There’s plenty of misconceptions about sports betting, so I decided to compile a list of my Top 10 Biggest Sports Betting Myths. Some are understandable whilst others are amusing, misguided, and just plain wrong.
1. “The Bookmaker always gets it right”
Bookmakers don’t know the outcome of an event before it happens, nor do they always get it right. Those are myths.
Bookmakers are merely just experts in offering odds at lower-than-fair-value odds. That’s their job, and effectively their “fee” for the service they provide. In essence, it’s the reverse of this that you want to be doing as a player i.e finding odds that are above fair value.
2. “My Tipster is feeding me inside information. All dead certs”
Punters who believe that their Tipster provides ‘inside knowledge’ unknown to the public, or ‘dead certs’, are likely to lose large sums of money. They want that ‘edge’ and are willing to believe just about anything to get it. They’ll throw money at a convenient Tipping service that promises results that it’s unlikely to deliver.
Realistically, if a Tipster has some sort of inside information then it’s highly unlikely he would let anyone know about it so openly — if only to avoid a brush with the law.
Check out my post: Will Tipsters Make Me Money? Can They Be Trusted?
3. “There’s no such thing as risk free betting”
Believe it or not, this statement isn’t true. Many bettors profit from risk-free techniques:
- Matched Betting: the process of earning money from betting bonuses & . I’ve written a detailed beginners guide that’s
- Arbitrage Betting: this follows on from Matched Betting. ‘Arbitrage‘ opportunities enable punters to profit from differences in the odds between sports betting companies. Again, this is completely risk free. Learn more from my
4. “Arbing, Matched Betting, Bonus Bagging… No point — they’re all dead”
Some sources play down the earning potential of profitable strategies:
- Arbs are an everyday occurrence due to the volatile nature of betting markets. There are still “betting syndicates” making a living from it and they don’t want to encourage others to join in and disrupt the status quo. It’s still alive.
- Matched Betting has grown in popularity in recent years and specialist services currently boast that their customers are able to earn up to £1,500 profit per month. Again, not dead.
- Casino Bonuses have declined in value over the years — that’s true. But they’ve now reached a point where they’re unlikely to get any worse. I’m not really an advocate of casino ‘Bonus Bagging‘, but professionals continue to generate a profit using this technique.
5. “You can’t earn from betting. It’s a Mug’s game”
Like all other ventures, sports betting carries risk. But professionals certainly do make a living from it. The fact is, the guys that are earning a profit don’t tend to talk about it too much — probably in fear of giving away their secrets.
Profitable gamblers often treat the sports betting markets like investments in the stock market. From my experience there’s two main approaches:
- Identify odds that go on to fall (i.e they drop). Generally if you are able to correctly predict odds that settle (just before the start of the sports event) at a lower price, then what you have achieved is a “value bet” which is profitable long-term. I discuss this concept in great detail in my Punter’s Guide To Beating The SP.
- Identify odds that imply the chance of an outcome happening is less likely than reality. This is similar to the above point except that you aren’t necessarily predicting a fall in the odds. Instead you know that the real chance of an outcome happening is more likely than the odds suggest. For example, the odds could be 10/1 at a Bookmaker, but you’ve got the “fair” chance as 7/1. If you’re correct, then it means that the payout on a win at the Bookmaker is profitable for the punters. It’s therefore another type of “value bet“.
You’ll need to be fast at grabbing the odds you want as the betting markets are competitive. I recommend opening a Betfair exchange account for the best odds, and using a fast Betfair trading tool, like BetTrader.
6. “The Underdog won! The Bookies are screwed now”
They’re rarely bothered, actually.
In fact, Bookmakers relish the publicity of an underdog win. It’s great advertising if the media reports that an average punter took a betting giant for tens-of-thousands of pounds on a long-shot. Leicester City winning the Premier League has got to be the finest, most publicised example of this scenario ever witnessed.
But I wonder: How much volume did the Bookies accept from the punters backing Man City, Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea? How about the overly optimistic Spurs and Liverpool fans backing their team?
