If you want to get started betting on sports then the first thing I’d tell you to do is pick a sport and become a specialist. It’s easier to focus all of your time and energy on a single market than it is to spread yourself thin making bets on every sport under the sun.
Once you get a sport down, feel free to move onto the next one. But when you are starting out and trying to find an edge it’s a fools errand to bite off more than you can chew.
But what sports and bet types should you choose? This guide will offer some pointers for beginner bettors on which markets you should focus on if you want to be a successful sports handicapper.
Following Your Passion
The typical noob bettor typically decides that they watch enough of a sport that they know more about the teams than anyone else and decides they can monetize that knowledge by firing away at the daily odds.
And look, I think you should get started betting with a sport that you enjoy. I really do. You are going to spend a lot of time handicapping sports so you might as well spend that time covering a sport that you actually love.
It’s easier to watch the games, swallow up as much news as possible, and stay interested in reading box scores and play-by-plays that way.
But, you have to pick a market that you can actually make money. If you decide that you want to attack NFL or NBA sides, you are going to have a rough go of it.
You just aren’t going to get a high return on those sports even when you have years of experience, the best information on the board, and the most efficient model. The opening odds just aren’t wrong enough to have really juicy opportunities.
And that’s why I think you shouldn’t start with top pro leagues, but with smaller markets. But if you really do insist on starting with the NBA or the NFL, skip the sides and dive into player props. The edge is bigger and you have a chance to start building that bankroll with a softer market.
Looking at Smaller Markets
If you want to know what markets bettors have a real edge in look at the volatility. If the difference between the opening and closing line is six or seven points, someone made bets with a real edge and kept firing until it disappeared.
You can find that kind of movement in player props, college basketball totals, golf, and auto racing. The lines that the oddsmakers release are obviously wrong, and not just by a little bit.
In the NFL and NBA you just aren’t going to see that much movement in the lines unless news breaks that a superstar is out or something major like that.
The odds makers have a limited amount of time. They are going to put the time into creating odds for the games that draw the most action.
Since the general public loves wagering on the NFL, the handle on those games is going to be much larger than two Sun Belt teams playing on a Saturday afternoon. That means they are going to make sure they have the NFL line set right. The Sun Belt game isn’t going to be getting the same amount of their attention.
Early in the college basketball season do you think the guys behind the counter are going to spend all their time looking at preseason info to make sure the lines in November are sharp? Probably not since most bettors are still in football mode and don’t even know basketball starts before winter break.
Looking at Line Volatility
There are two ways to evaluate if there is an edge in a betting market. The difference between the opener and the close, and how many moves there were in total.
To find the closing line value (CLV) you just take the difference between the opener and the close.
For example, if the spread starts at +8, you bet it, and the line gets bet down to +4 that’s four points of CLV.
You have to be careful looking at CLV though because if the line moves happen within the first five minutes of opening up, and only at Circa when they were the only shop with a number posted, that isn’t going to do you much good.
You only had five minutes to hit that opener, you had to be first, and you probably had small limits so didn’t even get that much down.
Only getting those kinds of bets in isn’t going to leave you with as much profit at the end of the year since you can never risk enough to get a big return.
The other way to know if there is value in a market is to look at the line moves in totality. If the same game starts at +8, gets bet down to +4, and then gets bet back up to +8, then gets hit again down to +6.5 you know that there are a lot of strong opinions on the game.
The better news is that if you had the game lined at +6, you can get profitable bets in a +8 and then again coming back with -4 and have an edge both ways! Those are the real gems to find because you can basically use arbitrage to lock up a profit with no risk.
Looking at Totals Over Sides
The other thing I’d recommend is that if you can become good at betting over unders you have an edge on. In general, there is more volatility in the totals market than there is with the point spread.
That means there is more opportunity if you handicap the total of the game instead of just who is going to win.
Again though, the limits aren’t going to be as big, but they can get up there high enough where you can earn a solid living.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of a fear of missing out on profitable opportunities. That’s why many bettors try to handicap every sport. They end up working 100 hours per work, grinding away with only a couple of days off surrounding the MLB All Star Break.
You are going to have more success specializing in a single sport to start. Then once you have one mastered move onto a second. Keep going until you see how much you can handle.
You’ll be better off saving some energy by taking days off during parts of the year. Then you’ll be fully energized when you start attacking the sport that you feel like you have the biggest edge in.