How To Use Research To Become A More Profitable Sports Bettor
Research is one of the most important aspects of sports betting. Specifically, the willingness to roll up your sleeves and do it, and the insight to know how to do it properly.
Good research will make smart bets that pay off. That’s not to say you should ignore your gut. If your gut is telling you to something, it better have the data to back it up.
Below, we’re going to dig deeply into the art and science of sports betting research. Here’s a peek at what we’ll be covering:
- Why smart research is critical to your performance
- Sports betting biases and how they can hurt your bankroll
- What you should be focusing on when researching your bets
- Where to find reliable data
- How to create an effective research and analysis plan
- How to avoid costly misinterpretations of the data
- The art of analyzing your past performance
- The importance of identifying good value
By the time you finish reading, you’ll know how to make intelligent bets that bolster your bankroll.
Why Research Is Important For Sports Betting
When it comes to sports gambling, the more you know, the better you perform.
Information is what separates the hobbyist bettor who loses the majority of his (or her) bets from the profitable handicapper.
The former makes bets recklessly. He pays little attention to data and spends little time working the numbers. Consequently, he lacks the intel he needs to make intelligent wagers.
The latter knows there’s immense power in information. He spends time and effort crunching numbers to find opportunities. He can look at the moneyline or spread for a given game, and know whether it offers good value.
Predictably, the handicapper makes winning bets more often than the hobbyist. Many expert handicappers are professional, full-time sports bettors who make a comfortable living.
And that’s the reason research is crucial. It’ll help you to optimize your betting performance. Research gives you a greater chance of success every time you wager money. It helps you to hone in on the best opportunities while avoiding excessive risk.
The Danger Of Sports Betting Biases
Biases give rise to preconceptions. They might seem harmless, but can be very costly when it comes to betting on football, basketball, and other sports. They result in false expectations, and ultimately lead to poor decision-making.
Following are 5 common sports betting biases you’d do well to avoid
- Confirmation bias
- Hindsight bias
- Outcome bias
- Recency bias
- Gambler’s Fallacy
You have an existing theory about a game and interpret information in a way that confirms your theory.
You suddenly have 20/20 vision when reflecting on past games. You base future decisions on this newfound “insight.”
You unfairly judge the merit of your decision based on how a particular bet turns out. Good decisions look like terrible ones in the light of unfavorable outcomes. Note that it’s possible for sound decisions to result in lost bets. Outcome bias contradicts the logic behind those decisions.
You place too much importance on recent performance, using it to predict future performance. For example, you assume the Celtics will win an upcoming game because they’ve won their last seven games.
You misinterpret past events as having predictive value. For example, you assume the Patriots will win the Super Bowl because they won last year.
These preconceptions have zero value when you bet on sports.
In fact, they’re worse than valueless because they prompt you to make terrible decisions that result in losses.
Biases are expensive. While they may be a part of human nature, it’s in your interest to abandon them.
Sports Betting Research Basics: What To Keep Your Eyes On
Suppose you’re betting on a team sport (e.g. football, basketball, hockey, etc.) as opposed to player-based sport, such as tennis, MMA, or golf. That being the case, there are a number of basic stats you should focus on.
Start by reviewing each team’s long-term performance.
- How have they fared during their last several seasons?
Next, review the teams’ short-term shifts in performance.
- First, identify the shifts. Then, try to identify the factors that caused them.
For example, let’s say a team has recently had difficulty preventing turnovers.
- Is the QB having trouble holding the ball after the snap, or are his receivers failing to make first downs?
The next step is to focus on recent news.
Pay attention to the injury report.
- Who’s a recent addition? Who just came off the list?
Pay attention to recent suspensions.
- If a key player has been suspended, when is he due back on the field?
Who’s been consigned to warm the bench, and how are his subs expected to perform?
- If you are betting NBA and want some great ‘who benefits when someone is injured’ tools, check out Fantasy5x5, it’s awesome.
Now, check out the matchups.
What happened in past games when the two teams you’re researching have met on the field? Does one typically outperform the other? Or is there a deeply-rooted rivalry between the teams that increases the uncertainty of the game’s outcome?
Those are the basics.
They’re a starting point.
You’ll also want to research select stats based on the sport you’re betting on.
Pay attention to numbers like turnover differential, points per game, yards per game, sacks, tackles, interceptions, pass yards per attempt, and defensive points per 100 yards.
Focus on turnover percentage, field goal percentage, pace factor, free throw rate, and a team’s against-the-spread (ATS) record.
Watch the starting pitcher’s stats (ERA, WHIP, K/9, etc.). Then, drill down to the hitters’ numbers (on-base percentage, runs per game, BABIP, etc.).
The above is by no means an exhaustive list. But you get the idea: many of the stats you should track will depend on the sport.
Start with the basics. That alone will put you ahead of most hobbyist sports bettors.
Where To Find Reliable, Actionable Information
So you know you need information to make intelligent bets. The question is, where do you find it? The data needs to be reliable. You’re not looking for opinions. You’re looking for solid, actionable intel.
The good news is that you can find such information at a myriad of places online. Start at the official websites for whatever sport you’re betting on.
Examples include NFL.com, NBA.com, MLB.com, and NHL.com.
You’ll find basic stats as well as details about scheduling changes, injuries, and suspensions. But keep your expectations in check. These sites are useful, but won’t deliver the hardcore data you need to complete your research.