At the end of the day, Bookmakers constantly balance their books. If volumes are unbalanced then they’ll adjust their odds in order to make the least popular outcomes more attractive. Surely the low volume on Leicester was merely balancing out huge volumes on other, more likely outcomes from the (so-called) top clubs. So the fact that a few Leicester fans won their bets probably didn’t really warrant the media attention that it received.
7. “There’s no point betting at high odds. It doesn’t ever win”
Pictured below is the mugshot of your mate who believes this to be true.
It’s obviously untrue — just look at #6 for evidence.
Odds are a probability, or approximation, of the chance of an event occurring. Inevitably an unusual event (i.e. an “upset”) will occur — but that’s life for you.
It’s true to say is that there’s “increasingly more risk“ as you bet on higher odds. Betting on high odds requires deep pockets. So if you’re finding that the swings in your results are too big to handle and you’re not risk tolerant enough, then start reducing the variance by keeping to lower odds. Naturally you’ll win small but frequently, and it might be a little less stressful, too.
Just be aware that you’re not necessarily making a good bet just because the outcome is more likely to win. You can select likely favourites all day — but this is a very weak approach to sports betting. I elaborate in #8…
8. “The odds don’t matter. You just need to pick more winners”
The best answer I can give to this is simple:
The odds do matter. If we wanted to pick more ‘winners’ we could back Real Madrid to win every match. Or how about picking the strong favourite in every horse race?
Favourites like Real Madrid do indeed win very frequently. But backing Madrid every game definitely does not generate a profit long-term unless you can achieve higher (unrealistic) odds than what’s typically on offer. At realistic odds you would inevitably experience small, frequent wins, followed by the occasions when they suffer an uncharacteristic loss or draw. The comparatively large losing stakes, offset by only small accrued winnings makes it difficult to generate a profit. Therefore the odds are most definitely crucial.
Over time your advantage/disadvantage over the Bookmaker will eventually reveal itself in your results. My advice is to focus on finding a good price and to forget about “picking winners”. You could pick a loser at 40/1 odds, but if the fair odds were 25/1 this was still a good bet to make. Equally if you accept odds way below what was fair then regardless of whether you win or lose you’ve still made a bad bet.
Importantly, you have to accept that you can’t always win*, which can be frustrating at times.
9. “Betting Exchange Odds Are Irrelevant — Sport Always Comes Down To Luck.”
Luck plays its part in sport, sure. But the betting exchange (the public) is very sharp at forming accurate probabilities, in the form of odds, for each potential outcome. So they’re certainly relevant:
Let me elaborate…
- Public opinion, both professional and recreational, drives market movements on the betting exchange.
- Every selection in a sporting event is made up of optimistic Backers and pessimistic Layers.
- As the market forms and we get closer to the start of the event, the public opinion reaches a consensus.
By the start of an event, the odds are at their most accurate and the phenomenon referred to as the “Wisdom of Crowds Theory” has played it’s part. Collectively, the opinions of the public are “wise” and therefore intelligent*, as opposed to just irrational (random) points of view.
The way that exchanges produce odds is one of the most fascinating things about sports betting altogether. To fully appreciate odds as probabilities, study the results of my Punter’s Guide To Beating The Start Price.
* provided there’s sufficient liquidity.
10. “Why would I use Betfair? Bookies have better odds.”
Lie. If this were true then everyone would be placing arbitrage bets at the Bookies… all day, every day.
I think this assumption comes as a result of misinformation from gambling affiliates. I’ve frequently read that a specific Bookmaker is offering the “best value odds” for an event — when in fact you can head straight over to the exchange and instantly find better value 99%+ of the time.
Furthermore, the exchange odds aren’t always shown on popular odds comparison sites; possibly because it only serves to discredit the bookies’ value. The omission leaves many punters misinformed.
Well, Bookmakers almost always follow the exchange prices. They’re happy to rely on the public to form the market, and then simply offer sufficiently lower odds in their own Sportsbook (with a sufficient overround). They’ll always try to sync their prices lower than the current ‘Lay‘ value on the exchange, in order to prevent an arbitrage opportunity occurring. Look for yourself.
Despite this, I should point out that there are several advantages that Bookies offer over the betting exchange which I recognise in my post: Why Use Bookmakers Instead Of The Betting Exchange?
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