It’s estimated that professional sports bettors typically earn upwards of $25,000 per year. But it’s incredibly hard to verify that figure, because most sources of data are non-existent, inaccurate, and do not account for the fact that most professional sports bettors run secretive operations outside of the public eye, and work as part of a “syndicate” where profits are split.
So there’s no simple answer to “how much do professional gamblers make from sports betting?”. However, sports betting profit always depends on three variables — the edge, turnover and stake size — which I’ll get onto in this post.
Related content: Top Ways of Earning from Sports Betting.
We Know Little About What Pro Bettors Earn
Professional sports betting is secretive.
For one, many pro bettors don’t talk about their occupation partly because they’ll be unfairly judged, with gambling being somewhat of a taboo in our society. Secondly, those that have found an edge in sports betting aren’t likely to talk about it openly — in fear of giving away their secrets, or alerting bookmakers to their name.
Yet despite the secretiveness of pro gamblers, there are countless examples of betting sites and their affiliates labelling individuals as “professionals”, pointing towards the sums they’ve won using their brand. But I’m highly sceptical because bookmakers don’t want profitable bettors. These “big winners” are most likely high-rollers that win and lose equally large amounts or — dare I say it — work for the bookmaker in some capacity.
Lastly, gambling winnings are tax free in the UK and many other countries. Therefore many the most successful sports bettors do not file a tax return and publish their earnings. Most of them work as part of a team of people, known as a “syndicate”, sharing bankroll and resources while splitting the profits. This makes it even more difficult to determine what the top sports bettors make.
The point is, I don’t believe that we know the names and faces of the worlds most successful sports bettors.
Variables That Determine Profit
While it’s difficult to know exactly what professional bettors earn, there are variables that impact sports betting profitability.
The total estimated profit over any given period is derived from three variables:
1. Edge (Positive or Negative % ROI)
If a bettor has a positive edge (plus EV) betting strategy, then the more they bet, the more profit they’re expected to make.
Therefore a negative edge (minus EV) strategy means the more they bet, the more they’re expected to lose.
2. Turnover (Total Stake)
The total stake makes up the turnover.
The turnover is used to estimate how much a bettor is expected to win or lose over any period. Simply multiply together the turnover and the edge. What this calculates is the Expected Value (EV).
3. Stake Size (Average Bet)
The average stake size influences how big the swings in a bettor’s results are likely to be for the period.
How much the PnL deviates from the mean (average), is known as the variance.
With £1,000 of turnover, and +5% edge, a data set of bets has an expected profit value of 5% x £1,000 = £50.
- Low stakes (more bets) means less variance — small swings in the results are likely.
- Large stakes (less bets) means more variance — big swings in the results are likely.
- Note that the expected value of £50 doesn’t change with different stake sizes.
Learn more on these calculations: Calculating The Expected Value (EV) Of Your Bets
Not everything is what it seems when it comes to earning from sports betting. Always keep the three variables (from the previous section) in mind.
For instance, if you visit YouTube right now you’re sure to find videos of sports traders earning a tidy profit. I once watched one of a trader betting £50 and turning it into £350 in minutes. As impressive as that seems, it’s nothing to get excited about as the EV of the £50 bet alone, reasonably speaking, would’ve been somewhere between -10 to +10%. Let’s call it 10%, to avoid doubt.
Therefore, in the long-run, if equivalent bets were placed over a large sample, it would even out at just £5 profit per bet.
Don’t be blinded by large profits from individual cases. After all, you could simply put £1,000 on ‘Black’ in a spin of roulette and double your money in seconds. Keep doing it enough times and you’ll even out to where you should be — in a hefty loss, due to the house edge. Anyone can make a big win.
This same logic applies to bettors that produce large wins by being super-selective. The idea itself is fine — because there’s no use in betting more frequently just to raise turnover. Just bare in mind that one selection is… just one selection. Even if the EV is positive, to earn a substantial amount from the odd bet here or there, the bettor needs to stake a lot per bet. And that’s asking for trouble (high variance, big swings — inevitable big losses).
This brings me back round to a point I’ve made before on this site: it doesn’t matter what you’re making now, it matters what you’re making in the long run.
You need to have a sufficient sample size to back up the results you’re seeing. As long as you measure your performance on a ROI basis and consider the variables I’ve mentioned in this article, then it’ll make your outlook clearer.
While there are some top professionals and syndicates — most likely making millions per year — from sports betting, the important thing to remember is that long-term profit is proportional to what is turned over (in terms of total stakes), given a plus EV betting strategy.
So in theory, once you’ve found a winning strategy, skies the limit.
Well, it ought to be.
Unfortunately it’s not quite so easy in practice. If you’re using bookmakers they’ll cap how much you can stake, or close your accounts if you regularly turn a profit. Therefore it limits what you can earn.
Switching over the the betting exchange (e.g. Betfair), is a wise move. But it poses other challenges; most notably the prices are very sharp and more difficult to find value from. It’s highly competitive. The truth is, many traders fail to produce consistent profits.
Then there’s bankroll. While professional syndicates tend to operate with a large pool of money to bet with, there’s inevitable payout issues and unsettled bets that’ll slow down cashflow, and thereby limit profitability.
Professional betting isn’t an easy route to make a living. But as a starting point, read through my guide on Making A Living from Sports Betting. It provides details on several plus EV techniques that’ll spin the odds in your favour.
If you’re looking for honest guides, secrets, tools and assistance to help carve out a professional path in sports betting, I can highly recommend the Betting Mastermind package from Mike Cruickshank.
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