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Simple Sports Betting Strategies That Work

We’re often contacted by aspiring sports bettors who are struggling to make money and want our advice. Many of them have fallen into the trap of overcomplicating things, so we know EXACTLY what advice we need to give them.

Keep. It. Simple.

Honestly, this is one of the most valuable pieces of advice we have to offer. So many people think that the only way to beat the bookmakers is to use strategies and systems that are super complex, but they’re WRONG.

Yes, you’ll probably need to use advanced strategies if you want to make SERIOUS money. That can and should be your long-term goal, but when just starting out any kind of profit is worth celebrating. Small profits can be achieved through simple strategies. Once you consistently start making small profits, you can see what adjustments need to be made to take it to the next level.

For now, we’ll focus in on the wide selection of simple betting strategies that can improve your overall chances of making money. We’ve detailed the best ones below. None of these are perfect, and they’re all limited to some extent. Still, they’re ideal to use while you’re still learning and developing your betting skills.

As you gain more knowledge and experience, you’ll probably be able to adapt these strategies and make them more effective. For now, though, just focus on keeping it simple.

Basic Value Betting

The majority of all sports betting strategies are based around trying to find value. In theory, you should NEVER place a wager unless you’ve identified a selection that offers genuine positive value. This is because wagers that don’t offer any value will ultimately cost you money in the long run.

However, it’s fair to say that basic value betting can be considered a strategy in its own right. We love it because it’s so easy to use. All you need is a fundamental understanding of the concept of value, the ability to assess probability, and some sports knowledge.

The following articles can help with the first two requirements. As for the third requirement, we’re going to assume you know at least SOMETHING about the sports you’re betting on.

If you don’t want to read these articles just yet, here’s a quick overview of what you need to know.

  • In the context of betting, value is the relationship between the odds of a selection and the probability of that selection winning.
  • Positive value exists when the probability of a selection winning is greater than the IMPLIED probability of the odds.
  • The implied probability of odds can be calculated using a simple formula, or by using an odds converter tool.
  • The ACTUAL probability of selections winning cannot be calculated exactly since there are too many factors involved. However, it’s possible to use our sports knowledge to assess the likelihood of possible outcomes and assign estimated probabilities.

Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to start using the basic value betting strategy. Here’s how it works.

To get started, we have to decide what event we’re going to bet on. This should obviously be something that we know a little about. The more we know, the more accurate we’re likely to be when it comes to assessing probabilities.

For the sake of this example, we’ll be betting on an NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and the New York Giants. We know these two teams well, and we figure that Oakland has a good chance of winning. After taking a few factors into account, we decide they have a 60% chance of getting the victory.

The next step is to look at the odds. This is what our preferred bookmaker is offering for this game.

Oakland Raiders vs New York Giants

Game Winner

Oakland
1.75
New York
2.20

We take the 1.75 odds for Oakland winning and put them into our odds converter tool. This tells us that these odds have an implied probability of 57%. We think that the actual probability of Oakland winning is 60%, so we’ve found positive value. We go ahead and place our wager on Oakland to win.

That’s all there is to basic value betting! The key to success here obviously lies in being able to accurately assess probabilities. Although this isn’t easy, it can definitely be done. You just need to keep practicing, and think carefully about all the relevant factors that can affect the outcome of events.

This strategy is a perfect example of how sports betting doesn’t need to be complicated. It doesn’t require any complex calculations or any in-depth analysis of statistics and other data. Although it’s very simple, it CAN be effective. It has two other distinct advantages as well.

First, it works well in conjunction with lots of other strategies. You’ll find that out as you read through the rest of this page. Second, it’s a strategy that you can easily develop over time. You can build your own models for assessing probability, for example, or take a wider range of factors into account. The fundamental way you use this strategy won’t change, but you can make it far more effective with just some minor adjustments.

