How to Master Sports Betting

Many of us enjoy a bet on sports, but few fully research enough about what to do to win at sports betting in the long term. Casual sports gamblers will often bet on the team they follow, or bet on who they think is the better team, without considering several other important factors.

In this article, I’m going to go through some key strategy points you need to know to increase your chances of winning and help you to master sports betting.

1. Understand value

The number one mistake that losing sports bettors make is not properly considering the odds that are being offered. When deciding on their bets, they simply try to work out who will win, and then bet on that team regardless of the odds on offer.

Let’s use an example: Say Spain are playing Scotland in soccer. The vast majority of people will think ‘Oh, Spain are going to win this game easily so I’ll bet on them. Scotland have no hope’.

On the surface of things, that seems correct, but this shouldn’t necessarily be the way to look at things. Betting on the less likely winner could actually be a great idea.  Let me explain how value betting works.

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What is a Value Bet?

A value bet is a kind of bet where the odds being offered are higher that the probability of an outcome happening.

Imagine you could get 10/1 on Scotland winning, would you consider it a good bet then? What about 20/1? Of course you would probably have a little bet on Scotland then, because the odds represent better value. Every match-up has odds that represent the real chance of the event outcome happening, and if you can get better odds than this, then you’re making a bet which will make you money in the long run. 

In our example, you might expect Scotland to beat Spain maybe 1 time out of 10, meaning that if you get odds greater than 9/1, you should consider making the bet. To put this into context, here’s how these two teams in the example have fared head-to-head:

The concept of making the bet which represents good value (and not simply betting on who you think is going to win) is one of the most difficult concepts for amateur sports bettors to accept.

So now that you know that you need to find bets that represent value, how do you go about finding good value bets? The first step is to convert the odds on offer into implied probability.

Let’s look at some examples. If you’re being offered 2/1 (3.0 in decimal odds), simply put the bottom number over the sum of the top and bottom numbers and convert this to a percentage to get the implied probability. So, 1/3 = 33.3%. Taking another example, 7/4 would convert to 4/11 = 36.3%.

If you think the probability of the event outcome that you’re betting on exceeds that which is implied by the odds, then you have a good value bet and should consider putting some money on it.

Let’s say you think that there’s a 60% chance that the Giants will beat the Patriots, and the odds on offer are evens (1/1; implied probability 50%), then for every dollar you bet on the game, you can expect to make 20c profit on average.

Value bets exist because bookmakers can get it wrong, or perhaps they might adjust odds to make them more appealing.  Either way, you can take advantage of them.

2. Do the research

Another critical aspect that you need to master if you want to win at sports betting is to come up with the probabilities that you need to compare with the odds the bookmakers are offering. The most effective way to do this is through dedicated research.

If basketball is your sport and you’re weighing up a game or deciding which team you think will cover the spread, you need to factor a number of points into your decisions. Things like whether each team on a winning/or losing streak; results of previous games between the teams; individual player match-ups; injuries etc.

You can go into a huge amount of statistical detail if you want to, and many professional sports bettors keep very detailed logs and analyse teams and players in minute detail in order to come up with their bets. The great thing about the internet age is that all of the stats are at your fingertips on sites like which provides detailed analysis on soccer matches and betting markets. In order to get up to speed it will pay to make the time to access available resources, then read and absorb the relevant information (stats and news).

3. Don’t spread yourself too thin

If you want to consistently win at sports betting, you’re also usually better off sticking to one or two sports maximum so you can study them in detail. This gives you a better chance to gain an edge over the bookmakers and make some money. The deeper, more specialised knowledge will work to your benefit.

It’s also important to keep the long-term profit goal in mind, as short-term losses courtesy of some freakish bad luck can be discouraging. The probability of success will be higher by keeping your knowledge sharp and up-to-date. So, better to stick to what you know unless you are particularly knowledgeable in several sports. 

4. Take advantage of special offers

Many bookmakers have special offers, and often these are featured on major sporting events. For example, make sure that you are aware of things like current money back specials. These are far more common for UK and Europe serving bookmakers than for US books, but they represent another opportunity for you to pick out winning bets.

For example, Paddy Power who like to show their Irish patriotism might make an offer like ‘Money back on all Irish players if Rory McIlroy wins the US Masters’. The effect of these offers can often be the difference between a good bet and a bad one, so study them and hard and do the maths on them to see if they’re worthwhile!

5. Make fewer selections

Everyone loves it when a 6-fold accumulator comes off because the odds are always going to be very high. However, if you want to develop a consistent strategy for winning at sports betting, you will be more likely to do much better with single bets.

You stand a much higher chance of winning with singles and punters often overlook this fact. The fact is that bookmakers lose the most on single bets, so small really can be beautiful in the quest to make a profit.  We recommend keeping any multiple selections to 3 or perhaps 4 at the most and all at reasonably low odds.

The chances of multiple results all coming in on the same bet are slimmer with each one added.  That said, where the option for cashing out is available, it should be considered. That’s why it is critical to keep an eye on bets in progress.

6. Know the best sports betting odds

As mentioned previously, the vast majority of people don’t understand the concept of ‘value’ when it comes to sports betting and therefore don’t pay enough attention to getting the best odds. Naturally, bookies are competitive and often provide odds that are fairly close to each other, but some are more competitive than others overall. We’re continually monitoring betting sites for our reviews and here is the shortlist of the sportsbooks with the consistently best odds: 

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7. Understand less common markets

It can sometimes happen with sports betting that you may think that you’ve won but then you check the bet results to find that it lost on some ‘technicality’. It clearly pays to know what the technicalities of each bet market are, as they might influence your decision in what to bet on.

Take soccer betting, for example. In knockout cup competitions where extra time may be invoked, some win markets are restricted to the win “in 90 minutes” but you need to make sure you know that beforehand.  Many a punter has celebrated an extra time or penalties win only to discover that they have actually lost the bet.

Another one to watch out for is  ‘half time/full time’ versus ‘to win both halves’. For the half time/full time bet on, a specified team must be winning at half time as well as full time.  Obviously.

In the ‘to win both halves’ market, a team needs to win the first half as well as the second half as if they are separate bets. The team can’t go 2-0 up in the first half and then go on to win 3-2.  Or even if it stays at 2-0, the bet does not win.  Just keep aware of these nuances to avoid disappointment.

8. Never bet on hope

We’ve all done it, but know that it’s wrong.  The team that you support desperately needs a win and you decide to back them. It’s generally no way to beat the bookies, though. They thrive off bets like that! Going with your heart might feel like the dutiful thing to do but after too many disappointments, some get to the point where they will not even bet on their own teams. However, we feel that going to that extreme takes some of the fun away from sports betting.

Rather than not bet on your team at all, look for a more measured approach.  Take a step back and assess the actual or more likely probabilities before taking the plunge with your cash.  You might not be able to stomach betting on your team losing but perhaps there are other more obscure markets available that can give you some money even if they lose.  That’s generally where the smarter money is.

These pointers are designed as a general guide to assist with increasing the chances of winning at sports betting. Of course, no system is completely reliable so proceed with caution.  Good luck with your selections.

Don’t forget you can also follow our tips, which can do pretty well. You can find some of our most recent articles to help you gather info in your quest to win at sports betting in the list below, and if you want to get them as soon as they’re posted, follow us on Twitter.

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