There aren’t many approaches to gambling that’ll generate consistent profits over the long-term. In this beginner’s article I’ll run through some of the basic principles behind sports and casino strategies in order to help increase your chances of success.
Why Do So Many Gamblers Fail?
Traditional casino games have a “house edge” built into them, which ensures the casino maintains a mathematical advantage and will profit over time. A similar ‘advantage’ exists in sports betting, too. Bookmakers’ odds carry an edge in their favour, known as the “overround”.
Despite the randomness and human factors ever-present in professional sports, the reality is that sportsbooks still operate in a very similar fashion to casinos: the odds, on average, are not at the required levels to bettors to earn over the long haul.
Sure, there are pricing errors, market misjudgements, and opportunities to be seized if you have the know-how. But by and large, regular sports bettors will not succeed in beating the overround.
Put simply: if you bet like an average gambler then the more you stake, the more you’ll inevitably lose.
Exceptions To The Rule
So how is it possible that gamblers can succeed without having any advantage in the casino or sportsbook?
Playing Poker in the Casino
Poker is one exception to the rule — because you’re not playing against the house; you are playing against other players. While luck plays a part in winning, as it does with any competitive game for that matter, Poker is largely a game of skill and calculation. Hence why professional Poker players exist, and earn a full-time living from it.
So Poker is certainly one avenue — albeit a competitive one — for keen players to explore.
Finding Value in Sports Markets
Finding value in sports odds is another avenue for earning in the challenging world of online gambling.
Whether it’s taking advantage of free bets, capitalising on risk-free arbitrage betting opportunities, or seeking overpriced selections, it’s all part of a bigger picture: finding a mathematical advantage.
I’ve featured all of the most profitable approaches to sports betting in my How To Win section.
Sports Strategy Basics
Before discussing any specific betting strategies, every bettor needs to appreciate some of the basic principles surrounding sports betting strategy.
Why Apply a Strategy?
The last thing any sports bettor wants to be doing is making random wagers driven by emotion; it rarely leads to long-term, consistent profits. Emotions, positive or negative, cloud your judgement and lead to making weak decisions based on unsubstantial factors.
The majority of successful sports punters employ strategies and systems to remain fully focused on what works. By tailoring a solid strategy driven by statistics, it takes guesswork out of the equation and makes it easier to identify new bets from applying the same working formula.
Betting Strategies vs Wagering Systems
Betting strategies and wagering systems may sound like the same thing but there is a clear distinction between them:
- Betting strategies refer to tactics you can use to determine what bets to place.
- Wagering systems are used to determine the amount you’ll place on each bet within your strategy.
A wagering system is typically integrated into your betting strategy with the view to help maximise your results.
Devising a Selection Method
Every profitable betting strategy requires a selection method to identify bets.
This selection method must begin with a sound reason. Because without that, you’ll be mirroring the very same random/erratic behaviours from generations of unsuccessful gamblers.
So, what’s the reason behind your selections?
Consider the two major contributors towards to any selection method:
- Risk (Bankroll), and
- Reward (value)
1. Risk – how much Bankroll can you risk?
Without a bankroll strategy bettors can end up going broke. To address this risk, bettors often limit themselves to stake sizes of a fixed percentage of their bankroll. For instance, no more than 3% of your starting bankroll on any bet.
While this approach reduces your potential returns on a win, this type of restriction will also limit your losses and reduce the chances of you making large, emotionally-driven bets to regain losses from a losing run.
2. Reward – what’s the potential value to your bets?
Value in your selections is what makes your strategy profitable over the long term.
The bookmakers set their odds for events based around what they believe is the probability of that outcome happening. This is usually correlated to odds on the betting exchange.
For example, the winner of a tennis match could have odds of 9/1.
This fraction represents a probability, determined by replacing the odds of 9/1 with the letters “A/B”, so that the following formula applies:
- Probability percentage = B / (A+B).
For the 9/1 tennis example, the probability = 1 / (9+1), which equals 0.10. Therefore, the probability implied by the bookmaker is 10%. The bookmaker believes the player has a 10% chance of winning the tennis match.
