Picking Betting Selections the Right Way
If you think that picking who you think is going to win a game, match, or a fight is the right way to make sports bets, you're in for a treat today. Why? Because that couldn't be further from correct. While this is the way that most of the betting public choose their bets, it's a recipe for a slowly leaking bankroll and no profits. In this guide, we're going to walk you through the right way to make your betting selections. When you get done here today, you will be far more equipped and educated on what it is going to take to be a successful and winning sports bettor.
What Does "The Right Way" Mean?
Before we start giving you the tips and breaking things down, we need to make sure we are all on the same page on what we're attempting to accomplish. What does "the right way" mean when we're talking about picking betting selections? Well, we're referring to picking selections to win. Anyone can look at a game and make a random selection and a bet. What we're talking about is making picks that give you a better chance of walking away a long-term winner.
If all you care about is having fun, then feel free to bet however you'd like. We're attempting to address those bettors who are serious about their selections or are looking to become more serious with their approach. Becoming a winning sports bettor is not easy. We're not going to sugar coat that for you. It requires a well thought out intelligent strategy and plan for making the best selections possible.
So, if you're just someone who wants to make some bets for kicks and giggles, you can probably disregard this guide. But, if you're looking to turn a profit and take your betting to the next level, buckle up and dial in because we're going to help you a lot today.
Look for Value, Not Winners
Wait, What?! You probably think we're crazy right about now. Did we just tell you that you shouldn't be trying to pick winners when you're making your betting selection? Yes...yes, we did. The good news for you is that we're going to fully explain what we're talking about and why it's crucial to the success of your sports betting career.
The best way to start explaining this concept is by proving a fact. You can have a winning sports betting record (meaning more wins than losses), be betting the exact same amount with every bet, and still be losing money. Additionally, you can have a losing sports betting record (more incorrect picks than correct), be betting the same amount with every bet, and be making money. If you're confused, that's okay. Let's walk through this and then talk about how to apply it to your betting selections.
The key here is that not all bets pay the same. If you're betting big favorites, you're probably going to win a lot of your bets, but you might not be making money. On the flip side, if you're betting a bunch of underdogs, you're going to win less often, but you're going to get paid out a lot more when you are correct.
If you bet four bets that are all (-500) favorites for $100 each and you win three out of four, here's what your profit will look like.
|Bet Number||Bet Amount||Payout Odds||Result||Profit|
In this scenario, you are 3-1 on your picks, but you lost $40. You are winning 75% of your bets, but you're losing money. What you should be tracking to gauge your success is your Return on Investment and not your win/loss record. The amount you're profiting or losing is much more important than your record even though that seems to be what people tend to share.
Why is this important when making your selection? Well, hopefully, it's clear that your goal when making picks should not be picking winners. Anybody can come out and fire on huge favorites to pad a nice looking win/loss record. It takes an expert to come out and make bets that win you money. This is called making bets for value. Your entire goal of sports betting should be trying to find bets that have value.
Now, this does not mean you shouldn't bet favorites or that you can't make money by only betting favorites. Here's what we mean. This is the important part so get your papers and pencils ready for this knowledge bomb coming your way.
Technically, the sportsbook tries to set the betting lines at exactly what they think it should be (minus a few percentage points for the house rake so they can make money). They will move this line based on how people are betting to try to encourage or discourage bets onto different sides of a game. This means that the line will frequently move to accommodate the goals of the sportsbook.
There can only be one correct line, though. That line would be what actually happens in the game. If you had the ability to see the future, you could see what the payout line or point spread should be, and you could bet if the line or spread were off in your favor. If you're a bit confused, that's okay. Let's look at an example to make things a clearer for you. In this example, we're going to assume there is no house rake to make things simpler.
Let's say that the Denver Dogaroos are playing the Memphis Fuzzygems. No, these are not real teams, but they're our made-up football teams for today's example. Let's say that the Dogaroos are a phenomenal team and you think that if they played the Fuzzygems 10 times, they would win 8 out of those 10 games. Basically, you think they will win 80% of the games they play together.
