Each November in the U.S. brings around election season and every four years that election is Presidential and therefore important. Sportsbooks will offer political prop bets any time election season rolls around, and will offer many more when the President is being chosen. These political prop bets are not always particularly attractive for bettors, but at times they can offer very attractive value. In order to find and profit from that value here are five factors to keep in mind:
Put your personal biases aside – When betting on sports and wanting to be successful over the long term then you know it is crucially important to not let your opinions of a particular team influence your bets. You can’t consistently bet on a team just because they are your favorites any more than you can always bet against a team you hate – unless you don’t care about profit. In the political realm this is especially important because the perception of politicians can be even more emotional and deeply felt than feelings toward a sports team. Many people have very strong feelings about their political views, and those views can have a big impact on how they hope and expect a particular race to turn out. If you let those biases impact your handicapping decisions in any way, you could easily make decisions with very little value in them. Regardless of the emotion involved you need to approach these bets like any other – like they mean no more than a Tuesday night baseball game, and are therefore only attractive if they offer real value.
Get local – It is very important that you make any handicapping decisions based on the best and most local information you can possibly get. For example, if you live in New York and are betting on the California governor race then your opinions and perceptions are worthless for a number of reasons. Most significantly, your perception is likely to be skewed on what the feeling is around you regarding politics, and that has no bearing on what is happening across the country. Thanks to the Internet, though, it is very easy to find good local analysis from people who are closely watching races and have a good sense of both the feelings of the people and what the polls are saying. The more you can find and rely on that information the better off you will be. You want to be careful that you really look local and not rely on national media coverage since national outlets won’t have as intimate a sense of what is really going on.
Be very choosy – There are some political props that unquestionably offer very good value. However, for each one like that, there are several that are not attractive at all. Many prop bets are offered as much for fun as anything else by sportsbooks – a chance to take in some low risk money from casual bettors. It’s hard to find anything worth betting in cases like that, so choosing not to make a bet is often the best decision you can make in cases like this. Take the time to look at what the prop bet is really about, what the chances of a particular outcome are, and if the odds accurately reflect those chances before making any bet.
Shop around – The market for political props is not a particularly competitive one for sportsbooks. Most books offer them, but they are not looking to beat out the other books like they are with some other props, and they aren’t worried about massive exposure to potential losses because the betting interest and volume is generally relatively low. As a result oddsmakers aren’t going to be as careful setting odds for these props as they will be for more competitive offerings, and they are going to be much slower in adjusting odds as well. That means that there can be a wide variety from one book to the other in terms of what props are offered and what prices you can get on them. Shopping around for the best odds is always an important task for sports bettor, but especially so in cases like this.
Remember the time frame – If you bet on a political prop weeks or months before the election takes place then your money is tied up for the entire time between when you make the bet and election day. That means that you can’t use that money for other purposes – to bet on other sports, to pay personal expenses, or anything else. It’s very important, then, that your potential payoff for a winning bet you make not only reflects the risk involved in betting on the side you are betting on, but also compensates for the amount of time your money is inaccessible. In other words, you have to consider the opportunity cost of making a bet like this and make sure that that cost is accounted for when you are considering whether there is value in a bet. To simplify, when you are making a bet like this you need to be sure that the value is particularly high before you commit.