Most Profitable Sport to Bet On
When people find out what I do for a living, they invariably ask me, “What is the most profitable sport to bet on?”
You could ask 12 different people that exact same question and come back with 12 different answers. Out of curiosity, I did just that: I asked several other Doc’s Sports handicappers for their opinions on the matter. And, not surprisingly, the answers were varied.
I obviously have my own opinions on this subject. And we’ll get to everyone’s answers in a minute. However, there is only one “correct” answer: the most profitable sport to bet on is whatever sport you are the most comfortable betting and the one that provides you the most money in return.
Every gambler has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you played college hockey, so betting on the NHL comes a big more natural. Maybe your father was a high school basketball coach for a long time, so hoops is where you make your bones. Or maybe you have your most success in betting small conference college football.
The point is that whatever works for you is what you should focus on. “They don’t ask how. They ask how many.” If you have a winning strategy, then that’s what you should stick with.
So now that we’ve established that the most profitable sport to bet on is whichever sport you feel the most comfortable with, let’s get down to my personal beliefs about which are the best sports to make money on. Let me start by saying that unlike several other Doc’s handicappers, I don’t release picks in a lot of “fringe” sports like CFL, golf or NASCAR. So I am going to focus primarily on the mainstream, most commonly wagered sports.
With that in mind, here is my own personal list of the most profitable sports to bet on:
For me, this is a no-brainer. College basketball has a load of built-in advantages for bettors. The first is the sheer volume of games. There are around 360 college basketball teams, and more than 250 of them play in conferences with regularly lined games. The fact that all of these teams play multiple times in a week means that on any given seven-day period you could have more than 500 lined games to choose from. If you are diligent, it’s not hard to find a dozen high-value situations among all those numbers.
Further, nonconference college basketball has been a gold mine for me. It is, by far, bar none the best time of the year to make money betting on sports.
In a normal year, November and December is a huge time for NFL and college football. We’re talking about stretch runs in the NFL and then bowl season. There is also usually NBA and NHL games going on a this time, meaning that it is very easy for college basketball to get lost in the shuffle.
Throw in the unique betting circumstances in March – conference tournaments, the NCAA Tournament, and smaller postseason tournaments – and college basketball offers a load of value and a ton of opportunities for bettors to rake in cash.
The NBA is Thunderdome. Once you embrace the random insanity of professional basketball, it becomes a lot easier to beat. I struggled with NBA betting early in my career because I tried to apply logic and reason to it. But once I embraced the nonsensical nature of The League, things clicked, and I’ve pumped out six straight winning years.
The reality is that it is difficult to predict how motivated NBA players are on a day-to-day basis. Once you start looking at games and lines more from a motivational and situational perspective, patterns start to emerge.
Also, in-game NBA betting can be a gold mine. Because there are such wild swings in any given game – pro hoops teams can be down 25 points early in the game and end up winning by 20 – there are always big opportunities to capitalize on in-game overcorrections from your sportsbooks.
This is another numbers game. With 30 teams playing 162 games, there are just a ton of opportunities to cash in. Also, summer is a slow time for sportsbooks, so it is easier to catch the sportsbooks sleeping because they simply aren’t as sharp during this “down season”. Beyond that, the sheer volume of statistics and analytics makes it easier to find specific situations that you can use to your advantage. Some teams just can’t hit left-handed pitching. Certain pitchers struggle against certain opposing lineups. Some teams are just terrible on the road. Things like that are abundant on the diamond.
I feel like NFL teams are a bit more static in their production than college football teams. The 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds that make up most college teams can be erratic in their preparation and motivation levels throughout the season. NFL players are a little easier to handicap. Also, NFL spreads fit through a narrower range than college football spreads, and that makes the numbers a little easier to read.
Again: volume, volume, volume. There are dozens of leagues and hundreds of teams to wager on in soccer. I love the international tournaments – World Cup, Euro, etc. – but if you are willing to put the time and effort into handicapping the domestic leagues, then soccer can be a gold mine.
The kids can be a little more erratic than their professional counterparts. But in some ways they are also a bit more predictable. College football is all about situational handicapping. Teenagers are much more susceptible to things like letdowns, look aheads and revenge motivations.
