Fading the Public – How to Bet Against the Public and Make Money

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Fading the public is one of the industry’s oldest and most powerful betting strategies. It’s used to oppose public money and find value due to the power of public perception. At Techopedia, we will look at how betting against the public works, why you should adopt this strategy, and how to spot the prime times to maximize value using it.

What Does Fading the Public Mean?

When we talk about fading the public, we’re saying that we want to bet against what the majority of the public is betting on. We’re going against popular concepts around betting on a particular market.

Fading the public

This can be an extremely powerful tool and there are plenty of different fading strategies you can use successfully. The most common simply involves going against the prevailing attitude in the form of the volume of bets wagered. To start, it’s important to break down the two categories of bettors.

Average Joe

Your typical bettor who bets once a week on their favorite team or from a tip they received from a coworker. For them, this is a bit of fun and they’re not too bothered if they win or lose or at the end of the day.

Sharp

The flip side is sharp bettors. These are your professionals, who make the majority of their income from betting. They go above and beyond when it comes to sports betting and try and gain an edge at every opportunity.

Now, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you land in the first category but want to follow the lead of those in the second category. Fading the public is the best way to do this, and we will explain why.

Why Should You Look to Bet Against the Public?

Any betting strategy you apply, regardless of how comprehensive it is, is all about finding winning bets and value. If someone offered you a strategy where you could guarantee a 51% win rate on a flip of a coin, you’re going to take it and bet as much and as often as you can, because it offers value.

To understand why we want to fade the public, we need a quick overview of how sportsbooks work.

For each game or market that goes live, the sportsbook will have a team and algorithm that will come up with the probability of each result. This will be displayed as odds, minus the vigorish or juice (commission earned by the sportsbook) for each bet.

So, if we jump back to the coin flip, the true odds we know are 50/50, which would be +100. But the sportsbook wouldn’t be able to make money at these odds, so adjusted for vigorish, the price would be -110 for heads or tails.

Assuming the sportsbook took an even amount of money on both heads and tails, they would profit from the vigorish. The problem comes when an uneven amount is wagered, say 70% on heads and 30% on tails. This leaves them exposed to the result being heads as the money they pay out will be greater than tails.

Sportsbooks want a square book where they make the same or similar profit regardless of the result.

To do this, they change the odds to make it more enticing for you to bet one side over the other. So, if they need to get more volume on tails, they might change the odds to +110, with heads changing to -140 as a result.

If you’re looking to bet on this and you know it’s a 50/50 chance, then you’re going to take the tails bet at +110 as this offers value. Once the sportsbook gets enough volume to then balance the books again, the odds will shorten.

We’re doing the same with fading the public. We’re opposing bets that the majority are betting on that have moved the line to find value on the other side.

Example of Fading the Public

The best way to work through what fading the public is, is to use a real-world example. Here we’ve got an NFL Conference Championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens.

fade the public example

For this example, we’re going to concentrate on the spread. The image above has some important information for determining when to fade the public. The “$BET” and “CASH%” show the total amount wagered in cash and volume for both teams. The “TICKET#” and “TICKET%” are the number of bets placed and the percentage for each team.

We can see that the line opened at +/-3 and 82% of bets were taken for the Ravens at -3 with 70% of the tickets. Now, this is the time when the line first opened, which was six days before the start of the game. Your Average Joe is not taking the spread six days before the start of the game, but sharp bettors sure are.

Let’s fast forward to the morning of the game. We’re now at a point where the line has moved from +/- 3 points to 4 points. But take a look at the volume of bets made and tickets sold as it went past 3.5 and up to 4 points.

The public is still betting on the Ravens hard, even though they’ve moved a whole point from when the market opened. The sportsbooks took 59% at 3.5 points and the same amount at 4 points. We’d guess that the line is going to move again before kick-off to 4.5 and maybe even hit +/-5 points.

A key point to remember in all of this is that, when a sportsbook offers an initial line, this is their best judgment on how the game will play out. They have huge teams and computer data to conduct these for every game and their goal is to create an even book, so in their opinion, it’s a fair price on both sides.

Following this game in particular, there have been next to no changes in roster or injuries from when the lines were published. The only reason the line is moving is the volume of bets placed.

So, how do we profit from this?

Early public betting

Well, if you were able to get in early and see that the sharp bettors were lapping up the -3 on the Ravens, this would create huge value as their line has already shifted to -4 and is likely going to keep going up.

To take advantage now, we’re looking to take the Chiefs to cover at +4. The public is still betting on the Ravens because they’re the favorites and the public likes to bet on the favorite regardless. But the value is on the Chiefs at +4. We get an extra point to work with from the opening lines and if we can hold out, we might see this rise yet.

There will be better examples with bigger margins that occur throughout the season, but it shows that this can be applied to literally any game. If you’re looking to find value, one of the best places to start is by betting against the public.

