Betting on sports is never something that should be done blindly. It requires preexisting knowledge, research and foresight. And even then, the most prepared wagers are subject to both a bit of randomness and luck. That's why so many lean on sports betting strategies, not as a be-all, but as a basis for how they will build their bet slips.
Essentially, when betting on sports you should always have somewhat of a method to the madness. And while there are many online sports betting strategies to take into consideration prior to laying your wagers down, not all of them are created equally. Some are better and more logical than others. Some are great for beginners. Some should be reserved for experts.
It's imperative every bettor separate the useful from the futile if they're going to co-sign one approach. No singular strategy is a substitute for a reason; you need to immerse yourself in all the nuances of sports betting before taking on a philosophical identity. Once you do that, though, the right betting strategy can become a tool in your money-making arsenal.
In the spirit of strengthening your online-gambling portfolio, we've outlined our favorite sports-betting strategies for you to peruse. But first, be sure to check out our list of recommended sites at which you can test out these approaches:
Best Sports Betting Strategies
Underdog Betting Strategy
Investing in underdogs is not a proposition to be taken lightly. Players and teams are underdogs for a reason. If the odds are stacked against them, you should be wary of working their lines.
At the same time, shrewd bettors will do their best to spot market inefficiencies, particularly on moneylines and point spreads.
Working underdog moneylines is all about trying to capitalize on potentially huge payouts. Let's say you browse the latest NFL betting odds and see that the New York Giants are a +650 to win against the heavily favored Green Bay Packers. The idea of turning a $650 profit for every $100 you risk is tantalizing. But the odds also suggest there is a very little chance of that happening.
Still, it's a different story if you actually believe the Giants have a much better than the expected shot at squeaking out a victory. Maybe Green Bay's quarterback is questionable with an injury and you don't believe he'll be too effective even if he does play. Or perhaps you've seen lines at other sportsbooks that paint New York as a shorter underdog. Whatever the case, if you can spot long-shot outcomes that you actually believe in, you have a line to larger possible returns.
Playing the underdogs on point spreads requires a slightly different thought process. You're not as concerned with spotting long shots who might actually win. You're trying to find monstrous underdogs with a good probability of covering, an approach that is best served hunting down the largest possible lines.
Take our Giants-Packers example. Maybe New York is a +17.5 underdog, meaning it needs to lose by fewer than 18 points (or win) for a spread bet to cover. When the margin for error is that large, it makes sense to at least consider playing it. Even if teams—in this case, the Packers—go up big, there's a chance they take their foot off the gas midgame, which would open the door for the Giants to cover.
Teaser Betting Strategy
Teaser betting can work when done properly. Many gamblers stay away or just plain don’t know how to tease the point spread and don’t realize the potential of the increased odds it gives you without hammering your payout odds too much.
For instance, in college basketball betting you might see two games where the home teams are listed as +18 underdogs. This is a great example of when you should tease the point spread. In this case, if you tease both games by +6 points, it means your home underdogs only have to lose by fewer than 24 points, which should be easy to do considering teams usually play a lot better than expected in front of a rowdy home crowd.
Testing out teaser wagers is just a good strategy in general, regardless of whether it's for the home or away team. It's best done ahead of games you have a great feel for; perhaps you've covered both teams extensively or just know the league in particular backwards and forwards.
Either way, if you're willing to foot the overhead cost of manipulating the lines, you can increase or shorten the point spread in hopes of drumming up your potential return or increasing the likelihood of a successful pick. The latter is something parlay bettors will want to consider. If they're building a multiteam parlay but feel particularly strongly about a certain game, they can pay to move the spread so it gives them a better shot of hitting on all of their predictions.
Arbitrage Betting Strategy
We only recommend arbitrage betting if you're an experienced sports gambler. Properly executing this strategy takes not only experience interpreting moneylines, but plenty of reps knowing how to spot the right arbitrage-betting opportunities.
Also referred to as "sure bets," this strategy consists of investing in both sides of a given game at different sportsbooks in order to ensure that your wager returns a profit. Going this route, of course, only makes sense for either-or outcomes and are most valuable on moneylines.
To wit: If there is a large discrepancy between two teams playing one another and between two sportsbooks, and if you're a high roller who wagers so much that a 10 percent or profit amounts to a huge chunk of change.
The first bit of criteria is the most important because those dual-situations can be hard to suss out. You're not just looking for heavy favorites versus heavy underdogs. You need a medium-sized favorite from one sportsbook that's considered a heavy favorite by another. It's this difference that allows you to then invest in the favorite at Sportsbook No. 1 and then play the underdog at Sportsbook No. 2.
Matched Betting Strategy
Consider this: You've just joined a new sportsbook that offers a 100 percent deposit match on your first transaction. You take advantage of this promotion by putting $100 into your account, for a grand total of $200. Afterward, you then decide to peruse this week's upcoming NBA betting odds and find yourself intrigued by the following point spread: Orlando Magic (+6.5) vs. Dallas Mavericks (-6.5).
Typically, you would pick one side, either the Magic or Mavs and wait to see whether your decision pans out. With matched betting, though, you would play both point spreads. Yes, this means you'd throw money on the Giants at +6.5 and the Cowboys -6.5, as separate wagers on separate bet slips.
This probably sounds counterproductive. It's not. It's basically arbitrage betting with house money. Point spreads usually pay out -110, so your winning wager will net you a total payout of $190—your initial $100 bet, plus the $90 profit. Indeed, in the end, you will have just turned $200 into $190. But because you used $100 in promotional money to bankroll this wager, you've actually made $90.
One hangup to this strategy: Bonus-money roller. Many sites demand you bet your free cash anywhere from 10 to 30 times over before it's officially yours. You need to find a sportsbook that has a shorter rollover; some will indeed let you cash out after one bet.
Moneyline Parlays on Favorites
Have we saved our favorite betting strategy for last? Yes. Yes, we have.
Look, there's no such thing as a guaranteed victory in sports. Even the heaviest favorites can be upset. But there are always games in which the least likely outcome borders on unfathomable. You've seen these moneylines before if you've ever bet on sports. The Kansas City Chiefs are a -750. Or the Los Angeles Lakers are -550. In these situations, the win probability of the favorite is sky high, barring catastrophe.
Some bettors seek to take advantage of this quasi-certainty. Sure, investing in such heavy favorites individually isn't very profitable. It would take a $750 risk just to win $100 if the Chiefs are -750. If you parlay a bunch of those lines together, however, you'll be able to inflate your potential return.
Let's say you decide to parlay the following five moneylines of super-heavy favorites: Chiefs (-750), Lakers (-550), Miami Heat (-600), Dallas Cowboys (-800), and New England Patriots (-500). If you put up $100, you would have the opportunity to more than double your investment should all five teams pick up a victory.
Plenty will invariably be skeptical of this approach. The more teams you're forced to predict, the more likely it is you miss on one. That's true. But because you're sticking with heavy favorites—anyone laying -500 or better—you're not dealing in the same ambiguous terms. You're making a 2-to-1 payout even more accessible.
To adequately implement this strategy, you'll need to pounce on these favorites early. Sportsbooks will eventually remove the lines on such lopsided odds if they get too out of control.
Other Pages in this Betting Guide
Software: Tools That Give you an Edge
Stats & Trends: Use them to your Advantage
Our How-To-Bet Guide for Newbies