. In this instance, it’s probable that the Padres will still be less likely to win, but they will have a much-improved chance of winning thanks to their homefield advantage.
Now here’s the thing with betting on baseball: Casinos sometimes won’t let you bet on one game straight up, though others will. It’s a fickle type of bet. In 2019, New Jersey Sportsbooks have a 12.9% return on parlays, while no individual sport has a return greater than 4.6%. What this means is that there’s a great chance of making money on parlays, but there’s a much larger amount of risk inherent in it. In order to win a parlay, each individual leg of the bet must hit in order to receive the payout. It carries a better financial incentive for both parties (the casino and the bettor) because the odds of winning a 3-team are 6.5 to 1 ($650 from a $100 bet), but it also greatly increases the casino’s chance of keeping the bettor’s money because of the relative unlikelihood of success.
I’d like to take a moment and impart some knowledge I’ve acquired regarding parlays. DON’T BET LARGE SUMS OF MONEY ON THEM! I’ve learned from Pat Hagerty’s Good Teams Win, Great Teams Cover and Chad Millman’s The Odds that parlays are the work of the devil and should not be touched. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. But they both warn of the dangers of risking large amounts of money on multiple-legged bets. Generally, people who lose want to try hard to win their next time out, and this impulse gets magnified when people lose money. What they’ll generally try to do is win it all back at once and lay down a big sum. So, they’ll risk a large amount of money on a parlay to try and win a huge amount of money. However, they’ll likely lose that big stake because of the relative unlikelihood of winning.
There are many other types of bets. Besides parlays, there are money line bets, which is a simple winner vs. loser bet, and a point spread bet, which is about winning by a certain margin. Also, there are total bets, also known as over/unders, which address the total points scored between the two teams, and much more. Honestly, if I included every type of sports bet you could make, we’d be here for an hour. Just understand that the ones I mentioned are usually the most popular, but there is one other type of bet that’s very popular: proposition bets (prop bets for short).
Well, prop bets will get you in a world of trouble if you lack discipline and go off the deep end. Because of all of this opportunity to win money, it’s easy to fall into bad habits. However, it’s important to not become a degenerate gambler and do something foolish like bet your house on the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl. These wagers are also known as in-game bets. Basically, they’re very specific bets that have to do with every little facet of the game. For instance, there could be a prop bet on the over/under of Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans getting 75 receiving yards over the course of a game. Or there could be a prop bet on how many field goals will be kicked in the first half. There might even be prop bets about whether the next pitch will be a strike or a ball. See? The possibilities are endless, and if you lack discipline, you could lose all your money in one game.
Why am I telling you about this? Well, in my education process, I’ve realized how easy it is to fall into these traps. Once you understand all the statistical trends and learn how to evaluate them, you’ll undoubtedly begin to become more and more confident. I sure have since I started my second week of this project. This week, I’ve gone 24-20, which is much improved from my abysmal first week. In fact, it’s a 57.1% success rate, a 21.4% increase over last week and in line with the success rate professionals strive to have. In making my baseball picks, I’ve realized that consulting trends and evaluating pitching matchups and how lineups stack up against the opposing pitching staff really helped me make better decisions.
For example, the pitching staff of the New York Yankees has struggled mightily this year, but the Boston Red Sox’s staff has been worse. Additionally, Yankees pitchers perform much better at home, to the tune of a 3.76 ERA at Yankee Stadium versus a 5.24 ERA away from it. Meanwhile, the Red Sox sport a 4.32 ERA away from home, which doesn’t bode well in a hitter’s park like Yankee Stadium. Going into the series this week, I knew that the Yankees would be ready to exact some revenge after being embarrassed last weekend at Fenway. Let’s just say that my realization of this has paid off handsomely.
In betting on soccer matches, I evaluated which teams had greater chemistry and which formations worked better against their opponents, and it helped me make correct choices and made me some more money. For instance, in the Gremio-CSA match earlier this week, I discovered that both clubs play a 4-2-3-1 formation, something I knew would end in a stalemate, despite Gremio’s superiority. Lo and behold, my research and analysis paid dividends for me and I won that bet.
There’s that old saying that knowledge is power, but Uncle Ben says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That power is the sports knowledge you’ll accrue over time. With that said, the responsibility you have is to yourself, and in order to fulfill that responsibility, you’ll need some help.
I advise that you consult some kind of betting model. Since PAPSA passed (the bill that gives sports gambling legalization back to the states), many new American companies have popped up with the goal of creating statistical models that will improve a bettor’s performance. For instance, there have been a number of baseball games this past week that I felt were going to go one way, but then upon consulting a model, I realized that my first thought was wrong, and that change helped me net a good amount of money. There was a bet earlier this week that I wanted to place on the San Diego Padres. However, after consulting my newly-discovered models, as well as regular statistical info, I realized that the Padres had several factors against them, namely their lack of previous success against Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw.
Now, that I’ve been armed with good-quality knowledge and I know about best practices, I feel like I need to put my skills to the test. And what better way to do that than at actual sportsbooks? Next week, I’ll be spending a couple of days in Atlantic City, pitting my knowledge against physical sportsbooks and see if I can’t make some serious money.