The Psychology of Why the Betting Public is Usually Wrong

Take Advantage of Betting Public Being Wrong

Nothing gets me more excited with betting than hammering on the ignorance of the general betting public. Don't worry; I don't mean you in particular. I'm referring to the masses that love to bet with their heart and never with their head.

I've had the privilege of meeting and being friends with several guys who run and oversee sportsbooks in Vegas, and they all say the same things over and over again. They say if you can bet against the general public, it's almost always a great bet. They also say that the general public is almost always wrong and the sharp sharks love to sit back and take advantage of them.

Today I want to talk about why the general betting public is always so wrong. More importantly, I want to talk about how you can use this information to your advantage. Knowing what to look out for can not only protect you from falling in line with the sheep, but it can also help you to spot some great opportunities to make some big bucks.

The Heart vs The Head

The betting public LOVES a feel good story. They love hearing about teams or players that are making huge comebacks or players that endured a tragedy making their debut back into sports. They love the underdog and despise the favorites.

All of this is totally ok as long as it's just affecting you as a fan. The problem is when sports bettors allow these feel good stories to creep into their betting picks. Let me walk you through one of the biggest examples of this in the history of sports betting that just happened recently - Mayweather vs. McGregor.

Here's some back story to get everyone up to speed. Most people don't like Mayweather. He's a cocky guy who has been accused of beating women on way too many occasions for me to even be able to count. He's a boring fighter who wins most of his fights running in reverse and avoiding punches and countering with just enough to get the checkmark in the win column. People love to hate him and not in a fun villain way. I mean genuine hatred.

Heart vs Head

Conor McGregor, on the other hand, is a sassy (yet also cocky) fighter who people identify with well. He's a rag to riches story, and his witty banter gets people excited. While some people aren't big fans, the general public loves to get behind this type of fighter.

Again, all of this is fine if it only affects who you want to cheer for. The problem is this. The betting public feels obligated to bet on such a big fight, but their hearts can't allow them to bet on someone they hate. So they end up convincing themselves that McGregor is the much better bet just because he's the more likable guy.

Here's the problem. Mayweather is one of, if not THE, best boxer in the world. He's highly decorated and did not get to 49-0 by being a chump. McGregor, though a great MMA fighter, has never boxed professionally in his life. People convinced themselves that someone who has never boxed professionally before in their life would stand a chance against the best in the world.

Here's how it goes down. They convinced themselves this because their hearts told them too. It's all a snowball cycle. It starts with them saying they hope McGregor wins even though they don't think he will. Then, they start to look for ways that McGregor can win. They start looking for little details and strings of hope to fit what they want to happen.

It's the self-fulfilling prophecy. If you see something that you want to happen, you will find the answers you are looking for to support that and ignore the things that contradict it. Quickly, these slight chances McGregor has to win fill your mind, and you start to feel like he has a real shot.

Then group think kicks in. You start talking to other people that want Mayweather to lose, and they start pumping up your excitement and tell you that you're right. You've now crossed over and let your head take over your mind, and you're ready to feel the pain of that in your wallet. You started this whole journey thinking McGregor had no shot, and you ended the journey thinking the crazy underdog who had never boxed before was going to beat one of the best boxers of all time.)

The Media Doesn't Help

The only group that enjoys an underdog or feel-good story more than the sports betting public is the sports media. It's their job to sell entertainment. How boring would the pre-fight shows be if they just said, "Well, Mayweather is too good, and McGregor has no shot. Can't wait to see the fight!" Clearly, it's much more appealing to sell the chance that McGregor has to come from someone who has never boxed before to beat the big bad wolf who is the best in the world.

The media is not in the business of picking winners; they're in the business of entertaining. Even when they do try and pick winners, they don't understand sports betting and don't know the difference between picking a winner and picking a value bet.

How to Protect Yourself

Protecting yourself from falling into this trap is easily said and not easily done. The answer is simply to use logic. Do not let your heart overtake your mind. Emotion cannot overrule fact.

Looking at the Mayweather fight, logic tells us that McGregor has no real shot outside of a puncher's chance. It tells us that Mayweather is going to masterfully pick him apart like he always does and put him away.

You HAVE to separate logic and fact from the emotion. When you go to make your pick, ask yourself if your pick is based solely on fact and not on what you want to happen. If you can't say yes, then don't make the bet. You don't have to bet on everything even if it's a big event. A friend of mine had a great quote about the Mayweather fight and why he didn't bet. He said, "My mind wouldn't let me bet on Conor, but my heart couldn't bet on Mayweather."

