WSJ: Contrarian’s Guide to Sports Betting

Interesting little piece for some of our readers.  (Link)

Tidbit: ‘Gamblers must win more than 52.4% of their wagers to make a profit—known in sports betting as overcoming "the juice."

Daniel Fabrizio, the president of the website, has found perhaps the easiest way to make money gambling on football games: Find out what everyone else is doing—and do the exact opposite. Call it the sports version of contrarian investing.

Mr. Fabrizio analyzed the final betting line of every NFL regular-season and playoff game since 2003 and monitored the bets placed with six popular bookmakers. He determined that when one team garners at least 80% of the bets, the other team wins against the spread 53.2% of the time. When the other team is also the underdog, the figure climbs to 56%. Gamblers must win more than 52.4% of their wagers to make a profit—known in sports betting as overcoming "the juice."

The logic behind the data is simple. When people wager too heavily for one team, oddsmakers shift the betting lines to encourage action on the other side. The new spreads most of the time swing too far in favor of the unpopular team. People who bet against every favorite that received at least 80% of the bets would have made money in six of the last eight years, including this season.

Mr. Fabrizio cautioned that the technique requires patience. Most casual bettors struggle with the psychology of ignoring the so-called experts and consistently picking against the consensus.

Last week, two teams received no more than 20% of the action in their games: the Redskins and the Seahawks. Washington covered the spread in a 33-30 loss to Dallas, while Seattle suffered a 34-18 beating at the hands of Atlanta.


50% 763 732 51%
45% 681 653 51%
40% 584 532 52.3%
35% 457 419 52.2%
30% 320 290 52.5%
25% 188 169 52.7%
20% 89 70 56%

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7 Responses to WSJ: Contrarian’s Guide to Sports Betting

  1. I-Like-Tacos 12/25/2010 at 3:24 PM #

    Finally I now know what to do with my Christmas money.

  2. GoldenChain 12/25/2010 at 4:48 PM #

    I don’t understand gambling. The “house” always wins, no exceptions. I understand the vices of drinking and chasing skirts, I don’t understand throwing money away. Of all the people I’ve known in life that truly love to gamble an amazing fact is that THEY ALL claim to beat the odds and be winners. Amazing.
    This guy has the right idea though, you have to take emotion out of it and stick with a system.

  3. tuckerdorm1983 12/25/2010 at 5:17 PM #

    if you really want to gamble your money then don’t play slots or scratch off tickets or the powerball or sports betting etc etc Take the biggest bet of all and PLAY THE STOCK MARKET. The only winning game in town is if you buy and hold diversified stock and bond index funds over long periods of time (10 or 20 years) and rebalance anually and reinvest the dividends. An eight percent return every year for ten years on $100,000 investment is $215,000. Screw this sports betting. The house always wins

  4. 61Packer 12/25/2010 at 8:01 PM #

    Years ago my section Chief and I played the weekly in-house football pool, which was the main college games and all the NFL games. There were probably two dozen or more players each week. Like my Chief, I kept losing until the two of us decided to go in together and enter a sheet that we marked by coin flip for each game. We won! We did it again the following week by flipping a coin for every game, and won again! Then, they banned us for the rest of the season to give someone else a chance to win.

  5. Kingfish1976 12/26/2010 at 10:34 AM #

    The house always wins because they keep 10% of the winners’ payouts and all of the losers’ money. The spreads are adjusted because they prefer to have equal betting on each team to avoid a catastrophic payout.

  6. Lumpy 12/26/2010 at 11:05 AM #

    What this study doesn’t make clear is that tis system only works if you bet EVERY game EVERY week where one team is getting 80% of the bets, and it wont be above 52.4% every week. Some weeks you will win 7 out of 8 games and some weeks you’ll have a big ‘ole donut hole. If you bet through Bodog or USBets, you might be able to skate by with $10 bets on each game (which is still $80 a week) but most local bookies are gonna have minimums of at least $25 per wager which makes your habit more like $200.00 a week.
    The odds makers on NFL lines have it down to a science. 90% of NFL games are decided between 1 and 2 points of the line. The only time you might have an advantage is a small time college football game where the two teams are rarely on TV.
    The best way to do it is for fun. Pick a game you like, play it, parlay it, bet the moneyline, whatever, then treat all wagers as a good time had and any winnings as found money. The one stat that always rings true in sports gambling: When you absolutely, positively, have to win a game to get out of the hole….you wont.

  7. bigwolfpacker 12/28/2010 at 11:44 AM #

    The basics of gambling is that every bet you make is a 50-50 proposition. Over time you will end up winning 50% of your bets meaning over time the house will win the juice. Some weeks you will be up and others you will be down but over time you cannont win unless you are just lucky.

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