Safely Betting on Sports & A a Series on How to Make Smart Decisions Based on Mathematical Analysis: Part 1, The Introduction

(Disclaimer: if you choose to gamble, please do that in a safe and responsible manner).

So if you’ve clicked on this article today, I’m here to inform you about proper decision making when gambling on sports games.

Now, I don’t like to refer to it as gambling because there’s a lot of in-depth analysis and statistics that go into deciding what is a “good bet” vs a “bad bet.”

Sports betting is more of a game of skill and knowledge rather than “random chance” gambling like a slot machine. There is a lot of research that can be done to give you a high win percentage. If you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll end up performing like the Cincinnati Reds over the past couple decades and lose your money. But if you do your research, you’ll start looking like the New York Yankees or Houston Astros with your money.

Now, I feel like I’m speaking like Jordan Belfort, and it sounds like I’m talking like I know everything. That’s not the case. As somebody that’s very interested in Sabremetrics and the science behind sports and believe it applies to not only baseball but ever sport, I have a decent win percentage on sports betting. But take everything I say with a grain of salt. (In other words, don’t hold me accountable if you lose money based on anything in this article).

Now let’s dive in, shall we?

To begin, let’s understand a Vegas line. Just for anybody unaware of how betting works. Let’s say you and I were gonna bet on a game between the Tampa Bay buccaneers and Detroit lions. Who would you expect to want to bet on in that game? Exactly….. (Tom Brady will apparently never fail). But the line would be something looking like Tampa Bay -13.5. Now what this means is you can take the bet on the buccaneer’s winning, but you have to subtract 13.5 from their score. So you could bet the Lions and they could still lose but let’s say they lose by 1 touchdown, you win the bet if you put your money on Detroit. That’s what a “spread” or a “line” is in gambling on sports.

Now let’s look at what the over/under means. This is essentially not caring who wins, but bettering on the final score. And in future articles we’ll explore how that should be examined.

The over/under is a bet on the total amount of points scored in a game. So let’s look at an example. The American Athletic Conference championship is this Saturday between one of my favorite cities, the Houston cougars and my alma mater and city where I was born and raised, the Cincinnati bearcats. The over/under is set at 53 by Vegas odds currently. But statistics show that both Cincinnati and Houston rank #1 and #2 in both yards allowed and points allowed. And I will say as a lifelong Bearcats fan, they have a history of underperforming and having a lack of offense in these sort of games. So this would be an example of a decent gamble to bet the under because this seems like the type of game that could go into halftime with a score of 10 to 3. However, that could be risky because college football games are typically higher scoring than NFL games. We will examine that in part 2 of this series with more in-depth data.

This was meant to be an introduction to the series. We will be providing more data on how to analyze games. As well as going further into prop bets and parlays. (Spoiler alert: parlays are risky).

Thanks for reading, and since I mentioned the game….. (Clap clap… clap clap.. UC! To the playoffs).

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