Betting Against The Public

Betting Against the Public – Public Money Sports Betting Guide

One popular gambling strategy is “betting against the public” which is also known as “fading the public.” Betting against the public refers to making wagers that contradict what the majority of bettors are doing and those who bet this way consistently are called, “contrarian bettors.” This betting strategy may sound elementary or too good to be true, but there is actually a lot of validity to it. Of course, public bettors do get the last laugh sometimes, so use this strategy with caution and keep reading further for help determining when to pick your spots.

How to Bet Against The Public

Of course, you can’t bet against the public without knowing what the public is betting. Below are suggestions for how to get a sense of which side the majority of people are betting. As you begin to study public betting habits, you’ll start to notice some tendencies. For instance, the public is notorious for betting “overs” more often than “unders.” The public also tends to bet favorites far more often than they bet underdogs.

Recency bias is prevalent with public bettors and causes them to overvalue a recent performance within the context of an entire season. For instance, if the Cowboys are 10-2, but coming off a terrible Monday Night Football performance, public bettors are more likely to shy away from Dallas while professional bettors often won’t hesitate to bet Dallas despite the bad performance.

Pay Attention to Money Percentages

Money percentages AKA “betting splits” are available via a number of websites. Below is an example of what a public betting split looks like for an MLB game.



The money, sometimes referred to as the “handle,” is listed separately from the percentage of bets.  A team with a large bet percentage and a much lower percentage of money (as in the example above) is an indication that the majority of the public is on one side (Phillies), while a minority with larger sums of money are on the other side (Diamondbacks). This can often indicate that sharp bettors are on the opposite side of the public in a “Pros vs. Joes” game. Fading the public is a nice box to check when deciding on a bet, but fading the public and being on the side of the professionals, is what often excites contrarian bettors.

Always consider the source of betting splits as some sportsbooks have a reputation of accepting large wagers from sharp bettors, while other sportsbooks are notorious for limiting wise guys and catering more toward recreational bettors. In other words, betting splits like seen in this example is more compelling from some sportsbooks than others. Another thing to consider is the timing of the betting splits. For instance, during a college football or NFL week, bets are constantly coming in leading up until kickoff so it’s recommended to monitor line movement and betting splits throughout the week to get a clear picture. Generally speaking, professional bettors are more likely to place wagers on Sunday night when NFL lines are created. Also, keep in mind that markets with more volume (primetime football games for instance) make it easier to decipher which way the public and sharp bettors are leaning. For instance, a game that only has $1500 bet on it so far, likely doesn’t have any sharp action and the public action is so minor that it’s moot.

Primetime Matches and Popular Teams

Standalone primetime games (i.e. Monday Night Football and Sunday Night Baseball) often (but not always) have a higher volume of bets placed on them. With more public bets on primetime games, they’re a popular target for savvy contrarian bettors. For instance, during the 2023-2024 NFL football season, someone who bet the under on every primetime game finished the regular season 35-23 (60%). The public loves to bet overs, because psychologically they prefer to root for points, so targeting unders in primetime NFL games is often a way to fade the public.

It’s also common for the public to have bias toward more popular teams like the New York Yankees, or home teams close to certain sportsbooks. For instance, a sportsbook in Pennsylvania will likely have a higher number of bets on the Eagles, so if Philadelphia is favored by 7 points nationally and 7.5 in Pennsylvania because of a high number of public bets on the Eagles, taking the Eagles’ opponent +7.5 points would be betting against the public in that market.

Compare With Your Research

If real estate is all about location, location, location, then sports betting is all about research, research, research.

While fading the public is often a useful tool, it’s best to utilize it in combination with other kinds of research. Consider which side the public is betting as one of many datapoints in a constellation of datapoints before making a wager. For instance, check out our computer picks, past results, relevant trends from sports betting databases and advanced analytics data. If all of these datapoints are suggesting a bet on the non-public team that makes a lot more sense than fading the public when extensive research is suggesting you don’t.

Sportsbooks vs. Public Perception

It’s possible you’re reading this article and learning about public betting habits and patterns for the first time. If so, remember that oddsmakers are experts at understanding how the public thinks and they may anticipate the public’s next move while creating a line. For instance, if a sportsbook in New Jersey anticipates a lot of money on the Giants, they may inflate the vigorish on the Giants moneyline or add .5 points to the point spread so that the action is less lopsided at kickoff.

A large amount of public bets, especially in absence of sharp bets, can force a bookmaker to adjust odds accordingly too. For instance, if an underdog is receiving 95% of the handle, a sportsbook will lose a lot of money if the favorite wins so they may move a line to reduce liability. If the public is heavily on one team, and the line moves in a manner that encourages more betting on that same team, this is called “reverse line movement” and it’s an indicator that sharp money is on the other side of the public.

Is Fading the Public Profitable?

Fading the public is a great tool for a sports bettor’s arsenal, but why does it work? Think about it: If public bettors won consistently and long-term, sportsbooks would be going bankrupt. Instead, most sportsbooks are thriving as they feast on average Joe bettors who tend to lose long term. Therefore, if the majority of the public is losing consistently, theoretically someone betting opposite of the public every time, will win more consistently.

Fading the public is generally profitable, but as outlined above it’s moot in certain situations (i.e. low volume markets) and not meant to be a one-size-fits-all approach.

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