Sports Betting 101: Contrarian Bettors Find Heavily Bet Sports to Win

April 11, 2020 11:45 PM

Now that we've outlined the contrarian philosophy in high-level terms and explained why betting against the public is a smart long-term strategy, it's time to discuss the plan of attack in greater detail, specifically outlining the best and most profitable situations to go contrarian.

In other words, we've talked about why you should go contrarian. Now we need to discuss how to go contrarian.

Unfortunately, going contrarian isn't as simple as just betting the unpopular side receiving the minority of bets. There's much more that goes into it.

First, we must realize that not all sports and bet types are created equally.

To bet against the public, you have to go where the public is. This might sound obvious, but it's critically important. Every sport is different and bettors need to be mindful of this. Contrarian betting only works by targeting the most heavily bet games with the most lopsided public betting. If the public is hammering one side to the tune of 65% of bets or more, the side receiving 35% or less of bets would be the smart contrarian play.

But you also have to make sure you are isolating the correct and most popular bet types for each sport. Simply put, contrarian bettors need to go where the largest concentration of public bets are in order to truly capitalize on bias, shaded lines and inflated lines.

The two best sports to go contrarian are football and basketball because they are the most popular public sports that Average Joes flock to. In both pro and college football and basketball, the overwhelming majority of public bets are placed on the spread and, to a slightly lesser extent, the total. While the public does bet on moneylines in football and basketball, it accounts for a much lower share of overall bets compared to the spread and total. As a result, there is almost zero contrarian value betting the moneyline in football and basketball because there aren't enough moneyline bets to bet against.

For example, let's say an average NFL game is receiving 50,000 total bets. Of those 50,000 bets, it's safe to assume that roughly 30,000 are on the spread, 15,000 are on the total and 5,000 are on the moneyline. In all three cases, the percentages could be exactly the same, with 65% of bets on one side and 35% on the other. In all three bet types, the side receiving 35% would be the contrarian side. 

However, the 35% side on the spread would be much more valuable than the 35% on the total because it comes from a much larger share of bets, which means there is more raw public betting to go against. Meanwhile, the 35% of bets on the moneyline are coming from such a small total of bets that there is no value to taking the contrarian side.

For these reasons, when betting against the public in football and basketball, bettors should always focus on the spread and, to a lesser extent, the total, while ignoring the moneyline completely.

On the flipside, in baseball the most popular bet type is the moneyline. Sure, baseball bettors also bet the spread and total, but it pales in comparison to the number of bets the moneyline receives. If a baseball game is receiving 10,000 bets, it's highly likely that at least 7,000 of those bets are on the moneyline, while the spread and total are roughly 3,000 or less. For this reason, bettors should only focus on the moneyline when going contrarian in baseball.

Unfortunately, betting against the public doesn't work in all sports. Take hockey, for example. Like baseball, it's a predominantly moneyline sport. However, compared to football, basketball and baseball, hockey is a much lower bet sport overall. You have your die-hard hockey bettors, but there is really no "public" betting hockey. It's not nearly as popular with casual bettors as the other major sports. As a result, there isn't enough public to bet against.

To put this into perspective, a football game might get 50,000 bets, a basketball game 15,000 bets and a baseball game 10,000 bets. But a hockey game might only get 2,000 or 3,000 bets. As a result, the sheer number of bets are so low in hockey that there is no value to going contrarian. It might even be the case that since it's such a low bet sport, the majority of bets are coming from sharper die-hard hockey bettors. So if an NHL team is getting 65% of bets, you wouldn't want to bet against that 65% because it's likely coming from wiseguys with an edge.

Always remember: Betting against the public only works in the most popular sports that garner the highest amount of public attention and heaviest amount of public action. This is why going contrarian is best suited for betting on football and basketball, followed by baseball. Betting against the public does not work in hockey or other niche or lesser known sports like tennis, golf, WNBA, Canadian Football League or UFC.

And always make sure you are utilizing the proper bet type to bet against: the spread in football and basketball and the moneyline in baseball.

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