The moneyline on the Dogaroos is currently (-400). So we're all on the same page, a moneyline bet is a wager that the team will win the game. The odds of (-400) mean that if you were to wager $100 on the Dogaroos, you would return a profit of $25. Is this a great bet to make or not?
The key to understanding whether or not this is a great bet selection to make is implied probabilities. The implied probability is the probability (chance of something happening) that another number implies. So, (-400) does not just tell you how much you get paid for a correct bet on the Dogaroos, but it also tells you the likelihood of the Dogaroos winning based on that number.
With some basic math conversions, we can turn any moneyline into a percentage probability that something will happen. Since no one has time to do math, here's an implied probability converter that we've created for you. We highly recommend bookmarking this because it's going to become the cornerstone of your sports betting career.
When you put (-400) in as the American odds, and you click convert, it tells you that the implied probability of the Dogaroos winning based on this betting line is 80%. Based on your prediction (what we will call the predicted probability), you also thought the Dogaroos had an 80% chance of winning the game. Therefore, this bet would be paying out exactly as you think that it should pay based on the likelihood of the Dogaroos winning the game.
Here's what you're looking for. You're looking for bets where the implied probability is LESS than what you actually think is going to happen (your predicted probability). Remember, the sportsbook pays you out based on the likelihood of something happening. The less likely it is to happen, the more money they are going to pay you out. The more likely it is to happen, the less money they are going to pay you out when you're correct.
So, let's say the sportsbook thinks the Dogaroos are not that good at football and that they only have a 60% chance of winning the game. If you put 60% into the converter in the implied probability slot and click convert, you see that the American odds are about (-150). If you were to bet $100 at (-150), you would get a profit back of $66.67.
This is WAY more than you think we're supposed to get. You predict that the likelihood of a win is 80% which should pay out a profit of $25. You think that a $25 profit is fair. If the sportsbook is paying you out $66.67 when you're right, you are getting WAY overpaid. That is value.
When you find good value like this, you've found a great bet. If your predictive probability (how likely you think they are to win) is correct and the sportsbook is paying you better than they should be, you've found value, and you're on your way to making some money.
It's important to note that you can find value in underdog picks as well. Should you bet these picks even if you don't think the underdog is going to win? In most cases, you should be betting these. Remember, sports betting is not about winning the next bet. It's about winning money in the long run. The more bets that you make that have value, the more you're going to make in the long run.
The thing to remember when betting underdog bets for value is that it may take more games and bets for you to realize your profit.
Let's say the Dogaroos and the Fuzzygems are playing again. The Fuzzygems are the underdogs again at (+400). You think that the Fuzzygems have a 40% chance of winning the game. Is there value in this bet and should you make it?
Well, first you need to convert the moneyline odds of (+400) into an implied probability. If the implied probability is lower than your predicted probability (40%), then there is value in the bet. You put (+400) into the converter, and you see that the implied probability is 20%. This means that you'd be getting paid out way more than the sportsbook should be paying you.
If you're curious as to what you think the odds should be based on what we think the likelihood of them winning is, you can figure that out. You put 40% into the implied probability converter and see that you think the odds should be +150. This means that if you were to bet $100, you think you should be getting $150 in profit while the sportsbook is willing to pay out $400 in profit. There is a lot of value here.
But...you still think that the Fuzzygems are going to lose the game. When you say they have a 40% chance to win, you're saying that you think they're going to lose more often than they win. So, should you make this bet?
First, let's look at how things would work if you made 10 bets and the sportsbook was right that they were only 20% likely to win the game.
|Bet Number||Bet Amount||Payout Odds||Result||Profit|
Your total profit would be $0. You would have lost 8 of 10 bets, but because you were getting paid the correct amount it balances out. Obviously, you can't bet the same game 10 times, but the idea is that if you're always making bets that pay out the correct amount you will always break even.
