Betting Against the Public

One of the more popular methods of betting is the ‘contrarian method’ of going against whatever the public is betting. The idea behind this policy is that the public is wrong more often than not, and the more excited and loaded up the public is on one side of a game, the more likely it is that side is the wrong one.

The most obvious reason that this strategy makes sense is that if the general public was on the right side more often than not, sportsbooks would have trouble staying in business. Obviously, sportsbooks must be doing something right, and the public must be doing something wrong. So why not be on the side that the sportsbook is rooting for?

One philosophy on why this works is that the public loves to bet on favorites and overs. After all, most people get into sports betting because they are sports fans. And what fans don’t like great teams and scoring?

With this knowledge, sportsbooks can shade lines against favorites and overs, knowing that many bettors will play these sides anyway. Picks that are especially popular with the public will also move the line by a half-point or more, offering even more value to those fading the public.

In the NFL over the last eight seasons, games in which 75% of the public are on one side lost roughly 53-54% of the time, meaning fading the public resulted in wins that often. Unsurprisingly, large underdogs were among the best bets; when 70-75% of the public was on a favorite of 7+ points, the underdog won about 55% of the time.

In college football, road teams that have received most of the public’s action make excellent fades. If you bet against road teams that received 77-80% of the betting action, you won about 56% of the time.

No trend lasts forever, and there is always the possibility that the market will adjust. But as the sports betting industry stands now, especially in football, being on the side going against the public is often a pretty profitable place to be.