Breaking down the strategies I used to make positive EV bets
Betting on organized sports has been around for over a century, but over the past couple of years it has exploded in popularity. In just the first 10 months of 2021, betting on sports generated over $3 billion in revenue.
With sportsbooks bringing in such large sums of money, you may be wondering how it‘s possible to beat these oddsmakers and bring in some revenue of your own. In this article, I’ll go over three ways that you can identify the best picks while betting on sports.
My Sportsbetting Trip
Although regulations have become a bit more lenient recently, there are still many states that do not allow certain (or all) forms of sports betting. Unfortuantely for me, I live in a state that is colored red in the map below, so I do not have easy access to legal sportsbooks.
However for the first two weeks of March, I took a trip to Tennessee where sportsbetting is legal and widely participated in. There were billboards on the side of the highways promoting sportsbooks and convincing new users to sign up.
During these two weeks, I placed and recorded a total of 189 bets which added up to over $8,000 placed on wagers. From these 189 bets, I ended up with a profit of $414.15. I learned a lot in this short two week time period in terms of which strategies were effective and which strategies were not worth the time and effort, and I’m confident that I could do even better if I were to do it again.
I am writing this article to share my learnings with you all so that you can better pick out the most successful strategies from all of the possible options out there.
How to Read Sportsbetting Odds
For those of you that are unfamiliar with sportsbetting, the odds can be confusing at first. Here’s a quick and simple explanation of how they work.
Odds will either have a plus(+) or minus(-) sign in front of them.
If there is a plus sign in front of the odds, this is how much you will profit for every $100 that you bet. For example, if you place a $100 bet with +500 odds and win, you would get your $100 “stake” back, and you would also win $500 in additional profit.
If there is a minus sign in front of the odds, this is how much you have to bet in order to win $100. For example, if you place $110 on a bet with -110 odds, you would get your $110 “stake” back, and you would also win $100 in additional profit.
We’ll go over odds more later, so don’t worry if they don’t fully make sense right now.
Strategy #1: Sportsbook Promotions
When I first got to Tennessee, I signed up for the top 6 sportsbooks that I was able to find. Here is a list of the sportsbooks that I used on my trip:
- Barstool Sportsbook
While creating accounts on all of these sites, I noticed that they offered some appealing sign up bonuses. For example, WynnBet had the offer shown below, where you receive $200 in free bets after betting just $10.
I placed a $10 bet on college basketball, won $200 worth of free bets, and then I also won the $10 bet, which gave me an extra $9.80 of profit. Now to clarify, $200 worth of free bets isn’t necessarily $200 cash.
Normally, if you place a $100 bet at +100 odds and win, you would get your initial $100 “stake” back, plus an extra $100 for winning the bet. However if you place a $100 free bet and win, you would only get to keep the $100 from winning the bet, but not the $100 “stake”. After placing the free bet, any winnings that you receive are converted into cash in your account, and you can then withdraw the money if you’d like.
The craziest free bet offer that I got was through Caesar’s sportsbook. As shown below, they gave me a free bet that was worth the same value as my first deposit, up to $1,500. I wanted to take full advantage of this offer, so I deposited $1,500 into my account and they gave me a $1,500 free bet.
I decided to use this bet on the Warriors and Mavericks game, and I bet that there would be over 218 total points that were scored. As shown on the bet slip below, I would win $1,363.64 if more than 218 points were scored, and I would lose nothing if less than or equal to 218 points were scored.
Unfortuantely, as shown below, this bet didn’t go my way and the two teams only ended up scoring a total of 208 points. But it was still fun to basically have a risk free chance at over $1,300. And I was able to take my $1,500 deposit out immediately after I lost this bet.
After losing two more of these risk free bets, I learned of a way to cash them out for the majority of their value, and guarantee yourself profit. For example, let’s say that I have a $50 free bet on Fanduel Sportsbook and I want to guarantee myself as much money as I can from this bet.
I used a tool called the Free Bet Converter from the sportsbook data provider called OddsJam. What this tool does is tell me which wager I should place my free bet on, and then how I can hedge the other side of the bet on another sportsbook to guarantee myself profit.
