The Ebs and Flows of Sports Betting Year-Round
We made it — barely — to 2021. I’d love to forget most of what took place but from a betting perspective, it was one of the better years I’ve ever had thanks to a late fall/early winter surge.
Today I wanted to talk about one of the aspects that helped make 2021 successful and that’s betting volume throughout each season. The reality is, if you want to make enough money to move the needle financially, you have to bet. Betting one or two sports and taking a few weeks off here and there because of a vacation or losing streak isn’t going to cut it. That’s not to say I recommend dipping your toe into waters you’re not familiar with. If you don’t feel comfortable betting MLB — I barely do and I’ve been doing this over a decade — then you’re better off spending your summer working on football. That being said, there’s a level of commitment needed in order to proclaim yourself as a long term winning bettor.
Compared to a lot of my colleagues, I’m by all accounts a “low volume” bettor. Now “low volume” is a relative term. Over the course of a calendar year, I’m making well over 1,000 bets. To the average recreational gambler, that’s a lot. To the guy trying to make a living, that’s probably on the low end of the spectrum. But my technique is one by design and based on a number of factors — financial goals, realistic expectations, projected ROI, etc. In simpler terms, I make it so this whole exercise is worth it all the while protecting my bankroll so I can continue living the life I’ve grown accustom to if that makes sense.
Each sport is different but most professional bettors will agree that positive outcomes — winning percentage, ROI, strong cover margins, etc. — are going to occur the first half of a season. That’s not to say you can’t be profitable the rest of the year. I’ve had seasons where I was in the red only to be saved thanks to a successful last few weeks. But long term, most of my damage is done well before playoff or postseason talk heats up. The reason for this — as you’ve probably heard multiple times — is bettors tend to have a higher rate of edges over bookmakers the first portion of a season. There obviously isn’t an exact time frame to go by but next college football season, track your cover margin in August and September vs. post-Thanksgiving. Again, you may come across some variance. I’ve had losing stretches where my cover margin was “healthy” and hot streaks where it was alarmingly low due to “coin flip” type outcomes. Long term, however, my track record shows a fairly distinct dichotomy early season vs. late season.
The reason I choose to cover this topic was that I recently received multiple obligatory texts asking “what should I bet” from various “rec bettor” buddies. And as you can guess, they aren’t asking for a tip on a mid-week MAC basketball game. No, I was asked what to bet on an NFL Playoff game and the NCAA National Championship literally hours before kickoff. I get it; there’s an appeal to betting these types of games. And it’s not like I never bet the postseason. But cliche as it might be, I’m not in this for the thrill of victory. I’ve bet two NFL Wild Card games (1-1) and passed on last night’s National Championship. Admittedly, my focus right now is solely on college basketball and I have enough self awareness to know that betting late season football on the fly, for me, typically isn’t a +ev endeavor. It was both humorous and concerning to skim through Gambling Twitter as see posts about there being “value” on last night’s title game. Hell, one guy tried to justify giving out both sides of the game! I find it hard to believe any successful college football bettor came up with a pregame side and total that was laced with “value” — or at least value compared to what was present back in, say, Weeks 1-4. And that’s not to say all value is created equal. The first month of college basketball, I’m looking for totals that are at least eight points or more off of what I made the game. Today, my best play was only three*. Both, to me, offer value, but the expected outcome of those plays obviously differs. It’s important to understand that my style of aggressive early and passive late is more of an organic occurrence based on how I perceive the market. It’s not like I’m sitting here saying, welp, it’s mid-January, time to shut college basketball down for the season. But just in the last week, the amount of games that were decided in the last minute and/or landed within a bucket of the closing number was enough of an indication that it’s time to be more stringent on what qualifies as a bet. One technique that I do to offset the lower amount of pregame bets is to be more aggressive with live and halftime wagering. But even those types of wagers aren’t as prevalent as we hit the back half of the season.
I truly enjoy giving out advice on betting but am fully aware my approach isn’t perfect nor ideal for everyone. I do however have a good feel for the ebs and flows of betting full-time. There’s certainly some “feel” involved and yes, as mentioned I’m probably too conservative based on my current bankroll and ROI but I’m also one who takes stress, need, and overall piece of mind into account. The key is having the ability to ask yourself why are you are making each bet? Are you getting the best of the number and do you expect to beat the closing line? If the answer is yes, then you’re on the right path or what is commonly referred to as +ev. If you find yourself falling short of those criteria which tends to happen with greater frequency the deeper you go into a season, then don’t be afraid to pass. The good news is, there’s always good bets to be made, regardless of what time of year. Just know that they aren’t as plentiful once the wonderful and at the same time ruthless betting markets starts to really mature.
*Note: The game in question was Kansas-Oklahoma State. We were able to bet OVER 142.5. I made the game 145.5. The game closed 145 and Oklahoma won 75-70.