Chasing Steam

In the context of betting, the term steam is used to describe significant movements in the betting markets that happen in a short space of time. There’s a theory that such moves are generally caused by professional bettors and betting syndicates putting their money down. Because they typically wager for very high stakes, the weight of their money alone can cause odds and lines to move dramatically.

Chasing steam involves watching for these big movements, and then betting on whatever the money appears to be going on. The goal is to “copy” what the smart bettors are doing, since they are the ones making the most money. In theory, this makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, chasing steam is EXTREMELY challenging these days.

There was a time when this strategy was very effective. The betting markets are more efficient than they used to be though, and there’s a lot more money at stake. This means that big moves in the odds are far less common. It’s also difficult to interpret what causes them when they do happen.

Even if you can identify steam moves, the collective market itself moves much more quickly now. If the odds at one bookmaker or betting site change dramatically, all the bookmakers and sites make similar changes almost instantly. This makes it hard to get any money down at the same prices as the smart bettors. You have to be able to spot opportunities as soon as they happen, and react immediately. This is simply not practical for most bettors.

With all that being said, this IS a strategy to consider. Especially if you bet regularly, and are often paying attention to the odds and lines. It’s quite possible that you’ll spot steam moves on occasion, and be able to take full advantage of them. This won’t happen on a daily basis, but you’ll still make some extra profits every now and then.

Fading The Public

Fading the public is almost the exact opposite of chasing steam. Instead of trying to bet on the same things as the smart bettors, this strategy involves betting AGAINST what the majority of the public are betting on. So the idea is to look for market movements that are caused by the weight of public money, and then bet on the other side. As the majority of sports bettors lose, taking the opposing position should theoretically be profitable.

While this strategy appears to make sense, it’s fundamentally flawed. As with chasing steam, it worked well in the past when the betting markets were not so efficient. These days, however, bookmakers take virtually every relevant factor into account when setting their odds and lines. This includes public opinion, so it’s hard to tell which way the public is betting these days. We rarely see big movements that are caused by the weight of public money.

Why have we mentioned this strategy then?
Because it can be adapted for “modern use.”

Fading the public might not work in the same way it used to, but the underlying theory is still sound. The majority of the betting public do lose money, so it really does makes sense to bet against them in some situations. Although looking for market movements that are directly caused by public money isn’t especially effective, we CAN still make accurate assessments about which way the public is betting.

This strategy works best for the major sports. They typically attract a LOT of betting interest, much of which is from recreational bettors. Collectively, recreational bettors are extremely predictable. They tend to favor betting on the most popular teams and players, so we usually have a good idea of where their money is going.

We also know that the bookmakers will account for this. They often adjust these odds and lines to make it less appealing to back the popular teams and players, as this is unlikely to prevent the recreational bettors from putting their money down. These adjustments can then create value in going AGAINST the popular teams.

Finding this value is basically the modern form of fading the public. Instead of looking for market movements caused by public money, we can try to judge how public opinion is likely to affect the odds and lines in the first place. Then we can use the basic value betting strategy to find good spots to get our money down.

If you are interested in learning more about how to use public opinion to improve your betting, then please consider reading the article listed below. It’s in our NFL betting strategy section, but the basic principles we discuss apply to any of the major sports.

Arbitrage Betting

Arbitrage betting is a very powerful strategy. When executed correctly, it can return GUARANTEED profits. That’s not something that’s easily achievable when betting on sports.

This strategy is all about exploiting pricing discrepancies in the betting markets. These exist when two (or more) bookmakers or online sportsbooks are offering significantly different odds and lines on the same outcomes. In the right circumstances, they create opportunities for making risk-free wagers.

When a pricing discrepancy is big enough, betting on all the possible outcomes of an event can ENSURE an overall profit. To make this a little easier to understand, we’re going to use an example.

Let’s say there’s an upcoming basketball game between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers. There’s no obvious favorite because both teams are in good form and of a similar quality. The odds for each team to win are pretty much the same at most bookmakers, at around 1.91. However, we find one that’s slightly favoring the Celtics. They’re offering the following odds on the game.