For example, it looks like the highest conversion I can get from a free bet on Fanduel is 80.77% at the time that I checked, but these odds are changing constantly. We can see below that we want to use our free bet on the Point Spread bet in the Mavericks vs Hornets game. Fanduel gives us +420 odds on the Hornets -11.5 bet. This means that we win if the Hornets win by more than 11.5 points. Barstool Sports and Twinspires give us -420 odds on the Mavericks +11.5 bet. This means that we win if the Mavericks lose by less than 11.5.
When we click on the calculator, and enter our free bet value of $50, we can see that after placing the $50 free bet on Hornets -11.5 bet on Fanduel, we should place a $169.62 bet on the Hornets -11.5 bet on Barstool or Twinspires.
Because we are betting on two opposite sides of the same bet, we are certain that we will win at least one of them. We can see that no matter which side of this bet wins, we are guaranteed to profit $40.38. For example, if we win our $50 free bet for the Hornets -11.5 at +420 odds, we win $210.00, and we lost our $169.62 hedge bet, which comes out to a total profit of $40.38.
In the other scenario, where we win the Mavericks +11.5 bet, we lose our $50 free bet (which we received at no cost to us, so we lost $0), and we won our $169.62 hedge bet at -420 odds, so we profit $40.38 as well. In this case, we were able to cash out our free bets for 80.77% of their value.
I ended up using this method to cash out my free bets, since I wanted to guarantee my profits, rather than leave it up to random chance.
Many sportsbooks offer promotions for free bets every week, so I made sure to take advantage of each one that I could find. For example, Fanduel offered me the promotion below where I could place a $10 same game parlay on any soccer game, and I could receive a $10 free bet back if it lost. A parlay is just when you combine multiple bets together, and you get an even bigger payout if they all win.
I placed a $10 3-leg parlay on the Bayern Munich vs Salzburg game at +516 odds, so I would profit $51.60 if it won. Unfortunately, one leg of the parlay lost, but I received a $10 free bet, which I was able to cash out for $8 (80% of its value) using the Free Bet Converter shown above, so I only lost $2 and my potential upside was over $50!
After adding up all of the profit that I was able to make from these sign up bonuses and Sportsbook promotions, I ended up making $173.10.
Strategy #2: Positive Expected Value Bets
The second strategy I used to make money while sportsbetting was finding positive expected value bets. A positive expected value bet means that the odds that you’re getting on a wager are mathematically pofitable.
The vast majority of bets on sportsbooks have a negative expected value. For example, let’s take one of the few sports bets where we actually know the true odds of winning it: the Super Bowl coin toss (50%/50%). Sportsbooks will usually give you around -105 odds on a bet like this. This means that you’ll win $95.24 if you win this bet, but you’ll lose $100 if you guess wrong.
Let’s calculate the expected value of this bet:
(50% * + $95.24) + (50% * -$100) = -$2.38 (2.38%)
Now obviously if we only take this bet once, we either win $95.24 or lose $100, but an expected value of -$2.38 means that if we were to place this bet thousands of times, we would expect to lose $2.38 on average. This is not the type of bet that we’re looking for. We want a bet where we’re expected to make money in the long run.
Now unfortunately, we won’t be able to know the exact odds of winning each bet, but there is a way to estimate this percentage. One sportsbook in particular is known for being the sharpest, meaning that they have the most accurate odds. This sportsbook is Pinnacle. We can use Pinnacle’s odds to estimate the true probability of winning. Then we can compare this win probability to all of the other odds offered by sportsbooks in order to see if there are any positive expected value bets.
Here we can see that in the Chelsea vs Brentford game, Pinnacle is offering -326 odds on the Over 1.5 Goals bet, and +242 odds on the Under 1.5 Goals bet.
Using OddsJam’s No-Vig Fair Odds Calculator, we can find the estimated probability of each side of the bet winning by taking the midpoint of Pinnacle’s odds. As shown below, this turns out to be a 72.35% chance of winning the Over 1.5 Goals bet, and 27.65% chance of winning the Under 1.5 Goals bet.
We can also see that Fanduel is currently offering +320 odds on the Under 1.5 Goals bet. Let’s calculate the expected value assuming that we can get +320 odds on a $100 bet that wins 27.65% of the time.
