Betting Strategy – Best Sports Betting Strategies

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A solid betting strategy will allow you to maximize winnings and minimize losses. To consistently make money you need a little luck along the way, but by preparing with a solid strategy, you give yourself the best possible opportunity of making a profit from online betting.

In this article, we’re going to look at a range of sports betting strategies that you can easily apply to your bets. We’ve included basic principles that you need to engrain and advanced betting strategies that professional sports bettors use.

Why Use a Betting Strategy

A betting strategy allows you to apply logic to your bets. It’s easy to look through scores of games and markets before making picks, but without any logic applied, you’re going to lose money a lot quicker than you win.

betting strategy

The best betting strategies will create value from your bets and hopefully, ensure a profit. Sports can be hard to predict and it’s this unpredictability that makes them so popular. But from a betting perspective, it makes it hard to be profitable, which is where a betting strategy comes in.

One thing you need to note before we dive in is that you aren’t going to win every bet you place. However, a solid strategy will allow you to give yourself the best opportunity to make a profit. The same concepts are applied throughout sports and the classic “fail to prepare and prepare to fail” is very much applicable here.

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Basic Sports Betting Strategies

Before we talk more about advanced sports betting strategy, there are a few basic principles that we want to address. These are as many rules as strategies and are imperative if you want to consistently make money from sports betting.

1. Bankroll Management

Sports betting should be seen as an investment. You invest your time (research) and money (stake) to try and win more money (ROI). Your bankroll will determine the amount you should place on each wager and sticking to these limits is imperative as it means that when you lose (and you will lose from time to time) you can soak up the loss without a worry about finances.

Bankroll Management

The amount you wager on sports betting sites should be on a points system. For standard bets, this might be 1 point, for bets that deem have increased value, anything up to 5 (based on how much value the bet has) is fine.

An easy to work this is by using 1% for 1 point. For example, if your bankroll is $1,000 then 1 point would be $10 (1%). This can be adjusted based on how easy it is for the bankroll to be replenished, but as a rule, this is a safe place to start.

2. Learn How Odds Work

You must know how betting odds work before placing whatever type of bet. Odds represent the payout based on the probability of that result. So, a coin toss would be 50/50 or even money (+100) for heads or tails.

You also need to know why the odds change. There are generally two instances of this and that’s based on the amount of money wagered or something that would affect the chances of the result, such as a star player getting injured or a change in the ground for horse racing.

3. Find the Best Betting Lines

You need to spend time searching for the best possible betting lines for your picks. All the best online sportsbooks will have different lines for the same bet and by not taking the best price, you’re losing huge sums of value on the table.

BetOnline odds displayed.

BetUS odds displayed

The example above covers an NFL game between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs. The odds or lines for each of the markets are different between the two. If we just take the straight moneyline bet for this and wanted to bet on the Broncos to win, the payout would be as follows:

  • BetOnline – $100 @ +460 = $460 profit
  • BetUS – $100 @ +450 = $450 profit

So, this shows that for every $100 we wager, we make $10 more betting with BetOnline over BetUS.

4. Avoid Parlay Bets

Although popular, Parlay bets should be avoided despite the fact that you can win huge sums of money for a relatively small stake. However, if you want to profit long-term from online betting, you need to avoid this bet type like the plague.

The reason is that they rarely win and will lose you a lot more money in the long run than they will make. If you’re starting out, especially with a small bankroll, they are going to drain you faster than you can keep up with. Stick to straight wagers and futures bets.

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5. Embrace the Data

Data is key when choosing potential picks, it’s great using a service like BetIdeas which provide AI-powered predictions. You need to have more than just a hunch or feeling about a bet and instead, back that up with data that can be applied to ensure you’re on the right lines.

There are tons of sites that offer free and paid data services. You can use the home sites of the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA to pull huge scores of data for free. Paid sites won’t necessarily have access to more data, but they will help you translate the stats into bets, which saves a lot of time, especially when starting out.

Advanced Sports Betting Strategy

The information above is a betting strategy that you need to know forever moving forward. They are as much good practice as anything, but now we wanted to move into strategies that you can test to see how they work for the bets you want to place.

There will be times when each sports betting strategy will work better than another depending on the types of bets used and sample size of any data, and that is often the skill about when to use them. Learn them all, test and then find what works best for you.

1. Hedging Bets

Hedging bets is where you back against the original bet to either lock in a profit or minimize a loss. It’s designed so that you have all bases covered and ideally lock in a profit on all results. Don’t overlook hedging a bet as part of a loss-limiting exercise though, as it’s often overlooked but can be an incredibly valuable tool.

Let’s run through a real-world example of how a hedge could work.

In the 2022 NFL season, the Kansas City Chiefs were priced as high as +1000 before the first game of the season. So, if you placed a $100 bet at those odds you would get make a $1,000 profit.

