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Good decisions look like terrible ones in the light of unfavorable outcomes. Outcome bias contradicts the logic behind those decisions. You place too much importance on recent performance, using it to predict future performance. You misinterpret past events as having predictive value.
For example, you assume the Patriots will win the Super Bowl because they won last year. These preconceptions have zero value when you bet on sports. Biases are expensive. That being the case, there are a number of basic stats you should focus on. Does one typically outperform the other? Pay attention to numbers like turnover differential, points per game, yards per game, sacks, tackles, interceptions, pass yards per attempt, and defensive points per yards. The above is by no means an exhaustive list.
But you get the idea: many of the stats you should track will depend on the sport. So you know you need information to make intelligent bets. The question is, where do you find it? The data needs to be reliable.
The good news is that you can find such information at a myriad of places online. Examples include NFL. But keep your expectations in check. Next, visit sites like ESPN. Fair warning: these sites employ a lot of columnists; the level of insight varies wildly between them. Examples include Baseball-Reference. Whichever sites you use, just make sure their numbers are accurate and regularly updated.
Fan sites often deliver surprisingly good intel. Some of these sites are run by folks who live and breathe their favorite teams. They follow everything these teams and their respective players do. Oftentimes, these folks are more knowledgeable about their favorite teams and athletes than the columnists at places like ESPN.
I have mixed feelings about social media. It can be useful in terms of finding good, actionable intel. Proceed with caution. Your plan is your blueprint. It guides your actions, ensuring that you take the necessary steps to obtain the info you need to make smart bets. We covered the basics in the previous sections. Store bookmarks for every site you use for intel, from ESPN. If you follow a particular columnist, add a bookmark for his column to this folder.
Decide upfront that numbers will always trump opinions. The time expectation is already set. Write down easy-to-follow steps. For example, your cheat sheet for football betting might look like the following:. One of the most common blunders made by sports bettors is to perceive insight where none exists.
This misstep often leads to poor decisions that end up costing a lot of money. For example, suppose you notice that the Steelers tend to win whenever Ben Roethlisberger starts as QB and Antonio Brown is one of his receivers. That might sound obvious to you. Your research will yield a lot of useful data. Just be careful not to mistakenly assign causation to variables that seem related. You may find that you excel at some types of wagers and consistently stumble making other types.
The most important thing to remember is that your past performance will reveal your strengths along with areas you need to improve. For example, you might find that you have difficulty making prop bets work regardless of the amount of research you do.
The point is that you should keep a betting log and use it to inform your decisions. Incidentally, maybe you tend to perform better betting on certain teams than others. Finding good-value bets is a matter of looking at the odds. The odds for a wager reflect the probability that a particular outcome will occur. Your job is to decide whether the odds are acceptable given the potential payoff. The process of identifying good-value bets involves a fair bit of math, and thus lies beyond the scope of this guide.
It does little good to win bets and then get stiffed by the sport betting site. This is the reason I strongly advise sticking to legitimate sportsbooks. The gambling sites you frequent should be trustworthy, offer easy and convenient banking options, and provide responsive customer support. Read the comprehensive reviews for each one. Updated for ! One of the difficulties of testing an algorithm is to find a good benchmark for its performance. How about comparing my results to professional football pundits?
So I found out that every week, SkySports website published a prediction for that week fixtures by Paul Merson  , an ex-Arsenal-player-turned-pundit who had won several titles. Just listen to what Arsenal former manager, Wenger had to say about him:.
These debates that I hear are a joke, a farce. People [Merson] who have managed zero games, they teach everybody how you should behave. No matter what your opinion about him, the prediction of an ex-Arsenal player for the Arsenal-Man United match will surely be more dependable than an obscure model that runs on randomly spitting out numbers. Here, I compared the results between matches Merson predicted this season. He achieved a The result startled me.
And I did not even have to do much besides asking the beloved Poisson processes to chunk out numbers. This is when I started looking into sports betting. If you ever think that the terms and quoted APR on your credit cards are complicated, try venturing into those betting websites once.
They are just plain crazy. Take the US Odds for example. This is fine, but then they have negative odds , like an odds. I mean, they are still using Feet and Fahrenheit anyway. For the purpose of this project, we will use a nicer system: the European Odds. For example, Bet gives an odds of 2. But things are not always nice and simple. In reality, to maximize profit, bookmakers employ teams of data scientists to analyze decades of sports data and develop highly accurate models for predicting the outcome of sports events and giving odds to their advantage.
That extra 2. To get the real probabilities, we need to correct for the profit by dividing through by For a perfectly efficient bookmaker, these are the probabilities of each outcome. The expected profit is the same if I had betted for Man United:. And — you guessed it — if I bet on a draw, I expect to get back 97 cents. This understanding does not stop me from trying to exploit any potential inefficiencies in the market.
At first, I devise the general bet strategies. Implementing the Kelly Criterion is quite simple in R:. However, if we aggregate all the odds from many different betting houses, we should get a better reflection of how bookmakers view the probability of an event, Arsenal defeating Man United for example:.
Obviously, there are inherent risks in this optimal Poisson model. Both Merson and the Poisson-process model and me!!! All in the same weekend!!! Before you clone my Github repo and raise capital for your sports hedge fund, I should make it clear that there are no guarantees.
If anything, this article is a toy example of what you could potentially do. But the bookmakers have made it extremely difficult for anyone to gain sustainable profits. If there are still a lot of people placing a bet at 4. Chances are that by the time the code infers the most optimal odds, it has been changed. Furthermore, if you do start to make a regular profit, bookmakers can simply thank you for your business, pay out your winnings and cancel your account.
This is what has happened to a research group from the University of Tokyo . A few months after we began to place bets with actual money bookmakers started to severely limit our accounts. If you enjoy this article, you may also enjoy my other article about interesting statistical facts and rules of thumbs.
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