Being A Professional Sports Bettor And Using Grade School Education
Whether you are a professional sports bettor or you are just aspiring to be one, your method of finding angles is a never ending pursuit. Oddly, the best advice I ever picked up on finding angles came from renowned video poker expert, Bob Dancer. In his book “Million Dollar Video Poker,” Bob talks about a former partner who would just walk around casinos endlessly looking for new angles. It is the needle-in-the-haystack type of method that seems too tedious to most bettors. However, it is a trait that many successful professional sports bettors have.
Always Be On The Lookout
I’m a big fan of the Scientific Method. It is a concept you were probably taught in grade school but you’ve rarely thought about since. Perhaps this illustration will jog your memory:
That chart takes me back to third grade where a similar diagram was crudely constructed with construction paper and stencils on a bulletin board in our classroom. The first step in the scientific method is to Observe. As an aspirational sharp bettor, the best thing you can do to kickstart your career is to constantly be observing.
Have you looked at every bet available at the sportsbook? Every single bet. Dig down into each sport and into each game. Some of these books have hundreds of available bets on each game. That is a lot of surface area for a sportsbook to defend. It is in these nooks and crannies that you can sometimes find something they don’t realize is beatable.
Sometimes it is a mispriced line – and yes, that’s always nice to find. However, more valuable is when they have a systematic misunderstanding of what they’re offering and how it should be priced. Usually this occurs when a sportsbook is the only one to offer a certain wager. There is not a market price to help guardrail their pricing. Those are the situations that can be extremely lucrative.
The Scientific Method And The Professional Sports Bettor
I’m often reluctant to go into specifics about various angles. The world of advantage play is pretty cyclical and while it’s rare for a casino or sportsbook to make the same mistake twice, it is commonplace for other casinos/sportsbooks to fail to learn from another’s error. Often I can reuse an angle at a different operator later, so best not to tip my hand. However, I’ll make an exception here because it is a good example of what it takes to exploit a mistake.
At the beginning of this NFL season I was poking around FanDuel. I decided to see if they had any changes to their teaser pricing and they made it easy to spot with a “NEW” flag on their Teasers button.
Their teaser pricing wasn’t great. They used to offer a 2-team -120 which was average, and a 3-team +160 which was decent. However, I noticed I could adjust the number of points in the teaser up or down. Up to +14 points and down to…what’s this?…-6 points? FanDuel was trying out the old Reverse Teaser or Pleaser as it is sometimes known.
The Reverse Teaser is almost always a sucker bet. Instead of getting 6 points on each leg of your parlay, you give up 6 points on each leg. In exchange for that you get some long odds. I first became familiar with Reverse Teasers in Delaware when they had their NFL parlay cards. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to realize they were a bad bet in Delaware. You’re just giving up too much value in exchange for the odds they offered. I decided to compare the odds though. Delaware paid +2000 (or 20-1) on a 3-team reverse teaser. Fanduel paid +2800 (28-1). Hmm…that’s a pretty big discrepancy. This is worth a closer look.
Analyzing Reverse Teasers
As a professional sports bettor, my method for analyzing any wager is to first figure out what I was up against. I needed to know what the breakeven point was on the FanDuel wager. I outlined this technique in my article about Building Profitable Teaser Bets. Since it is a 3-team +2800 wager we’ll take the cube root of the implied probability.
+2800 = 3.45%
.0345^(1/3) = 0.3255 or 32.55%
This meant we needed 32.55% implied probability or +207 odds or better on each leg to make these bets a positive expected value (+EV). This compared well versus what I was up against in Delaware back in the day (it was 36.24% there). However, I still wasn’t optimistic. It is tough to subtract 6 points from either side of an NFL line and not pass through at least one key number. We would definitely want to avoid situations where we’d be giving up too much value.
Instead of just focusing on 3-team wagers, I also ran the numbers on a 2-team 6pt wager which paid +900, a 6.5pt which paid +1000, and a 7pt which paid +1100. Here were those results:
6pt +900 = 31.62% (+216)
6.5pt +1000 = 30.15% (+232)
7pt +1100 = 28.86% (+247)
Now things are starting to look up. These odds felt beatable to me. The same factors that make a teaser bet profitable would make a reverse teaser bet unprofitable. Likewise the same things that make teaser bets bad, would make reverse teaser bets good. In that Building Profitable Teaser Bets article, I outlined some teaser traps to avoid:
All of the things that would make a regular teaser a bad bet are the things I would be looking to do in a Reverse Teaser. I started poking around. What is this? I could play these reverse teasers on College Football?!? Now things are looking up. I kept poking. That’s when I discovered I could play these reverse teasers on TOTALS! Mind officially blown. There’s got to be an edge here. Now I just need to quantify my edge.
