The amount of material written about sports betting has grown exponentially since the dawn of eBooks. My local Barnes & Noble has an entire row dedicated to sports betting titles, with a further 99 books available through their online store. If you add the amount of free advice for sports bettors in the form of poorly-written Web content, you've got a deluge of noise that's impossible to wade through.
In some ways, I'm a really lucky guy. I've worked in libraries and bookshops throughout my years of recreational sports betting. I've managed to put together quite a library, including a couple of first-edition gambling tomes. Having collected and read just about every major sports betting book to hit the market in the past few decades, I consider myself an expert on the subject.
Here are the 7 best books for sports bettors. If you aren't into the idea of collecting a library of these titles, you can read just these seven titles and get a solid education in sports betting.
Sharp Sports Betting is a classic, a must-read for anyone even remotely serious about wagering on sports. For some bettors, this book is the Bible. It's long, and you'll need to wade through a few pages of the basics (definitions of various bets, a glossary, etc.), but it's easy to skim to the meatier chapters later on. Sharp Sports Betting focuses almost exclusively on NFL football, though the lessons apply to a variety of different markets.
Stanford Wong is a pen name, by the way – the real author is John Ferguson, famous for writing the book Professional Blackjack. The name Stanford Wong was chosen as a portmanteau of the author's alumni and a random Asian last name to give the whole thing "mystique."
The original version of this text appeared in 2001, but don't worry about buying the latest and greatest edition. It's had few revisions. Some information is a little outdated – ironically, most books have changed some of the ways they represent odds to prevent the techniques described in Stanford Wong's book.
Most of the books on this list are educational, and (I'll admit it) a little dry. Michael Konik's book is not that. The purpose of this book is to give you a glimpse into the lives of degenerate gamblers, high rollers, and sports betting hustlers. Endless impossible-to-believe true stories fill the pages of this book, including plenty of highly-profitable gamblers and the tactics they used to win.
Yes, this book is a bit of a love story to gambling. It highlights some of the glamorous and exciting aspects of the hobby. But Konik also gives plenty of advice – on how to get more comps, how to identify long-odds casino games, and other ways to increase your edge against the book or the house legally.
Here's a quote from a review that I just read off the flap – "The people in The Man With the $100,000 Breasts operate in a hairier zone of human behavior, where desire and risk are intertwined and the normal social customs don't apply. Wickedly fascinating." If that doesn't make you want to read the book, you probably won't like any of the titles in my library...
Richard Munchkin is an interesting character. He put himself through college playing backgammon for money. He's worked as a blackjack dealer, Vegas pit boss, and TV and film producer. His greatest contribution is Gambling Wizards.
The interviewees in this book include:
But it's not just interviews – the conversations go into great detail, asking questions like: "If your son came to you and said he wanted to be a professional gambler, what would you say?" It's a great read for gamblers and non-gamblers alike. The candid conversations in this book are educational and entertaining.
This book is about much more than betting. Written by the famed numbers-junkie behind the popular blog FiveThirtyEight, The Signal & the Noise is all about making predictions. Sometimes lapsing into complex math, but always quick with a real-world example, Silver's book is a great companion to an education in sports markets.
This works well for Silver, since he's the modern poster-child of predictive ability. You may know him as the pundit who predicted the correct result of every state in the 2012 Presidential Election. You may not know that Nate Silver came to prediction markets through the world of baseball analytics and Sabermetrics.
This text is basically an introduction to the concepts of probability and risk. Silver's constant point is that, despite limitless raw data, most of our predictive abilities are very limited. He begins by analyzing why we're so bad at predicting things like earthquakes, forest fires, and financial markets.
Sure, this is a high-concept book, and it doesn't always relate directly to wagering on sports. Where this book reveals its genius is later, during your extended education on the hobby. Silver's lessons on how weather forecasters achieve their relatively-high rates of predictive success aren't immediately applicable, but you won't find a better education in prediction.
Wayne L. Winston is an MIT-educated operations research specialist (and professor of business) who just happened to create one of the most amazing little sports betting texts I've ever come across.
Mathletics is an entertaining AND educational read. Winston uses mathematics that any of us can understand to explain and offer analysis on a number of statistical and probability-related questions that sports bettors may have. Winston looks at professional sports – baseball, basketball, and football – to explain difficult math concepts.
Winston's book goes into great detail on topics like how MLB teams evaluate hitters and predict success, the question of whether teams will pass or run on first down in different situations, and the influence of money on pro sports and sports betting.
My favorite parts of Mathletics have little to do with betting. Winston's book teaches about the frequency and effectiveness of bunts, the effect of overtime on different NFL teams, and general stats and numerical analysis behind several recent pro sport championships. If you're a novice sports bettor or a seasoned veteran, you'll appreciate the statistics and probability details, as well as insight into several long-held beliefs and clichés about sports, and the reality that undermines them.
The author, who spent years studying the gambling trade in Central America, wrote this book after spending four years as a pay and collect agent for a bookie. In this (maybe a bit too honest) memoir, you get to peek into the sports betting underworld. If you are looking for a good read, a book about the hustlers, idiots, criminals, and crooks that populate the dark side of sports betting, this is your text.
Lay the Favorite also has the distinction of being the only book on this list that was also made into a movie. Raymer's book was released as a film starring Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Vince Vaughan in 2012.
No, you won't learn how to improve your ROI or find new trends in MLB starting pitching, but you will have a heck of a time reading about the seedier aspects of the illegal bookmaking trade. It's a great beach book, and hey, we can't study all the time, can we?
The sub-title of this book is: "Statistical Forecasting & Risk Management." That should give you a sense of the serious tone throughout. Joseph Buchdal has written a textbook for serious sports bettors, not a light read at all. This is another "must-own" for anyone serious about placing sports wagers.
Why is Fixed-Odds Sports Betting so important?
It was the first text to really explain concepts like the over-round, it includes details on the Asian handicap that (for years) you couldn't find anywhere else, a guide to staking, bankroll-building tips, and a ton of other topics that few writers have covered with as much clarity.
If you're looking to seriously analyze your betting system, increase the power of your bankroll, or learn to find value in just about any sports market, you should own a copy of Buchdal's book and be reading it for a few minutes every day. Along with the Stanford Wong text above, and a couple of other titles on this list, Fixed-Odds Sports Betting is the anchor of my essential sports betting books list.
Thankfully, sports bettors are literate folk. When you want an infusion of strategy, a distraction from your hectic work day, or strategy tip that put more money in your pocket, you can count on any of dozens of top-notch sports betting titles. The list above is by no means complete – but if you were to read these seven books in the next year, you'd be a much smarter (if not necessarily more profitable) bettor.