The best way to be a winning sports bettor is to learn how to handicap upcoming events. But sometimes you don’t have time to handicap games, or maybe you’re not much of a sports bettor but want to put some money on a game you’re getting ready to watch.
I’ve put together a few betting strategies that you can use if you’re not a handicapper or when you don’t have time to evaluate a game properly. These strategies won’t win much money in the long run, but they’ll help you make competitive bets when you don’t have a better way to pick games.
When you’re picking games to bet on without handicapping them properly, you should always bet small amounts. You’re probably going to win close to 50% of the time when picking games with the advice in the first two sections below. The vig you pay when you lose will be a long-term loss.
1 – Pick an Underdog
If you’re getting ready to watch a game and want to place a few dollars on it, bet on the underdog. The great thing about betting on an underdog is the points. Even if the team you bet on loses, you still have a chance to win if they cover the spread. This works in the NFL, NBA, NCAA football, and NCAA basketball.
If you’re betting on MLB or the NHL, bet on the team that receives runs or goals. This isn’t the same as betting on the underdog in football and basketball, but the goal is to get points, runs, or goals. If your team wins the contest outright, you win. If they lose, you can still win when they cover.
It’s also more fun to root for the underdog for most fans. Any time a big underdog goes toe-to-toe with a goliath team, it makes for a good story.
Picking an underdog and getting points also has some basis in good handicapping. The public tends to bet more on popular teams and winning teams, so they can push the line in your favor when you’re betting on an underdog. While you can’t always bet on underdogs and win in the long run, I always look at the underdogs first when I’m looking for games to handicap.
2 – Pick a Home Team
Home teams do better than road teams in every sport. The home field advantage doesn’t mean that poor home teams beat good road teams often, but if a weak team is going to upset a good team it almost always happens at home.
This isn’t an overall winning strategy if you always bet on home underdogs, but it will help you win roughly half your bets.
3 – Bet the Big Favorite Moneyline
Betting the moneyline on big favorites is a dangerous game to play. You have to bet a large amount in comparison to what you can win. On the plus side, you rarely lose one of these bets. The problem is that when you lose one of them, you lose a large amount of money.
Here’s an example of betting the moneyline on a big favorite.
I was looking at the NCAA football moneylines recently and saw a team listed at -2200. This means you have to bet $2,200 for the chance to win $100. Or you bet $22 to win $1. This particular team should win the game with no problem, but they’re playing on the road. I decided not to bet on them because they don’t have the home field advantage. If they were playing at home, I’d consider betting on them.
In the example above, the heavy favorite needs to win this game at least 22 out of 23 times to make the bet profitable. Is it likely that they win the game this often if it were played over and over? Yes, it is. But is this a guaranteed outcome? Of course not. In gambling, there are no sure outcomes.
While you can bet on any heavy favorite on the moneyline, I prefer to do it on home teams most of the time. I’ve seen too many road favorites have their worst games of the year and lose a game they should win.
On the other side of the moneyline, if you’d like to take a small risk on a long shot with a chance to win big, put a few dollars down on the heavy underdog on the moneyline. You won’t win often, but when you do, you’re going to enjoy a nice payday.
Look for underdogs that are listed at +1000 or higher and put a $10 bet down. +1000 means that if you risk $100, you win $1,000. If you bet $10 and your team wins, you get $100. The bigger the plus number, the more you can win.
Just remember when you’re betting the moneyline that you don’t get any points. The moneyline is only a bet on which team wins the game. If you make a spread bet on an underdog and they perform better than expected and still lose, you’re probably going to win the bet because you received points. But when you bet the underdog on the moneyline, it doesn’t matter if a 30-point underdog only loses by three, you still lose the bet.
The first two strategies are going to win close to half the time, and the third strategy is going to win most of the time. But you’re still likely to lose a little more than you win the long run. If this is acceptable to you, and you just enjoy having a few bucks on the games you want to watch, that’s fine. But if you want a real chance to win in the long run, you need to learn how to handicap games the right way.