We aren’t suggesting that backing the favorites at low odds is wrong. Sometimes, it IS the best option. But it’s important to look at ALL the relevant information and then assess whether there’s any value to offer. Automatically backing a football team to win simply because they’re stronger than their opposition is not the right approach. The same basic principle applies to ANY sport.
Effective Research & Analysis in Sports Betting
Many sports events are decided by the smallest of margins. There have been countless examples throughout history where the outcome of the game was decided in just one defining moment. Remember the 2003 Rugby World Cup? What if Johnny Wilkinson had missed his last-minute drop goal against Australia in the final? If the ball had gone just a few feet to the left or right, England may not have made rugby history by becoming the first northern hemisphere team to be crowned world champions.
Then there was Super Bowl XLII, back in 2008. Imagine if David Tyree hadn’t made his amazing helmet catch in the dying moments of the game. The Patriots would probably have gone on to win that Super Bowl, and recorded an impressive unbeaten season. Instead, the Giants caused one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets by winning 17-14.
We could provide even more examples, but we want to get to our main point. BETTING on sports involves fine margins too. Sometimes it’s easy for us to make a decision about where to put our money, but more often than not it’s a tough call to make. We’re regularly faced with decisions where just the smallest of details can determine which way we go.
Now, we could just avoid these tough calls and focus on the easier ones. That approach will not allow us to make any money though. When the outcome is obvious to us, it’s obvious to the bookmakers too. So they’ll set the odds and lines accordingly, and make sure there’s little or no value in backing the obvious outcome.
A lot of recreational bettors DO tend to stick to the easy decisions. And that’s fine when betting purely for the fun of it. When the goal is to make money, however, we have to make difficult decisions. These typically represent the best opportunities for finding value in the betting odds. They allow us to identify spots where we think the bookmakers may not have made the best decisions in regards to the odds and lines that they set. That’s ultimately the only way to beat them.
Identifying these spots isn’t going to be easy. It can be done, but it takes a substantial amount of time and effort. A good portion of that time and effort goes into research and analysis. The more information you have at your disposal, the better. Be willing to look at both transparent factors AND those smaller details that often get overlooked. Interpreting a couple of seemingly insignificant factors in the right way can be the difference between making a good decision and a poor one. As we said, there are fine margins at play here.
The purpose of this article is to teach you how to do the necessary research and analysis effectively. We start by explaining just how powerful information is when betting on sports. We then look at the significance of using varied and reliable sources and considering a wide range of different factors. We go on to discuss the difference between correlation and causation, which you really need to understand, and we end by offering some advice for planning your research and analysis properly.
The Power of Information
Sports bettors typically bet on the sports that they already follow. Why? Because those are the sports they know the most about. Even inexperienced bettors recognize the importance of being knowledgeable about the sports they bet on. So a football fan who knows nothing about baseball is unlikely to try to predict the winner of the World Series. And a tennis fan who knows nothing about soccer is unlikely to try to predict whether Chelsea will beat Liverpool in an upcoming game.
It’s great that most sports bettors understand the importance of their existing sports knowledge. The problem is that many of them overvalue this knowledge. They assume that simply following a sport as a fan gives them enough information and knowledge to consistently make good betting decisions. Sadly, they’re almost always wrong.
It would be nice if we could make money from sports betting with just the knowledge we pick up naturally as fans. Unfortunately, betting on sports is just not that easy. There MAY be some people who regularly win money when working with limited information, but they are very much in the minority.
Take an average NFL fan for example. Let’s say he watches at least a couple of games each week, reads a few reports for some other games and checks all the results. He also keeps up to date with all the main news stories. He could probably name the best and most influential players for most teams. He’d probably have a good idea about which teams were the strongest, and which teams were the weakest. He may also know a little about the key strengths and weaknesses of some teams. It’s safe to say he’s knowledgeable!
This kind of knowledge is more than enough to make the relatively easy betting decisions. If one of the strongest teams was about to play one of the weakest, for example, this hypothetical fan would know that the stronger team was very likely to win. So he could place a moneyline wager on that team winning and be confident of getting a payout. Since the bookmakers would also know that the stronger team was likely to win, they wouldn’t set the odds very high.
Of course, upsets are not exactly uncommon in the NFL. The so-called weaker teams beat stronger teams on an almost regular basis. So although this fan would win plenty of wagers betting this way, he’d lose a few too. And because he’d only be getting low odds, the amount he wins from his winning wagers would probably not cover the losses from his losing wagers. Overall, we don’t expect him to make a profit.
