A Guide to Modern Sports Betting. By Pokerjoe @truepokerjoe.
This is book sample preview. If you would like to buy full book, please visit Amazon kindle store.
Why you should not buy this book
Feedback on this book has been overwhelmingly positive, especially the off-the-record comments from the very few people who are true professional sports bettors.
There have, however, been a few bad ratings on Amazon by people upset that this book contained math and didn’t tell them who to bet on.
This isn’t Sports Betting for Real Dummies and I won’t apologize for these “problems.” Sharp sports betting entails math. Don’t pretend you have a long run chance to win without doing some calculating.
As to “who to bet on,” let me remind you of this basic truth: no one can give you a winning system. Sports betting is a market. That means, if someone publicizes a system, it will fail either because it never did have a positive expectation, or because, though originally profitable, its edge will be absorbed into the prices.
Yet those two truths—that you can’t beat sports betting without doing some math, and that no one can publicize winning systems whose edge won’t get eaten by the market—infuriate squares. That’s why I’m leading off with this: don’t buy this book if you can’t understand what I just said. If you don’t want to do any math or handicapping, and just want to be told who to bet on or given simplistic plug-in systems, meaning you’re too lazy to even flip your own coin, put this book down now.
What does that mean, “Too lazy to flip your own coin?” It’s maybe the biggest insult in sports betting and it means this: if you did nothing else but flip a coin to decide your bets, on fifty-fifty propositions, you would lose your bet’s juice. Yet many players don’t want to do even that, so they pay someone, a tout or a system-seller, to flip the coin for them. They think that there are such great handicappers in this world that you, tailing them, can cover the juice and their fees. I can beat the juice, and proved it with 500 plays posted on twitter, under fair rules, that hit 56%. But I’m not selling picks. Ever. I don’t need the money because 56% is a gold mine.
I’m always impressed that there are people who can beat the juice. But to beat the juice and the tout’s fee? If you find such a person, you’re right, you don’t need no damn math. Stop reading this free book sample and just ride that gravy train, you lucky bastard.
The reality is that your genius tout is himself only coin-flipping (and by including this paragraph, I set myself up for trolling by touts who are vindictive toward anyone exposing their scam; friends remind me of that when I complain about negative reviews here). Though your tout is giving you a write-up or speech about his handicapping “reasons” for the play (which you, new to this, will think sound smart), he’s actually just randomly picking sides knowing full well that anyone dumb enough to pay for picks is going to be dumb enough to accept his excuses for losing, or quit him but just move on to another tout. And a lot of times your old tout and your new one will be the same person because they like to keep several incarnations of themselves going so that when they burn out customers of one incarnation, they can, via their contact information, move them on to another incarnation.
I won’t argue with such brilliance, I concede defeat, please don’t buy this book, end up disappointed and leave a bad review. You can make money betting sports just by watching games at your local pub, or by paying an “expert.” Really.
And hit 60%? More? That’s so cool!
If you hit 60% of your bets, and make 2000 bets a year, betting 5% of your bankroll each bet (which is very conservative if you can really hit 60%), starting with $1,000, refiguring bankroll size after, say, every 25 bets, you would make … you know, do the math yourself, so that it hits home how ridiculous is the idea that anyone wins at that rate.
Many of you have jobs at which you work, and the last thing you want to do when you come home is more work. You just want to bet some ball games and enjoy watching them. That is absolutely fine, sports betting for most people should be exactly that, great entertainment.
Yet you should still buy this book because even a very little sports betting math will save you so much money in the long run; being able to intelligently choose, for example, whether you should bet your team at -7 +100, -7.5 -110, or -8 -120, when you have the choice of lines, adds up.
And if you do want to work at this? This book is a careful explanation of the undeniable and calculable truths of sports betting, and a point in the right direction for sports handicapping.
There is basic information here you won’t find anywhere else.
