Winning Percentages in Betting
What percentage of bets should a professional sports bettor win?
Hint. It’s not that easy a question to answer.
The first thing you should know is that the highest winning percentage is not necessarily the ‘best’ winning percentage.
Much of the public believe that pros should be winning around 60% of their wagers on the handicap at odds of -110 (10/11 or 1.91). Yet they are wrong.
One should also note that the percentage difference between successful winning professionals and losing casual bettors is quite small, which perhaps in itself illustrates how tough it is to win consistently.
Breaking it down to a ‘coin flip’ situation, everyone should be able to win 50% of their bets long term, this would of course put them in the ‘loser’ bracket because they would slowly be eaten up by the vigorish – the sportsbook’s built in commission. In contrast professional bettors can rarely do better than a 58% winners over the long term and many won’t even achieve that number.
The thing is that winning percentages are actually incidental to making money from sports betting.
Take ‘bettor A’ who manages e.g. a winning percentage of 60% winners (somehow!). If bettor A has ten bets on the handicap and wins six of them, losing four, then A has done amazingly well.
6 winning bets = 6 units minus 4 losing bets (which is 4.4 units after the ‘vig’) = 1.6 units of profit.
Now take bettor B who manages e.g. a winning percentage of 57% winners, but he bets on more events. He has twenty-eight bets on the handicap and wins sixteen of them, losing twelve.
16 winning bets = 16 winning units minus 12 losing bets (which is 13.2 units after the ‘vig’) = 2.8 units of profit.
Which bettor is the more skilled? Well one thing’s for sure, even though bettor B has a lower winning percentage than bettor A, he’s the one who has made more money, and perhaps more ready to ‘pull the trigger’ on bets with a smaller ‘edge’ than bettor A.
So stepping back a moment, if the break-even point on the handicap is around 53%, then there should be nothing stopping the professional bettor taking anything that he thinks has a winning percentage of 54% and above, since the volume of bets is such an important factor in pro betting. Repeatedly applying a small advantage gets you to good profit.
Taking a different perspective, one could say that bettor A’s winning percentage of 60%, is in fact too high! Why? Because to maintain a winning percentage of 60%, bettor A could not be taking full advantage of all bets available to him at value. Bets that he should be making.
The other point about ‘applying your advantage’ as often as possible is the issue regarding your bankroll, which is covered in another post , but suffice it to say that it is better to have more bets risking a smaller stakes, than it is to have fewer bets risking larger stakes. Higher volume ‘irons out’ volatility and gives you a better idea of where you are in terms of your likely betting profit and loss.
Just a cautionary note to those of you starting out on your betting journey. Betting is not ‘fair’. Probability is not ‘fair’. Just because you may be a good bettor and are likely to win e.g. 60% of your bets, it is unlikely to happen in a ‘regular fashion’! It is highly unlikely that you will win six of your first ten bets, or twelve of your first twenty bets, and so on… nothing so precise.
You will hit streaks of wins and losses, feel the elation of being a ‘superhero’ winning sports bettor as well as feeling the ‘churning anxiety’ of a losing sports bettor. It’s normal. Don’t turn it into something it isn’t. You could just as easily start off on a win to loss ratio of 8-2, as you could 2-8, and it would mean nothing with regards your ability as a sports bettor.
In fact it is those long winning and losing streaks and how you react to them, that will most often decide your success or failure as a bettor….Oh that and avoiding sports touts and handicappers like the one in this video!