Let's take a look at this same scenario except let's say that your prediction that the Fuzzygems have a 40% chance of winning the game is correct. This means that they should win 4 out of every 10 times they play. Remember, the sportsbook is still paying you out on their prediction of only a 20% likelihood of winning.
|Bet Number||Bet Amount||Payout Odds||Result||Profit|
In this scenario, you would be turning a profit of $1000! You were betting on games you expected to lose, but because there was value you were able to turn a profit in the long run.
How to Utilize This in Making Your Picks
By now, you are hopefully seeing that the key to being a winning sports bettor is finding value whether that is with favorites or underdogs. If you continually make value picks instead of just picking who you think will win the game, you're going to start turning a nice profit. The more value you find, the more money you're going to make.
So, what are the actionable steps you can take to utilize this information to make better picks? It's actually quite simple. First, you need to figure out the percentage chance you think a bet has of winning. This is easier said than done, but we will cover this in a later section. Once you figure out what the likelihood is of a bet winning, you need to convert that percentage into an odds number. Then, start looking at different sportsbooks and see what they are paying for that bet. If they are paying better than what you think they should, you should make that bet.
Let's say that our favorite team, the Dogaroos, are playing against the Seattle Stinkpots. You work your predictive strategy (which we will cover in the next section), and you figure out that you think the Dogaroos have a 35% chance to win against the Stinkpots. You put that into the converter and you see that the moneyline odds should be +185. If you find any sportsbook that is paying better than +185, you should make that bet because it has value.
If you go to Sportsbook #1 and see they are paying out that bet at +210, you should bet. Keep in mind that there won't always be huge discrepancies in the payouts so you may have to go for thinner value sometimes. If you can only find something like +195, you still may want to take that bet.
Always be looking for value and not winners. The key to winning at sports betting in the long run, is finding value and taking advantage of it.
There are some instances where there may be value in a pick that you won't want to bet on. The further that the payout odds get from zero, the bigger the value you'll need to be looking for. For example, the difference between +150 and +200 is 50. This would be a pretty big value find in our opinion. The different between +1000 and +1050 is also 50, but this would not really be a huge value find. The bet is so unlikely to happen that the risk is most likely not worth the reward. In theory, yes, you could still make this bet, but it's going to take you so many instances to overcome the variance that it's probably not worth it.
The same goes for favorites. (-200) has much more value than (-230). However, (-500) and (-530) are only 30 apart, but are not that great of a value find. While you could still make this bet, your reward might not be big enough for the risk associated. Always make sure to ask yourself if there is enough value for you to be taking the risk you are. Small discrepancies closer to zero are much more worth it than those further away from zero.
An Additional Note about Point Spread and Totals Bets
As you may have noticed, we've mainly been discussing moneyline bets and haven't really touched on finding value with bets that don't usually have varying payouts but instead have varying point spreads. When looking for value here, you have two ways of approaching the situation - the easy way and the hard way.
The hard way would be figuring out your predicted win percentage, converting it into a moneyline, and then converting that into a spread. There are a few calculators out there to help you with this, but they are less than reliable.
The easy approach here is instead of figuring out the percentage chance you think a team will win by, figure out how many points you think they're going to win by. It's the same process except you are coming out with a different number. If the spread offered is better than what you think it should be, there is value.
Build a Predictive Strategy
Successful sports betting is not about throwing crud against the wall and seeing what sticks. It's also not about sitting around staring at a blank wall or a page of lines and looking to see what jumps out at you. Successful sports betting is much more about using a well-formulated and carefully crafted predictive strategy to find the bets that you should and should not be making.
In the above section, we talked about finding value by converting your predictive probability into a moneyline odds number and comparing that with what the sportsbook is offering. If you find a better payout, you take it and laugh all the way to the bank. While this sounds simple in theory, the complexities and challenges come in figuring out your predictive probability. When you're right, you're going to make money. When you're wrong, you're going to lose money.
To make sure we're all on the same page, let's talk a little bit more about what our predictive probability is. This is a number presented as a percentage that says how likely we think a team is to win a game. It's a fancy term, but the premise is simple. If you think a team is going to win 75% of the time they play a game, your predictive probability is 75%.
