It’s extremely difficult to win consistently as a sports bettor. If you’re reading this article, you probably already knew that.
All across the internet you’ll find endless articles telling you which factors to consider when evaluating a game and trying to predict an outcome. For the most part, the more you’re able to take into account, the better. With that being said, there may be some betting factors that are a bit overrated.
In this article, I’ll lay out the four most overvalued betting factors and explain why they don’t mean quite as much as you, or the rest of the general public, might think.
Home Field Advantage
Most sports fans would like to think that they have (or could potentially have) an impact on the outcome of a game. Perhaps that’s why the concept of home field advantage has been romanticized to a point where it’s bordering on being unrealistic.
Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of examples that would suggest that betting on the home team has a significant benefit. However, there are also several examples that would disprove the theory (or at least serve as an exception to it) that playing at home is a key factor in a team’s performance.
It’s undeniable that there are some stadiums and fanbases that have been known to improve a team’s chances. But not all home field advantages are created equal. This means as sports bettors, it’s important to make the distinction between what qualifies as a real “home field advantage” and what should simply be chalked up as “playing at home.”
It’s no secret that sportsbooks give teams a couple of extra points when they’re playing at home. If you’re able to find a team that performs equally (or worse) at home, matching up against a team that plays equally (or better) on the road, you might be able to hand-pick some easy wins.
Finding a team’s home and away record is not difficult, and a brief five-minute Google search can let you know if those extra three points an NFL team gets for being in their own stadium matches up with the results.
Now, it’s important to point out one scenario where home field advantage might actually be worth more than the sportsbooks give: when cross-country travel is involved.
The bottom line isn’t to say that playing at home isn’t important – in some cases, it very well may be a factor with noting. The point is that you shouldn’t just take home field advantage at face value as each team is different in this regard.
Overall Win/Loss Record
Much like home field advantage, a team’s overall record can give you can indication of how good a team really is when compared to an upcoming opponent. Also like home field advantage, it can be very misleading.
The first thing that I believe any better should do before placing a bet on a game is look at each team’s schedule. Notice how I didn’t say look at each team’s record. Yes, a team with one wins and eight losses is probably not going to be good, but a team that is hovering around the .500 mark might have more to their story.
Although it definitely doesn’t hurt your cause, you don’t need to be examining all types of sports metrics like strength of schedule or any number of other statistics available. If you’re a fan of the league, or at least pay attention to the quality of the teams, looking at who a team has beaten or lost to can give you a major advantage.
I have no doubt when I say that you’d be surprised at what a record doesn’t (yes – doesn’t) reveal about a team. Differing quality of opponents, especially early in the season when the sample size is small, can have a lot to do with how a team looks in the win and loss column, but doesn’t give you the full picture.
The general public, as you probably already know, makes a lot of uninformed decisions that the sportsbooks rely on to keep their profits coming in. Simply looking at a team’s record, and other surface-level information, is exactly what creates the uninformed gamblers.
Preseason Sports Rankings
This one applies exclusively to betting on college football and basketball, but if you want to think of it in terms of the “power rankings” in the NFL and NBA, I suppose it would work the same way.
Each year the NCAA comes out with preseason rankings that, in many ways, look a lot like the final results from the prior season. These can be misleading for weeks to come, as the first few games for big-time teams are often against much weaker opponents.
It’s hard to against a team that has a top-five or top-10 ranking in the polls, but if everyone is getting onboard with a highly-ranked team, the sportsbook will have a prime opportunity to capitalize on what I’ll call “preseason ranking bias.”
If you have the discipline to remind yourself that preseason rankings don’t mean much and go against the public, your efforts should be rewarded.
Past Team Meetings
It seems like there could be no better sports betting strategy than looking at a two teams’ previous matchup results. Unfortunately, like the other factors in this article, it too could be very misleading in predicting future outcomes.
Throughout the course of a season teams evolve (or devolve in some cases) as things like chemistry, injuries, and improving personnel all come into play. Teams are almost never the same at the end of the season as they are at the beginning – so why do people put so much stock into past matchups?
Obviously, if there are clear matchup problems that aren’t going to change, then maybe the past matchup will be a good indicator of how the next contest will end up. However, if that’s the case, then you probably already knew that going into the initial meeting.
You can certainly use a game that took place earlier in the season in some ways, but it should go beyond just looking at the result. For example, if the Patriots lost to the Jets by one point, but the Jets had two pick-sixes and a touchdown on special teams, the score might not reflect the way the game actually played out.
The information that can be gained from past meetings is valuable. Just be sure you aren’t simply looking at the result without getting the full context.
When you look at an upcoming game and try to predict the outcome, there are endless factors to consider that might play into the final result. The key is identifying which ones are actually good indications of how the game will go, and which ones look like good indicators, but are actually misleading in reality.
Keep in mind that anything that looks a little too obvious, probably is. Also, remember that the sportsbooks are counting on you to only look at surface-level data (i.e. record, rankings) and if you can stay away from superficial evaluations, you’re one step ahead of the public.