Betting Against the Public

One of the most popular sports betting systems is the ‘contrarian method’ of going against whatever side the public is backing. The idea behind this betting system is that the public can be easily brainwashed by the media and tends to be wrong more often than not, so the more excited and loaded up they are on one side of a game, the more likely it is that the ‘smart’ wager is taking the opposite side and fading them instead.

Public Perception vs. Sportsbook Reality

The most obvious reason this betting system makes sense and works consistently over time revolves around the fact that if the general public was mostly on the winning side, sportsbooks would have trouble staying in business. Sportsbooks set their lines trying to get equal public action on both sides and know what they are doing, sometimes even making one side look too good to be true.

When the betting public pounds a popular side in that situation, it is often the sportsbook that comes out winning. So as a bettor, why not be on the ‘right’ side that the sportsbook is rooting for from the start?

One example showing how this betting system works effectively involves following the public’s obsession wagering on favorites and OVERs, especially in correlated parlays. After all, most sports bettors get into gambling in the first place because they are fans at heart who already have a rooting interest in the game and want to make money from their passion. And what fans don’t like wagering on great teams and a lot of scoring?

With this knowledge on their side, sportsbooks can then shade their lines against favorites with point spread betting and OVERs with totals wagering, knowing that many bettors will often play them blindly. Especially popular public picks will also move the line by a half-point or more, offering even more value to those going against them in these situations.

Numbers Don’t Lie – Fading the Public is Profitable

In the NFL over the past eight seasons, games in which 75% of the public is on one side lost roughly 53-54% of the time, obviously meaning that fading them has resulted in more wins than losses. Likewise, large underdogs were among the best bets during this stretch with the underdog covering the spread 55% of the time when 70-75% of the public was on a favorite of 7+ points, which is one of the key numbers in football betting.

In college football, road teams receiving a high percentage of the public’s betting action also make excellent fades. If you bet against road teams that received 77-80% of wagers over that same time period, you would have won about 56% of the time.

While no betting trend or system lasts forever due to the likelihood that the market will eventually adjust, fading the public seems to be one that will continue to be successful to some degree and stand the test of time. Sportsbooks will always know what side the public is on, and ‘sharps’ will be able to pick up on this most of the time by charting line moves and wager accordingly based on bet percentages and where they can find value.