Next, visit sites like ESPN.com that offer data on all of the popular sports. They’re great for keeping abreast of breaking news items. Fair warning: these sites employ a lot of columnists; the level of insight varies wildly between them.
Next, visit sites that specialize in providing sports statistics.
Examples include Baseball-Reference.com, Pro-Football-Reference.com, and Basketball-Reference.com. Whichever sites you use, just make sure their numbers are accurate and regularly updated.
Fan sites often deliver surprisingly good intel. Some of these sites are run by folks who live and breathe their favorite teams. They follow everything these teams and their respective players do.
Oftentimes, these folks are more knowledgeable about their favorite teams and athletes than the columnists at places like ESPN.com.
I have mixed feelings about social media. It can be useful in terms of finding good, actionable intel. But there’s such a low signal-to-noise ratio that finding such intel can be time-consuming and tedious. Proceed with caution.
How To Create A Sports Betting Research PLAN
In my opinion, it’s just as important to have a plan for researching a game/bet as it is to know where to find good intel. Your plan is your blueprint. It’s your map. It guides your actions, ensuring that you take the necessary steps to obtain the info you need to make smart bets.
Without a plan, you risk forgetting steps. And that’s a recipe for disaster.
We covered the basics in the previous sections. You now know the type of research you need to do, and you’ll eventually come up with a list of places to source the data. Let’s now put it all together into a simple procedure you can follow each time you intend to bet.
First, create a folder in your browser.
Store your bookmarks
Commit to prioritizing data over opinions.
Commit to spending a certain amount of time researching games.
Lastly, create a cheat sheet.
Store bookmarks for every site you use for intel, from ESPN.com to Pro-Football-Reference.com (if you decide to use the latter). If you follow a particular columnist, add a bookmark for his column to this folder.
You want everything in one place. That’ll alleviate the need to search for stuff later.
It’s easy to become an information junkie, reading column after column with little to show for your time. Decide upfront that numbers will always trump opinions.
If you know in advance that your research will take two hours to complete, you’ll be less inclined to rush things and cut corners. The time expectation is already set.
Write down easy-to-follow steps. For example, your cheat sheet for football betting might look like the following:
- Review each team’s long-term track record
- Review short-term performance trends
- Check the injury report
- Note recent suspensions
- Visit select sites to obtain relevant stats
- Crunch data to yield key data
- Watch each team’s most recent games
- Shop for the best lines
This cheat sheet will ensure you don’t forget a step. Eventually, you’ll memorize the research and analysis process, and won’t need this aid. But until that happens, it’s useful.
Warning: Be Careful Not To Misinterpret The Data!
One of the most common blunders made by sports bettors is to perceive insight where none exists. This misstep often leads to poor decisions that end up costing a lot of money.
For example, suppose you notice that the Steelers tend to win whenever Ben Roethlisberger starts as QB and Antonio Brown is one of his receivers. While both players are excellent performers, the fact that both are on the field doesn’t mean the Steelers are going to win.
That might sound obvious to you. But you’d be surprised by how often bets are made based on this type of correlation. It’s as misguided as thinking a Subaru Outback is a superb vehicle just because you see a bunch of them on the road.
Your research will yield a lot of useful data. Just be careful not to mistakenly assign causation to variables that seem related.
How To Use Your Past Betting Performance For Intel
In addition to the data you obtain via research, you’ll also want to review your past betting records. You may find that you excel at some types of wagers and consistently stumble making other types.
We’ve talked about how to track your betting activity in the past, so I won’t belabor that point here. The most important thing to remember is that your past performance will reveal your strengths along with areas you need to improve.
For example, you might find that you have difficulty making prop bets work regardless of the amount of research you do.
The point is that you should keep a betting log and use it to inform your decisions. It’s a different type of research than we’ve focused on in the majority of this guide. But it’s just as crucial. Or you may discover that you excel at parlays and over/unders. Incidentally, maybe you tend to perform better betting on certain teams than others.
The Hunt For Value: Finding The Best Opportunities
It’s important to identify bets that also offer good value. That’s one of the ways you can maximize your chances of winning. Finding good-value bets is a matter of looking at the odds.
The odds for a wager reflect the probability that a particular outcome will occur. Your job is to decide whether the odds are acceptable given the potential payoff.
Finding value isn’t about winning bets. It’s about identifying bets where the probability of winning is greater than the odds imply.
Another way to think of it is that you’re seeking potential rewards that outweigh the accompanying risks.
The process of identifying good-value bets involves a fair bit of math, and thus lies beyond the scope of this guide. Suffice to say, it’s a skill worth learning.
Value betting is an effective tactic shared by professional sports bettors.
The Most Important Step: Choosing Legitimate Sportsbooks
All the research in the world won’t help you if you risk your money placing bets at dubious sportsbooks in the first place.
Above all, this point can’t be overstated. It does little good to win bets and then get stiffed by the sport betting site.
This is the reason I strongly advise sticking to legitimate sportsbooks. The gambling sites you frequent should be trustworthy, offer easy and convenient banking options, and provide responsive customer support.
Lastly, if you’re not sure where to start, I encourage you to check out my list of top-rated betting sites. Read the comprehensive reviews for each one. They’ll give you the information you need to choose reputable sportsbooks where you can place bets with the comfort of knowing your money is safe.
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