Now let’s assume that our fan wanted to bet on the point spread rather than the moneyline. Simply knowing that one team is stronger than the other is no longer enough. Now he needs to know HOW MUCH stronger they are, and how many points they’re likely to win by. If the spread is set at six points, for example, he must decide whether or not the stronger team is likely to win by more than six points.
He could make this decision based on his limited knowledge of course, but he’d essentially be guessing. He wouldn’t be making a TRULY informed judgment. To do that, he’d need more information to work with. Let’s say that he committed some time to getting that information, and studied the following for both teams.
- Recent form
- Key statistics
- Playing styles
How do you rate his chances of making a good decision now? They’re better, obviously. He can use the information he found to make a more informed judgment. Studying recent form would give him insight into the kind of performances the teams had been putting in recently, and studying the stats would give him a broad picture of how they’d been playing all season. These stats would also reveal how each team rated in both offense and defense. Studying the playing styles would give him a clearer idea of how the game may play out.
Even with this information, there’s no guarantee that this fan would be able to make an accurate prediction and win his point-spread wager. It all comes down to how he interprets the information. And even then, we can’t forget how unpredictable football can be. He could make a perfectly good decision based on the available information and still lose because of an unexpected result.
But the point is that he’s in a better position to make a good decision. If he did that for every single wager he placed, he’d definitely improve his betting results. And if he looked at even MORE information, his results would improve even more.
That’s the key point to take away from this. The more information you work with, the more you improve your chances of winning. This isn’t exactly rocket science. Yes, you still need to interpret that information in the right way. And, yes, you could study every single piece of relevant information and still be taken by surprise by what actually happens. Regardless, the more information you have to work with, the stronger your foundation is for making wise decisions.
Remember, the goal is to beat the bookmakers. And you can be certain that the bookmakers are working with a LOT of information. They look at a wide range of factors when setting their odds and lines, and consider anything and everything that could possibly affect the outcome of events. In an ideal situation, you’d have just as much information to work with as them. While this may not always happen, any additional information you have will help.
The Need for Varied & Reliable Sources
The amount of research you need to do ultimately depends on how serious you are about trying to make money. If you’re only betting for fun, and you aren’t too concerned about whether you win or lose, then you don’t HAVE to do any. Just remember that even a little extra information can go a long way towards helping you make better decisions. Simply spending just an hour or two each week on research could potentially have a huge impact on your bottom line.
When the goal is to make regular and consistent profits, an hour or two is unlikely to be enough. For a real chance of success, you should be considering several factors for each decision you make. This will enable you to form the balanced and informed views that will help you make good betting decisions. Gathering a lot of information can be time-consuming in itself, and then you have to analyze all that information.
If this is something you’re prepared to do (and it should be), then the first thing you need to think about is WHERE you’re going to get all your information from.
This should be pretty obvious. Use low-quality sources, and you’re going to be working with low-quality information. Low-quality information clearly isn’t going to help you make good decisions. Use reliable sources, however, and you’ll be working with good information. This WILL help you to make good decisions.
Although this is simplifying things somewhat, the basic point is valid. It’s important to think carefully about which sources you use. Luckily, there are PLENTY of good sources available: especially for the most popular sports, but even for the less mainstream ones too.
Here’s a list of the kind of sources that you should be looking at. Take some time to check these out and see which ones have the most to offer.
- Mainstream media
- Social media
- Sports forums
- Stats websites
The mainstream sports media is best for keeping up to date with general news, and reading or watching reports of games and events. It can also be good for getting the thoughts and opinions of the experts. It’s possible to find valuable information on social media, as long as you’re willing to weed through the not so valuable parts. The same rule applies to sports forums too. There are lots of knowledgeable sports fans who post insightful and interesting stuff in forums, and this kind of information can be useful. You have to be willing to ignore any information that will hinder your ability to make sound decisions.
There are also lots of knowledgeable sports fans who run or contribute to blogs. If you can find any good blogs that are relevant to the sports you bet on, they can be a great source for getting the views of others. Dedicated stats websites are obviously the best source for any statistics you choose to analyze.
Which sources you should actually use will depend on which sports you’re betting on. It will also depend on which strategies you’re using, and which factors you want to focus your attention on. That’s why we haven’t recommended any specific sources here. It’s up to you to decide what information you need and then find the best places to get it from. This will take some time, but it’s worth it.
