There are so many ways to win money betting on sports. Almost every day on Twitter, I see examples of people arguing that the methods they use to win are superior to other people’s methods. There is no “best” way to win and spend your time sports betting. It depends on the individual person’s goals. Someone who has no real interest in betting or even sports and is just doing this as a side hustle before moving on to the next thing should approach it differently than someone who wants to win for years to come. In recent years, I’ve tried to focus the time I spend on betting to areas that scale well. Below are my thoughts on the things I consider when trying to decide what to focus my time on in sports betting.
Trading Time for Money
Before discussing examples and characteristics I look for when deciding where to invest my time, let’s talk about things that don’t scale well. Generally, these are activities where you trade time for money. You won’t necessarily gain new skills. I’m not saying you can’t make a lot of money using these strategies. It’s just harder to scale and continue to grow with them.
- 1. Odds Shopping / De-Vigging – Unless you have software to automate the actual edge identification and betting, this strategy requires time in front of an odds screen. It’s the classic example of trading your time for money. The amount of money you make is directly proportional to how long you sit in front of the computer. You will likely learn more about the betting markets. Otherwise, you are not acquiring many transferrable skills.
- 2. Live Betting / Arbitrage – Again, assuming you don’t have bots to make your actual bets, the amount you can make live betting is directly proportional to how long you are willing to sit at the computer. This isn’t necessarily the case if you are developing your own live betting model. However, if you’re relying on watching the games or publicly available software, it is another instance of trading your time for money.
- 3. Content Providers / Subscriptions – If you are reliant on something that is publicly available to make money it is hard to continue to scale and grow. If the public source is good, it will just continue to grow in popularity and become less useful as more people use it. You will likely develop the skill of evaluating which public sources that can actually help you win. However, it will always be hard to take that next step if you are dependent on public sources.
Coding / Excel – The Ultimate Scalable Skill
I know no one needs to hear the advice that improving your technical skills, like coding or even Excel, is one of the highest ROI activities you can do. However, I’d be remised not to mention some of the advantages in sports betting that come from improving your technical skills.
- 1. Automation: The whole purpose of being able to code or do things in Excel is to be able to do things faster. As you improve your technical skills, you will free up time to branch out and focus on new things. You won’t be stuck just maintaining current processes.
- 2. Better Data: The highest ROI skill I ever learned was how to scrape data. You can win in sports betting with either better data or better modelling of that data. Collecting and aggregating data in less accessible markets can be extremely valuable.
- 3. Impacts Everything: Improving your technical skills is the highest leverage activity you can spend time on in sports betting. It makes everything easier. It will help for any sport or market you’re working on. It will help your data collection, your modelling, your record keeping – everything. Last but not least, most people reading this are not going to make a career out of betting. Improving your technical skills is transferrable outside of sports betting. It helps make you more effective in other facets of your life.
Pricing Derivatives: Finding Cross-Applicability in Sports
There are thousands of bets on any given sportsbook. How do you know which ones to investigate versus skipping over? If I spend a lot of time investigating a bet type, I try to make sure that even if the investigation and modelling doesn’t lead to anything in this instance, I can use the research and development for different areas in the future. Or the process of investigation and modelling allows me to learn a new skill that will help me later on. The following are some examples of that.
One of the first things I tried to model and bet on was alternative spreads, totals, and quarter/half derivatives in the NFL. It took a lot of time to collect all the necessary data, clean it, and write code to assign a price to any alternative line or partial game derivative. After all that work, I started plugging in numbers to price the available derivatives and alternate spreads for an NFL Sunday. I quickly realized it seemed like the sportsbooks did a fairly good job of pricing these types of bets—at least compared to my numbers.
The exercise might have been a bust for NFL betting. However, I was able to apply the framework I had built to college football. I found more opportunities and more success there. Most people probably think it’s obvious that you could apply a framework you build for the NFL to college football. However, the more interesting part is that I was able to apply it to tennis game spreads. I did need to make a few specific adjustments for tennis. But because I focused on a bet type that is common across many sports, I got more out of my initial time investment. and now have a framework to attack similar bets and markets in the future.
Why Should I Build My Own DFS Projections
Here’s another example where I’ve benefitted from cross-applicability of something I’ve built. I’ve generally always attempted to create my own DFS projections any sport I’ve played. Building your own projections used to provide a big advantage in traditional DFS. Before various DFS content sites flooded the market with cheap, high-quality projections, the edge was much greater. However, my own internal projections have been a big advantage in sports betting. I have gained some advantages by creating my own internal projections instead of relying on public projection sources such as:
- 1. Your projections are ready on your own schedule. I can have my projections available before markets are even up. Many DFS content sites do not have projections up until lines have been up for a material amount of time.
- 2. I am also able to bet on more markets than I would be able to if I was reliant on public projection sources. For example, many DFS content sites only provide fantasy point projections. Some may only offer a subset of the underlying statistics that can be bet on. Markets with fewer public projection sources will always offer the biggest edges.
- 3. Building projections also scale across different leagues. For example, if you have a process to build NBA projections, you can generally use that process for college basketball, EuroLeague, and other basketball leagues. This opens up opportunities to bet on leagues and sports where there are fewer or no public projection sources.
In conclusion, there are countless ways to make money betting on sports. No way is objectively “better” than another. It all depends on the bettor’s goals and what they are optimizing for. Someone who optimizes for the short-term should do different things than someone optimizing for long-term. For me, betting is something I’ve done for a long time and want to continue to do in the future. Focusing my efforts and time on areas that will scale well is the best way I can optimize for that long-term. I encourage you to also consider what you want to optimize for and if you’re taking actions that align with that.