Factors that Influence Public Opinion

A lot of external factors come into play that influence the public’s opinion of what to bet on. We’ve outlined these below, so you don’t fall into the same beartrap when it comes to betting.

The Media

The media play a big role in who a lot of people bet these days and it’s a dangerous game following the advice of certain representatives of the media. They can overhype a lot of games and players, talk up big stories, and generally talk quite a bit of nonsense that the Average Joe is going to lap up.

This is a crude outlook to have, but often holds true. Social media has increased this tenfold and we’re sure you’ll have heard of the term “Clickbait” which is used for online publications but has been a strategy used in media for decades.

It’s easy to get caught up in the coverage and the Average Joe follows the narrative of who the media are tipping, which might just be the team that is going to generate the most clicks, rather than win the game.

Team Status/ Social Media Following

Popular teams are going to get a lot of bets regardless of any outside factors. A great example of this is in the NBA with the LA Lakers and Golden State Warriors. They both have around 58 million social media followers and to put that into context, it’s almost twice as many as the 3rd placed team, the Chicago Bulls, with 33 million.

The Average Joe likes to bet on their team, so if the Lakers and the Warriors have double the fans, they’re going to receive a lot of bets simply on the back of this. Without running the numbers and just going on popularity, we would guess that you could oppose both teams on the spread most weeks and see a positive yield, especially for high-profile games where the volume of bets will increase again.

Betting on the Over

The over bet for the totals market is one of the most abused markets there is. The majority bet the over as it allows them to stay in the bet for longer. As this happens, the odds for the adjustment based on this added volume for no other reason than the under can lose, and quickly.

Sport Over/Under Record Under Win %
NFL 644-700-11 52.1%
NBA 3506-3471-84 49.7%
NHL 3565-3575-450 50.1%
MLB 5639-5827-549 50.8%
NCAAF 1910-2045-54 51.7%
NCAAB 11187-11229-283 50.1%

The numbers aren’t huge, so this isn’t a cry that you should always bet the under for value, and, some of these numbers won’t even beat the vig, so even the small positive margins will lose you money.

But you can take this into account for your betting strategy as the over bet is influenced by public opinion without any foundation.

Home Advantage

Most teams win more games at home, this is a fact. But the weight that the public put on home games is often too high. Instead of favoring the home team with no basis, look at statistics such as recent home form and how often they cover the spread or totals, as a better guide than simply picking the home to win, as many do.

Best Markets to Fade the Public

Fading can take place on any market, but you need the data to back up the fade. We’ve outlined how gambling sites show the number of bets placed and the amount staked, but this data can be limited. You’re not freely going to find data on prop bets, but you are on the more popular markets, which we’ve covered below.

Moneyline

The moneyline is one of the most popular betting markets. For this, you’re betting on the winner of the game, with no handicaps/spreads applied.

moneyline line movement

To bet against the public, you must look to see how the odds have moved and more importantly, why. The image above shows how the moneyline odds have moved for an NHL game between the St. Louis Blues and the LA Kings.

As you can see, the Blues opened around +114 and the Kings at around -136. The odds have shifted significantly, with the money coming for the Kings to win, shortening in -160, moving the Blues out to +135.

moneyline stats

Let’s take the overview of the amount wagered compared to tickets bought at the current price. The majority of the money has been wagered on the Kings at -150, which caused a short shift to -160 and then quickly to -165. However, the majority of bets being made are still with the Blues as it has been since they were +130.

The public is seeing the Blues price lengthen and are jumping on this. The data would suggest that the sharp bettors are still taking the Kings, even though the odds are shortening.

This is a great example of where you can bet against the public, but still take the shorter price and a key feature to note for this betting strategy.

Points Spread

The points spread is probably the most popular market to follow for fading the public as the odds stay relatively similar, but the spread will move. For those that don’t know, the points spread is a handicap that’s applied to both teams, with the favorite having points removed and the underdog having points added.

For a team to win, they must cover the spread.

fade the points spread

Let’s take a look at an interesting NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks to see how this works. You will notice that the opening lines for this market started at +/- 6 and now have shifted to +/- 7. Here’s how the numbers stack up.

points spread numbers

The initial line of +/- 6 didn’t see much action, but the majority cash went on the Raptors at +6, even though the number of tickets sold was the same. This would suggest smart bettors are getting on this line early.

Sportsbooks were quick to respond and moved it to 6.5. Here you can see a huge volume of the total cash wagered was on the Hawks, with 75%. The number of tickets sold slightly favored the Hawks at 55%.

Now the line is at 7, we need to determine where the smart money is going. The public is betting heavily on the Raptors to cover the spread at +7, but we know that opposing this would mean that we’re getting a worse spread than the initial line of -6 on the Hawks.

