Sports Betting Overview and Guide

Welcome to Win The Race’s general Sports Betting Overview and Guide. If you have never bet on sports before, this guide should help you get orientated to the exciting world of sports betting. Below I’m going to go over the basics of betting that will help you understand betting on sports in general. If you already know the basics but are looking for more information on NASCAR betting in particular, head on over to NASCAR Betting 101. So, lets dig in.

How Odds are Displayed

In the United States, odds are expressed in what is known as “American odds.” American odds are displayed as either a plus or minus number. Minus numbers, such as -110 show how much you would need to bet to win $100. Plus numbers, such as +2000 show how much you would win on a $100 bet. The other way that odds are commonly talked about is in version of factional odds, such as 20-1. That means that for every dollar bet you would win 20.

Implied Probability

All odds can be translated to their “implied probability,.” That is, it is possible to calculate how often a bet at that price would have to win to break even. Another way to think of it is that the implied probability is the odds of how often that bet will occur.

For example, odds of +100 have an implied probability of 50%, that is, you would have to win half of your bets at +100 to break even. Odds of -110 on the other hand have an implied probability of 52.38%. As odds go up, implied probability goes down, and as odds go down, implied probability goes up. So odds of -1000 have an implied probability of 90.91%. Conversely odds of +1000 have an implied probability of 9.09%. This is often important when placing futures bets or NASCAR bets because the question that must be answered is, will the bet that you are making win more often than the implied probability suggests. If so, and there is enough edge to account for an error in your calculations, then it may be a good bet.

The Spread, Moneyline, and Total

The most common way to bet on sports is betting the spread. Simply put, the spread is an amount that the team must win by, or lose by less than, for you to win a bet. A spread of -7 means a team needs to win by 8 or more points to win the bet, while a win by 7 results in a push. A line of +7.5 means the team has to win outright or lose by 7 or less for the bet to win. Spreads are often be set at half points, which eliminates the option for a push. Typically, a spread bet has odds of -110. This means that the book has an inherent edge in the bets. If you bet $110 on both teams, you would end up losing $10 on the game.

Another popular way to bet on sports is the moneyline. In this case the bet is for the team to win a game. The favorite will have odds that are negative. The underdog will have “plus money” odds. As with the spread, the books will set lines so that if you bet on both sides, you would lose money. For example, if the favorite has a line of -180 the underdog would likely only have a line of +150.

Finally, the last main way to bet on sports is on the total. The total is a bet on how many points the two teams playing will score combined. The total, like the spread is usually set with -110 odds on both the over and under. Like the spread, the total is often be set in half point increments.

Prop Bets

Proposition, or “Prop” bets, are another popular way to bet on sports. Prop bets are bets that are less directly related to the outcome of an event than the spread, moneyline, or total. Props often center around individual player performance. For example, Aaron Rodgers to throw for over 255.5 passing yards. Odds on these lines fluctuate a bit more. The books get less action on these bets, so they are not able to fine tune the numbers as well as the main bets. As such its not uncommon to see odds on prop bets be -115 or longer on both sides. Most NASCAR bets, other than bets on a race winner are prop bets.

Futures

Futures bets are long term bets on how a team or player will perform across an entire season. For example, a bet on which team will win the Super Bowl placed before the first game of the season. In Motorsports a common futures bet is the season champion or total number of wins for a specific driver. Some states allow futures bets on things like who will be the MVP of a league. Odds on futures will fluctuate throughout the season. Until the last few weeks of the season futures odds will almost always be longer than even money. This is because there is much more uncertainty on how a player or team will perform over the course of a year than there is in how they will play in a single game.

Image by Mike Cohen, creditscoregeek.com/

Brand loyalty will cost you money. You should have an account with every sportsbook that operates in your state. Odds vary for every sport and if you only have an account with one book you are giving away money. For example, even in an efficient market like the NBA the spread can vary by as much as a point between books. For NASCAR its even more important as the odds be quite different from book to book. Different books will also have different markets. For example, in 2023 FanDuel offered outright, Top 3, and Top 10 odds, but not Top 5 odds. Thus if you only had an account with FanDuel you were missing out on a significant market. This isn’t to say I don’t have a preferred book if odds are otherwise equal, but you absolutely must be looking at all available sportsbooks.

SPORTS BETTING OVERVIEW

First, you should remember that you should never bet more than you are willing to lose. Keeping that in mind, to be a successful bettor, bankroll management is critical. Even the best bettors will have dry spells. There are two primary ways to manage your bankroll. First, using a standard unit size for all bets. The second is sizing your bets using a Kelly Criterion calculator. I’ll cover each briefly below.

Unit Betting

UNIT BETTING
Image by Lee Haywood, CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

This style of betting uses a set dollar amount that you bet for each bet with odds longer than +100 or that you bet enough of to win for bets with odds shorter than -100. This is the primary way that I bet and its how I post my bets for you to follow. I do this for two reasons. First, it is a better representation of how I value a bet. Second, it helps with bankroll management.

With regards to the issue of valuing bets. My unit is $200, so a $200 bet for me is an “average” bet, but for many that would be a very large bet. So for a $10 bettor, a $200 would suggest it’s a huge value when it is in fact average for me. By focusing on the units I bet and not on the dollar amount it can help followers better understand how I value the bet.

Most experts agree that an ideal unit size is 1% of your bankroll. So, if you are willing to risk a total of $1,000 your unit size would be $10. At 1% of your bankroll you would have to lose 100 bets in a row without a single win to exhaust your funds. Even if you were twice that aggressive, and make your unit size 2% of your bankroll, you should be able to stay in the game for some time even if you go on an incredibly bad losing streak.

Kelly Criterion

SPORTS BETTING
By Atnke – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=112956573

The Kelly Criterion strategy is based on maximizing the expected value of bets. The system requires that a bettor knows three things. First, the available bankroll. Second, the implied probability of a bet. The third factor is the difficult part of Kelly Criterion betting. The bettor must also know the actual probability of an event happening. With these three inputs a Kelly Criterion calculator can show you how much of your bankroll you should risk for optimal bankroll growth.

Obviously knowing the actual probability of an event happening is a near impossibility. However, with sophisticated models, like the Sim Center available to Win The Race members, bettors can have some confidence in predicting the actual probability of NASCAR race outcomes. With this information, Kelly Criterion betting is an option available to you. In fact, while I primarily bet in increments to risk one unit or to win one unit, when I place bets that are risking more than one unit at + odds or to win more than one unit at – odds, it is likely because I have run a Kelly Criterion calculator which indicates that doing so is a good strategy.

When using a Kelly Criterion calculator most experts agree that you should not “go full Kelly.” That is, you should scale down the bet size to ½ or even ¼ Kelly. Full Kelly betting is extremely aggressive. It can rapidly grow your bankroll but if you find yourself on the losing end of a number of bets in short order, your bankroll can also quickly be decimated.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this Sports Betting Overview and Guide. Now that you understand the basics of sports betting, head on over to NASCAR Betting 101. Now, you’ll get to see more about how to get down on the most exciting action in sports betting.

You can find my bets on WIN THE RACE every week, right here.