If you make your own numbers, that is, if you actually handicap, you have to understand that a game in which your ratings make a team a 6 point favorite in a game where they’re favored by only 3, you don’t necessarily have a 3 point edge, even if your ratings are right.
If you see line moves, you have to understand what the market is saying, and no book has before given such an authentic explanation of how the sports betting market works.
You must understand what push frequencies are, how to use them, and how to deduce them.
I could go on, but there’s nothing in here you don’t need to understand, much of which has not before been made public, probably none of which has before been so clearly explained.
But in parting from this free-book-sample introduction, I am going to give you a system. But … the market should eat it up and its edge should disappear. I’m going to release it here anyway, partly because I’m retired from betting professionally (hence this book) and can afford to give up edges, and partly for the economics experiment of it.
Here’s the system, for college football totals, written in SDQL: (abs(p:margin) > 24 and abs(op:margin) > 24 and week > 1 < 14 and total < 60 and (site = home or (site = neutral and line < 0))) or season > 2005 and (abs(p:margin) + abs(pp:margin) > 48 and abs(op:margin) + abs(opp:margin) > 48 and week > 1 < 14 and total < 60 and (site = home or (site = neutral and line < 0))) Sportsdatabase.com is an excellent and free resource. Learn how to use it; don’t be intimidated by it; don’t use it stupidly. I feel a bit like I’m giving a loaded gun to a child, so I’ll add: you have to be a little smart to figure out how to use that site at all, and you have to be really smart to learn how to use it properly. Be really smart. But in English, the system is this: teams involved in blowout games the previous week are a little more likely to play to an under result in their next week (53.7% in about 4000 instances, since sportsdatabase.com began including totals in its college football database in 2006). But when both teams fit the bill, the record is 362 unders, 240 overs, and 14 pushes (though you should be easily able to turn those pushes into wins by line shopping, and some of those losses into pushes as well). So, 60% covers on ~600 plays. Now I’m putting it out in the world and expect its value to dissipate. But its greater value, to you, is as an example of what’s out there, what can be done, what you can do, to beat sports betting. It also serves the value of showing you what you’re up against in the sports betting market: guys doing work like this. But this is actually low level work. The advanced stuff can’t be done so easily. In the book’s later chapters, I’ll point you in the right direction for that. Yet people want such easy, low level work. Here’s why you shouldn’t: an NFL system based on turnover difference, philosophically sound because anyone who really understands the NFL understands that turnovers are mostly luck: Average(( turnovers - to:turnovers )@team and season) - Average(( o:turnovers - oo:turnovers )@o:team and o:season and o:season = o:season) > .75 and 13 > week > 4 and p:L and season < 2012 See it here: https://tinyurl.com/y9llh66v ATS (against the spread): 472-346-19, 57.7%. Good? Happy? Your idea of handicapping? This isn’t handicapping. Handicapping is making your own line. There’s no projected line coming from such work. These are systems unattached to ratings leaving you with no idea whether they’ve since been incorporated into the line, meaning you have no idea whether you should bet them. In the above NFL turnover margin system, that great result if from before 2012. Since 2012, that same system is 99-82-3, 54.7%. So you can see that the market is incorporating this idea of turnovers regressing to the mean into the price. If you are properly evaluating NFL game results, you will of course not overrate teams which have been luckier with turnovers , and thus gain this same edge against a market still overreacting to final scores, but without using such a simple plug-in system as this (although if you insist, use this stricter version, which has held steady over the years: Average((turnovers-to:turnovers)@team and season)-Average((o:turnovers-oo:turnovers)@o:team and o:season)>1 and 14>week>5 and Average(turnover margin@ team and season,N=4)>=1.5
If you’re properly handicapping the NFL, there should be a strong correlation between the bets you make and the bets this simple system spits out. The difference is that you won’t be betting when the system’s impact is in the line already, or negated by other factors.