Superbowl 2022 odds

By the time they got to the Super Bowl, they were up against the Philadelphia Eagles and were a slight underdog to win at odds of +105. However, these odds are way less than the original price.

To hedge now we need to back the Eagles to win at odds of -125 and we use the “profit” that we would essentially make from the Chiefs winning to do this. Let’s assume that we place a bet of $500 at odds of -125 on the Eagles.

  • Eagles to win – $500 @ -125 = $400 profit

Now the bet is hedged, and we win $500 if the Chiefs win ($1,000 – $500 stake on the Eagles) and $300 profit if the Eagles win ($400 – $100 original stake on the Chiefs), all for a $100 bet.

The smart thing about hedging is that you can manipulate the bets based on your stake to either favor one result or get the same returns on both results. The use of a hedging calculator here saves a lot of time when trying to get an equal payout.

2. Create Your Own Betting Lines

As you become more accustomed to online betting, a great tool that you can use to create your own betting line. Here you’re becoming your own bookmaker, where you use all the data available to you to then create a line.

The idea behind this is that you can then compare that line to odds from your sportsbook and decide if that offers value or not. If the odds are higher, this would indicate value and if they are lower, then it won’t.

This works easier by simply working out the implied probability of a market based on a percentage. So, a 50/50 chance would be 50% implied probability, and as odds that would be +100. It just means that we can create a round 100% market and not an offset one when working with odds alone.

We’re going to run an example from the English Premier League here from an upcoming game between West Ham and Newcastle United.

Let’s assume that we’ve done our research and come out with the following implied probability of the win/draw/win market.

  • West Ham to win = 20% = +400
  • Draw = 25% = +300
  • Newcastle to win = 55% = -122

We now need to compare the odds with what a preferred bookmaker is offering. If we look at the West Ham to win and the draw, we can see that the odds are considerably shorter at the bookmaker which suggests that they don’t offer value based on our assumptions.

However, we think Newcastle win this game 55% of the time to give us odds of -122, but a different bookmaker suggests that they only win 45% of the time at odds of +120. This now shows there is value in this selection.

3. Fade the Public

Fade the public is one of the more common betting strategies that allow punters the chance to advantage of inflated lines. A key aspect to note with this betting strategy is that betting lines aren’t solely based on the likely outcome of that result and instead will also include the amount of money wagered on one side of the market.

The bookmaker is constantly trying to balance the books based on the amount of money staked and exposure. They will move lines based on this and if one side is heavier than the other (greater exposure) they will make the opposing line more popular to encourage more bets.

However, this doesn’t mean that the line is more likely to happen and in turn, creates value for the punter.

For example, the LA Lakers are one of the most popular teams in the NBA and get a lot of bets based on popularity. If an initial spread was at -5.5 which then drifted to -7.5 then this is not because they have more chance of covering, but instead, there has been more money based.

The strategy would then require you to bet on the opposing team at +7.5, which offers greater value as the line has moved based on the volume of bets and not the likelihood of covering the initial spread.

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4. Dutching

The strategy of Dutching bets is used to place multiple wagers on the same game/match to create an equal profit or loss on all results. This strategy is best used to claim, clear, or trigger free bets/bonuses, but can be used as a general sports betting strategy as well if needed.

You’re usually going to need to use multiple betting sites for this strategy or you’re going to need lines to move significantly to make a profit. It’s similar to hedging, but for this to work you need to create the same profit/loss on all results.

To get started you will need a Dutching calculator to ensure that you wager the right amount on each market. Tennis is one of the most popular sports to “Dutch” and it’s this we will use for our example, but it can be applied to any sport.

Let’s assume the promotion is a $10 free bet when you place a $10 bet on a game between Roger Federer and Andy Murray. Federer is priced at -200 and Murray at +150. We use our calculator and it shows us that we need to wager the following amounts.

Outcome Bookmaker 1 Bookmaker 2 Profit/Loss
Federer wins + $5.00 – $6.00 £1.00 loss
Murray wins – $10.00 + $9.00 £1.00 loss

The table shows that once we place our $10 free bet on Federer, we then need to wager $6 on Murray to lock in a $1 loss on all results. This means that it costs us just $1 for our $10 free bet.

5. Kelly Criterion

The Kelly Criterion in gambling has been designed to aid sports bettors when it comes to the amount to stake on the market. It’s used alongside other betting strategies to determine the likelihood of the result happening and then how much exposure you have for that bet.

There is some basic math that you need to know, although there are multiple online calculators that you can use instead.

  • B = Decimal Odds
  • P = Probability of Winning
  • Q = Probability of Not Winning
  • (BP-Q) / B

Let’s use an example of how this might work. We’re going to use the points spread on an upcoming NBA game between the Timberwolves and the Lakers.