You have two main approaches that you can take to figuring out the predictive percentage for a team to win a game. There are more approaches, but most of them will fall into one of these two categories. The first is the "eyeball approach" and the second is the mathematical approach.
The eyeball approach is not really a professional term, but more of a way of describing the strategy of collecting data, analyzing stats and history, and then coming to your own conclusion. This is what a lot of sports bettors already do but in a milder form. Here's where we'd like to put a twist on it, though. Most sports bettors look at the game coming up as a one-time game, and they decide either win or lose. This doesn't help us if we're looking for a percentage chance of winning the game.
Instead of looking at the game as a single game, imagine that the two teams are going to play 100 times. Decide how many times you think one team will win out of those 100 times. That will be your predictive percentage. If you think they'll probably win 60 times out of 100, your predictive probability is 60%. You can do this with 10 games as well and multiply it by 10. It doesn't really matter which you use. What does matter is that you're able to get your mind thinking differently.
The second approach is to create a mathematical formula that gives you a percentage based on the stats and factors that you put into it. There is a multitude of different ways to build your formulas, but here is a general idea to get you started. Come up with the criteria that you think is important to figure out how likely a team is to win. This could be any number of criteria and usually the more, the better.
After you determine the criteria you think are important, you're going to want to figure out how much weight each of those criteria will carry. Then, you want to give each team a rating based on your opinion or statistics. If you build your formula well, it will spit out the percentage that you are looking for. You'll always want to be tweaking your formula until it's perfect and you can print money on a sport.
Let's look at a way oversimplified example to try and figure out the predictive probability of our ole' favorites the Dogaroos versus the Seattle Stinkpots from our earlier examples. Let's say you determine that offense, speed, and coaching are the three criteria that will help you determine who will win. Again, a real formula will have way more criteria than this, but this works for this example. You decide that offense is 50% of the equation, speed is less important at 30% of the equation, and coaching only plays into the equation 20% of the time.
Your formula would be the following:
You then give each team a rating from 1-10 in each category.
You plug these numbers into your formula for each team, and it looks like this. You can also change your percentages to decimals to make your math easier (50% is the same as .5, etc.)
Dogaroos = .5(8) + .3(7) + .2(4) = 6.9
Stinkpots = .5(6) + .3(4) + .2(6) = 5.4
Now, you just need to figure out what percentage of the total points each team has and that will be your predictive probability. The total points can be found by adding 6.9 and 5.4. This gives us 12.3. Now, you want to find what percentage each team's score is of 12.3. This is found by dividing their score by the total points available and multiplying that number by 100.
Dogaroos = (6.9/12.3)*100 = 56%
Stinkpots = (5.4/12.3)*100 = 44%
So, based on your formula, you think the Dogaroos are 56% likely to win the game, and the Stinkpots are 44% likely. While we covered this in the previous section, let's convert this to a moneyline and see what odds we think we should be getting paid out on this game. Practice makes perfect, right?
We go to our converter, and we put in 56% as the implied probability and click convert. It tells us that the odds should be -127. If you see better odds at a sportsbook, you've found value.
If you want to use statistics in your formula, you can certainly do that. What you do in that situation is assign ranges to each number 1 through 10. For example, let's say that you are using average passing yards as one of your statistics. Here is the scale you could use for your rating system.
|1||0 - 40 yards|
|2||41 - 80 yards|
|3||81 - 120 yards|
|4||121 - 160 yards|
|5||161 - 200 yards|
|6||201 - 240 yards|
|7||241 - 280 yards|
|8||281 - 320 yards|
|9||321 - 360 yards|
Which Approach is Better?
Honestly, the answer to this question is which approach works better for you. Some people who love math and statistics are going to like the mathematical approach. Other people who are allergic to math might enjoy the other approach. As long as the approach you choose is working for you and you're winning, that's going to be the better approach. If you're brand new to betting, you may want to start with the eyeball approach but toy around with the mathematical one. Just make sure that you're putting in the proper amount of research and effort into making your picks.