One final point to make here is that watching sports on TV (or online) counts as research. In fact, this doesn’t just “count” as research, it’s arguably one of the most important forms of research we can do.
Take soccer for example. By regularly watching a team play, we can learn a lot about the quality of the individual players and how well they play as a group. We can see which formation they favor, the tactics they tend to use, and the style of play they generally employ. We can gauge how well they’re playing, and whether their results are a true reflection of their ability. We can tell if they’re overperforming or underperforming and get a real idea of what they’re capable of.
If we’re able to watch a lot of teams on a regular basis, and properly analyze their performances, this can REALLY help us when we come to bet on future games.
Although you should definitely watch sports as often as you can, it’s not realistic to think that you can watch enough sports to get ALL the information you need. There are some things you can’t necessarily learn by watching sports alone. That’s why using a variety of other sources in addition to watching sports is the best approach. Always remember how important it is to consider a range of different factors. There are LOTS of things that can affect the outcome of sports events. And there are very few, if any, sources that will give you the complete picture by themselves.
Understanding Correlation and Causation
One of the biggest mistakes sports bettors make is confusing correlation and causation. This can lead to completely misinterpreting information, and making bad betting decisions as a result. In order for your research and analysis to be effective, you need to know the difference between correlation and causation.
- Correlation is “a mutual relationship between two or more things”.
- Causation is “the action of causing something”.
If the research and analysis you do is extensive enough, you’re likely to discover all kinds of correlations between certain variables and the outcome of sports events. By studying statistics in great depth or by focusing on trends and patterns, you’ll find even more correlations.
For example, you might discover that several soccer teams consistently win games by a big margin when their possession stats are high. Or you might discover that a particular football team always seems to lose most of their games in the first half of the season, but win most of their games in the second half of the season.
It may seem reasonable to assume that this information is very relevant, and can help you to make future betting decisions. However, although the information MAY be relevant, it’s vital that you understand that correlation does not imply causation. Just because there’s a relationship between two variables, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one causes the other. And even when one DOES cause the other, it’s not always possible to tell which variable is the cause and which is the effect.
The fact that a football team has a history of losing in the first half of the season and winning in the second half might mean that they have a tendency to start slow and get better as the season progresses. That’s useful information IF it’s accurate. It’s essentially up to you to decide whether or not that information means anything at all. It could just be a coincidence, or it could be a quirk of the schedule. Maybe they have been forced to face their toughest opponents in the first half of the season for the past few years.
The fact that a few soccer teams have high possession stats when they win by big margins could be useful information too. It could suggest that the more the ball is in their possession, the better their chances are of locking in a huge victory. On the other hand, it could suggest that a team is more likely to gain possession of the ball when they’re on their way to accomplishing a huge victory.
If you don’t follow football or soccer, these examples may be a little confusing. We’re just trying to highlight the point that correlations CAN be useful, but you can’t ASSUME they’re indicators of anything at all.
Interpreting this kind of information is one of the hardest aspects of the research and analysis you need to do. It’s more of an art than a science really. There are no definitive rules for exactly what to do and when to do it. You just have to consider the context of any correlations you discover, and use your sports knowledge to try to determine exactly what they’re telling you. This is something that you’ll get better at with practice.
Planning Your Research & Analysis
The final piece of advice in this article is simple. We recommend having some kind of defined plan in place for how you’ll approach your research and analysis. This doesn’t need to be an incredibly detailed plan that you have to stick to rigidly, but having some broad guidelines to follow will definitely help you. The better organized you are, the more effective you are.
Your plan should consist of the following.
- Which sources you’re going to use for the various aspects of your research.
- Which factors you’re going to consider for the betting decisions you have to make.
- How much weight you’ll give each factor you consider.
- How much time you’re going to spend on your research and analysis.
- When you’re going to do your research and analysis.
Don’t feel like you need to plan every single aspect of your research and analysis down to the smallest detail. That’s not necessary at all. Don’t feel like you can’t deviate from your plan either. There will be times when it’s right to adjust your approach and do something differently. Simply having a plan in place should help you stay focused on the plan at hand. And being properly focused will almost certainly improve the quality of your research and analysis.
It’s the quality of your research and analysis that will determine how successful you are as a sports bettor. So if you really want a chance of making money, this is a part of your betting that you have to take seriously. Put the right amount of time and effort in, follow the advice we’ve offered on this page, and you WILL see the benefits in the long run.