This book isn’t about such systems. They have indirect value, but you should not be looking to often bet on them straight out. They are almost always pointless, especially when made with small sizes or for specific teams, and are generally just the random nonsense you’ll find if you look for it. They are what many people think of as handicapping, but what real sharps dismiss (for outright use, that is).
Hopefully, by the time you finish this book, you’ll understand what I mean. But first I will, perhaps tediously, make sure you understand the game’s philosophical fundamentals. Then I’ll make sure you understand its betting fundamentals. Then we’ll talk about handicapping.
If you’re still with me, enjoy.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Essence
Chapter 2: What are we really betting on?
Chapter 3: What handicapping is
Chapter 4: Break-even win rate
Chapter 5: Why price is not juice and juice is not your concern
Chapter 6: How the lines are formed
Chapter 7: Sharp sports betting
Chapter 8: More definitions
Chapter 9: Normalized win percentage
Chapter 10: The Line, the Consensus Line, the Sharp Line, Your Line
Chapter 11: Line grinding and the juice-free line
Chapter 12: Deriving push frequencies (PFs)
Chapter 13: Middling, scalping, parlays and teasers
Chapter 14: Buying and selling points
Chapter 15: The simplest way to decide between alternate lines
Chapter 16: Edge Estimation
Chapter 17: How much to bet (Kelly Criterion)
Chapter 18: Are you any good? Z-score
Chapter 19: Just win, baby
Chapter 20: Beating the Closing Line (BTCL)
Chapter 21: Fearing that you won’t beat the closing line
Chapter 22: Sharp handicapping
Chapter 23: Computer modeling and program rating
Chapter 24: Handicapping secrets and the reality of the work involved
Chapter 25: What your ratings should look like
Chapter 26: Generic point values vs. spread point values
Chapter 27: The basic idea of injury impacts
Chapter 28: Using Madden NFL player ratings to rate injury impacts
Chapter 29: HFA/HCA
Chapter 30: Growing your ratings
Chapter 31: The life
Chapter 1: The Essence
In any other game you can watch the pros play and learn from them. You might not be able to play like Lebron James, Lionel Messi or Clayton Kershaw but you can at least see what they’re doing differently and better than you. In poker, chess, golf, it doesn’t matter, you can see it.
Not in sports betting. You don’t get to watch the pros in this game. You almost never even hear from them. The “experts” on television? They sound like they know what they’re talking about, but none of them are truly expert.
There aren’t speeches to give, stories to tell, and reasons to elaborate in sports betting, there are only the numbers. Anyone can have an opinion on a sports bet and no one can say who’s right based only on that. But there really are fundamentals to this game that aren’t arguable and thus aren’t a matter of opinion. People who don’t understand those fundamentals are losers in this game; most people don’t even understand that there are fundamentals.
The idea of “beginners, intermediate and expert” players doesn’t work in sports betting. People who’ve been betting for decades are far from beginners, obviously, but lose because they’ve never been pointed in the right direction to win.
In sports betting we don’t think in terms of beginners, intermediate and expert players, we think in terms of squares and sharps. You can play this game for years and be square; you can be fairly sharp right from the start if you want.
I can’t say if this book is written for beginners. The few people who are already true sharps won’t get much from it, I suppose. But of the other 99% of sports bettors?
The essence of recreational sports betting is to have fun rooting for a team or making a game more interesting to watch.
The essence of serious sports betting is to bet that your estimate of a team’s win chance is better than the market’s estimate.
I almost said “The essence of professional sports betting,” in the line above, but whether you want to be a professional (you probably don’t) or whether you can be a professional (you probably can’t) are questions I’ll deal with later. For now let’s discuss how to raise your game so that you are at least—and let’s use the game’s lingo—sharper.
All bets consist of two parts: a definition and a price.
The definition of a bet might be, for example, that Baltimore will win by more than 2.5 points (or won’t) and the price, as stated American style, is -110.
