These days, bettors have a billion statistics available for study. You can read up on Total QBR, Expected Points Added, and Yards Lost on sack until you have a splitting migraine, but because of the plethora of statistical data available, all you will have learned will be a drop in the bucket.
Modern sports bettors aren't just addicted to numbers – they're addicted to numerical innovation. People are always on the hunt for the magic statistic that will give them an edge against the house. New statistics (or new models of analysis) are prized, because of the impression that the bookmakers haven't gotten around to using them yet.
Obviously, this is a flawed philosophy. Sportsbooks and oddsmakers who they employ have an absolute vested interest in being one, two, or three steps ahead of their bettors. What's the likelihood that you'll discover something that oddsmakers don't know?
What if I told you that you could use just two incredibly-simple stats to improve your success against the book? And what if you found out that these two numbers are old-fashioned and freely available to anyone, all over the world, all the time?
I firmly believe that you can save a lot of researching time by paying as much attention to just two old-school facts – team performance against the spread and the position of teams in various top-25 rankings. Sounds crazy, doesn't it?
Stay with me.
I can hear some of you laughing through the screen – I know, ATS is a dirt-simple number that any sports fan worth their salt can run circles around in their sleep. It seems too obvious to be true, but you can be really successful in sports betting if you understand historic and recent ATS performance trends.
I got interested in ATS because of how awful Nick Saban's ATS record is. The Alabama coach has a 91-17 record and his team is a constant threat for the national championship. How, then, can he have a less-than-mediocre ATS percentage of just 51%? My research into this fact opened up a whole new world of possibilities in my sports betting – Saban has a terrible ATS record because his team faces inflated spreads each and every week. The Crimson Tide brings in a ton of bets, and the sportsbook has to heavily inflate spreads just to balance their books.
Consider also the ATS performance of Jimbo Fisher, Florida State's coach, with his record of 58-11, and his reputation of having brought new life to the storied program? His performance ATS is a dismal 46%. What is there to explain the Seminoles' coach's failures against a point spread? Let's call it a chronic case of Jameis Winston deficiency. In the season that Fisher could rely on his superstar, he went 11-3 ATS, among the top ratings in the league. In every season besides Winston's miraculous national championship run, Fisher struggles against oddly-inflated point spreads. Maybe pollsters remember the 'Noles of yesteryear, and not the team that looked like a JuCo squad against Oregon last year?
I could go on and on giving examples of how real-world performance and ATS performance don't go hand in hand. Bill Snyder at Kansas State has one of the best ATS numbers in the business, covering 66% of the time over the course of his career. During that time, he's also lost 100 games, and he's seen K-State become one of just four D1 programs to have lost at least 600 games. He's the perfect example of a guy who's coverage numbers are WAY better than his performance.
The trick here is to look just one layer below what pollsters are telling you when considering your ATS wager. In 2014, Louisiana Tech had the second-best ATS performance, but couldn't even manage to win their conference game. But even though they lost that title game, they covered the spread by a single point.
I urge you to look past the familiar when hunting down a sports betting strategy.
I got the idea to look long and hard at a certain segment of the top 25 rankings from a book I read about sharp bettors. One line of that book had me incredibly intrigued – it suggested that if the betting public knew how easy it was to beat the book by betting on certain teams based on their Top 25 ranking, everybody would be betting on NCAA football. I slammed the book down – what in the world could it be?
If you're like me, you believe that all the ranking methods used for college football are flawed to the point of uselessness. Talking heads push these manufactured figures and stats on the public, and they fall in line. Basically, we're supposed to trust the expertise of a small group of little-known figureheads and computer programs more than we trust our own objective analysis. I simply can't accept that. So how can we turn this situation on its ear and use these flawed rankings to our advantage?
Here's what I discovered – the teams ranked between 15th and 25th in the nation present the best opportunity for out-smarting the ranking authorities, and (by association) the betting public and the sportsbook. Right there at the tail end of the latest AP poll are ten teams that even the experts only vaguely understand. It's common to see unranked big market teams favored against lesser-known (but low-ranked) opponents, favored by oddsmakers, who are usually on the money. That's an opportunity if I've ever seen one.
It turns out that the money lies in betting against teams ranked 15th through 25th. Bettors are overrating teams based on the presence of a tiny number next to their name on a betting sheet.
Statistically-speaking, wagering against ANY ranked team won't produce a profit. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, a player who wagered against every ranked team would have a record of 923-897. Admittedly, there is some positive bias here – just not enough for a profit, thanks to juice.
If on the other hand you had bet on only ranked teams between number 15 and number 25, you'd have a record of 430-371 since 2007. That's good enough for a 5% return on your investment. Believe it or not, this would have been a successful betting strategy. This is where I started freaking out.
The basic premise behind this strategy is to fade the public, but to do it only in situations where it's been shown to be profitable. Until the rankings hyped by everyone from ESPN to Nate Silver are more accurate, you can make a pretty decent return wagering against teams at the bottom end of the AP or Sports Illustrated poll.
I refuse to believe that only smart money can make money. I'm a small-time recreational sports bettor, and with just a few hours of light research I was able to identify two methods that are likely to return a consistent profit. If you can take the two simple lessons I teach here and expand them to include new statistics and profitable wagering types, you'll finally be ahead of the sportsbook. The trick is to identify a successful plan and stick with it.