Value is the most important aspect in sports betting
Continuing with my advice for first time sports bettors (or in some cases seasoned veterans). Here is a question I received over the weekend:
“Pez, in your opinion, what is the single most important thing required in sports betting to be a winner?” – Richie K.
This is actually a very easy question to answer, and my answer isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact!
VALUE is without a doubt the single most important factor when betting on sports.
Money management is important, but if you are constantly betting on -EV wagers, does it really matter how good your money management is?
Discipline is important, but once again, if you are constantly making -EV bets, will it really matter in the long-run that you never forced a bet or chased your losses?
Sports betting is NOT about picking winners. Sports betting is about finding, and ultimately betting on value.
VALUE! VALUE! VALUE!
If you can find value, everything else will take care of itself.
And finding value isn’t about winning bets. It’s about identifying bets where the probability of winning is greater than the odds imply.
The Expected Value (EV) of a bet is simply the amount you can expect to win or lose if you were to repeat the exact same bet at the same odds a very large number of times.
Expected Value can be expressed positively (+EV) or negatively (-EV). A positive Expected Value wager (+EV) means that if you were to make the same bet over and over again, in the long run you can expect to win more times than you lose.
For example, if you determine that Alabama -10 (-110) will win 55% of the time, then you have a +EV wager.
A +EV wager is your edge or advantage over the posted number and odds.
How to Calculate Expected Value (EV)
Advantage wagering (finding +EV bets) isn’t about “picking winners” per se but rather about associating probabilities with various outcomes.
Your probability estimates, taken in conjunction with available prices (point spreads and odds that, depending upon where you wager, may differ from book to book), will determine your edge.
That is pretty much the entire advantage wagering concept in a nutshell. Advantage sports wagering is all about placing +EV bets while practicing sound money management principles.
YOU’RE BETTING NUMBERS, NOT TEAMS
This concept is definitely tough to grasp, especially for the novice sports bettor.
No matter how good a match-up looks, or how advantageous a situational spot appears, there is still no guarantee that the team you are betting on will win and/or cover the spread.
No one can predict that a team will win they can only (try to) predict the probability of a team winning.
Therefore, before you ever place a wager on a sporting event, you need to determine whether or not that wager has a perceived edge, or positive Expected Value (+EV).
There are many ways to find value, however for me, the primary determining factor of whether or not a game/bet has value is the point spread. After all, it may look like a great match-up or situation, but ultimately, it’s the number not the team that should determine whether or not you believe you have value.
My two favorite ways to find/determine value are via my own Power Rating numbers and comparative point spreads.
A few examples, one a winner and one a loser, from college football.
This was the “comparative point spread” portion of my Georgia -2.5 at Auburn write-up/analysis for the game they played November 11, 2017:
Based on closing lines, Georgia should not be a 2.5 point favorite on the Plains. Auburn was -18.5 at Mizzou, UGA was -28.5 at home to Mizzou … so Auburn -24.5 at home = UGA -4 on a neutral vs Auburn ,,, which equals UGA -1 on the Plains.
Georgia was -2.5 at home to Miss State and the following week Auburn was -7.5 at home to them, so Auburn -5 on a neutral. Granted Miss State was coming off that LSU win and was overrated, but even after a significant adjustment the following week after getting crushed by UGA 31-3, they were still a TD+ dog at Auburn and got crushed again 49-10.
Alabama was -25 at Texas A & M, Auburn was -15 last week at A & M … so Bama -10 on a neutral vs Auburn. BetOnline’s early line for an SEC Championship game between UGA and Bama is the Tide -8.5. So UGA should be no more than a 1.5 point favorite over Auburn on a neutral.
Based on comparative lines this current number, Georgia -2.5, should be closer to a pick since the game is being played in Auburn.
Auburn crushed the Dawgs in this particular game 40-17.
(NOTE: Three weeks later these two teams met again in the SEC Championship game and Auburn opened as a 2-point favorite … which based on our comparative point spread analysis above was too high. Georgia won this game 28-7).
The second example is from the November 25, 2017 Colorado at Utah game. Here is the “Line Value” and “comparative point spread” portion of my write-up/analysis:
I believe we have some solid line value in this game with Colorado.
My number is Utah -7, and based on the closing lines with 6 common opponents, that may be a little high.
UW: CU was +11 at home = 14 neutral & 17 in Seattle …. Utah was 17.5 in Seattle. That translates to Utah -2.5 in SLC.
UCLA: CU was +7.5 at UCLA = 4.5 neutral & 1.5 in Boulder … Utah wash -9.5 at home but Rosen DNP. That translate to Utah -11 in SLC. However, this is an outlier because Rosen DNP.
AZ: CU was -7 home …. Utah was -4.5 in Tucson = -7.5 neutral & -10.5 in SLC. That translates to Utah -6.5 in SLC. Note: both played w/o Tate starting (the CU game was where Dawkins got hurt and the Cats had to bring in Tate).
WAZZOU: CU was +9 away …. Utah was +1 at home = +4 neutral & +7 away. That translates to Utah -5 in SLC.
ASU: CU was +6.5 away …. Utah was -10 home = -7 neutral & -4 in Tempe. That translate to Utah -13.5 in SLC. This is the 2nd outlier and the only thing I can say is the Utah -10 against ASU was a bad line. No way Utah should have been favored by DD against ASU in SLC or even close to a favorite in Tempe.
USC: CU was +14 home … Utah +13.5 at USC. CU would be +17 on a neutral vs USC/Utah would be +10.5. Utah would be -6.5 on a neutral vs CU. So, Utah -9.5 in SLC.
