Today I want to discuss a fascinating documentary I recently watched on sports betting and gambling in America and the lessons we as punters can take from it – wherever we are based and whatever it is we bet on.
The show itself is called Action and over the course of 4 one hour long episodes, it explores the legalisation of sports gambling as the industry in the US develops following the lifting of the previous ban on betting in the American Supreme Court last year.
It follows several characters throughout the 2018/19 NFL (American Football) season and the very different ways they seek to make an income from betting.
Whilst the show has rightly come in for criticism for the some of the people it follows throughout – you can understand to some extent why they did so.
Professional sports betting by its nature is very boring – usually just a guy sat at a computer all day, so the producers decided to follow a few larger than life sports bettors characters in the main.
Focused at the US market and novice bettors in general, the show does raise some interesting points, so inspired by it I wanted to share 5 lessons we can learn about betting – wherever you are from!
Watch out – US Betting Terminology Used!
Throughout my article below, I have used a few US based terms. Loosely this is what they mean:
Handicapper = Tipster
Futures = Antepost
Picks = Tips
Moneyline – bet on a team to win
1. Buyer beware Stateside
One of the most controversial figures in the show is that of Vegas Dave – a self proclaimed ‘No 1. sports information consultant’, who in reality seems little more than a marketer selling ridiculously expensive picks to an audience he openly describers as ‘degenerates’.
If Vegas Dave was ever able to show a long-term profit, I would be very surprised and he seems to have built his reputation on a few big wins in the ‘futures’ market.
The sad reality is that the US Market is filled with people just like this – ‘professional’ handicappers and sites working in cahoots to make money first, provide you genuine winning advice second (likely a very distant second too). If you thought the UK and European tipster market was tricky to navigate (at least without SBC’s help) then you need to be 100 times more careful Stateside.
With all that in mind, I am currently exploring the US handicapping market to try and better understand who exactly is genuine and who to avoid – with the goal of releasing my findings later this year.
2. Not always a correlation between price and quality
One thing Vegas Dave is very good at is marketing – given the millions he openly admits making every year in orders for his picks. Extortionately priced at $497 for just 1 bet or ‘whale-play’ as he calls them – his pricing helps to quash the notion that there is always a correlation between quality and price, especially in the tipping/handicapping world.
Just because you are paying $100’s for picks each day or week – this is no guarantee you are getting a better calibre of expert. In reality, you might just be falling victim to a marketer with a slick tongue who knows how to maximise his revenue through creative pricing and a large social media presence.
Consider the more mature UK and European tipster market (where SBC currently specialises) as you can find quality proven expertise from tipsters charging anywhere between £20 and £40 per month for their service.
The kicker as always is that whatever you pay, it should easily be made back at average stakes over an average period of time.
If you need to stick £250 or £500 on a bet just to cover the cost of purchasing 1 pick/tip, you are being taken advantage of.
3. Hunting for value is universal
Another character featured throughout the show is Bill ‘Krack’ Krackomberger – a professional gambler based in Vegas. What separates Krack from many of the others on the show is his attitude to sports betting and how he beats the book.
Firstly, he fully understands the need to obtain value and the difference getting better odds can make, especially in the ultra competitive NFL markets. He is shown driving from location to location in Vegas simply to get the best odds on a bet. It might only be a few % points, but when you are risking $30,000 on a single bet as he is – this all adds up.
It’s the same lesson the world over as simple things like – using an odds comparison site to find the best odds for your bet or placing it on exchanges like Smarkets or Matchbook versus Betfair, whereby you get lower commission rates. The Smarkets rate for example is always 2%, whereas Betfair’s charge begin you at 5% – one easy way to get a 3% better return on your bets.
4. Remove emotion from your bets or pay the price
Krack is also wise to the need to remove all emotion from your betting if trying to make a profit. Rather than sit in the sportsbook lounge whilst the games are on and live every part of his bet out in real-time, instead he sits at his laptop and pays no attention to the ‘action’. Wins or losses are lines on a spreadsheet and he never gets too high or low whatever the outcome.
You only have to compare his approach to the legion of punters sat in the Vegas sportsbook lounges – all of whom suffer the ups and downs of their bets in real-time to know Krack has it right. Swearing at the TV screen, claiming the matches are fixed or chasing wins by placing more and more bets as the day wears on – its easy to see how betting takes its toll mentally on so many people.
Whether it be a Vegas casino, British bookmaker or simply streaming a game through your laptop – there is real value in taking a step back from watching your bets if trying to make money.
5. The NFL Market like all major ones is highly efficient
Finally, its worth a note that making a profit betting into the main NFL markets (moneyline, spread, over/unders) is extremely difficult due to the volume of money traded in the market.
Finding major value bets is therefore near impossible for most punters and indeed handicappers – something the show doesn’t communicate nearly enough in my opinion.
It’s the same for most major leagues and competitions – be it NBA, Baseball, the Premier League or even Champions League. These markets are hugely efficient due to the amount of money traded within them and finding a value edge long-term is very difficult.
Anyone that can make a few percent points return on investment over a decent data sample from these major betting competitions is doing very well indeed (and they should talk to a betting syndicate!) and its important to be aware of this.
So if you read about a tipster claiming a 10% or 15% ROI in a major market like this – be very cautious indeed and ask yourself: what do they know that millions of others don’t?
In summary then, whilst Action is firmly developed for an American audience – the reality is that the same qualities it takes to win betting on sports in the UK are the same in America.
The sports, markets, terminology and bookmakers used are often very different, yet the key concepts remain very true indeed.
For those of you interested in learning more about how the Smart Betting Club independently regulates and reviews the UK & European tipster markets, you can read more via the following links:
Smart Betting Club Editor