Does the Hawks at -7 still offer value? Well, maybe. But we’ve lost out by the line moving and not getting on at -6. Therefore, we’d be following the public here, which means for this strategy, this game wouldn’t work.

Totals (Over/Under)

For a totals bet, you take the over or under total points scored in a game. It’s an easy market to use and is another good example to apply fading the public in terms of volume of bets.

We’re going to run with the Raptors vs. Hawks game again as this is the perfect example of when to fade a totals bet, and just so happens to be live as we go to publish.

fade totals bets

From the image, we can see the opening line of 237 points. There wasn’t any interest here, which could be for the line or the fact it was early in the betting for a regular season NBA for two teams that don’t have huge followings.

As the line moves up, we can see the number of bets roll in. You can use the image to see how the volume of bets taken versus the volume of bets placed differs for each line. However, the key thing to note is the most recent line of 242.5 points.

You can see that for the over bet, we have 17% of the total cash wagered and 74% of the total number of bets. This means the public is betting a lot on the over line, but not in huge volume.

The under has taken a massive 83% of cash but only 26% of the bets. The big money is coming for the under, but most are betting the over.

History would suggest, those who bet big, generally bet smart. They’re more confident than those betting small. For this example, the public is betting a lot on the over, but the smart money is going on the under. As a result, this is the perfect time to fade the public and take the under.

Betting Market Caveat

We’ve spoken at length in these examples about how the money moves the lines. This is a huge part of betting against the public and by far the best way to do it. However, there are more variables as to why lines move and how we should interpret movement.

This comes down to betting strategies like research and analysis. If you’ve found a reason as to why you should bet on something and can back that up with data, then you can confidently place the bet even if the public is leaning in the other direction. This would still be an example of fading the public but using alternative methods.

The issues that have with this are information such as team news, injuries, form, and stats like this, are readily available and even the Average Joe is likely to apply some of this data to their bets. This is what makes following where sharp money is heading so profitable. You’re taking inflated odds or lines for bets that have already been adjusted for this data by the sportsbook.

Sports You Can Bet Against the Public

You can bet against the public for all sports in some capacity. There are, however, some that are easier than others and this mainly comes down to the volume of bets. The more popular the game, the more money wagered, meaning the greater chance a line will move that can provide value.

Below we’ve highlighted some of these sports and included areas to note.

Football

Football is one of the biggest sports for online betting, so it works well when trying to fade the public. It’s got a ton of casual fans and with that, comes a lot of Average Joe’s, betting on their team, simply because it’s their team.

There are key numbers in football betting, especially in the NFL, that you need to note. These are three and seven.

The number three is there because the most likely margin of victory in a football game is three points. Games that run into overtime are usually won by three points and a field goal late in a tied game with a three-point spread.

The number seven is there for a similar reason to a three in that it’s an alternative scoring number. A converted touchdown is worth seven points, so games can often won and lost by this margin as much as any.

So how do we apply this to fading the public?

In both scenarios, we can target the spread on three or seven points to gain an edge. Most won’t realize the importance of these numbers from a betting perspective, which means we get value in taking on these numbers.

Basketball

Basketball has a lot of games that you can wager on throughout the course of a season, especially in the NBA. This allows us to be much more selective about which games we target and wait for the best opportunities to find value.

The totals market is great for the NBA as a huge volume of bets are placed on the over. We can use this to find bets where the number of tickets is high and the cash is low, highlighting where the public is betting and we can fade this.

Hockey

Hockey differs from both football and basketball as the spread (puck line) is fixed at 1.5. The odds will then adjust based on this, which makes it a lot less flexible. Given that you’ve only the odds to work with and not the line, it makes it tougher to find value as it’s a single variable.

The workaround for fading the public in hockey betting is the moneyline. You can use the same process to follow where the public is betting on the moneyline and create value that way.

You don’t need to change the method for this and keep finding markets where you’ve high cash but a low number of bets made, and you’ll not be far away.

One of the plus sides to betting moneyline is that you move away from even money bets. This means the pressure of winning each bet is lessened, as you could plausibly make three bets, lose one, and still profit from the other, depending on the odds.

When Not to Bet Against the Public

There are times when you don’t want to bet against the public and one of these links to a term called chasing steam. This is where the public thinks they are being smart by following significant shifts in betting lines and following the sharps.

As we know, there’s more to lines moving than just the money, but the money is the key factor. If a line moves, it is not always that the sharps are getting in heavy, they might be manipulating the line to create value elsewhere. They do this as part of a betting syndicate.

For example, if the line on an NFL game between the Miami Dolphins who are favorites over the New York Jets was set at 4.5 points, the syndicate may try and move that line by betting big on the Dolphins, which then prompts the sportsbook to square their books and increase the line to discourage bets and limit liability.

They then use this line shift to move into betting on the Jets, which might now be at 4 or even 3.5 points. It’s a tricky concept, but it happens a lot and the casual weekend warrior might think they’re jumping on, but in fact, they are betting on the wrong side.