Juice is what a bookmaker adds to its prices to create its profit. Typically in US sports betting that amount is ten cents, so that rather than offering an even bet, one dollar to win one dollar, a bookie requires you to bet $1.10 to win $1.00. This juice is typical for US-facing sports books and it means you must win 52.4% of your bets at that price to break-even, which is shockingly hard to do.
Then again maybe it isn’t shocking. If the proposition was coin flipping you wouldn’t expect to hit better than 50%. And point spreads are so accurate that unless you do good work you are essentially coin flipping, and the juice will break you.
Sports betting squares—and the vast, vast majority of bettors are terrible squares—suffer a delusion: without calculating anything they presume that a game’s odds are wrong. And in truth every time you make a sports bet you should recognize that you are saying the odds are wrong. The difference between a sharp and a square is that the sharp might be non-randomly right.
Bets can be defined as the total points scored, or who will win the game, or which quarterback will pass for the most yards, or anything else, but a bet always consists of a definition (an agreement as to how the winner will be decided) and a price (an agreement as to what ratio of money is risked by both sides).
Lingo isn’t carved into stone but generally when you say “odds” you should be referring to a quote like 6-1, and a “spread” is a quote like -8.5 points and ‘the price” would be a quote such as -110, a “moneyline” is the price when there’s no spread, and “the line” is the whole thing.
But there isn’t an inherent difference between “odds” and “price” except by usage. A team can be favored by odds of 3-1 or a price of -300 because they’re the same thing. Nor is there an inherent difference between a moneyline offer and a point spread offer. A moneyline offer is a price standing alone because the unmentioned point spread is pick’em (zero); all point spreads have prices (moneylines) attached.
Chapter 2: What are we really betting on?
From our point of view a line, as a betting challenge, is the midpoint of a scoring distribution.
If a team is favored by 2.5 points in a game, that line means that half the scoring margins should be 3 or higher and the other half should be 2 or lower (“lower” including the scores in which the underdog wins outright).
To profitably wager we need to look at that game with a point spread of 2.5 and realize that maybe it should be 3.5.
In other words we are making the median of the possible scoring margins differently than the offer. That’s it. That’s all being sharp is about: setting the midpoint of the distribution of possible scores more accurately than the market does, or in the case of moneyline bets, summing the chances of all the possible scores differently.
And the goal is not to win that bet, the goal is to grind that edge.
Squares ask, who’s going to win the game?
Sharps ask, what will the average score be, or what percentage will each team win the game, if they played a thousand times?
To help you stop thinking about the sports and start thinking about the math, consider a dice-rolling game, one team rolling three dice and the other team rolling two. The average roll of a die is 3.5, so the team rolling three dice will have an average score of 10.5 and the team rolling only two dice will have an average score of 7.
This makes linemaking pretty easy. Team A is a 3.5 point favorite and the game’s total is 17.5.
But suppose you were betting with people who couldn’t do any math, or didn’t know there was any math to do; that is, suppose you were betting with squares. All they would do is watch scores come in and bet accordingly. So if the very first game result was Team A scoring 9 and Team B scoring 11, and the second game result was Team A 13 and Team B 10, the observers would think the teams were pretty equal and that the total should be about 21.5. Maybe the line, in response to square betting, moves to Team A -2.5 and the total 19.5.
But you wouldn’t adjust your rating. You’d still rate Team A -3.5 points better and make the total 17.5. And you’d be right, obviously, and could profitably wager.
In this instance, where we make the line -3.5 and the market makes it -2.5 -110, our profit comes from the long run chance that the game lands on 3 (landing on 3 means, in this example, that the favorite wins by exactly 3), less the cost of the -110 price.
The game can land on anything 3 or higher and we win, but the real source of our positive expected value (+EV) is the chance it lands on the 3 itself. That’s the advantage, the edge, we’ve gained by setting the midpoint of the scoring distribution more accurately than the market did.
Sports books will offer any reasonable point spread possible on a game, for the right price. It’s nothing now for modern books to have drop-down boxes on offers so that you can choose between laying -2, -2.5, -3, -3.5, and so on, all on the same game.