Timberwolves v Lakers

As you can see, the odds are -110 (1.91) for a total of O/U 231.5. However, we think that this will be covered easily and instead give the “over” a 65:35 chance of happening. Our formula would then look like this:

  • (0.91 * 0.65 – 0.35) / 0.91 = 0.27 = 27% stake on the Over

Given we think the line is so far off, this formula would then recommend that we stake 27% of our bankroll on the over-bet. This is an extreme example, and usually, the numbers would be much tighter, but it’s a great tool for seeing how far apart you and the betting site are in terms of the odds on offer and then the perceived value you get from these lines.

Using Cash Out Betting to Your Advantage

Cash out can be a strong tool when used correctly with online betting. The concept is that it allows you to close a bet before the market has closed allowing you to either lock in a profit or limit a loss.

One of the best ways to utilize cash out betting is to track games and then react to events within the game. For example, if you’ve backed a team to win and they take a narrow lead (within a single score) with not much time left, then it might be a good idea to lock in a profit without the risk of losing.

The flip side is that you can cash out when your pick is losing. It may get to a point where the game is tied or even very close, allowing you to cash out for a small loss or even to break even.

Become an Expert in a Team/League

One of the biggest mistakes with recreational sports bettors is that spread themselves too thin. They often cover too many games from sports that they have little to no knowledge of.

If you’re new to online sports betting, then we recommend that you keep it simple and place bets on teams or leagues that you’re familiar with. So, for example, if you’re a Premier League expert, try start out by testing your expertise at one of the best ‘football’ betting sites in the UK. Having as much information to make picks as possible is critical to success.

Betting on your own team can have advantages and disadvantages. If you’re able to keep a clear mind and remove bias from your bet, then betting on your supported team is fine. But you need to be able to remove yourself from the result you want and instead pick the most likely to happen.

For example, if you’re an LA Lakers fan, then there’s a good chance you know the team and the NBA relatively well. Start by finding bets for games that the Lakers are involved with at NBA betting sites, and then expand that to other teams in the league.

Best Betting Strategy by Sports

Betting strategies are going to differ from sport to sport. In this section, we’ve outlined the major US sports leagues and the type of strategy that is best used for each.

NBA Betting Strategy

In the NBA one of the most common strategies is betting against the public. There are huge shifts in the support for each team, which means odds can often get inflated based on the public simply betting on their favorites. The best advice if you want to know how to bet on basketball, is to track initial lines and then see how the odds change as the tip-off gets nearer.

MLB Betting Strategy

With the MLB you want to be targeting over/under bets, specifically on games that have big lines (+/- 7.5 runs). When games have lines like this, it tends to mean that they are expecting high-scoring games, which in turn favors the underdog for an upset. Take our pro tip for how to bet on MLB effectively, and check the spread (and even the moneyline) to see if they offer any value.

NFL Betting Strategy

The NFL is the most competitive sport when it comes to betting. Bookmakers have a 50.3% rate when it comes to covering the spread, which is incredible and shows that for this market, it’s a mere coin flip most of the time.

Smart bettors use context betting to find results based on the previous week’s performance. This means that instead of simply taking the result from the previous week, they decide why it happened. This might include the types of scoring plays that occurred, the players that were playing well, the type of opposition, or even home-field advantage.

If a team has won by 30 points, it doesn’t mean that they will do so next time. You must consider then when deciding how to bet on NFL games throughout the regular season and playoffs right up to the Super Bowl.

NHL Betting Strategy

The NHL is the lowest-scoring sport of the “big four” but it does have its advantages. Like the NBA, one of the best strategies to apply is fading the public, with most bets going on home-ice advantage. As a result, the underdog is often a strong value and should be assessed for each game within both spread and moneyline bets. That is how we recommend that you should bet on NHL action on rinks across America and Canada.

Golf Betting Strategy

Wagering on golf is best with futures betting markets and cash out. The sport offers huge pre-tournament odds and as a result, means that you can use the cash out feature to lock in a profit before the event ends.

For example, most favorites tee off with odds of at least odds +1000 or higher. They only need to start relatively well for these odds to reduce massively. It’s plausible that after a good first round, you can cash out to lock in a profit before the tournament ends.

There are often shock winners of Majors and other big tournaments. Few, if any, experts giving tips for how to bet on golf will find these players, so another smart strategy is consider the top 10 and top 20 finish markets.

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Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert
Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert

Jonathan is a freelance writer working with Techopedia. He has been working within the gambling sector for over 15 years and has been fortunate enough to work with brands that include Gambling.com, CheekyPunter.com, BasketballInsiders.com and Betfair. He specializes in US and UK-based sports and casino content for Techopedia.