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Sports Betting 101: Contrarian Betting Find the Best Games to Bet Against the Public

April 12, 2020 10:29 PM

Be sure to join Patrick Meagher and myself from 1-2 p.m. ET. We'll be debuting a new weekday show, The Everything Guide to Sports Betting. Our mission will be to educate, inform and analyze the betting market on a daily basis, so that bettors can make smarter bets. 

Now that we've discussed the best sports and bet types to focus on to maximize contrarian value, the next step is to dig deeper and learn how to identify the top betting against the public opportunities. This means searching for the most heavily bet games of the day that are attracting the highest amount of public action.

One of the easiest ways to identify the most heavily bet games of the day is to ask yourself this easy, basic question: Is the game on TV?

If the answer is yes, the game is likely to have contrarian value. This is because public bettors are much more inclined to bet a game if it's on television. Why? Because the most fun part of betting, aside from actually winning, is watching or sweating a game and rooting for your bet to win or cover. If the game isn't on TV, public bettors likely won't bet on it.

On the flip side, sharp or professional bettors could care less if a game is on TV. They don't need to watch it to bet on it. As long as they identify an edge, they get down. Being able to watch their bet is not a requirement. This is one of the many characteristics that separates pros from Joes. 

Time of the day also is critical to identifying contrarian opportunities. You need to put yourself into the minds and schedules of an Average Joe. Weekday Day games, which are most prominent in baseball, are one of the worst betting against the public situations because the vast majority of casual bettors are stuck at work and can't bet the game. As a result, the ticket counts are lower and there isn't enough public bias to go against. 

In a similar vein, if the games start too late at night the contrarian value decreases as well. Think of the West Coast weekday matchups that start at 10 p.m ET, 10:30 or 11. Many Average Joes can't stay up that late to watch a game because they have work in the morning, which once again, leads to lower ticket counts and less contrarian value.

For example, if the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns are playing an NBA game at 10:30 p.m. ET and the game can only be seen in local markets, it's probably not offering much contrarian value, even if one side is receiving heavily lopsided action

The sweet spot is focusing on nationally televised games, especially if they're in primetime. These are the games that garner the most public attention and offer the most contrarian value. Throughout the day, you will see commercials and promoted ads air constantly for the game. They show the star players for each team and hype up the matchup, reminding viewers to "tune in tonight at 8  Eastern for a pivotal showdown between the division leading Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets."

Look for games at 7 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. ET or 8:30 p.m. ET that are nationally televised on ESPN, FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS, TNT or TBS. These will be the most heavily bet games and most watched games of the night, leading to excellent betting against the public value. 

Football is king and by far the most heavily bet sport. But on an NFL Sunday, there are typically 14 games throughout the day with 8-9 kicking off at 1 p.m. ET and 4 or so kicking off at 4 p.m. ET. As a result, the schedule is loaded with so many games going on at once. With such a stacked board, public bettors have so many games to choose from, which spreads public betting across multiple games. Public bettors will likely flock to the best and most compelling matchups that include winning teams and star players. 

But a better way to go contrarian is to focus on the one-off NFL games played on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights. Because they are the only games in town and there are no other games being played, they receive massive ratings and huge ticket counts from Average Joes. They end up being the most heavily bet games of the week. As a result, contrarian bettors should target Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football.

Another great spot to bet against the public is in rivalry games. Rivalry games generate much more buzz and intrigue among public bettors than regular games, which provides Average Joes added motivation and reason to bet on them. This leads to higher than usual ticket counts and more contrarian value. 

In baseball, a game between the Red Sox and Yankees will garner much heavier betting than a game between the Rays and Orioles. In college football, Michigan and Ohio State will blow Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee State out of the water. In college basketball, look for Duke-North Carolina, not Lehigh-Belmont. 

Finally, playoff games are arguably the best situations to bet against the public because they receive the highest amount of public interest and media hype. Also, there are far fewer games to bet on compared to the regular season. And every playoff game is nationally televised and played in primetime. Even better, average bettors who may not have placed a bet all season long tend to come out of the woodwork and bet on playoff games because they generate huge buzz and they want to get in on the fun. Playoff games are the most heavily bet games of the season, which creates a perfect storm for contrarian bettors to bet against the public. 

In addition to time of the day, rivalry games and playoff games, bettors should also be aware of the sports betting calendar because there are specific times of year where contrarian value skyrockets. The two best times of year to go contrarian are during March Madness and college football bowl season. 

March Madness is a contrarian bettors' dream because every single game is extremely heavily bet and loaded with casual money. It is the one time of year where you have a massive influx of recreational action. Everyone gets wrapped up in the Madness and wants to join in on the fun. Think of everyone filling out brackets in your office pool. For many of them, this is the only time all year where they bet on sports. And they know little to nothing about the matchups so they will be betting purely on bias, taking popular teams and big name schools, creating huge value to go the other way.

Bowl games are also a contrarian kingmaker. There are 40 plus different games and each one is like a mini-Super Bowl. Best of all, they are spaced out with a few each week and every single one is nationally televised and played in primetime. Plus the schedule comes out weeks or up to a month in advance. This means there is far more time for the hype to build up and the bets to build up. Even better, the games take place during the Holidays in December where many Average Joes have time off and can watch and bet on them at home with their families. 

Lastly, always stay plugged into what your non-betting or novice-betting sports-loving friends are doing and saying. Chances are some of your best friends will be perfect examples of "public" bettors. Ask them who they like each night and why. See which teams they're talking about. Use your Average Joe friends as a barometer for the public. If you uninformed friends are all over one team, chances are the entire public is too. This is the easiest way to know you're on the contrarian side. Always try to be on the opposite side of your public friends.

Long story short: Going contrarian isn't as simple as taking the unpopular side in every game.

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