If you determine that the tennis player has a 20% chance of winning the match (i.e. the bookmaker has significantly underestimated the chance), then you have found value in that bet, and it could be worth pursuing.
While this isn’t an entire strategy by itself, it is always worth keeping in mind; this principle must provide the basis for many of your bets.
Popular Betting Strategies
Let’s take a closer look at some basic sports betting strategies that you may come across, or be tempted to use in future wagers. I’ll give you my honest views on them.
It’s worth noting that systems like these are perfectly legal and can be used at popular sportsbooks and casino providers such as 20Bet. Check out the 20Bet review on Casino.Guide.
Backing Heavy Favourites
This strategy is well-known and may seem intuitive to beginners: why not bet on the most likely outcome?
Sure it’s simple to back a favourite. You don’t need any skill or knowledge of the sport you’re betting on. All you need to do is find events where there is a clear, heavy favourite to win and place your bet on that favourite.
But that alone doesn’t produce profits. The main downside to backing a heavy favourite is that the return for each bet will be very small — so even though you’ll win a lot of bets, your losses will be proportionately large.
The poor risk-to-reward ratio means backing heavy-favourites doesn’t work — unless the favourite’s price is still undervalued.
Backing The Underdog
This strategy is just as well-known as backing favourites.
Unfortunately backing the underdog doesn’t guarantee success, either. While there are certainly great opportunities to be found in underdogs — i.e. high odds horses that have been severely overlooked by the betting markets — there’s also a lot of accurately priced long odds selections, too.
In addition, the typically high number of consecutive losses before hitting a substantial win can be far too much for the average punter to handle. In other words, you need a large bankroll to cope with a strategy based solely around underdogs.
Due to the high risk, backing underdogs isn’t the best starting point for a strategy. Nonetheless, value can often present itself in long shots; so keep that in mind.
Arbitrage betting also called “arbing”, is a fairly simple concept: you place a bet on all outcomes of a sporting event, and guarantee a win. Of course, this only works on some events — because betting on both teams isn’t usually profitable.
For arbitrage betting to be successful you must seek different bookmakers offering opposite odds of an event, and place both bets to guarantee yourself a win.
Finding these opportunities takes a lot of research, since you’ll need to continually compare the odds at different bookmakers. You’ll also need to act fast whenever you spot an opportunity, as bookies tend to correct their prices very quickly.
To make arbing a success, bettors require dedicated arbing software to find opportunities.
This system is mathematically sound, and absolutely works.
Focus on One Team
While this might not sound like the most exciting strategy, numerous bettors use it to improve their performance.
By focusing all of your efforts on a single team, you’ll become very familiar with team selections and patterns of play. This helps you to develop an area of expertise and to make more informed decisions. In time, you’ll find it easier to seek out value.
The downside is you’re somewhat limited to betting only when your chosen team is in action, which may just be once per week (during seasons only). You may therefore need to broaden your horizons to a couple of teams — or alternatively just concentrate on a single league or market.
Whether it’s a team, league or specific betting market, it’s important to develop your own speciality in order to discover something that the rest of the public doesn’t already know. That’s how you gain an advantage.
The Martingale System
The Martingale system is an extremely well-known staking plan that can be applied to sports betting and more commonly to online roulette. It rarely has a successful outcome.
The system works by doubling up your next bet after a loss. So if you lost a £20 bet, your next stake would be £40. The idea is that you’ll eventually hit a win, and the doubled stakes will recoup all your previous losses.
The biggest downside to the Martingale system is that you need to make sure you have enough bankroll to cover long losing streaks, as doubling your stakes can quickly add up. You also need to make sure the odds of each wager are enough to recoup the losses.
It’s never advisable to use apply the Martingale in your betting system: the long-term impact to your bankroll will be devastating! Instead, focus on strategies that seek some form of advantage over the market, rather than merely relying on luck.
For more on sports betting strategy, check out my Prediction & Analysis section.