7. Horse Racing
I’m a big Triple Crown racing fan and have had a lot of success in that arena over the years. Daily horse racing is absolutely not for me because it is a massive time commitment. But I know of several handicappers that work together in groups and clean up at the track year-in and year-out.
Some handicappers I know love betting on women’s basketball. Some I know won’t go near it. Either way, the summer season makes it appealing because there are more limited betting options
Football is football, right? Some quirky scoring rules make reading CFL numbers a lot different than reading college or NFL spreads. Yet Canadian football follows similar patterns to its more well known football cousins: quarterback play and coaching go a long way in determining who is taking the cash.
Underdogs, underdogs, underdogs. Soccer is the only other sport in which underdog value betting is the key to long-term profits. NHL teams are generally separated by razor thin margins, and you will absolutely go broke trying to bank on high moneyline favorites in hockey because no sport generates as many odd results and surprising upsets on a daily basis.
Here are some thoughts from some other Doc’s Sports handicappers:
DOC’S SPORTS: “Nonconference college basketball is generally the best sport to make money on and become profitable. I always look to avoid neutral-site or holiday tournaments for big plays, as playing consecutive days can create difficulties in how teams will respond. I look for true home games often against mid-majors that are just in it for the money (buy game). Oftentimes one does not hesitate to lay big numbers, since the officials are provided by the home team and one would assume that any close calls may go their way. The refs want to be invited back, and we have made good money over the years betting these types of situations. Once conference play starts, the officiating become more standard and it is harder to handicap games.”
RAPHAEL ESPARZA: “When it comes to college basketball, small schools mean big money! My approach in college basketball is almost the same as it is in college football. I always look for value at the small schools. It’s no secret that in college basketball home court advantage is huge. But lack of action on those smaller schools can give you outstanding betting value. Bettors always tend to bet the TV games, and smaller conferences don’t always get televised. Best times to bet the smaller schools in college basketball are on Wednesdays and Saturdays, because those are the bigger days in college basketball, and, trust me, the oddsmakers are looking at the “Key Games” and not the smaller schools.“
TONY GEORGE: “The top three sports for me to wager, excluding in game wagering in the NBA, which is highly profitable, are NASCAR, NBA first half lines, and the NFL. Common sports bettors like the big three: basketball, baseball and football. There is not nearly the attention from oddsmakers on NASCAR as the other popular sports. I have a proven system for head-to-head matchups that has paid high dividends and shown a great return on investment.”
DOUG UPSTONE: “In my opinion, the three sports you can consistently beat the sportsbooks at are MLB, college basketball and the NBA. The beauty of baseball is the rhythm of the sport once you get two weeks into the season. You learn to understand the starting pitchers and the bullpens and can have a sense as to when teams are going to hit or go into a batting slump. The MLB app to watch or listen to games is a great tool. While I understand many don’t have time to watch games all the time, you can use the radio broadcasts that are filled with information and help you have a better understanding of all the teams, just casually listening. Once September and the postseason arrive, volatility kicks in and it’s best to become highly selective.”
VERNON CROY: “I feel that the NFL has always been my most profitable sport. The NFL lines are normally pretty tight. However, after I dive into every game, I always find some very good value based on the lines I set before the actual lines are even posted. Then I compare my lines with the books lines and look for mistakes that offer my clients good value. The technique I use to handicap the NFL has been very rewarding, and I feel it will continue this way.”
JASON SHARPE: “I feel the most profitable sport for a hard-working sports handicapper to beat is both college basketball and football. The biggest reason that these two sports stand out above the others stems from the fact there's a lot more teams and games to choose from each day and week. With that said, the more options one has to choose from the easier it is to find the "mistakes" in the betting market. I have found that the betting public doesn't have their finger on the pulse of these smaller schools as well as they do the bigger ones due to not having as much information on overall. If you spend more time digging into these lesser-known teams/games, you can quickly become much more knowledgeable about them.”
SCOTT SPREITZER: “The NFL has been my most profitable sport over the last decade ever since I made the adjustment from a split of matching-up talent and situations to giving situations about 75% of the attention in my daily handicapping. Remember, matchup advantages aren't generally significant since every NFL team is made up of college all-stars. Look for situations like teams failing to score a touchdown one week and then getting points the next. Or teams on three-game road trips. Digging for proven situations and learning to make lines a week in advance have turned the NFL into a profit-making experience for more than a decade.”
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