A common philosophy in sports betting is to find out what a majority of bettors are doing and then do the opposite. The idea being that the “house” is going to need the side with the minority of bets to come through in order to make money. But does it actually work? Like most good things, it appears to have come to an end.
Let’s first take a look at baseball. There are more betting opportunities in MLB than any other sport and will give us the most data to look at. For all of the graphs below, I used teams getting 20% or fewer of the bets for the most common bet type.
The graph tells a pretty clear picture. Strictly betting against the public in baseball has been a losing endeavor for six straight seasons.
What about the most popular sport when it comes to gambling? Surely taking the contrarian side each Sunday in the fall has its benefits, right? Let’s go to the data.
Okay, not nearly as dire as the baseball graph. It makes sense that in the most popular sport, there would be some value to fading the public. Unfortunately, this is the best looking result of the six major sports we cover.
There is an awful lot of red on that graph (Note: red equals bad). It’s even worse when you look at those last three seasons and see where the numbers appear to be heading. While most bettors love to bet the best teams in the league, going against them hasn’t worked enough to overcome the vig.
Hockey is the least bet sport of the major U.S. sports but we still see the same trend of being profitable until five or six years ago. Even as few as two seasons ago, it was up over 40 units but lost nearly all of that in 2014-15. The green is a pleasant sight, but the inconsistency should worry you.
Now this has to work, right? A bunch of college kids and alumni throwing beer money at their online sportsbooks expecting their team to cover seems like a great recipe to fade and win. Well….
Still nothing good to report here either.
The results had basically evened out over the past six seasons until it took a nosedive during the 2015-16 season. The overall results are close to -125 units lost since we began tracking the games back in 2005.
So what should you do with this information? It is important to know that sportsbooks aren’t just moving lines based on volume of bets. So assuming you have no other edge, fading the public is equivalent to seeing 80% of people bet black on roulette, so you decide to bet on red. Neither the 80% of bettors on black nor the 20% of bettors on red have gained an edge. Sure, the house would rather have a red number come up in this particular instance, but they know over the course of time that neither group will win due to the house’s edge.
This isn’t to say that betting percentages are worthless either. They can be a valuable piece of the puzzle and a great tool for bettors when they are making their decisions. I have many systems that involve betting percentages as a criteria and if you want to do your own research with them, you can do so with a free account at BetLabsSports.com. But the days of simply seeing what everyone is betting and doing the opposite are over.