You can only beat the bookies in the long run if you have an edge (or if you follow tipsters who have an edge). But how do you know if you have an edge in sports betting? There are several important metrics, so let’s have a look at them.
Why it’s important to estimate your edge
It’s important to find out if you have an edge in sports betting. It won’t be possible right away, but after a while, you can fairly accurately see if you are beating the market or not.
The truth is that if you don’t have an edge, you shouldn’t be betting. It will be a waste of money and time if you cannot win. Of course, sometimes it is fun to play for small amounts and hope to win, but if you are serious about it, you definitely need to have an edge. Otherwise, there are much better things you can spend your time on.
We believe that there are two main metrics that you can use to find out if you have an edge over the bookie (and the market).
Obviously, the first metric to look into is the results. You should keep a spreadsheet of all your bets, and after a while, you will see if you are in the green or in the red.
If you are winning money, it is a great sign.
But don’t get too confident right away.
Because variance plays a huge role in sports betting. There are bettors who are in profit, despite not knowing what they are doing. In betting, you can be lucky and unlucky over short runs. So if you want to measure your edge by looking at the results, you need a large sample size.
After 10 bets, it will be very random and you won’t really know if you’re winning or not.
Even after 100 bets, the results won’t actually tell you that much, since variance still plays a larger role than skill over such a small sample size.
Once you reach 500 bets, you will be able to judge based on the results. If you have passed 500 bets, and you have a profit, it’s a really good sign. If you are in the red after 500 bets, it is likely not looking so good, and you would need to make adjustments.
After 1000 bets, the results should start to be quite clear, and after 2000 bets, you can judge very accurately based on the results.
Of course, the number of bets placed is not the only variable here. Your ROI also has something to say. If you have a profit of 1% ROI after 200 bets, it is practically impossible to know if you have an edge or not. But if you have an ROI of 10% after your first 200 bets, it will mean a bit more.
In other words – the more bets you have, the more accurately you can establish if you have an edge. And the higher your ROI is, the bigger your edge.
On football-data.co.uk, there are some great spreadsheets that you can download for free, and they will help you test your bets and give you an idea of your skill. You need to download the documents in the right widget, the ones that say “Test your bets”.
You can also use the closing line odds to estimate if you are legitimately skillful at betting or not. In fact, many sharps consider this to be the best metric when estimating a bettor’s skill.
By comparing the odds that you bet with the closing odds, you can see if the market moves in the same direction as you, or if it moves in the other direction. You want it to move in the same direction. For instance, if you have bet Real Madrid to beat Sevilla at odds 1.80 the day before the match, and the odds close at 1.70 the next day, you have made a great bet.
Because the closing odds are the most precise odds. The final odds are the closest representation to the probabilities since all of the sharps and syndicates will have placed their bets. It’s basically the wisdom of the crowd.
The closing odds won’t show accurate probabilities every single time. With each case, it can be a little bit off. But on average, over multiple bets, the closing odds will be more accurate than the odds at any other time. So by comparing your odds with the closing odds, you can clearly see if you have an edge.
And you can establish if you have an edge must faster than by looking at the results. There is way less variance involved in the closing odds than there is in the individual match.
After 100 bets, it will be quite clear if you are beating the market. After 200 bets, you will definitely know if you are better than the market. Ideally, you should beat Pinnacle’s closing odds (plus their wig) over 55% of the time. If you can beat the closing odds over 60% of the time, it is very impressive, and that will almost certainly result in a solid profit in your betting results over time.
Get the top odds every time
The odds mean everything. There is a huge difference between odds of 1.96 and 1.98 in the long run. It can literally mean thousands of dollars/euros/pounds when we measure over a large enough number of bets.
Sometimes there are bettors who only bet with one bookmaker, and there are bettors who don’t have access to the sharp books. They are forced to bet lower odds, and they are neither profiting or beating the closing line odds. But if they get access to the sharp books, and if they make sure they get the best odds on the market every time, things might look very different.
You should absolutely try to find the best possible odds for every single bet you make. It will make a huge difference in your ROI over time. Considering that it is typically Pinnacle’s closing odds that are being used to analyze a bettor’s skill, you should ideally have access to bookmakers and exchanges with odds in a similar range. For instance, by using Pinnacle itself, or SBO, ISN, Betfair, Betdaq, Matchbook, etc.
If you’re betting with soft books, it will be difficult to profit. So do yourself the favor and try to gain access to the sharp market.
We recommend using a bet broker. Sportmarket is the best one. On their Pro platform (which is free to use), you gain access to all of the sharp bookies and exchanges from the same account, and you can easily get the top odds on the market every single time.
What to do if you don’t have an edge
After you analyze your skill based on results and closing odds, you might, unfortunately, come to the conclusion that you don’t have an edge. This is obviously problematic.
If that happens, you have two options – adjust your strategy or quit betting.
If you believe you can learn from your mistakes and gain an edge eventually, you simply have to adjust your strategy. Try to use more data and gain more insights into the sport you are betting on. Try to bet at the right time. Start using better betting sites if you weren’t already using the best. And most importantly, keep tracking every bet you make, and follow up again later. Bet small amounts while adjusting and try to improve your skill and your decision-making constantly. Eventually, you might get an edge, even if you didn’t have one initially. Some bettors go from losers to legitimate winners, but it takes a serious effort.
On the other hand, if you have already tried adjusting, and if you’ve come to the conclusion that you simply cannot beat the market, then stop betting. It will be a waste of money and a waste of time if you are constantly trying to win but unable to actually do it. However, you might still be able to profit from sports betting – simply by following other tipsters. Many professional and semi-professional bettors share their picks, some for free, some with paid services. If you make a plan to follow some verified winners and stick to solid bankroll management, you can still be successful in the world of betting. Even if you aren’t capable of beating the market on your own bets. You would simply have to stop making your own bets, and rather follow the experts instead.
To win long term in sports betting, you need an edge. In order to save yourself time and frustrations, you should try to find out early if you have an edge or not. You do this by tracking all of your bets in a spreadsheet, and by analyzing the results and your performance in relation to the closing odds.
After a few hundred bets, you can fairly accurately predict if you are going to win in the long run or not.
Remember that being a profitable bettor is something that requires skill and constant work. So keep on learning, keep on analyzing, and keep on adding knowledge in the sport you are betting on. If you do that, you will have good chances of maintaining your edge, or even improving it further – and that can bring a lot of money.
Also, remember to bet with the sites that provide the highest odds. It is absolutely instrumental to your success.
We recommend using Sportmarket – a bet broker that will give you access to the top bookies and exchanges from one account, without any personal limitations at all.