He knew where the smart bet was, but because his emotions wouldn't let him make that bet, he elected not to bet. This is INFINITELY smarter than placing an emotionally charged bet.

If you don't believe me that the betting public was going nuts betting with their heart, take a look at this story of the numbers.

92% of total bets were placed on McGregor, but 81% of the total money was bet on Floyd. This is a classic telltale sign that the big serious sports bettors (the sharks) were all betting Floyd and the masses were betting on McGregor. Only 8% of bets came in on Floyd, but they made up 81% of the money.

As we've already stated, watching out for the media and your friend's opinions can go a long way. Let's say you're betting on a Dallas Cowboy's game and you live in Dallas. You think anyone you talk to at the bar or the gym or wherever is going to tell you that the Cowboys are going to get blasted? Of course, they aren't.

These people are usually not betting and are too wrapped up emotionally in what they want to happen. If you allow them to influence your betting, they won't care when you lose. It's YOUR wallet that is going to take the hit.

The same goes for the media. All they care about are ratings and whether or not they entertained you. They could not care less whether you win your bet or not. It's up to you to protect yourself.

How to Take Advantage of the Betting Public

If you're a smart person, you're already asking yourself how you get involved with what the sharks are doing from our earlier example. How do you know when the betting public is wrong and how do you take advantage of it?

Here's the scoop. The sportsbooks do not want to gamble. They want to get the correct amount of money bet on each side of a competition so that whoever wins, they make money. The way they do this is by altering the payouts. If a fighter or team is an underdog, they will usually offer to pay you more for a correct pick to entice your bets. If the fighter or team is the favorite, they will usually pay you a bit worse so as not to have 100% of the bets come in on the favorite.

Here's the key where opportunities come in. If too many people are betting on one side of a competition, the sportsbook will alter the payouts to try and even things out. In our example above, everyone and their mother was betting on McGregor (you have to remember that the big money on Floyd did not come in until late).

When the lines opened, Floyd was somewhere around -2000. This means that if you bet $100, you would win $5 in profit. But as the bets poured in on McGregor the sportsbooks had to try and entice people to bet on Floyd, so they made the payouts better. That -2000 eventually moved all the way to about -500 which is an insane move! Now if you bet $100 you would win $20. While this doesn't seem like much, it was a 10x increase in the payouts.

As soon as it hit -500, the huge bets started pouring in on Floyd from the sharks. They waited for the betting public to incorrectly bet with their hearts and make the payout odds much juicier for the logical pick.

You can do the same with just about any sport. If you see the betting public rapidly reacting to something that is going on but you think they are overreacting, you have an opportunity to pounce. For example, let's say a football team is playing another team and they are underdogs at +150. If you were to bet $100, you would get back $150 in profit.

Now, let's say that the quarterback for this team gets hurt and now no one thinks they have a shot at all. Everyone starts betting the other side and the odds go from +150 to +400. You, on the other hand, think the backup quarterback for the team is amazing, and you don't think this is going to affect them at all. This is a great time to place a bet.

The public has overreacted to something (which they always do), and they have moved the betting lines to where you would now be getting $400 for your wager instead of just $150. While they are still underdogs, these odds are way too good for you to pass up and you make a bet. Opportunities like this are how you beat the betting public and best sports betting.

How do you spot this? You look for moving lines. Look at where lines opened up and then look where they moved to. If they've moved a lot, take a look at why and see if you feel the movement is warranted or not. If you don't think it is, that's an opportunity. Sometimes the line will move the wrong way because the public is THAT wrong about it.

For example, let's look at our fight from earlier. The week before the fight they petitioned to get the glove sizes changed from 10 oz to 8 oz. Mayweather was -600 before that happened and swiftly moved to a better payout of -500 after the announcement. The betting public thought the glove change favored Conor and they began betting it heavily.

Of course, they were dead wrong. What they failed to notice was that Mayweather requested the change because it's the size gloves he's accustomed to fighting in. It was a calculated move by the Mayweather camp and was certainly not done to benefit Conor or to make for a more interesting fight. Again, the betting public was wrong and as soon as those odds hit -500, the sharks struck, and if you watched the fight, they were rewarded handsomely for it.

The Wrap Up

Look, I have nothing personal against the betting public. I fully understand why they bet the way they do; I just don't think it's smart or logical. However, because they bet the way they do, it creates opportunities for me and for other sharp bettors to pounce and make some serious cash.

If you take anything away from this blog, I'd hope it was these two things.

  • 1. Protect yourself and make sure that you are betting with your head and not your heart.
  • 2. Look for opportunities to take advantage of the betting public when they ignore tip number one on this list.