One of the terms that gets thrown around a lot when talking about sports betting is the ‘betting public’. The reason you hear about it so much is simply that understanding what it is and what it means can help to fatten your bottom line. Fat bottom lines are good, so let’s look at what the betting public is, and why it matters to you.
What is the betting public? – Put simply, the betting public is the very large majority of people who bet on every game. They aren’t the professional bettors or the serious amateurs. They are the people who like to have a cheering interest, or who like to bet on their team, or who like to make a few bucks. They probably don’t work very hard to get better at handicapping, and ultimately they are probably more motivated by having a good time and having some good stories to tell than by making long term profits. There are several things that tend to define the betting public:
Favorites - The public loves betting on favorites. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, the favorites are usually the team that gets more attention, and it is often the more generally popular team. The betting public also isn’t very sophisticated, so they tend to associate betting with trying to pick the winner in the game, so they pick the favorite because they are more likely to win. Smart bettors know that winner doesn’t matter nearly as much as where the value is in the betting spread.
Over – The betting public will usually favor the over when betting the total. The biggest reasons for this are that offense is more fun to watch than defense, and easier to understand in most sports, so people tend to assume that the offense is going to be able to perform at its best regardless of what it is facing. The betting public likely doesn’t spend a lot of time looking at specific matchups, either, so they can miss situations that could cause the offense to perform less than optimally.
Over-value skill positions – In the eyes of the betting public the most important people in sports are the quarterback, the starting pitcher, and the highest scorer in basketball. Handicapping for them will rarely go beyond these players and how they stack up. As a result, they tend to over-react when something happens that affects one of these positions before a game.
Over-react to news – In the eyes of the betting public an injury to a key player is almost always a major problem, a dispute on the practice field or in the locker room is cause for serious concern, and a mistake by a coach is a clear sign of overall incompetence.
Influenced strongly by the media – If you want to know what the betting public is thinking just read the mainstream media sites online or watch pre-game shows. If talking heads are obsessed with something – no matter how inane – then the betting public will be as well. Critical thought and analysis are not characteristics of the betting public.
Bet more on high profile games – The betting public tends to focus on the bigger games and ignore the less well publicized ones. In college football, for example, the betting public will heavily bet games with ranked teams or other high profile BCS conference teams, but will often virtually ignore games in the MAC or CUSA.
Favor certain teams – There are some public teams out there that the public has a love affair with and will typically bet no matter what circumstance they are facing. Examples include the Steelers, Patriots, and Colts in the NFL, the Red Sox and Yankees in baseball, and the Lakers and Celtics in the NBA. The only handicapping that typically happens when these teams play is looking at the names on the front of the jerseys, so when these teams play the action is often tilted heavily towards the public team.
Why should the betting public matter to you?
You want to make sure you aren’t one of them – If a lot of those tendencies sound like your tendencies then you are probably a public bettor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course. If you are interested in being a long term winner, though, you’ll probably want to understand where you need to do some work to improve and get at it.
When their action can be anticipated books compensate for it – In many cases it’s not hard at all to predict where the public action is going to be on a game – the public teams, favorites, and overs as I said before. When it seems very likely that the public is going to heavily bet on one side then the books will often adjust the betting lines to take advantage of that – the line won’t affect the public’s decision making process, so the books can get a couple of extra points on their side. The books can’t be too aggressive with this or they will get hit heavily on the other side, but it unquestionably happens. If you can spot where the public is betting then you can often find lines that are higher than they would otherwise be. If you already like the less popular team then the extra points are just extra value for you.
They aren’t always right – You could probably change this to say that they often aren’t right. If you don’t understand what makes the betting public tick then you could be lead to think that you should be betting on a particular side in a game because everyone else seems to be. Once you understand things better, though, you’ll understand that the public is often not right about how a game will turn out because they often haven’t really looked at what will affect the outcome of that game. If you understand that then you’ll suddenly find that a whole lot of shocking upsets just aren’t so shocking anymore.