Boston Celtics vs Cleveland Cavaliers

Game Winner

Celtics
1.80
Cavaliers
2.05

Then we find a different bookmaker that has taken the opposite view. They’re slightly favoring the Cavaliers, and offering the following odds for the game.

Boston Celtics vs Cleveland Cavaliers

Game Winner

Celtics
2.03
Cavaliers
1.82

Neither of these bookmakers is offering odds that are WAY different to the rest of the market. However, there’s quite a big difference between the two of them. This discrepancy is big enough to have created an arbitrage opportunity.

In this situation, we can place a wager on both teams and make a guaranteed profit. The first bookmaker is offering 2.05 on the Cavaliers, so backing them for $100 gives us a potential return of $205. The second bookmakers if offering 2.03 on the Celtics, so backing them for $100 gives us a potential return of $203. This would mean risking a total of $200, for a guaranteed return of at least $203.

Obviously, that profit is nothing to write home about. However, regardless of the outcome of the event, we are guaranteed to make money. That’s what makes arbitrage betting such a powerful strategy.

Now, this is a very simplified example. Opportunities to use the arbitrage betting strategy are rarely quite so obvious. The purpose here was just to demonstrate the basic concept. There’s a lot more you need to learn about arbitrage betting if you want to use this strategy effectively. We explain more on the following page.

Backing Heavy Favorites

Favorites win more often than not. That’s obvious. Heavy favorites win even more frequently, and that’s essentially what this strategy is based on. The idea is to back selections at very low odds, for the simple reason that they’re very likely to win.

It’s possible to use this strategy with absolutely no sports knowledge at all. All you’d have to do is look for events where there’s an overwhelming favorite, and get your money down. You’d probably win a high percentage of your wagers this way, and may even make an overall profit.

Realistically, though, you’d probably lose.

Backing heavy favorites is a viable strategy. Let’s make that very clear. Backing EVERY low odds selection you find is the wrong way to use it though. This is very unlikely to work in the long run. Although you will get lots of payouts, the returns will be very small relative to your stakes. That’s the nature of betting at low odds, and it means that one or two unexpected losses can wipe all the profits from dozens of winning wagers.

So what’s the RIGHT way to use this strategy then? Well, we like to combine it with basic value betting. We’re always on the lookout for heavy favorites that are likely to win, but we don’t just back them automatically. Instead, we first check to see if it offers any value. If it doesn’t, then we don’t bother putting any money down.

Using this strategy effectively is basically all about being selective. If you only bet when you’ve found value, then backing heavy favorites can definitely return long term profits.

Betting Off Market Prices

This is perhaps the most straightforward strategy on the page. It’s so simple that it can be implemented without ANY sports knowledge at all, and without doing any kind of research or analysis.

The idea here is to look for odds or lines that are noticeably better than the rest of the collective market. These are known as off market prices, and they can represent excellent betting opportunities. You won’t find them too often unfortunately, but be on the lookout because they do come up occasionally. There are several reasons why a bookmaker or betting site might price up a selection very differently than everyone else.

In its most basic form, this strategy involves simply finding off market prices and then betting at the higher odds. For example, let’s say we found the following odds available for an upcoming tennis match.

Minnesota Vikings vs Tennessee Titans

SpreadsOdds
Betting Site A

Monfils to win
Chung to win

1.57
2.37

Betting Site B

Monfils to win
Chung to win

1.57
2.37

Betting Site C

Monfils to win
Chung to win

1.55
2.40

Betting Site D

Monfils to win
Chung to win

1.81
2.10

The first two betting sites are offering identical odds on both players. Betting Site C has Monfils at slightly lower odds, and Chung at slightly higher odds. Small differences like this are common, and they don’t represent off-market prices.

