2017 NFL Betting Against the Public Report

2017 NFL Betting Against the Public Report

Betting against the public is one of the core philosophies at Sports Insights. By utilizing our public betting trends from seven contributing sportsbooks, we’re able to see which teams the public bettors love and bet on the opposite side.

The thought behind this strategy is pretty easy to understand. Public AKA “square” bettors love betting on favorites, home teams, popular teams, overs, etc. There isn’t much thought put into what they do and as a result, they generally lose.

The kid’s a square, Benny!

Sportsbooks, on the other hand, generally win. Your goal is to be on the side that the book wants to win.

For anybody unfamiliar with how sportsbooks operate, it’s important to realize they’re not attempting to balance their action and attract equal money on both sides.

“I think a common misconception is that books are feverishly trying to balance out the sides,” stated Scott Cooley, a spokesman from the market-setting Bookmaker.eu. “Yes, in a perfect world it’d be nice to have equal action on both sides so our risk is zero, but that obviously doesn’t happen for every game. We will certainly accept the unbalanced action if we feel we’re in the right position.” In other words, sportsbooks aren’t looking to limit liability, they’re looking to maximize profits. How sportsbooks handled the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight illustrates this perfectly.

Most oddsmakers know which games will take one-sided public betting, so they will shade their opening lines to account for dull bettors racing to the window like drunkards (or myself) racing to the bar at last call. It doesn’t take a genius to predict who the public will be on in a Patriots-Jets game.

Over the past 14 seasons, the majority of bettors have taken favorites in 79.9% of regular season games while the majority of bettors have taken the over in 88.0% of regular season games. This has historically created value on underdogs and unders.

Sportsbooks won’t move their lines just because a lot of public bettors are on one team unless it is very lopsided. They will, however, move their line for respected sharp bettors, which is often the explanation for reverse line movement.  Since there’s roughly three times more money wagered on the spread than the total, many contrarian strategies work better for sides, as you can see in the table below which dates back to 2003.

Betting Against the Public

Public BettingSpreadWin RateUnits (ROI)TotalWin RateUnits (ROI)
<50%1696-169550.0%-85.45 (-2.5%)1682-173449.2%-141.26 (-4.1%)
<40%1099-111249.7%-71.03 (-3.2%)1141-124147.9%-161.05 (-6.8%)
<35%801-80649.8%-47.61 (-3.0%)862-93647.9%-120.11 (-6.7%)
<30%519-50250.8%-10.63 (-1.0%)577-60149.0%-54.67 (-4.6%)
<25%274-23054.4%+30.20 (6.0%)304-31948.8%-31.41 (-5.0%)
≤20%112-9055.4%+16.56 (8.2%)142-15448.0%-19.17 (-6.5%)

As I previously mentioned, extreme cases of public betting can cause books to move their lines so they don’t take a huge loss. Sometimes you’ll even see squares and sharps on the same side, which can lead to some of the larger line moves that you’ll see. With so much more money being bet on sides than totals, books don’t need to worry as much about taking a big loss if a very publicly bet over hits. In turn, this is the main reason why betting against the public works best for spreads.

Even though the return on investment (ROI) steadily climbs as we look at increasingly one-sided public action, betting against the public isn’t profitable unless the team is receiving less than 25% of spread bets. However, that is just for any plain old game. As you might expect, heavily bet games create better opportunities to go contrarian due to the sheer volume of public bets.

In the past, we’ve shown that success in betting against the public is highly tied to the number of bets placed on each game. That’s especially true in college basketball and college football where the number of bets varies greatly from game to game, but it’s also true for MLB bettors.

Sportsbook Insider subscribers are able to view the number of bets placed at two of our contributing sportsbooks, which helps indicate which games are receiving the most action. Using this data, we can see how betting against the public has done in games with at least the average number of bets that day.

BAP in games with at least the daily average of bets

Public BettingATS RecordWin RateUnits (ROI)
<50%698-66151.4%+1.02 (0.1%)
<40%482-47150.6%-15.46 (-1.6%)
<35%377-35551.5%+1.05 (0.1%)
<30%271-23553.6%+21.73 (4.3%)
<25%144-10857.1%+28.62 (11.4%)
≤20%66-4559.5%+17.99 (16.2%)

Blindly following a broad strategy such as betting against the public isn’t always effective, which is why our annual betting against the public report has to look at other factors that can better produce a winning season. Heck, blindly following any strategy really isn’t an advisable approach…from what I hear, Hellen Keller was a piss-poor bettor back in her day.

One more element we can add into the equation is a lower total. Since most of these teams will be underdogs, in some cases seven-point-pooches or higher, there’s a better chance that they cover in a low-scoring games. Since a +10 dog starts the game covering by 10 points, it’s harder for the favorite to overcome and the spread in games where both teams are expected to score a combined 45 points or less.

BAP w/ at least daily avg. of bets AND total of 45 or lower

Public BettingATS RecordWin RateUnits (ROI)
<50%413-37452.5%+17.39 (2.2%)
<40%301-27653.0%+17.28 (3.0%)
<35%240-20154.4%+25.49 (5.8%)
<30%175-13456.6%+31.14 (10.1%)
<25%99-6660.0%+27.42 (16.6%)
≤20%45-3060.0%+12.52 (16.7%)

You like apples? How you like dem apples?

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Mark Gallant

I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.

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