Do Your Homework
Sports betting is not something that comes easy to anyone. It doesn't matter how sharp or smart you are. Sports betting is something that rewards those who are willing to work hard to get what they want. What does that mean for you? It means that you need to be willing to put in the time and effort necessary to make the right picks and win.
Let's talk a little bit about what that means, though, because most people initially misinterpret what this means. Here's something you need to understand. Even if you watch every single game of a sport, you are not an expert. Unless you have some incredible rain-man lie ability to absorb everything that is happening at every second of every single game, you're not an expert. Hint: none of you reading this have that ability because it doesn't really exist.
This means that if you want to be an expert on a sport you need to be doing your homework. By homework, we mean pouring through stats, watching game footage, and doing everything you can to try and identify edges that you can take advantage of.
You have to make sure, though, that you are working smarter and harder. If you put in 20 hours a day studying pointless facts and drawing worthless conclusions, you're still going to make the wrong picks and be a terrible sports bettor. If you put in less time, but on the right stats and draw the right conclusions, you're going to be wildly successful. You have to be utilizing your research and prediction time wisely.
For some of you that are new, this may be quite a few hours into your picks. For those of you that are sharp and have been betting successfully for a while, this might not be as long.
We will tell you this, though. The more intelligent and well-spent time you put into studying for your picks, the more successful you should be. Sports betting has a way of rewarding the people who are willing to put in the hard work and the long hours to crack the system and make better picks. There is no reason that this can't be you as long as you're dedicated.
Be Rational, Not Emotional
When you're making sports bets, you need to be thinking and choosing with your head and not your heart. Sports by themselves are emotional rollercoasters to watch. When you toss in the added stresses of winning and losing money, you'll find that stress going through the roof. A missed catch or silly mistake by a player is no longer just a loss for your favorite team, but it's now less money going into your pocket.
This rise in stress is going to have your emotions doing backflips from time to time. Is this something to be worried about? No, this is something that you should expect to happen. What you should be worried about, though, is if your emotions start to affect your betting choices. It's easy to let our logic get clouded by our feelings, and the result is not good for our bottom line. The toughest part of it all is that our brains are smart enough to try and rationalize our emotions and convince ourselves that our emotions really are logic.
You need to have strong control over this before you start making your picks. One of the best strategies is getting all your bets in before any of the games that day start. While this is going to prevent you from making irrational choices that day, it might not be ideal. If you're waiting on lines to move, you may have to wait until after other games have already started. If they're not going well, you may be tempted to do something out of the ordinary to chase your losses or make you feel better.
If you're someone who has to wait for lines to move, write out what it is that you are going to do. You can write down that if X line moves to Y points, you will bet Z amount. That way, as long as you have enough self-discipline to follow your own rules, you won't end up making a silly bet selection that you normally wouldn't have.
This will protect you for that day, but you still need to make sure that your emotional responses don't carry over to the next day and your future selections. You need to be in a clear and stable state of mind before you go picking any teams to bet. If you're not, take some time to calm yourself down and get your mind clear. If you can't, then don't make any bets until you are.
We won't get on our soapbox today to preach to you, but self-control and discipline are almost as important as being able to make winning selections. If you lack either, you need to put safeguards in place or choose another hobby or way to make money. It's that simple.
One additional tip that's very popular is to avoid betting on any of your personal favorite teams. Many sports bettors report struggling to avoid bias and get what they want to happen out of their mind when placing wagers for or against their own team. It's up to you whether or not you'd like to follow this tip. From our experience, though, most sports bettors struggle with this even if they claim they have no issues with it.
Quality Before Quantity
We need to make sure that you notice this is slightly different than the phrase you're probably used to hearing. The cliché phrase is quality OVER quantity. However, we say that when it comes to picking your sports betting selections, it should be quality BEFORE quantity. You see, the first phrase says that you should abandon quantity completely for the sake of quality. What we are saying, though, is that you should establish quality first and then push to increase your quantity.