Three of six games have this line set well below the current 10.5. The UCLA game is more or less right on the number, but how many points is Josh Rosen worth versus a redshirt QB who had never started a game in his career?
The ASU/Utah line was just flat out wrong (ASU won 30-10) and the USC number comes in a little below the current number.
To say I was wrong on this one is an understatement as the Utes crushed the Buffs 34-13.
However, based on my Power Rating numbers, my comparative point spread analysis and closing line value (CLV) … the number closed at Utah -9.5 … I believe I definitely made a +EV wager.
And ultimately, in the long run, that is the most important factor in sports betting. It is all about betting on value. If you are consistently betting on +EV wagers, you will be a winning sports bettor.
Without trying to be too argumentative, but rather adding to the discussion, isn’t using the comparative line value similar to the transitive theory which doesn’t take specific team match-ups into account? In sports betting the argument that “Team A defeated team B, and team B defeated team C. Therefore, team A will defeat team C.” doesn’t hold. How is comparative line value different?
Steve, correct me if I am not understanding your question correctly, but doesn’t comparative line value support what you said about the transitive theory not holding true? For example, Team A (ASU) is a 10 point dog away to Team B (USC), ASU naturally beats the Trojans outright 24-21. The next week, Team B (USC) is a 10 point favorite at home against Team C (Utah) and they beat the Utes 45-10. Therefore Team A (ASU) will beat Team C (Utah) the following week … and of course we know that if you were to follow that logic you won’t be a very successful sports handicapper for too long. That’s what you are saying, correct?
So what I am saying is if ASU is +10 and beats USC by 3, and USC is -10 and beats Utah by 35 … despite the huge differences in final scores, the game the following week should be (give or take a point) ASU -3 in Tempe, pk on a neutral field and Utah -3 in SLC. If the point spread was/is significantly different, barring any injuries, etc., than there is value on whichever one of those teams is getting the better number.
To determine market value, you need to consider what the market has been offering, not what the result has been…anything can occur on any single event, but the market takes into account “all possible events”… (Trentmoney).
Perhaps an even better example is that Auburn/Georgia rematch mentioned in the article. When that game opened, Auburn was now a 2.5 favorite …. well that number was wrong because a few weeks earlier UGA was a 2.5 point favorite at Auburn … so despite the final score in the first game, Georgia still should have been favored in the SEC Championship game because it was being played on a neutral field. BTW, Georgia did close as a 2.5 point favorite.
In other words, don’t place too much emphasis on results …. especially just one game. Rather place more of an emphasis on what the market has been offering for the two teams in recent weeks.
I hope that helps. If not, let me know and I’ll expand upon my explanation.
I worded my question poorly. I meant for these examples to be before the games are played (not after as in the wording). Assuming all neutral sites games for simplicity. If Team A is favored over Team B by 3 points, and Team B is favored over Team C by 3 points, then in your example Team A would be favored over Team C by 6 points. But this ignores specific Team to Team match-ups. I believe that is what the transitive theory is, and it has been shown to not work in sports betting. Hope this clarifies things.
So to summarize – isn’t comparative line value assuming that the transitive theory holds?
Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful response. This is a fascinating subject. .
Steve, I understand what you are saying, but I do not believe that comparative line value has much, if anything to do with the transitive theory you are referring to. What (I believe) you are saying is that if Team A is a 3 point favorite over Team B and beats them 45-10, and Team B is a 3 point favorite over Team C and beats them 45-10, than because of the large final score discrepancies, Team A should be favored by a lot more than 6 points over Team C on a neutral field. And what I am saying is that the point spread should be very close (give or take a few points for adjustments) to Team A being a 6 point favorite over Team C on a neutral field. So what I am trying to convey is that final results, because they (final scores) can be so random and/or skewed, should not be as important to your handicapping as the numbers that the market has been offering.
So for me, if in the scenario we described, if Team A were a 10 point favorite over Team C, the only side I would even consider would be Team C.
As for team match-ups, I truthfully do not place too much emphasis on them. I’m aware of certain match-ups, especially when I am looking at totals, but even with totals I am comparing the numbers that the market has been offering.
In summary, my handicapping process starts with the number that is being offered. If that number is higher or lower than what I think the number should be based on my personal Power Ratings and comparative lines, then I am interested in delving deeper into the game. If I find that there is a reason for the discrepancy I’ll toss it, but if the only apparent reason for the discrepancy is because Team A crushed Team B and Team B crushed Team C, so the point spread for Team A over Team C is significantly higher than what the market has been offering …. based on public perception? …. I’m probably all over Team C. And if I beat the closing line like I did in the Colorado +10.5 over Utah example I used above, I most certainly have a +EV wager.
Let me know if you have any further thoughts or comments on this subject. I have enjoyed expanding on the original article.
I’ve been betting on sports for a few years, so I would not say that I am a novice.But I am by no means a beginner, and it seems to me that the most important thing to being a successful sports bettor is winning. No? I don’t understand how a wager that loses has value. If Team A is a 2 point favorite over Team B and they win, isn’t that an advantage wager?
Mark, the easiest way I can explain this is via an EASY example. Suppose someone offers you +110 payout on a coin flip. You choose tails and you lose. You just made a +EV wager because you’re getting +110 on a 50/50 proposition. In other words, the true odds for that coin toss is +100 (even money). Now if they made you that same offer again and again and again, etc., and you lose 10 times in a row, you’ve made 10 +EV wagers, but you’ve so far been “unlucky.” However, since you have been practicing excellent money management 🙂 you can continue to make this same wager over and over again … and eventually, once your sample size is big enough, say 500 coin flips, I can almost guarantee you are winning.