5 Do’s and Don’ts When Betting for Value

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The difference between the sports bettors who lose and the ones who are able to maintain and grow their bankroll is a value-first mindset.

The majority of bettors simply try to pick bets they think they’re able to predict and ignore the costs associated with the play. At its worst, this way of thinking puts you in an unnecessarily vulnerable position. At best, you’re just wildly overpaying for something.

The bottom line is, you can’t ignore any number when trying to make a good bet. In this article, I’ll lay out the do’s and the don’ts when it comes to betting for value.

1 – Don’t: Take Huge Moneyline Favorites

Of all the low-value bets that are available, the moneyline favorite has to be the most popular among bettors of any level. It makes sense why. It feels like the most “sure thing” in a world where “sure things” are hard to come by.

Unfortunately, the moneyline favorite bet is also probably the most risky when you consider the possible financial ramifications.

Moneyline favorites are expected to win. The problem is, if you’re consistently risking 150% to 200% of the money you stand to gain, eventually, the losses (although fewer in number) are going to start to outweigh the wins in the money column.

In a perfect world, you wouldn’t ever have to risk more than you can win. In-person or online sportsbooks won’t allow this to be the case much of the time, so the next best thing you can hope for is a bet where the risk-return is as close to even as possible.

Regardless of how certain you are that your bet is going to hit, if the cost is too high, then the value just isn’t there to make it worth the risk.

2 – Do: Keep Track of Your Plays

You might be thinking that you regularly make the smart decision to take a high-value bet, but is that really the case? The only way to know for sure is if you have a tracking system in place that is regularly updated.

Some bettors get carried away with putting together a tracking sheet and end up making it too complicated to maintain. This is just as bad as not having one altogether.

The key to a successful tracking sheet is to simplify it as much as possible without sacrificing important information. It’s easier said than done, but it’s still manageable to do it effectively.

Below, you’ll find exactly what I include on my betting sheet. Each category has a column whenever I submit a bet.

The Matchup Itself

This is pretty basic, but you want to know what you’re betting on. Write down who’s playing. You might end up recognizing a pattern where you win at a higher rate when betting on a certain team.

The Bet and the Odds

Here is where value starts coming into play. Write down exactly what you see on your bet slip for this column. For example, you might have GB Packers (-5.5 at -110).

Risk to Win

This one helps you keep a closer eye on your money and is possibly the biggest indicator of value. Put a column for how much you’re risking and how much you could win. I usually simplify it (for the sake of saving space) and on my sheet it would look like “100:90” (keeping with the -110 bet above).

If you do this consistently, there will be times when you notice that the numbers aren’t looking too favorable. It’s this section of the sheet that can prevent some inadvisable plays.

Final Result

All the above information is what you should have written down prior to the game, or just before/after you submit a play. The last section, and the most meaningful, can be filled in after the game.

Once you’ve won or lost, note that with a +$90 or -$90. The final step is to then update your overall bankroll number. Typically, I update the overall number as each bet finishes up, but feel free to add up the number at the end of the day, or even week, if you don’t bet as frequently.

Just as a good business requires careful bookkeeping, your sports betting strategy needs the same attention to detail. It might not be the most fun thing, but it’s crucial to see where your money is going.

3 – Do: Take a Few Moneyline Underdogs

If the first thing in the “don’t” category is taking moneyline favorites, it would stand to reason that doing the opposite is a good decision, and it is!

The difficult thing about betting on moneyline underdogs is simply the cognitive dissonance that arises when you realize you’re betting your own money on a somewhat unlikely event happening. The important thing to remember is that you aren’t trying to win as many bets as possible, but rather win as much money as possible.

Although most bettors can’t help but think about the W’s and L’s on the bet slip, that number isn’t even close to as important as the impact on your bankroll.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that the majority of your plays be moneyline underdogs, but if you’re never making that play, you’re missing out on an opportunity to capitalize where the value is high.

As a side note, it’s these types of bet where doing some extra research can really pay off. The generally-uninformed public can distort the lines, so know take advantage by going the opposite way.

4 – Don’t: Fall Victim to Low Value Prop Bets

I understand that sportsbooks exist for one reason—to make money. With that being said, I still can’t help but feel a little frustrated when I scroll through a list of prop bets only to realize that regardless of which option I choose, I’m looking at a -120 line.

Prop Bets Aren’t Always Bad.

Though they should never be a huge part of your overall betting strategy, it’s possible that props can be part of a successful gameplan. However, it’s important to be highly selective when deciding which ones to take.

First, any time both sides of a bet are more than -110 I would suggest laying off altogether. On the other hand, if you find prop bets that can get you into a plus-money situation, that’s something to consider.

Keep in mind that in most prop bets, the sportsbook really hits on the public’s tendency toward recency bias. For example, if Damien Lillard has 45 points in a game, the book is likely going to set the over/under prop bet higher than it should be. If there was ever a time to fade the public, it’s on a prop bet.

5 – Don’t: Only Look at One Sportsbook

This is sports gambling 101, but the majority of bettors ignore the advice: Don’t become overly loyal to one sports betting platform.

In today’s world of increasingly relaxed gambling laws, bettors have access to more options than ever before. Unfortunately, a high percentage of these bettors don’t take advantage of the opportunities presented by the number of choices they’re afforded.

The variance in odds might not seem significant. In fact, it’s notable if one sportsbook differs from another by more than a point on a spread or more than +/- 10 at the end of a moneyline. But if you’re making hundreds of bets per year, these little differences add up.

Simply put, you shop around for the best price on most things, why wouldn’t you do it for betting lines as well?

Conclusion

Value should always be the main focus when making a bet, investment, or even a regular purchase in your daily life. Unfortunately, most sports bettors tend to focus on winning the bet more than winning money in the long-run.

Taking on more risk and betting with value in mind isn’t easy, but if you have the stomach for it, the results can be eye-opening.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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