If you read or talk about sports betting at all then one of the words you hear all the time is ‘edge’. People will tell you that sports betting is all about finding an edge, that they know that they have a big edge, and so on. It’s a very important concept – really the key to sports betting – but it’s not always one that is well understood. Let’s look at what an edge is, and the keys for sports handicappers to keep in mind when thinking about, and looking for, an edge.
The best place to start is with a definition. Simply put, an edge is an advantage a bettor has over the oddsmakers. When odds are assigned to a particular game the oddsmakers are indicating what they think the likelihood of a given outcome is. If you think that an outcome – like a team winning the game or covering the spread – is more likely than the oddsmakers do then you would have an edge. That means that over the long term if you were theoretically to make the same bet again and again and you were correct about the likelihood of the outcome then you would make a profit. If you thought that the outcome was less likely than the odds indicated then the bookmakers would have an edge – which they always are trying to have – and you likely wouldn’t find the bet attractive. In fact, it would be a really bad idea over the long term for sports handicappers to be making that kind of bet.
Here are three important factors to keep in mind when hunting for your edge:
It doesn’t matter who a sports bettor thinks will win the game – This is the hardest transition that new or unsuccessful bettors have to make. When you first get interested in sports betting it is probably because you are a big sports fan. Sports fans spend their time worrying about who is going to win or lose the game. The final score on the scoreboard is what matters. If you bring that same attitude to sports betting, though, then you are going to be unsuccessful. Sports bettors don’t care which team is going to win or lose. They have to focus on how the game is likely to play out, what the range of outcomes can be, how likely each of those outcomes are, and how that relates to the odds. There are lots of situations where you could be very confident that a team is going to win the game but you wouldn’t bet on them because it wouldn’t make sense based on the odds. Conversely, there are many situations where you could be reasonably sure that a team is going to lose a game but you would still bet on them because of the point spread or because the payoff if they win is more than enough to make up for the unlikelihood of that happening. If you can’t make that transition in thinking as a sports bettor then you aren’t going to be successful in your hunt for an edge and in making winning bets.
It is very easy to overestimate your edge – If you are attracted to sports betting then you probably have an ego. In fact, to succeed in sports betting you have to have a fairly good sized ego. Just think about it – the whole purpose of sports betting is to try to outsmart oddsmakers, coaches, general managers, players, and the betting public. If you didn’t think that you can do that then you wouldn’t bet. While some ego is key to success there is a downside to it as well. Because sports bettors have big egos a lot of them think that they are a whole lot better at finding an edge than they really are. they will assume that they have found a big difference between reality and the perception of the sportsbooks, and they will think that they can find those mistakes again and again. The fact of the matter is, though, that a real edge is tough to find, and in a lot of sports – especially the popular betting ones like football – an edge can be tough to find and will often be quite small. If you put in a lot of work and are a conscientious and determined handicapper then you can definitely find an edge in some games. If you don’t put in the work and aren’t consistent and methodical, though, then you almost certainly don’t have nearly as much of an edge as you think you do. One good way to overcome the tendency to overestimate the edge you have is to be very conservative in the estimation of your edge. If you think you have a large edge then treat it as if you have a small one. If through your handicapping, you think you have a small edge then act as if you have no edge at all. That way you are far less likely to be acting on an edge that doesn’t really exist. That leads well into the third point for smart sports handicappers…
Your records are what is important, not your perception – The most important tool bettors have in their search for an edge is their record keeping. By looking back at the bets you have made over time and breaking them down into types – the sport they are on, the type of bet, whether they are on underdogs or favorites, and so on – you can start to see the kind of bets which regularly give you an edge, and the ones in which the oddsmakers clearly have an edge over you. The feeling that you have an edge is a particular situation is meaningless. If a sports handicapper can prove they have an edge based on documented past history of similar situations, though, then they are on the path to success.