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Can Sports Betting Be Profitable?

Scott Morris | May 1, 2024

Sports betting has risen in popularity over the last several years. Ever since the US Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), sports betting has grown exponentially. There are more sportsbooks, more bettors, and more wagers available on a daily basis.

If you live in the right state (or even if you don’t), you can bet on sports online. The big question, of course, is can sports betting be profitable for a bettor? The answer, of course, really relies on the individual bettor.

Too many bettors simply throw their money away betting on sports. If you’re in it for just the fun or thrill of it, the answer is no, sports betting won’t be profitable for you. However, with the right mindset, knowledge, and preparation, there are bettors who can turn a profit.


Understanding Odds

Placing a bet at a sportsbook is different from betting your buddy $20 that Denver will beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA playoffs. If Denver wins, your buddy gives you $20. If you bet $20 on Denver to win at a sportsbook, you will not receive $20 if the Nuggets win.

That’s because sportsbooks are in the business of making money. While your buddy will take your $20 bet at even money (meaning you win $20 on your $20 bet), a sportsbook will not. A sportsbook will take your bet, but it will cost you.

Denver played the Lakers in Game 5 of its first-round NBA playoff series on Monday, April 29. The Nuggets, who have beaten the Lakers in 11 of the last 12 head-to-head meetings, did it again. So, a sportsbook , in that exact scenario, would take your $20 bet, but if you win, you will only win $5.71.

That is because the sportsbook has offered bettors -350 odds on the Nuggets at the start of the series with the Lakers. There are odds on every wager you make at a sportsbook and understanding these odds and how they work is the first step in becoming a profitable sports bettor.


Odds & Implied Probability

One thing bettors should remember is this. Odds of +100 are even-money odds. That means bettors win the exact amount they wagered like in the example of the bet with your buddy. Odds greater than +100 have an implied probability of less than 50 percent. That means they are less likely to happen. Odds greater than +100 are typically associated with underdogs. The resulting payouts on underdogs will be higher than betting on a favorite.

Odds below -100 have an implied probability of greater than 50 percent. These odds are normally associated with favorites. Favorites are more likely to win and, as a result, sportsbooks are not going to pay out as much when a favorite wins.

It should also be noted that most point spread bets come with odds close to or at -110. The Nuggets were favored by 6.5 points to beat the Lakers in Game 5 of their playoff series. Denver had to win by at least 7 points in order to cover the spread. If you bet on the Nuggets and they win and covered, your $20 bet at -110 odds will pay you $18.18. The remaining $1.82 is the sportsbook’s fee for taking your bet. But, as it happened, the Nuggets only won by 2 points so that bet didn’t win. Instead, Lakers +7 won the bet.


Finding Value Bets

If there is a Holy Grail in sports betting, it is the ability to find quality value bets. What are value bets? They are exactly what you would think they are. Sportsbooks work to set accurate odds on everything on their betting boards, but sometimes they miss.

Think about this example. In the 2022 World Cup, Team USA was given +900 moneyline odds in its Group A match against Wales. Remember that $20 bet on Denver? So, a $20 wager on Team USA to beat Wales would pay out $180!

There were plenty of bettors who believed those odds should have been more like +250 or +300. Getting that bet at +900…that’s value.


Making Informed Bets

In becoming a profitable sports bettor, the question then becomes how to find value. Bettors have to do their research and make use of various statistics and other data. For example, betting point spreads and totals in the NFL require some knowledge of something called key numbers.

can you win at sports betting?Football is a unique sport because of the way in which teams score. A touchdown is always worth six points, a kicked point-after-touchdown is always one point, and a field goal is worth three. Because of this, there are several common point totals produced by teams.

Final game scores of 27-24 and 24-17 are extremely common. The three-point margin is the most common scoring margin in an NFL game. Knowing all of this can help a better make more informed decisions on point spread and totals bets on NFL games.

When you combine the ability to find value bets with the use of statistics and knowledge in a given sport, a bettor can set himself up for success. In today’s data age, there is an almost unlimited supply of information at one’s fingertips. Bettors can identify consistencies, inconsistencies, and trends that help in making more informed bets.


Money Management

Too often, bettors that understand odds and even have the ability to track value bets end up unsuccessful. That’s usually because they just don’t know how to manage their money. One thing to remember is that the best sports bettors in the industry will win somewhere between 55 and 60 percent of the time. If you make 10 bets and you’re really good, you’re still going to lose four of them.

With that in mind, it pays to have a money management strategy in place before you start randomly betting on sports. It all starts with your bankroll, or the amount you have set aside to use for betting.

Let’s say you have $1,000 per month. Experts will tell you to establish a unit size of between 1 and 5 percent of your bankroll. With that $1,000 bankroll, that means your bets would be somewhere between $10 and $50.

The mistake that most bettors make is that they try to make up for a bunch of losses by betting more than they should. Chasing losses is usually a recipe for disaster. Sticking with a consistent unit size will allow bettors to weather the storm during a slump while also adding to the bankroll when on a winning streak.


Become a Winner

To answer the question posed at the beginning of this article and to answer the question can you really win sports betting?, yes, sports betting can be profitable. It does take work, though. It takes discipline, especially with one’s money. It takes time to put in enough research to make informed wagers based upon value.

Sports betting can be challenging and there are never any guarantees. If you understand odds and how to find value, you can tip the scales of profitability in your favor. With the right mindset and approach, most people can accomplish anything…including becoming a profitable sports bettor.



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