2016-17 NCAAB Betting Against the Public: Midseason Report

Past research has conclusively proven that betting against the public will produce a positive return on investment, although many bettors are confused about why this is such a successful strategy.

Contrary to popular belief, oddsmakers do not attempt to balance their book by attracting 50 percent of the action on each side. Instead, they shade their opening lines to capitalize on public perception. Throughout the day, they allow their sharpest bettors to shape the line.

As I have previously stated, the public loves betting favorites and overs, which is why most of our contrarian strategies will focus on underdogs and unders. In fact, the majority of spread bettors have taken the underdog in just 22.5% of games since the start of the 2005 season. That said, it’s been highly profitable to take favorites when they’re been widely ignored by public bettors.

For anybody unfamiliar with Sports Insights, we track public betting percentages from seven major offshore sportsbooks: 5Dimes, BetDSI, BetUs, Carib, GTBets, SIA, and Sportsbook.com. These betting trends reflect real bets placed by real bettors, as opposed to other websites that use “consensus” numbers. By including both sharp and square sportsbooks, our betting percentages accurately reflect which teams the public is backing across the marketplace.

Most oddsmakers are able to anticipate which games will take one-sided public betting, so they will shade their opening lines to account for the predictable flood of public money. If the liability becomes too great, they will occasionally adjust their number to encourage action on the other side, thereby mitigating some of their risk. That’s where the contrarian bettor jumps in.

Sportsbooks aren’t in the business of minimizing risk; they’re in the business of maximizing profits. That means sportsbooks won’t adjust their number based on public betting unless there’s massive liability on one side. In other words, college basketball bettors can’t blindly bet against the public — they need to target the most heavily bet games of the day.

The table below displays the results from betting against the public this season.

2016-17 Betting Against the Public

Public Betting Record (ATS) Win Rate Units Won ROI
<50% 1408-1384 50.4% -48.47 -1.7%
<40% 882-898 49.6% -58.99 -3.3%
<35% 630-642 49.5% -42.51 -3.3%
<30% 407-403 50.2% -14.92 -1.8%
<25% 231-223 50.9% -2.11 -0.5%

As you can see, it hasn’t been a profitable strategy to bet against the public during the 2016-17 college basketball season, and there are many reasons for that. For starters, the majority of sportsbook handles in early season games comes from sharper players. While most casual bettors are still focused on football, these sharps are hammering college basketball lines. Since there’s limited public money in the marketplace, sharp bettors are mainly responsible for moving lines.

Oddsmakers have to consider public money in heavily bet games, but they’re only concerned with sharp bettors in these less popular games. Sportsbooks shade their opening lines to capitalize on public perception, but one-sided public betting will only continue to inflate the number if there’s considerably more money from casual bettors than sharp bettors.

Although the college basketball handles in November, December and January are smaller due to the ongoing football season, there’s still value betting against the public in the most heavily bet games. This season teams receiving less than 25% of spread tickets have gone just 122-136 ATS (47.3%) in smaller games, while they’ve gone 109-86 ATS (55.9%) in heavily bet games.

“[Following the Super Bowl] College basketball betting increases at around a 25 percent clip”, according to Scott Cooley, a spokesman for the market-setting Bookmaker.eu. “They’re looking for regular action and there is seemingly a national TV college game on every night of the week.”

The tables below display the results from betting against the public based on the number of bets compared to the daily average. If there are 25 games on a given day and we tracked 250,000 total bets, a “smaller game” would need to have less than 10,000 bets.

Less than daily average (Smaller Game)

Public Betting Record (ATS) Win Rate Units Won ROI
<50% 904-896 50.2% -37.67 -2.1%
<40% 552-567 49.3% -41.36 -3.7%
<35% 380-386 49.6% -24.12 -3.1%
<30% 228-236 49.1% -18.38 -4.0%
<25% 122-136 47.3% -19.48 -7.6%

At least daily average (Heavily Bet Game)

Public Betting Record (ATS) Win Rate Units Won ROI
<50% 501-487 50.7% -12.56 -1.3%
<40% 329-300 49.9% -17.58 -2.7%
<35% 249-255 49.4% -18.32 -3.6%
<30% 178-166 51.7% +3.51 1.0%
<25% 109-86 55.9% +18.37 9.4%

It’s clear that betting against the public is only an effective strategy in heavily bet games, and that bettors should be targeting games with extreme levels of one-sided public betting. “It really has to be largely one-sided without much sharp involvement” stated Cooley. “If we have 90 percent of the public on one side and two wiseguys on the other, we aren’t going to shade toward the “smart” side because of the lopsided action. We respect where our sharp bettors are.”

That means in addition to targeting heavily bet games with one-sided public betting, contrarian bettors need to make sure there have been no sharp money indicators (like steam moves and/or reverse line movement) on their opponent.

In addition to our public betting percentages, we now offer real money percentages, which reflect the percentage of total dollars wagered at one of the sharper offshore sportsbooks. This allows bettors to easily monitor all the factors influencing line movement. By waiting until public money has artificially inflated the line, bettors can often capitalize on public perception and find additional line value.

This season, teams receiving less than 25% of spread dollars have gone 354-360 ATS (49.6%) in smaller games and 149-131 ATS (53.2%) in heavily bet games. Although our historical ticket percentages provide a larger sample size than our money percentages, it’s interesting to note that the number of bets continues to be a crucial component for betting against the public.

The number of bets statistic is proprietary Sports Insights information that is available exclusively to Sportsbook Insider subscribers along with real-time odds, public betting trends, money percentages, e-mail alerts, and much more. Sign up for a 4-day Pro trial and you will also receive our bet signals and in-house Best Bet picks!

Have any questions for the staff at Sports Insights? Utilize our live chat to speak with a customer service representative or e-mail us at help@sportsinsights.com.

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David Solar

David Solar has been the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years. He specializes in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

3 Comments Permalink
3 comments on “2016-17 NCAAB Betting Against the Public: Midseason Report
  1. IS the data referenced above about “heavily bet games” available with any packages? In essence, will I be able to look at data you make available to paying customers and know if a game is “heavily bet” or not? If so, which package will include this data?

    • “Heavily bet games” are based on the number of bets compared to the daily average. Unfortunately, that number isn’t available until after every game has started since some games start at 7 and others start at 1030. Sportsbook Insider members can see the number of bets, but not how it compares to the daily average. I would recommend sorting by the number of bets and simply targeting the games with the highest ticket counts.

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