The science behind sports betting

Thomas Henry
3 min readJun 11, 2020

What is the best way to lose money? Do something you have no idea about. Great examples are stock exchange, FOREX and of course sportsbook, the last mentioned is what we are about to analyze today.

If you are a punter, you most likely fall to the category of the ones who lose in the long run. Why is that? The simple answer is most likely the following one. “You have zero or close to zero knowledge about what you are doing”. Indeed, you win every now and then but over the years the balance is most likely negative.

Where to start?

Let’s demonstrate the science behind sports betting with a simple example. Take a coin and flip it. Now flip it 10 000 times and write down each result. At the end of this experiment you will have a very similar count of tails and heads since the chance of landing either one is 50%. This is the basic rule of chance and probability in real life. Let’s say you want to make money by letting the people bet on the outcome. What do you do? Simply do what the bookmakers do — lower the odds.

In the case of a coin flip the fair decimal odds would be 2.00 (1 : 0.5 = 2.00. 50% chance stands for 0.5), but you offer some lower odds to keep some amount for you. Let’s say you lower the odds by 10% and offer to punters only 1.8 on landing the tails and 1.8 on landing the heads. This is the most elegant way to make money. There is no escape for you earning money in the long run. There will be some bets that will go wrong but with the chances and probability pushed to your favour, you are the winner in the long run.

Looks like a fraud. Is there any way to escape to it?

In some way it is a dodgy business but like it or not it is legal in most of the countries in the world. You can not escape the mercy-less laws of probability, but here is the thing.

How can you predict the odds? This is not a coin flip. How can you be sure that the fair odds for a match result are 3.08 for the home win, 3.85 for a draw and 2.40 for away win? The quick answer to the question is:

You can never be sure that your algorithm is predicting the results 100% accurate

Even the best football predictions are just an opinion, no matter how sophisticated. And this gives you opportunity. With the coin flip, there is basically zero chance for a punter to be successful, but with the gray field of (mostly) inaccurate predictions there is a chance.

All you have to do is…. Do it better! Now scroll up to the first and second sentence of this article and then come back here.

I bet almost none of the people reading this article will have an idea how and where to start by predicting probabilities and creating odds. Before you call me a jerk, here is the thing. I used to work 5 years for a bookmaker and had no idea about it and it was basically my duty to have the knowledge.

Where 2 completely different worlds connect

I love sports, I love football but that is not enough for being good at sports betting. Most of the bookies “funders” (meaning those who lose their bets) are really good at understanding the sport. They simply suck at math and keep on betting on the flip coin with odds lower than 2.00 (figuratively speaking).

You need to be a mathematician to come up with the probabilities, but… During my bookmakers times we run a project asking 5 post graduates to come up with the odds for a few matches. They had all the data they asked for. Guess what… All of them came up with results sometimes significantly different from each other. Their predictions were simply useless, or a straight way to bankruptcy.

You have to understand both. The football and the math and therefore the odds are being done by teams connecting these 2 worlds. Your way to succeed with sports betting is to find the free football predictions which are better than those of a bookie. Not impossible, just hard. Try to use Google for that one.