The Case for Sports Betting

Aiden Owens, Staff Writer

Betting on sports has been around for the past 2000 years. Greek men originally bet on Olympic competitions hoping to profit by using their intuition on which athletes were most likely to win. Since then, sports betting has evolved into the exciting thrill we know and love today. Unfortunately, countless people think they know better than the masses and as a result, take out a second mortgage to pay off their debts incurred through betting. But what if there was a way to use basic math to profit off of sports betting? Well, there is, and it revolves around exploring inconsistencies within the sports betting market. 


 In sports betting, you don’t need to study teams and players in order to make money. Most of the time, the most money to be made comes from the sports that the public knows least about. The famous Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.” That’s the key foundation in profitable sports betting. Like it or not, we live in a random, unpredictable world. No one could have predicted Covid-19, a stock market crash, or the Cavs coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals in 2016. The idea of randomness floods sports, and the best way to manage it is by playing the probabilities. With the correct knowledge of mathematics and statistics, access to large amounts of data, and a cool head, anyone can make a consistent profit from sports betting.


First, before placing any sports bet, you must understand the odds that a sportsbook gives you. For example, if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are -140 against the Los Angeles Rams, that means for every dollar bet on the Bucs, you would win 71 cents for a total payout of $1.71. And if the Rams are +120, then for every dollar placed on the Rams you could expect to make $1.20, for a total payout of $2.20. Converting these odds into probabilities shows the Bucs have a 57% chance of winning while the Rams have a 43% chance. In order to check to make sure this bet on the Bucs is profitable, we need to dive into some basic statistics. Expected value is the anticipated value for an investment in the future. The formula ensures that we are rewarded for the correct amount of risk that we take. Expected value is calculated by multiplying your probability of profit by your payout and subtracting the probability of loss times the losing amount. So in our case, there is a 57% chance the Bucs will win, and if they do we receive 71 cents in profit, and 43% of the time we can expect to lose our initial investment of $1. Multiplying and subtracting these values leaves us with an expected value of -0.16. Meaning for every dollar we bet we are expected to lose 16 cents. Through simple calculations, we have proved that sports betting on intuition is not profitable. In order to become profitable, we need to find bets that yield a positive expected value. But the issue is, sportsbook odds are set so there is no way you can find positive expected value bets. In order to combat this, we need to find our probabilities from a reliable source and search through different sportsbooks until we find profitable odds. 


Next, in order to establish the probability of one team winning, you must use a sportsbook that bases its odds on market supply and demand which ensures the odds are as close to the expected outcome of the event as possible. Pinnacle Sportsbook is one of the best books out there and is a gold standard when it comes to making odds. The objective from here is to find a discrepancy between Pinnacle and other sportsbooks, that is where the money is made. In order to find these discrepancies, you must filter through a large amount of data from all different sportsbooks and all different sporting events comparing them back to the odds on Pinnacle. Going through thousands of data points might be tedious so there is software on the internet that can filter through this data fast. Profitable sports bets are everywhere; you just need to know where to find them. The smallest edge on a bet can lead to massive profits over time, and in turn, the smallest disadvantage can lead to great drawdowns.


Lastly, you need to be in the right state of mind when betting on sports. Losses happen, and it’s your job to not deviate from your statically proven strategy. If you want the chance to quintuple your money within the course of the year, you have to be willing to lose over half of it in the process. Just because you are down a few hundred dollars, that doesn’t mean you can go out and raise your betting amount in order to recover your losses. It is easy enough to read off of a computer screen what bet to make, but what really separates the winners from the losers are the ones that completely leave emotions out of betting.


Sports betting is an incredibly lucrative market with many gamblers not knowing what they are doing in the first place. The way to make money in betting is by finding inefficiencies in the market and exploring them. And while you might not be able to buy a Mclaren in the first week of sports betting, if you have an edge, the ​​law of large numbers states that over a long period of time a sample of data will match the theoretical mean, or in our case, expected value.


Betting on sports is a side hustle that takes very little time and effort but requires immense mental strength. While the risks are high, sports betting can be profitable in the long run if done correctly.