Can You Win At Sports Betting?

Working for a betting company for 5 years has given me a new way of watching sports – through the eyes of a bettor. My first betting experience was in college when one of my friends asked me if I tried out “odds” before. I didn’t have any clue what it was until I received a text message from the bookie himself. The rest, as they say, is history.

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As a fan, there’s no better feeling than seeing your favorite team win. But as a bettor, there’s no better feeling than seeing your bet win and getting extra money to spend. That’s what makes sports betting a thrilling experience. When you’re in a hot streak, you could bet on anything and they were guaranteed easy money. But eventually, nothing good happens and your luck will run out.  When that happens, everything goes downhill.

My biggest loss in sports betting was around Php 7,000 in 1 week. I’ve always had a budget for betting and have avoided the trap of “chasing” (doubling bets to make up for the losses) but Php 7,000 is tough for a college student. I know some people who have been through worst.  There are some who had to borrow money, while others were a bit more extreme and had to sell cars. Some people went into hiding from their bookies, and there’s even one fella I know who had to sell his kidney. No joke.

So why do people continue to bet on sports despite the cons outweighing the pros?

It’s because we, as sports fans, continue to believe that we’re better experts than the bookies themselves.

When we see SMB -6 vs Blackwater, we know for sure that SMB will dominate that game and easily cover the 6-pt handicap. When someone says the OU line for the Ginebra v TNT game is 188.5, the overs will be the bet to make since both Ginebra and TNT love to push the tempo, resulting to more possessions, which means more opportunities to score. We make those bets because we believe that the handicap and OU lines are wrong based on our information.

But before placing any money, the first question you have to ask is “how did the bookies settled on those lines?” What made them say that SMB should only have a 6 point handicap when they’re clearly the better team compared to Blackwater? Why is the OU line for the Ginebra-TNT game only 188.5 when fans know they love to push the tempo?

Bookies set these lines based on information they have gathered from stats and, on some occasions, inside information (let’s save this for another post).

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image credits to PBA Media Bureau

 

Maybe Junemar Fajardo is out? Could Alex Cabagnot be playing through an injury but hasn’t been released in the media yet? Is Talk N Text resting both Jayson Castro and RDO against Ginebra, which could limit the offense of the Tropang Texters? More often than not, bookies have enough information to help them justify the lines they have set for those games and are confident for any bets currently being wagered.

That does not mean though that bookies are ALWAYS right.

In Wednesday’s PBA game between the Alaska Aces and the Mahindra Enforcers, the bookies have Alaska as 3-pt favorites.  Just an hour before the scheduled 4PM tip-off though, bookies had to adjust their lines and made the Aces 6.5-pt favorites, an increase of 3.5. Why did that happen? It’s simple – bettors have already placed huge amount of money on Alaska -3 that the bookies had to adjust and increase the handicap for the Aces to cover.

The process of changing lines is a trial and error process as bookies find the right handicap and OU to persuade other players on betting the other side and balance the book (by having equal liability on either sides).  Once the bookies have settled on the 6.5 handicap line, bettors could think that Mahindra +6.5 would be a better bet than Alaska -6.5 because of the big handicap that the Aces have to cover to win the bet. In the end, Alaska won 98 – 92, thereby covering the 6.5 handicap and making Mahindra fans happy. The same logic works for OU totals.

If beating the bookies on PBA betting is hard, beating the bookies on NBA betting is nearly impossible. In the NBA, bookmakers seldom change lines because of their huge database of stats to base the handicap and OU lines of every game. They have stats for each team when they’re missing their superstar, when the team is playing in a back-to-back, when a certain line-up will be used, and even when the team is playing in a rainy afternoon compared to a sunny evening.  There’s no better way to humble someone who considers himself an NBA expert than betting on the NBA games.


In the industry, we would already consider you as a professional punter/a player we don’t want betting with us if you were able to win 3% in the long run. It means that if you’ve placed a total of Php 100,000 and managed to win Php 3,000 overall, you are already a successful bettor! The way sportsbooks/major bookies are set up, it’s just impossible to gain any profit from betting unless you have information on something that we don’t, which happens once in a blue moon.

But the way your local bookie (the one who texts you the odds) is currently set up, one can easily profit from them. You just have to find the value bets.

Value bets are basically the Willy Wonka golden tickets in sports betting. Though they are far from sure win, value bets can give you an edge and even a profit in the long run. Let’s use an NBA game to illustrate this as an example. The struggling Brooklyn Nets will be facing the just-as-bad Orlando Magic tomorrow.

Let’s say that your bookie texts you the odds tonight and you plan to bet Php 1,000:

ORL+1 @ BKN
ou221.5
Close 11PM

Local bookies have a 10% commission for every winning bet. If I were to bet Php 1,000 on Brookyn -1 and the Nets won the game by 2 points, I only get Php 900 as my profit. If I bet on Orlando +1 and they won the game, I still get Php 900. That basically means that the odds for each selection 1.90. Again, same logic for OU totals.

Before placing bets on that game, check what are the lines that major sportsbooks are offering for this game. One site I’d highly recommend is OddsPortal which averages the odds being offered by sportsbooks companies. By going to the event page of the BKN-ORL game, you will see the average odds for each selection:

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Brooklyn -1 is 1.73 while Orlando +1 is 2.11.

Again, your bookie has Brooklyn -1 and Orlando +1 @ 1.90. Your local bookie is giving you Php 900 for the stake of Php 1,000 if you bet on Brooklyn while major sportsbooks will only pay out Php 730 for the same Php 1,000! From there, you can already see that Brooklyn -1 is a value bet while the Orlando +1 is something you should avoid.

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In OU betting, your local bookie will offer you Php 900 if the totals of the BKN-ORL game went over 221 while sportsbooks pay out only Php 780. That is again another value bet that you can take!

High school and college bookies are prone to these mistakes. In the current NBA season, I was able to make Php 50,000 in 2 weeks from a college bookie through value-betting. It got so bad that the bookie had to kick me out from his regular bettors and I haven’t received any “odds” from him since.  These bookies continue to use odds from Covers, a website that only posts odds for reference and expert picks rather than taking actual bets.

Another thing to consider is when your bookie sends an odds change at the last-minute. Using the same BKN-ORL game, let’s say bettors have placed enough bets on BKN -1. The bookie will send an odds change and increase the handicap on Brooklyn to have people betting on Orlando and balance the liability. If for example, the bookie decided to increase the line to BKN -3.5, the value bet now goes to the other side.

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Betting on Orlando +3.5 could pay you Php 900 from your bookie when it’s supposed to be Php 800 on online sportsbooks.

These bets are far from being a sure win but, in theory, value betting should help you make a profit in the long-run as you make your bookies pay for the wrong lines they’re sending out. In my 5 years working in the industry, this is the only way that I’ve seen to make win in sports betting – by finding the right bookie who continues to offer the wrong lines.

There are many of them out there. I just hope it doesn’t cost you a kidney looking for them.

– David Gamboa

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