A Pro Sports Bettors Best Friend: The Unabated Alt Line Calculator
Using the Alt Line Calculator here at Unabated I was quickly able to get an accurate price on every game on the board with regards to subtracting 6, 6.5, or 7 points. I found that totals were by far preferable. How good was it? Consider these two Week 1 matchups:
PIT/BUF over/under 48.5
CLE/KC over/under 54.5
Entering each into the Alt Line Calculator produces these results:
Pittsburgh v. Buffalo
Cleveland v. Kansas City
Remember we need the implied odds of these to be better than 28.86% or +247. So +234 & +204 are superb. To find out what that 2-team teaser’s true price should be we convert to implied probability and then multiply them together and convert back.
+234 = 29.94%
+204 = 32.89%
.2994 * .3289 = .0985 or 9.85%
We’re getting paid +1100 on a wager that will hit about 9.85% of the time. That’s a very healthy +18.17% edge in our favor. This could be fun!
Testing The Hypothesis
I repeated the same exercise for every other game on the schedule and then took the top ten best candidates ranked by EV and set out to round-robin them. I would be betting each two-team permutation of those 10 teams. That created 45 wagers. The nice thing about round-robining would be that while my expectation was to win only about 10% of the time on each bet, by making more bets, I was more likely to come close to that expectation. I even got a bit frisky and tossed in this gem:
That bet would have returned $999,060.54 on a $9.99 wager had it won. In case you’re wondering, my odds of winning were 0.002% or 50,000 to 1. However, the bet paid 100,000 to 1 which made it decidedly +EV. I’m not going to lie, I had dreams of Darren Rovell tweeting about how a bettor turned $10 into $1 million. When he tracked me down for an interview me I could turn the whole thing into a commercial for Unabated.
Well, as you can see, the results in Week 1 were abysmal to say the least. Just two of the 45 two-team permutations won. My lone winning wager paid +1100, but the week was obviously a big loss.
However, I was ecstatic about this! Not as happy as had I won, but if FanDuel cleaned up on these bets in Week 1, they’re likely to get a false sense of security in how they’d perform going forward. I’m not sure how they didn’t catch their own math mistake but at this point I was focused on getting down as much as possible as long as I could.
Results Improving And Walls Closing In
Undeterred by the previous results and bolstered by the edge that the Alt Line Calculator was saying I had, I pressed on in Week 2. The Week 2 card was even better than Week 1 in terms of value as there were 12 candidates that were too good to ignore. That created 66 permutations. 5 of the 12 games won. That meant 10 out of 66 wagers won. This made up for the Week 1 losses and the project was officially in the black.
However, the walls were beginning to close in. FanDuel started to institute aggregate limits on teams. So your total exposure on a single team couldn’t surpass a certain figure. This would hamper round-robining in weeks with more candidates. It also made me suspicious that they would look deeper into the betting.
Week 3 had 11 candidates and 4 of them won. That meant a profitable 6 out of 55 permutations. I actually had to pass on a couple permutations because of the aggregate limit, but fortunately for me they were all losing combinations, so my profit on Week 3 was a little stronger than expected. I started to think of ways of getting around the aggregate limit. However, I’d soon find out those efforts weren’t going to matter.
The Party Is Over: FanDuel Makes A Change
When I began checking for bets in Week 4, I quickly realized that FanDuel had finally spotted the error of their ways. They drastically changed the pricing for their Reverse Teasers. The new pricing for 2-team wagers is:
This change was enough to eliminate almost all candidates from contention. They also modified the payout on College Football even more drastically. It went from a 15-20% edge on most combinations to a -5% or lower expectation.
Of course, just with Wong Teasers there are still a couple scenarios where even with these reduced odds you’d have a small edge. If you want to datamine for profitable scenarios, be my guest. Just be aware you won’t be making a high volume number of wagers each week. Be prepared for the variance.
The Scientific Method Proves Successful
In the end, the entire profit-making process was largely all thanks to that Scientific Method I learned in grade school.
- I Observed what was available on the sportsbook site
- This led to Questioning whether this could be a +EV situation based on what I had seen years before on parlay cards in Delaware.
- I Researched what the profitable breakeven point would be for the wager.
- Then I Hypothesized that what made standard teasers bad could make Reverse Teasers good.
- Experimentation with the Unabated Alt Line Calculator pointed to value in the market.
- I Concluded that FanDuel was offering a great wager.
- And now I’m Reporting.
Taking a few minutes to look into every bet available at your sportsbook can be a very profitable experience. A good professional sports bettor uses this method to look at every scenario and tries to envision a way this could be a profitable situation for them. Then they go about trying to find when those profitable situations arise.
If I had one regret from the above example it would be that I didn’t maximize my profitability. I could have pushed it harder. I could have applied more art to the situation instead of just the science. That post-mortem thinking actually improves the approach next time a similar situation presents itself. It is part of that final step of the Scientific Method – Reporting. Perhaps you spotted ways you could improve on the process as well. If you have, congratulations, you are on your way to using the Scientific Method to improve your betting.