Here’s a list of offers, all on the same game, from an offshore sports book’s drop down box. These combinations of spread and price are all fairly equal. If they aren’t equal, you’ll know it only by number crunching, not by guessing:
Washington +2.5 +140, +3 +115, +3.5 -110, +4 -120
Philadelphia -2.5 -160, -3 -135, -3.5 -110, -4 +100
You can choose the spread you want, the bookie doesn’t care, because their theoretical hold remains roughly the same. If you want to get a better spread you’ll have to pay for it by paying a higher price, and the reverse is true.
The spread/price combinations are just different manifestations of the same estimated difference between the team’s abilities, and are offered at prices such that the bookie is ambivalent about which one you choose, as you should be unless you have an expressible reason to prefer one form over the others.
In the above game, if you’re betting on Washington, say, it doesn’t matter which of those lines you bet because +2.5 +140 is, essentially, +3 +115, which is, essentially, +3.5 -110, and so on.
I’ve seen squares struggle greatly with this truth. I’ve seen them staring at betting offers and being really conflicted about which line to choose because they think it matters. It doesn’t. You’re supposed to be focused on making an accurate estimate of your own and on line shopping, which should include shopping among all the different offers, but not on some hunch you have about which bet type seems best.
The long run expectation is the same. Those lines seem greatly different, but, if they’ve been properly offered, the EV from the bettor’s point of view is the same.
And yet there very well may be a difference in EV between the various offers at the various books on the same game, so yes, you must consider the different ways of betting on a team, but mathematically, not by guessing.
And you must constantly be aware that edge is based on the exact line into which you are betting. If the line moves your way (“moving your way” means getting worse odds, if you haven’t bet yet, but getting market confirmation that you were likely on the right side), your edge is reduced or lost.
Think like that. To be sharp, think in terms of the importance of every half point, every penny in price, every time.
I rarely buy points but I want to talk about it to convey, once more, how different a sharp’s mindset is from that of a typical player because the difference between a sharp and a square is mostly mindset.
It is true that if you buy points you’ll win more bets, but the cost of the points will negate the advantage of buying them.
The goal in sports betting is not to win bets, it’s to make money. If all you want to do is win bets, that’s easily done, just wager on big moneyline favorites. You’ll lose money, but win bets. Is that what you want?
Suppose you think an NFL game’s fair spread should be -3.5 -110 and the market is making it that, but you look around and find an alternative line on that game of -2.5 -160. Can you bet? You’d be much more likely to win than if you were betting -3.5 -110.
Assuming a 9.6% chance of the game landing 3, plus the 50% chance it comes higher than that, and you have a 59.6% chance of winning the bet at -2.5 … but at -160 your break-even win rate is 61.5%.
Half points are for sale, in drop-down boxes or otherwise, for the same reason any shop sells anything: to make money.
As you choose the alternative line that’s easier (or tougher) to beat, the attached price will change accordingly.
Whether you should buy a half-point is a calculation. It’s a math question and nothing else.
Squares routinely buy points to increase their chance of winning. That the decision is minus EV, they’ll never know. They aren’t trying to be +EV, they aren’t thinking of EV at all, they’re just thinking “I want that good feeling that comes from winning, and buying points increases my chance of getting it.”
This whole “source of profit” idea is so basic to understanding what being sharp is that I’m going to explain it again, in a different way.
In poker, if two guys were all-in pre-flop, one with aces and the other with kings, and someone said, “Hey, let’s bet on the outcome,” what would you say?
The odds are about 4-1 that the aces win (82%, more or less, depending on the suits matchup). If you were offered much more than 4-1, you’d bet on the kings. If you were offered much less than 4-1, you’d bet on the aces. And that’s it. That’s all you should care about.
And if you bet and lost you should not think “I bet wrong,” you should think, “I wonder if this guy will take more action.”
