Sports betting and poker are games of incomplete information. The skills required in each often rely on using the data that is available to predict future outcomes. Players best able to analyze past performance, and past conditions, are the ones most likely to succeed.
But limited access to information is an obvious deterrent to the aspiring skilled player.
Sports bettors have fewer resources and tools to choose from, but the history of poker shows what could become the norm for sports betting training, and why it’s so important to study everything that’s available.
The Rise of Poker Training
In 2005, Taylor Caby launched the first meaningful poker training site, CardRunners. The website included instructional videos by Caby and other winning players, as well a paid forum for like-minded individuals to ask questions and discuss strategy.
The videos were almost exclusively pre-recorded online poker sessions with commentary by the instructor on their thought process. Learning to adapt to opponent’s betting patterns and player tendencies were the focus of the videos.
As CardRunners became more popular, players became more sophisticated and were more willing to spend money on subscriptions to training materials and tools. Once that happened, heads-up displays, most notably PokerTracker, entered the online arena.
HUDs scraped player data from a poker site’s hand histories and displayed statistics on how opponents played in real-time. A user could see how often other players raised pre-flop, the frequency in which they three-bet, how often they folded in different situations, and more. The data made it easier to make informed decisions based on math rather than just feel.
Once access to HUDs was universal, players gained a level playing field, in theory. The edge was now found in a poker player’s strength at analyzing data and making the proper adjustments to exploit their competition.
Fast forward to the 2020s. Rather than the poker community arguing over whether or not HUDs should be allowed while playing online poker, they’re fighting over the use of real-time assistance and poker solvers, even in live games.
Players who lack the ability or desire to gather and analyze data can now input millions of possible situations that could arise in a poker game and be handed a presolved solution.
The Never-Ending Hunt for Information
When sports betting in America was a smaller enterprise, the ability to buy data on past performances wasn’t easy. Bettors who had databases of player stats and past game conditions didn’t want to share, and for good reason. Information is power.
But with the rise in sports betting comes enterprises willing to share data for profit.
Companies who provide history on game outcomes and player-specific statistics are not hard to find. Bettors with computer programming skills or who are savvy with Excel can use data to perform statistical analysis and make opinions on the likelihood of future events. As is the case with poker and available data, the skill lies in identifying what is valuable, and what is not.
Sports bettors don’t yet have the equivalent of a poker solver. No sports betting training materials exist that will allow a bettor to input player stats and return an undisputed mathematically sound betting pick. Unlike poker, all of it is gray area.
Examining Sports Betting Training Options
What’s an aspiring bettor to do if they don’t have the computer skills worthy of analyzing store-bought statistics?
Advancing your computer skills is one option. More products exist online that teach coding, programming or mastering Excel than there are websites selling sports data.
You can skip buying data and go straight to paying for other people’s picks or projections. The skill in buying other bettor’s opinions is figuring out whose opinions are expected to return positive value. The most likely scenario is instead of ending up with winners, you end up with lemons.
The best option for a non-techy sports bettor who wants to use available data to form their own educated opinions is to employ a program that runs simulations.
Unlike poker solvers, it’s not as simple as entering data, pushing a button and being hand delivered the optimal move to make. You still need to gauge what data is important and which projections provide value.
One approach when dealing with projections is to run multiple simulations using different sets of data and finding agreement between them. If you’re skilled enough to create your own projections, you can compare those to others that aren’t your own, and find agreement that way.
Successful bettors should learn to analyze data, whether it’s their own or someone else’s. In a zero-sum game, like poker or sports betting, your competitors’ success is money taken from your pocket. Studying the complexities of sports betting and learning how to adapt to changes in the market will give you an edge over bettors who don’t.
As a sports bettor who doesn’t want the reputation of a losing poker player who causes an entire poker room to fight for a seat at their table, you must sharpen your skill set. Your opponents are sharpening theirs.
Use the information available to you, learn the art of sports betting. Don’t get left behind.