Betting Site D, however, is offering odds that are drastically different than what the other sites are offering. The odds on Chung winning are significantly lower, and the odds on Monfils are significantly higher. A $100 wager on Monfils here would return $181. The best return we’d get elsewhere is $157. That’s an extra $24 in potential profit.

If we were using the basic form of this strategy, we’d go right ahead and back Monfils here. As we mentioned earlier, we wouldn’t need to do any research and analysis. We’d just be working on the theory that the odds of 1.81 MUST represent good value when everyone else is offering between 1.55 and 1.57,

To some extent, the logic behind this theory is sound. When a bookmaker or betting site is so far away from the rest of the market, it’s reasonable to assume that the better odds automatically represent good value.

We don’t advise making ANY assumptions when betting though.

There’s always a chance that an assumption will be wrong. Even in situations like this, when the assumption is based on solid reasoning and likely to be correct. Betting based on false assumptions can prove to be very costly, so it’s not worth taking the risk in our opinion.

Please note that this doesn’t mean betting off-market prices is a bad strategy. We wouldn’t even be discussing it if it was. It’s just that we don’t like using it in its most basic format. Looking for off market prices is definitely worth doing, as it’s a great way to identify spots where there MIGHT be value. Before we place our wagers, though, we want to be POSITIVE it offers good value.

Betting Based on Winning Streaks

This is a great little strategy that we’ve had plenty of success with over the years. While we use a pretty advanced version of it, a simpler form of it can also be effective. What makes this strategy different than other strategies is that it’s based entirely on form and momentum. These are two important betting factors that can be very useful indicators of future performances.

At a basic level, this strategy involves looking for teams and players that are on lengthy winning streaks. If a team or player is on a lengthy winning streak, then we back them to win their next game. The theory is that they’ll probably win due to being in good form and having momentum.

We can use this strategy in reverse too, and look for teams and players that are on lengthy losing steaks. We then back their OPPONENTS to win in the next game, with the expectation that the losing streak will continue.

In our experience, this strategy is effective even at a very basic level. Obviously there are times when a streak comes to an end unexpectedly, so it doesn’t work ALL the time. Overall, though, betting on streaks to continue can definitely be profitable.

It can be even more profitable when combined with the basic value betting strategy we discussed earlier. This means not automatically betting on a streak to continue, but assessing each situation independently. You only bet after you’ve identified value.

To do this effectively, it helps if you know how to properly analyze the impact of form and momentum in sports. This is something we discuss in the following article.

More Simple Betting Strategies

There are three more simple betting strategies that we’d like you to consider using.

  • Building simple statistical models
  • Following trends
  • Claiming bonuses at online betting sites

We haven’t covered these in as much detail as the others on this page because we’ve already covered them in another section of our site. Here’s a quick overview of each one though, along with links to additional information.

Building simple statistical models

Statistics can be a very a powerful tool for sports betting. They can be used for lots of different strategies, including basic value betting. You have to know which statistics to use though, and how to interpret them. That’s something we address in the article found below.

We also discuss building statistical models in this article. In very simple terms, this means coming up with math based systems that use specific statistics to predict outcomes and/or assess the probability of outcomes. This may seem a little complicated right now, but once you read more about it, it will be easier to understand.

Following Trends

Trends can also be very useful when betting on sports, as what’s happened in the past is often a good indicator of what’s going to happen in the future. Again, though, you have to know what you’re doing. Following trends can be an effective strategy, but only if you can identify the right kind of trends. We explain how to do this, and more, in the following article.

Claiming bonuses at online betting sites

This is one of the easiest ways to make some extra money when betting on sports. Can it really be considered a strategy? Maybe not, but we’re including it here nonetheless. It’s something that we recommend devoting a reasonable amount of time to. Although it won’t make you rich, it can certainly give your bankroll a boost. And that’s ALWAYS a good thing.

To use this strategy you should first understand how the sign-up bonuses available at sports betting sites work. You must then find the right sites to join. The two articles listed below will help you with all that and more.

  • Sports Betting Sites with the Best Bonuses