The historic decision of the US Supreme Court earlier this year that effectively allows each state to make its own decision about whether to allow sports betting has caused immense debate in both sporting and gambling circles. A few states have already greeted the news with open arms, others are well on the way to allowing sports betting, and for some, nothing will change at all.
But how will this affect the fans? We know there are many people who make a living from betting on sport, and across the water in the UK, there is an entire industry, particularly in horse racing. Does this mean Americans living in states that embrace the changes can make some useful side-income, or is it more a case that the only winners here are those running the sports books.
The answer, strange, as it sounds, is a little of both. Of course, the bookmakers need to make money, and that means more losers than winners in terms of bets placed. The trick, however, is to be in the minority who come out on top. Let’s find out how.
Know your sport
It sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, but here’s the thing: there are plenty of people out there who only place a bet because a major sporting event is happening. Millions are staked on the Super Bowl across the globe by people who otherwise have little interest in NFL, and right now, the FIFA World Cup 2018 is being played out in front of TV audiences that run into the billions. People get caught up in the excitement and place a bet “to make it more interesting” without really knowing what they are doing. And the bookmakers love it!
Those who come out winners in the long term understand the nuances of the sport and take time studying form, as well as factors such as weather conditions, the stadium, injury concerns and so on. You will only be able to do that effectively if it is a sport you really enjoy, so don’t go with the flow, but stick to what you know – and get to know it even better.
Don’t just back the favorite
Anyone can look up the odds for a game or a race and see who the bookmakers think is most likely to win. Sometimes they will be right and sometimes they won’t, but blindly backing the favorite will get you nowhere in the long run, as even when you win, it will be against short odds and poor returns.
When you understand form, you can spot the outsider who is at unreasonably long odds. Here’s an example – in April 2015, bookmakers had Rafael Nadal as the runaway favorite to beat Fabio Fognini when they met in the Barcelona Open. Nadal was 1/10 with some bookmakers. However, those who knew their tennis spotted that Fognini had developed a happy knack of knocking out big names in early rounds – and that a few months earlier, he had defeated Nadal on a similar surface. The result? Fognini won the game in straight sets.
Consider different types of bets
It’s not just a case of backing the winner. An each-way bet can be a compelling option in a horse race if you think a long-odds outsider has a chance of finishing in the top four, while major events have all sorts of interesting side bets on offer.
For example, in the World Cup, the fortunes of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and England’s Harry Kane are under the microscope as they battle to be the top goal scorer in the competition.