# 7 Must-Knows To Win At Sports Betting

## Football betting: episode 1

If you’re very passionate about football (soccer) or any other sport, the idea to monetize your passion has surely come to your mind, at least one time.

Sports betting allows you to wear the prophet’s clothes, stack an infinite pile of predictions, and dream to become rich. Wait, does it?

I mean you can dream, but the odds of your dream becoming true are very small. Surely smaller than you think.

It could be said that sports betting can be fun or can be profitable, but not both. It’s not true, especially if you like data. But it surely requires more effort than just picking your favorite team for each game on the table.

Today I’ll explain some key concepts that you must know, if you want to play without losing money, so stay with me.

Without further introductions, let’s explore the 7 points. Some of them could seem very trivial to you but are as important as the others.

# 1. Odds are probabilities

Pretty simple, isn’t it? The more probable an outcome is, the less the bookies will pay you and vice-versa. The relation is not just logical, is numerical. Given an odds, you can always compute a probability and vice-versa.

To explain the simple math behind this concept, I’ll use decimal odds (the ones starting from 1.00 and increasing indefinitely) because used in Italy. You can find a conversion table everywhere (here for example).

So, to compute the probability implied by an odd, you just have to divide 100 by the decimal odd:

This weekend, Manchester United away win against Aston Villa is given at 3.10. This means the book believes chances are around 32.26%*.

Bookmakers, before computing the odds, estimate probabilities and they’re typically very good at it.

The key takeaway from this? If you’ve found odds too good to be true, probably you committed a big mistake in probability estimation, pun intended.

*There is a big “but” which I’ll explain in the point 4.

# 2. It’s a long-run game

So betting is essentially a game of probabilities. If you’ve ever studied statistics, you must know that it makes sense to talk about probability only with a lot of tries.

Even an experiment with a probability of success equal to 99% (odds equal to 1.01) could fail if performed just one time.

The only, real win is the one obtained in the long run. The bookies know this, you must too.

# 3. Break-even percentage

Straightforward follow-up to point 1. If we play an outcome with odds equal to 3.10, we need to win that bet 32.26% of the time, at least, to not lose money.

This can be shown very easily. Suppose to play that bet 100 times, wagering 1 penny. 32.26% of the time you’ll win 3.1, otherwise nothing. How much do you have at the end of the experiment?

You win:

(3.1 x 32.26%) + (0 x 67.74%)= 100 (apart from rounding errors)

This formula is the application of the concept known as expected value, a very simple but powerful concept in probability and statistics.

Nevertheless, remember you had to spend 100 pennies to play the bet 100 times. So 100–100 is 0, you didn’t win or lose anything.

This is the meaning of breakeven percentage: the percentage of the time you have to win a specific bet so that the expected profit is exactly 0.

# 4. You’ll probably lose

I mean that, literally. Bookmakers have a mathematical advantage over you. I’ll try to make it as simple as I can with an example.

Let’s try to compute the probabilities implied by the 1-X-2 odds for Villa-United, as we’ve just learned:

• Villa winning: 46.51%
• draw: 26.67%
• United winning: 32.26 %

Something strange? 46.15 + 26.67 + 32.26 = 105.08%. The probabilities add up to more than 100%. Probabilistically speaking it doesn’t make any sense, because 1, X and 2 are mutually exclusive events.

That 5.08% is the bookmaker’s hold. A percentage bookies add to grant themselves a profit in the long run.

Remember that odds and probabilities are essentially the inverse of each other. So if probabilities are increased, related odds are decreased, and so is your expected profit.

## Real implied probabilities

To find the real, implied probabilities, we have to divide them by their sum:

• Villa winning: 46.51 / 105.08 = 43.92%
• draw: 26.67 / 105.08 = 25.38%
• United winning: 32.26 / 105.08 = 30.7%

Now they add up to 100% and this is very useful to know if you want to exploit bookmakers knowledge to get very good probabilities. For example to use them for Fantasy Football.

But there is another implication. The breakeven percentage for the “United wins” bet is 32.26, but you’re expected to win it only 30.7% of the time.

Bookmakers expect you to lose money in the long run, not a big revelation, is it?

You can also compute how much you can expect to lose. Your expected value is:

3.1 x 30.7% = 0.9517

but you’re betting 1 penny, so the expected profit is:

0.9517–1 = -0.0483.

If you bet 100 on United winning against Villa, you’re expected to lose 5, if the bookmaker estimated the probabilities well.

This “if” hides almost all the unwritten rules of the game, about which we’ll talk in the next paragraph.

# 5. You don’t know the rules of the game

I could’ve said, “It’s not the game you think” or “You don’t know how the game should be played”. At least it’s not the game you thought it was before starting this reading. We’ve already outlined all the elements needed to understand what sports betting is really about.

To win, you’ve to estimate probabilities better than the bookmaker and play only when you’re expected value is greater than 1.

That’s it. Very simple to understand and very difficult to do. On the contrary, if you just always pick the favorite team, you’re expected to lose money, because bookmakers are very good at picking the favorite. More than you.

# 6. Odds checking

Till now we’ve explained the fundamentals you must know, before starting to bet. The last two concepts will instead be practical tips.

So we’re searching for bets where we’re paid more than we should, but how to find them? One possible way is to use the so-called odds-checker. Tools allowing to compare the odds offered by various bookmakers.

Ideally, you always want the best odds you can get for a bet. This implies having an account with a lot of bookies, which I don’t suggest if you’re just starting.

More simply, just pick your bet only if the given odds are good for the market average.

I use oddschecker.com, but pick what you want. Just pick one. It’s not the only way to try to make a profit, but a very good start.

# 7. Result tracking

Last but not least. This is very important. You have to keep track of your bets if you want to know how you’re doing.

You can do it with a very simple Google Sheet / Excel file, like me:

In this way you can check if you’re winning in the long run, or if you’re making some mistakes.

Knowing your errors allows you to fix them!

That was all for episode 1. If you weren’t into sports betting before, this shouldn’t have encouraged you to start. And if you already are in it, it should have helped you to better understand what you’re doing. At least I hope (let me know in the comment).

Thank you for reading! This is just the first episode of my journey in football betting. If you’ve found this article valuable consider giving it some claps and start following me. Don’t miss my next work!

*This piece contains images generated with AI (Ideogram and Bing).

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Data Science explained with Football Data 📊 Fantacalcio addicted ⚽