What is a Value Bet in Football: Expert NFL and NCAA Wagering Analysis
One of the cool parts of writing what I write about all the time is that you are rarely short of something to talk about when you meet someone new. They ask what you do, and then want to talk about it - their favorite team, their favorite league, or the foolproof system they have developed. For a guy who doesn't love putting a lot of effort into social interactions, it comes in handy. But there is a downside. Too often, people want to talk about sports betting even though they don't know anything about it. It's not that they don't know, it's that they think they know all about it but are completely wrong. Over the years, it has struck me how many people don't know the basics of betting on football - even people that bet regularly.
So, what I want to do through these lazy days of summer is go back to the basics. We're going to enroll in Football Betting 101. It's an eight-part course, and it starts now as we talk about value - what it is, why it is crucial, and how to find it. So, sit back, buckle in, and get ready for the ride:
Value is the holy grail of betting. Simply put, value exists when the chances of something happening are greater than the odds offered to bet on them.
Related: Expected Value in Sports Betting
It's easiest to understand with an example. Let's say that the odds on a game are even-money - if you bet $100, you would make a profit of $100 if you win. If the chances of the team you bet on winning are 40 percent, then there would be no value. If you bet $100 on that team 10 times you would expect to win four times, and you would make a $400 profit. But you would lose the other six times, which would be a loss of $600. You would have a long-term loss of $200. So, you would be making a bet that you would expect to lose money on long term. That's never a good idea. If, though, the chance of your team winning was 60 percent, then you would wind up with a long-term profit of $200 over 10 bets. That's value. Without value, you are just gambling - throwing your money away.
Why does value matter? Well, simply put, it's how you make money. If you were to always make bets that had value, and you are effective at determining if value exists accurately, then you can't help but make money over the long term. You might go through peaks and valleys, but you could come out on the right side. If I were to pay you $11 every time a coin came up heads, and only asked for $10 every time it was tails, then you would want to make that bet all day, every day. As long as your bankroll was big enough to weather any rough patches, you would be sure to come out on top. It would be a bet packed in value. But for me it would be a terrible bet - one that I would be sure to lose over time. It would be terrible value.
On a theoretical level, then, value isn't tough to understand - and it is very desirable. The challenge, of course, is that it is much easier to understand than it is to find. And a great fault of many failing sports bettors is that belief in their ability to find value exceeds their actual skill in doing so.
Related: Common Mistakes Sports Bettors Make
There are four things to remember when you are seeking value:
The first is to really understand what the odds mean in a given situation. If you don't accurately understand what the payout means, then you can't know if a team has better chances than that. People often think that they are making a value bet because they are betting on the favorite and that team is solidly more likely to win. They will win more often than they lose, so they think they are on the right side. But the odds very likely reflect that the favorite is the more likely winner - oddsmakers aren't dumb. You need to understand how often you need to win a bet to make a profit, so you can know how often a team needs to win over the long term to give you that profit.
Second, you need to have a way of accurately assessing how likely a team is to win. It can be your own system or handicapping approach. Or you can buy the advice of someone who knows better than you. You just have to be able to trust your information, though, or you are going to just be guessing.
Third, you need to have discipline. Chasing bad bets, betting because it's close enough, or making gut calls without doing your homework, are all ways to sabotage your own success.
Finally, get creative in your search for value. A lot of people only think of betting on the point spread when it comes to football. But those lines are the most bet down and the ones that oddsmakers pay the most attention to. Perhaps more total can be found in the total, or in an alternate line. And very often the best value can be found in prop bets - especially the ones that don't get the most betting attention.
Related: Totals Betting Explained
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