What you should not do is bet on the aces just because they were the most likely winner.
It’s never about who is more likely to win, it’s only about how likely are they to win relative to the odds.
We aren’t betting, in sports, that Team A will beat Team B, or, in the poker race example, that the aces will win or that the kings will. Get the semantics straight because the precise expression is important: we’re betting that our estimation of the odds is more accurate than the offer.
If we’re getting 5-1 on the kings, racing against aces, we’re betting that the fair odds are less than 5-1 and therefore getting 5-1 is +EV.
We aren’t betting that the kings will win.
In sports betting we allow that there’s a chance the team we bet on will crush and a chance they’ll be crushed and a chance they’ll win by only a little and so on. We allow that there’s a wide range of possible scores. We allow that the last second shot might drop or miss and our bet settle one way or the other with it.
We’re betting that in the long run, if the teams played thousands of times, the scoring margin will distribute profitably for us; if we race kings against aces a thousand times, we’re betting that the kings will win about 180 times.
Squares tend to think of final scores as the answer to the question, “On whom should I have bet?”
Better to see that it’s just the one real result of the thousands of possible results.
This is even true when one team clobbers the other. Squares think sometimes, “Wow, Team A was so much better, anyone betting on Team B was so wrong!”
But any final score is just the actual one-time result of the matchup, not the definition of the range of all possible scores, just as any given single run-out of cards is only one of many possible results.
Chapter 3: What handicapping is
Handicapping is creating an equalizing number. That’s what it is. It isn’t about vague ideas like, “I don’t know, I think maybe this team is better, and they should win by, like, a lot!”
“A lot,” isn’t a number.
Handicapping in golf entails a number of strokes given to one player to make the match even. In horse racing, it’s weight added to the better horses to slow them down to make the race more even. It isn’t “Some strokes,” or “A handful of extra pounds.” In sports betting, bookies don’t offer bets where “Team A is favored by a few over Team B.”
A handicap is a number. When you bet, you are betting into a number. To have any long run chance of beating that number you need a number of your own.
Commonly sports bettors like “reasons” to bet on a team. They like, really, a good story. So they want to hear, “Team A has an outstanding offensive line, a great secondary, has covered three games in a row, and Team B has a weak rushing defense, and ….”
If you want to bet on a team you can list its positive attributes and the opponent’s negative attributes and feel justified. You can do that. You can do that for the other team, too, if you’d rather bet on them instead. All teams have strengths and weaknesses and you can list the ones appropriate to support your wager.
But that’s only giving you an excuse to bet, not a reason.
Touts trot out stories for their picks, understanding full well that they don’t need to be intelligent to succeed, but to merely sound intelligent. And, to the un-intelligent, hearing that “Team A has an outstanding offensive line, a great secondary and …” does sound intelligent.
It isn’t. Without context, without being incorporated into an overall rating structure, merely isolating sub-components of team ability isn’t handicapping and won’t lead to success. Handicapping doesn’t mean looking at only a few components, it means looking at all of them and quantifying the totality of their values.
Here’s the simplest handicapping I can think of, and I’m mentioning it not to get you to take it as your approach but to start you thinking the right way: before looking at the lines on a game ask yourself what do you think the average score would be if the two teams played thousands of times under the same circumstances?
I know squares don’t think like this because I talk to them in poker games. Sports, as you might guess, is a frequent topic there. And squares don’t think mathematically at all. They don’t think about the proper odds, or how important is every half-point or few cents differences in the line. This is strange because many of them do think of the impact of odds in poker but turn around and ignore it in sports betting.
They don’t think, to get back to football, “I can maybe bet the favored team at -2.5 but not at -3.”
But sharp bettors always think like that. They’re aware that, in any game, there is a line at which they’ll bet one side and a line at which they’ll bet the other. Which brings me to another simple handicapping method.
Just before Kentucky was playing a basketball game, a friend told me he was betting on them. I asked him the line. He said he didn’t know.