(27.65% win probability * + $320 profit) + (72.35% loss probability* -$100) = +$16.13 (16.13%)
We can see that we no longer have a negative expected value, but now are making $16.13 on average on a $100 bet. And there are constant opportunities like this that are listed on OddsJam.
Here’s an example of a positive expected value bet that I took advantage of. FanDuel was offering a promotion that gave +150 odds on Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky to all win their college basketball games on March 11th.
I used OddsJam to estimate each of the team’s probabilities of winning and I calculated that:
- Duke had a 77.72% chance of winning their game
- Kansas had a 75.08% chance of winning their game
- Kentucky had a 83.51% chance of winning their game.
Multiplying these probabilities together, we calculate that there is a 48.73% chance that all three of these teams win their respective games, and therefore we win the overall bet.
Let’s calculate the expected value of this $50 bet with +150 odds:
(48.73% win probability * + $75 profit) + (51.27% loss probability* -$50) = +$10.91 (21.82%)
I am happy to take any opportunity that has an expected value of over 20%, and luckily this one worked out in my favor, and I was able to profit $75.
Overall from these positive expected value bets, I was able to make a profit of $61.38. These were extremely variable bets, and every win or loss changed my profit/loss a large amount, so I wanted a way to lower the variance in my balance, which we’ll go over in the third and final strategy.
Strategy #3: Arbitrage Bets
This last type of bet was my favorite, and this is because there was no luck involved at all. Arbitrage bets allow you to take opposite sides of a bet on two different sportsbooks in order to guarantee a profit before the game even happens.
It doesn’t sound realistic that sportsbooks have odds that are so different that you can guarantee yourself a profit, but there are constantly dozens of opportunities available and being tracked on OddsJams Arbitrage Bets page.
Here’s example of an arbitrage opportunity listed on their site. We can see that Fanduel is offering -106 Odds on the Beijing Ducks +6.5 Point Spread, while DraftKings is offering +115 odds on the -6.5 Point Spread for the opposite team. There’s actually a way that we can place bets on both of these sides in order to guarantee some profit.
When we click the purple calculator, we can figure out how much to bet on each side to guarantee us a profit. We can see that if we bet $100 on the Beijing +6.5 Point Spread on Fanduel, and we bet $90.39 on the Shandong -6.5 Point Spread on DraftKings, we can guarantee ourselves $3.95 (2.03%)
Now these lower arbitrage opportunities around 2–3% were normally available for long periods of time, but I would consistently refresh the Arbitrage Bets page and look for even bigger opportunities that I would have to take advantage of quickly. Here was one of the ones that I was most excited about.
I was able to get a $420 bet on Trey Lyles Under 1.5 Assists on Caesar’s Sportsbook for -160 odds. Then I was able to get a $200 bet on Trey Lyles Over 1.5 Assists on Fanduel for +240 odds.
Let’s look at the two possibilities that can happen here:
- Trey Lyles has Under 1.5 Assists: Win $262.50 on Caesar’s but lose $200 on Fanduel for an overall profit of $62.50
- Trey Lyles has Over 1.5 Assists: Win $480 on Fanduel but lose $420 on Caesar’s for an overall profit of $60.00
As you can see below, Trey Lyles ended up getting Under 1.5 Assists, so I made a profit of $62.50 on a total of $620 in bets (10.08%).
These arbitrage bets were my favorite type of bet by far, but I didn’t start using this strategy until the last few days of my trip, so I only made $179.67 from them. If I were able to sportsbet again, I would definitely prioritize these bets over the first two strategies.
If you haven’t noticed yet, OddsJam was essential in making profit on these sports bets. They scrape millions of sportsbook’s odds every day to find opportunities like the ones listed in this article. These include strategies that match your risk tolerance level, whether that’s going for Positive Expected Value Bets, or guaranteeing profit with Arbitrage Bets. They also show multiple of each type of opportunity for free, so be sure to check it out here: https://oddsjam.com/?via=mtd
If you’re interested in any of their paid plans, be sure to use my code MTD for 25% off your first month.
Thanks so much for making it through this article. Please leave any questions that you may have in the comments, or feel free to reach out to me at MindingTheData@gmail.com.
I’m also hoping to turn this article into a YouTube video, so be sure to keep a look out on my channel.
*This article is not financial advice and is meant for educational purposes only