Sports Betting Lesson: The Importance Of Game Selection

Written By Matt Perrault on November 20, 2019

Off the top of your head, do you know the number of college basketball teams that play at the Division I level?

The answer is 351. That’s a massive number.

Every single one of those teams play a full schedule of games, and the sportsbooks know that somewhere there is a person who would like to bet on those teams from time to time. It’s a daunting task for the operators to hang lines for all those college basketball games each night.

How can anyone know everything about each one of those 351 teams? You can’t.

Then, let’s add in the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, UFC, boxing and other sports that are played on the same night as college basketball. To make matters even worse for the books, those sports don’t take the night off when college football or NFL games are played. That’s when public betting becomes the heaviest.

As gamblers, we are at a disadvantage to the books before we bet a single dollar because we are putting up $1.10 to their $1. We need to do anything we can to even the odds, and it goes back to a piece of advice I was given when I started betting on games.

Pick your spots

As gamblers, we can pick which games we play and which games we don’t.

It sounds simple but it’s really important. The books have to hang numbers on all the big games but most books are also expected to hang lines on smaller games, undercard fights, and even WNBA games. The player has a right and luxury to bet a game or to pass on it but the books know that games that don’t have lines can drive a player to a competitor that is offering that game.

With the huge number of games each night and prop bets inside of those games, it’s impossible to be an expert on everything on the board. Being a selective bettor is a great skill to master. The fact of the matter is that the more you bet, the better it is for the sportsbooks. It’s better to limit the number of games you play.

What gives the player an advantage in this situation comes from being an expert on a certain sport that isn’t going to be the most heavily bet game. Sportsbook operators will tell you that they often hang lines that are way off on smaller bet games because they simply can’t keep up with the number of games on the board.

For example, the books are using algorithms and power ratings to come up spreads on games from the Sun Belt or Colonial Athletic Association but if you know that conference better than the books, you can find advantages. I’ve used this for college basketball the most but it could work for the WNBA or Canadian Football League. I know people who swear that they make great money betting on European soccer because US books don’t follow the sport closely.

While it might not make you the most popular guy at the end of the bar to be able to tell everyone the record of Alabama A&M men’s basketball in the first half against the spread, it will make you money if you become an expert on Southwestern Athletic Conference teams.

You can also do this with popular sports like college football or the NFL if you are willing to dive deeper than just the spread, moneyline and total bets that are the most popular. Ohio State was 9-0 ATS in the first half before they failed to cover last week against Rutgers. There are certain NFL prop bets that can be very profitable if you study what is happening inside the game rather than bet on the final score.

This strategy worked for me with the Missouri Valley Conference back when Creighton and Wichita State were both part of the league. There were certain parts of the schedule that were always difficult for both teams due to rivalries, class schedules, and travel that didn’t always pop up in the power numbers. There weren’t many who understood how tough it was for Creighton to play Drake no matter the records and I took advantage by knowing as much as I could about the MVC.

Becoming an expert on a given league, team, or prop bet that isn’t bet heavily by the public gives you an advantage over the sportsbooks at times. It takes work and discipline, but if you are willing to put in the hours, there is real value in being able to spot incorrect lines and fire bets on them on sports that aren’t the most popular.

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