Once you're able to win on a small scale, you can work to expand and make more bets. That's how you're going to make some serious money. The key, though, is doing this without ever sacrificing your quality. Too often, people want to double their bankroll and take over the world overnight. Sports betting is by no means a sprint. It should be viewed as a marathon. It's not a race to see who can fire off the most low-quality bets the fastest.
This is probably something you already knew. However, while most people know this, they tend to neglect its importance in the name of trying to win too quickly. Allow the quantity to come naturally. If you're only able to make one or two quality bets a week initially, that's okay. As your strategy grows and your game is sharpened, you'll be able to find more edges, and the number of games you bet will increase. Do not force this under any circumstances.
This is because sports betting is a long-term betting game that will require you to deal with variance. Variance is a math concept that says no matter how good you are, you will have short-term winning and losing streaks. In the long run, the sharp bettors will always win out, but that requires them to make a large volume of bets. Obviously, the quicker you get through that large volume of bets, the quicker you'll be guaranteed to overcome the variance and realize your profit and gains. If you do that while sacrificing quality, though, you're going to be digging yourself a hole that you may never get out of.
Game Predictions Before Bet Types or Looking at Lines
Many times we hear that new sports bettors will pick out the type of bet they want to make first and then worry about which side to choose. For example, they'll say something like, "I want to make a moneyline bet on this game," and then they'll begin their research and predictions. Other bettors may pull up the list of bets and lines and look for some they like and then begin their research to validate that bet. While these may seem like the correct approaches, there is a better and more effective way to approach betting.
What you should do instead is start by predicting how you think the game is going to go. Do this before you even look at any lines or opinions by anyone else. Why? Well, there is something known as the self-fulfilling prophecy. Basically, if you want to see something, you will subconsciously start looking for things that validate that. If you want to bet that Team A will win, you'll start noticing stats that support that viewpoint and ignore ones that don't. All of this usually happens without your brain consciously being aware of it. To avoid this, make your predictions about the game before you look and get any lines or odds in your head.
Predicting the game flow and outcome before deciding what type of bet to make does quite a bit for you. You see, you may find a lot of other bets that you can make that you would never have thought of. You may also find that the type of bet you were looking to make is not the ideal bet you want to make.
Let's say you are working on coming up with a prediction for the game between the Denver Dogaroos and the Seattle Stinkpots. Normally, you like to make moneyline bets, but today you decide to take our advice and predict the game before you go and make your bet.
Your prediction of the game is that it's going to be an offensive blowout. Both teams are going to go nuts, and the Dogaroos star player RuffRob Gronkdogski is going to have a huge game. You predict that the game is going to be close, but you think the Dogaroos should pull off the win. Should you still make your moneyline bet?
Well, you look at the odds, and you see that the Dogaroos are +3 points on the spread. Since you weren't positive they were going to win, you might want to take the spread bet instead. You also might want to look into betting the over since you think it will be an offensive showcase and you may want to put a few prop bets on Grondogski to have a big game. Basically, by predicting the game first, you were able to see that there was a better option for you to take and you identified a few extra bets that you could profitably make.
This will also protect you from getting gun-shy when you see lines that are really bad. If you think the Dogaroos should be favored and you see they are +8, then you might convince yourself that there is something you're missing and there's a reason that the line is so bad. Because of that, you may talk yourself out of making what might be an incredible bet. But, if you've already done your homework and have made your prediction, you'll be able to recognize that as a horrendous line and will have no fear slamming down a bet before the other sharp bettors find it and move it back to where it should be.
Putting It All Together
Hopefully, you've now seen that just throwing darts at the wall or pulling picks out of thin air are not the ways to be a profitable sports bettor. If you really want to do things the right way, you need to follow a structured approach, put in the adequate amount of time and research, and stick to your system and rules. Everything we've provided for you in this guide is not intended to make sports betting more work and less fun, but it's intended to help you be a more profitable and successful sports bettor.
Remember, sports betting isn't a sprint to the finish, but a slow, methodical, and calculated move towards profitability. Don't rush anything and give your expertise time to grow and shine through. Trust us; you're going to be thankful one day when you realize how much this information has helped you achieve your sports betting goals.