One of the biggest areas of confusion in sports betting is about the winning percentage required to make money. Almost universally, people will answer that it takes a 52.4% winning percentage in order to be profitable. The correct answer is “it depends on the lines you bet”.
It is not just the average Joe either. I have seen some professionals who don’t seem to realize it either. Click here for an example. Danny is just one of many professional handicappers that have become my customers, and his hat tip means a lot to me.
I am living proof and can tell you without question that you can make a lot of money winning far less than half of your bets. In fact, I submit for your consideration that the closer you get to the erroneously presumed 52.4% break even winning percentage, the less money you can potentially make. Not only that, but the closer you get to 52.4% the harder the profits will be to get.
Over a few years, I consistently found that I make the highest Return on Investment, per dollar bet, when I am winning about 40% of my bets. I would bet you don’t have the stomach for so much losing, even if the end result is more money in your pocket.
The books make a lot more money than they need to because most people don’t understand that winning percentage and winning money are two different things. I have never been able to pay for anything with my winning percentage. Still, most people consider it as an indicator of sports betting skill. And they are wrong.
There is only one thing that controls your winning percentage, and it is not handicapping skill. It is the lines you play. The average guy who plays nothing but spreads at -110 will likely win about 50 to 52 percent of the time. At the same time, the average guy with the same handicapping skill who bet every game at +150 will probably win about 40 to 42 percent.
The difference is the -110 player will steadily lose money, while the dog better at +150 will win a lot of money. Why is it that two people with the same handicapping skills get different results on different lines?
Is it easier to win 55.4% of your bets on point spreads at -110, or to win 43% of your bets on money lines at +150? Either one is 3% over the break even point, but I can assure you it is far easier to win 43% at +150 than it is to win the 55.4% on the spreads. You can prove it to yourself once you lose the fixation on winning percentage.
Need some proof? How many times have you heard the books encourage you to bet on dogs of +150? You can be sure that if the books made more money on dog bets, you would never hear about spread bets.
So why is it that the same handicapper will win enough to profit on dogs, but lose money on spreads and favorites? It’s because of shading by the books. In an earlier article I mentioned that the total probabilities indicated when you add the lines together is about 103%, and that the 3% is the cost of betting on a favorite.
As it turns out, the average guy is at a 3% disadvantage as it concerns handicapping AND money, when he is betting on spreads and favorites. On the other side of his bets, someone with equal skill will start on even footing with the books by betting the dog, and his handicapping skill and avoiding bad teams will add a couple of percent to the winning probabilities creating an advantage.
The bottom line is simple. The biggest choice you have to make when it comes to sports betting is whether you want chase a winning percentage on your bets, or make money betting regardless of your winning percentage. Would you rather tell someone you won 60% of your bets, but lost 10 units, or that you won 40% of your bets and made 10 units of profit?
For me, I like the money. You may like the thrill of the bet, and you may have yourself convinced that is true. I think if you started making money somehow, the winning percentage would not mean so much.
Choose your bets wisely. Does it really make sense to bet at a disadvantage when you don’t have to? Winning percentage don’t mean crap when you are losing your bankroll. And it doesn’t mean anything when you are able to sit back and watch it grow.