This is why it’s imperative to not just track the volume of bets, but also the number of tickets bought (bets placed). One person’s $100,000 wager is going to make most of the best online sportsbooks take note and likely cause a line shift, but that doesn’t mean it’s smart money.

The flip side is that, if $100,000 was wagered across 10-15 bets, then now you’re looking at something where the sharps might be getting involved.

Fading the Public Betting Strategies and Tips

To consistently profit from fading the public, you have to know what to look for as part of a betting strategy. Done correctly, this is going to be one of the most lucrative betting strategies there is.

Bet with the “Early Money”

The best thing about trying to fade the public is that we tap into the market of how the sharps work. They bet early on betting lines and they try to quickly evaluate where the value lies in the early lines.

You can use sites like Pre Game that track where the money moves in Las Vegas to give an idea of the overall state of the industry. This shows how much has been bet and by how many tickets (bet slips).

To do this you need to know when the lines are released and quickly see where the early money is heading. The Average Joe is not betting on regular season NHL games at 4 am three days before the game starts, only sharps.

when to fade NHL betting lines

The image above is a great example of this from a game between Columbus and Seattle in the NHL.  We can see that the lines opened from Seattle at -220 and Columbus at +180. From that top column, all early bets were placed on Seattle to win at odds of -220, and then 84% of bets were placed at odds of -225.

It’s literally as simple as the following people who are incredibly knowledgeable about sports betting and doing what they do. If they think the value is with Seattle at -220 instead of Columbus at +180, then you go with Seattle.

The fact that the line eventually moved to -255 for Seattle shows that the price of -220 created value.

Bet Against the “Late Money”

The flip side to following the early money is to bet against the late money. The closer games get to kick off, the more it’s going to be influenced by your Average Joe public. This is when we need to start looking at trying to fade.

bet against late money

We’ve taken an NBA between the Bulls and Trail Blazers using the totals market as an example. The market opened at 216.5 and is now at 219.5, which is a shift of three points. Not an insignificant switch.

We know that the majority like to bet on the over for totals in most sports, and that’s what has happened here. 82% of the total number of tickets sold (bets placed) have taken the over, but only 60% of the total cash has gone on the over.

If you look at the latest line of 219.5, you can see that just 56% of cash wagered is on the over. This means the public is likely taking that line and the people opposing are the sharps, because it’s only them who like to take these bets, at a massive 44%, compared to just 17%.

Big bets + low volume = time to fade

Not only are we seeing trends from the amount wagered, but we can also consider the sportsbook is giving us three extra points to work with from the initial line. As we’ve noted, not insignificant, and two key variables that are pointing in the direction of a value bet.

Fade the Popular Teams in Big Games

We’ve touched on this, but the popular teams in sports get a lot of the neutral bets. This is from your armchair sports fans, who watch a handful of games a year and place even fewer bets. It’s a much bigger demographic than you think and has a big influence on the betting markets.

A great example of this is the New England Patriots when they were dominating the NFL in the early 2000s and mid-late 2010s. They were so dominant that everyone wanted to bet on them and everyone did bet on them.

What that did was create some huge spreads, which meant that fading the public became easy. The Patriots were very good, winning six Super Bowls in 18 years and there were a lot of times they would cover the spread, but it was less common than you’d think.

We keep going back to it, but the key is to compare the volume of bets cashed and the number of tickets. Finding that correlation will show when lines are just plain wrong. You won’t win them all, but every time you place a bet, it should be because it offers value from how the public has wagered.

How to Fade the Public – Step-by-Step Guide

In this section, we will look at how to fade the public by using a step-by-step guide. We won’t include the process of finding the bet in a lot of detail as we’ve covered this later within the fading strategies section. The sportsbook that we’ve chosen to place the bet is BetOnline.

  1. 1. Find the value bet

    You first need to start by finding value in fading the public. There are lots of ways you can do this, but the easiest is opposing high volumes of bets for better betting lines. Use sites like Pre Game to learn more.
    1. Find the value bet
  2. 2. Create an account with BetOnline

    To place a bet, you need a betting account. Open BetOnline and click the “Join” button at the top of the page.
    2. Create an account with BetOnline
  3. 3. Enter account details

    In the pop-up, enter the details needed for your account. You will need to verify these at a later date before you can deposit.
    3. Enter account details
  4. 4. Deposit

    Head to the cashier and choose from any of the payment methods to make a deposit. To claim the BetOnline promo code, enter “BET1000” into the box to get a 50% deposit match up to $1,000.
    4. Deposit
  5. 5. Place a bet

    Use the sportsbook to find the sport, game, and market that you’re going to fade. Click the odds to add to the betslip and enter your stake. Confirm your bet and place by clicking the button at the bottom.
    5. Place a bet

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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.