There are countless people all across the globe who participate in sports betting. Many of these people do so for fun – it can add an element of entertainment to the process of following your favourite team, and it can also be an enjoyable activity to share among a group of friends. Others participate in sports betting because they want to earn a living from the endeavour; these people dedicate a large chunk of their time to research as they search for exploitable edges and keep up to date with important factors such as form and injuries.
There is also a group that falls between the two mentioned above. These people may think they are serious about betting, but what does that really mean? We try to answer that question in the article below.
Much like many social activities, there is not a correct or incorrect way to participate in sports betting. Indeed, this will differ depending on why a given individual is getting involved in the first place. If you just want to have some fun and something to talk about in the pub, your objectives will be very different to someone who is seeking a regular income stream. If you fit into the latter camp, you will obviously need to dedicate significantly more time and effort to the pursuit than someone who involves himself or herself on a much more casual basis.
If you have decided you are ready to take sports betting seriously, you must understand the industry and how difficult it is to regularly make a profit. If your intention is to beat the market, you must know how it works first.
In its simplest terms, betting is a battle between the bettor and the bookmaker: you put some money on a particular outcome and will win if your prediction is correct, while you will lose if you make the wrong call. However, in many ways this is a reductive way of looking at the activity. Instead, you should be thinking in terms of a bettor against a bettor, with the bookmaker adopting the role of facilitator who takes a cut – their margin – in the process. The margin is the difference between the probability inherent in the bookmakers’ price and the actual probability of a particular event ending in a certain way.
We can observe this margin with a simple calculation. In reality, every possible outcome of a sporting event – Team A win, draw, Team B win – will add up to 100 per cent probability. The bookmakers’ odds, however, will always be higher than 100 per cent, with the difference forming the bookmakers’ margin. Needless to say, a bigger margin makes it more difficult for a bettor to regularly make money.
It is also a common error to believe that the bookmaker alone is in charge of the odds. Of course, it is they who decide the initial price for each outcome, but the odds subsequently fluctuate depending on the behaviour of bettors. If a bookmaker receives a flood of money on Team A to win, the price will adjust accordingly.
Therefore, a bettor who is serious about their trade will know that they are competing against fellow bettors as much as against the bookmaker. Someone who is successful will in effect be more accurate with their predictions than most of the market.
One thing to bear in mind is that there are occasions where it is favourable not to actually place money on your predicted outcome. You might think Team B has a decent chance of victory this weekend, but you should first analyse the odds, compare margins and look around different bookmakers to ensure there is value to be had in that particular wager. Incorporating this into your procedure is essential if you want to enjoy long-term success.
Of course, this can at times seem counterintuitive and a degree of humility is necessary in order for it to be effective. Even when your view is based on thorough research, it is often wise not to act upon it in the betting involved. Predictions can still be wrong, even if the logic behind them is sound; this is sport, after all, and that is part of the reason why we enjoy watching it so much.
A degree of detachment from your bets and your results is necessary if you want to be a serious bettor. Remember: the bookmaker has more information at their disposal than you do as an individual bettor, and your knowledge alone will often not be enough to bridge the gap. To beat the majority of the market, you need to have an edge – and you must know how this is produced and when is the best moment to use it.
Edges are certainly more important than the stake wagered. If Bettor No.1 has placed €1000 on an outcome and Bettor No.2 has wagered €100, we might suspect that Bettor No.1 is the more serious better – but that is not necessarily the case. Baseline figures such as these actually reveal very little compared to relative measurements. Indeed, Bettor No.1 could be a billionaire who fancied a flutter while he was waiting for a taxi. Bettor B may have been using an edge and painstakingly worked out the optimum amount to bet in this particular case.
The same applies to winnings too. An individual who is serious about betting will not focus on their absolute earnings, but will instead consider percentage terms compared to their overall investment for that week, month or entire career. Of course, serious bettors still want to make a profit, but if you start to let losses affect your thinking then you are doing far more harm than good to your future prospects. Moreover, someone who is serious about betting will know that while you can sometimes win by getting lucky, relying on good fortune in the long-term is not advisable.
Keeping track of your results is vital – and you should do so in detail, not just recording whether a bet was successful or not. Collecting data on profit, loss and return on investment will help you in the long run, while it can also pay dividends to track the odds you bet on with the market closing odds – the final price available before the event begins.
If you are a serious bettor, the odds you bet on should be shorter than the final ones available. If this is the case, it does not particularly matter if you lose a bet – if the odds you bet on are shorter than the last ones on the market, you have chosen an outcome with a positive expected value. If you continue to do this, you will almost certainly make a profit.