I asked him at what price would he not bet them.
He said there was no price he wouldn’t bet them.
I said, “You’d bet them at minus a hundred points?”
“At minus fifty points?”
“At minus thirty?”
He thought and said, “To be honest, I don’t know. Maybe.”
I asked, “At what price would you bet the dog?”
“Oh, none. I’d never bet on them. They’ll get killed.”
“You wouldn’t bet on them getting a hundred points?”
“Well, yes, of course, no one ever loses by that much.”
“So there is a price at which you’d bet them.”
“Yes, but I’m not going to get it.”
“Would you bet them at plus fifty?”
“I suppose, yeah.”
“Uh, I don’t know.” He thought some more. “No. Well, maybe.”
“So at thirty you’re ‘maybe’ on both teams? Congrats, you made the line thirty.”
“The line is thirty. Walk over there (we were playing at the Bellagio). It’s thirty.”
“What? That sucks.”
“No, it doesn’t. You should be proud. As a casual college basketball fan you made a very good line. The same as the market made.”
And in truth if a bettor does nothing more than that, they’ve raised their game.
Here’s the way to do this fairly low level handicapping (which is still far better than doing no handicapping at all):
Ask yourself, of any game you’re considering, at what price you’d be happy to bet the first team, and then at what price you’d be happy to bet the other team. Do this before you know what the line is.
If you can find either of those lines with which you’d be happy, bet. Happily. If not, pass.
Keep doing this. Let the weeks pass as you follow the league for the season. At first you might find yourself thinking, “I’ll be happy betting Team A getting 20 points or Team B giving no points.” Later you’ll find yourself, as you get better, as you study the league more, thinking, of the same game, “I’ll be happy betting Team A getting 15 points or Team B laying 5.” And when you’re really sharp you’ll be thinking, “I’ll bet if I can lay 7 or get 13.”
By the time you’re really thinking like this, as a game-watching, league-following fan who’s thinking of how to numerically judge each game, you’re probably not a square at all anymore. Not a sharp yet, but no longer a pure square solely because you are now quantifying team abilities.
Even the very primitive linemaking methods I illustrated above—where you just find the numbers that would make you bet either side, or you guess what would be the average score if the two teams played a thousand times—are, at least, actual handicapping.
But before I talk further about handicapping, I’m going to talk about betting. I’ll get back to handicapping in this book’s last chapters, but I’m going to first delve into the betting part of this biz because it’s more fundamental.
Chapter 4: Break-even win rate
I’m going to insert a little math here. If this frightens you, accept now that you don’t have what it takes to be a sharp. This isn’t difficult math. You should not be intimidated by these formulas.
Sports betting is, not surprisingly, sports plus betting. The sports part of the equation is fun, the betting part not so much. Though the sports part can be mathy, the betting part is always that.
Break-even win rate is the win rate you need … to break-even on a bet in the long run. It’s that simple, yet deceptively crucial. You cannot be sharp without understanding this idea.
Edges occur when a bet’s actual win rate positively differs from the break-even win rate.
To calculate a break-even rate, using US-style price quotes:
On a favorite, drop the minus signs and use: price/(price + 100).
Example of a -200 favorite: 200/(200+100) = .667
On a dog, use: 100/(price + 100).
Example of a +170 dog: 100/(170+100) = .370
In a spreadsheet: In A1, enter the price.
In any other cell, enter: =1/(IF(A1<0,1/(A1/-100)+1,A1/100+1))
All this sort of work is actually more easily done in decimal odds, where -110 becomes 1.91. Also, if you’re using offshore sites, some of them will express their lines in this style. Remember, about this, that -110, 1.91, and 11/10 all mean the same thing.
To convert US-style quotes to decimal quotes:
Favorites: (100/price without negative sign)+1.
Example of a -200 fave: (100/200) +1 = 1.5
Example of a +170 dog: 170/100 + 1 = 2.7
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