Why Is Betting Against the Public So Profitable During March Madness?

Why Is Betting Against the Public So Profitable During March Madness?

At Sports Insights, we have two core betting philosophies.

  1. Bet Against the Public
  2. Follow the Sharp Action

Betting Against the Public is pretty simple. More often than not, the public loses. They bet with their gut instinct (which is a losing strategy). They care about things that don’t matter (recent performance, who has more star players). They also love betting home teams, favorites and overs, which always creates added value on dogs, visitors and unders.

In turn, the Vegas casinos and offshore sportsbooks make money when the public loses. Year in and year out, the casinos and books make a killing. As they say, the house always wins.

As a result, fading the public is a sound strategy because you are taking advantage of public bias and putting yourself on the side of the books and casinos. You are also getting good numbers because public perception often inflates lines, giving brave contrarian bettors an extra half point or full point for free.

However, you can’t go contrarian in every single game (if only it were that easy). You need to be careful and selective and only do it in the most heavily bet games on the board. The more heavily bet (and lopsided) a game is, the more value there is to bet against the public and go the other way.

Example: Say you have two basketball games with the same exact bet split (80% on one side, 20% on the other). The teams getting 20% would be more valuable due to the lopsided percentages and contrarian value. However, if Game 1 has 25,000 bets and Game 2 has 2,000 bets, you would only want to go contrarian in Game 1. Although Game 2 has lopsided betting (which we like), the bet count is so low that we would suggest laying off because there isn’t enough public action to warrant a “fade the public” play.

Betting against the public is incredibly successful during March Madness because every single game is extremely heavily bet. Square bettors come out of the woodwork and get down hard on these games, causing the ticket counts to skyrocket (on average, these games are getting 20-40K bets, similar to an NFL game). As a result, contrarian value spikes. Non-stop media coverage also increases bias among public bettors, elevating contrarian value even higher.

Simply put, March Madness is the best time of year to fade the public.

So far, teams getting less than 40% of spread bets have gone 19-9 ATS in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Historically, teams getting less than 20% do even better.

Betting against the public becomes even more profitable if you can incorporate sharp action.

For example, West Virginia (-3) was only getting 41% of bets (great contrarian value) vs Notre Dame, but they also had reverse line movement (despite majority of bettors taking the Irish, the Mountaineers moved from -2 to -3). That reverse line movement was a clear indication of sharps taking West Virginia, while squares all pounded the Irish. West Virginia fit everything we look for: contrarian, heavily bet game and reverse line movement. The Mountaineers covered and won 83-71.

Princeton (+5.5) was another wheelhouse play for us. They had high contrarian value (71% were on Notre Dame), it was a very heavily bet game (35K) and they also had reverse line movement (+7 to +5.5). Princeton lost by two but covered the spread.

I also love it when you have a “line freeze” despite heavy betting (another sharp money indicator). A great example of this was Wisconsin vs Villanova (-5.5). The Badgers had great contrarian value (only 31% in a very heavily bet game), but the cherry on top was the “line freeze.”

Despite a big majority taking Nova (69%), the line didn’t move off Nova -5.5 (normally, a team getting 69% will move to -6 or -6.5 at a minimum). To me, this “line freeze” was a great indication of the books’ reluctance to move the number because the sharp play was Wisconsin (they knew they would get hit with big, sharp Badger money if they moved to Wisconsin +6). Wisconsin covered and won straight up 65-62.

You saw the same thing with South Carolina (+6.5) vs Duke. The Gamecocks had great “fade the public” value, plus you had a “line freeze.” Despite heavy betting on Duke (75%), the line didn’t move, a clear indication that South Carolina plus the points was the sharp play. The Gamecocks covered and won straight up 88-81.

Another sharp money indicator is when a team is getting a higher share of dollars than bets. This means they are getting more of the bigger, sharper wagers from respected players. In turn, a team getting fewer dollars than bets is usually a bad sign because it indicates they are backed by mostly “Average Joe” bettors (which we always want to fade).

You saw this happen with Wichita State (+3.5) vs Kentucky. The Shockers had high contrarian value (only 43%), plus they were getting higher dollars (47%). Simply put, Average Joes were on Kentucky, but Pros were on the Shockers. Wichita State lost by three but covered the spread.

Same thing with USC (+7.5) vs SMU. The Trojans were a great contrarian play, but they were also getting a much higher share of dollars than bets, a great indication of sharp action. USC ended up winning straight up 66-65.

On Sunday, the final day of the Round of 32, fading the public continued to dominate. Teams getting less than 40% of bets went 5-2 ATS. Teams getting less than 40% did even better (3-1 ATS).

As you can see, fading the public (and incorporating sharp action) has been incredibly successful throughout the Tournament so far. As we enter the Sweet 16, we expect this trend to continue. The games will only get more attention and media hype, causing the number of bets to skyrocket even higher, creating the perfect storm to bet against the public.

Want to bet like a sharp? Sign up for a Sportsbook Insider PRO trial and you’ll get live odds, dollar percentages, bet signals, the number of bets on every game, plus our profitable NCAAB Best Bet picks (52-24 so far in March, +23.7 units).

The PRO membership also gives you access to our Weeknight Betting Hangout (every Monday-Friday from 6:30-7 PM ET), where we break down the board and highlight the most valuable plays of the night.

Looking to track March Madness odds and percentages all tournament long? Make sure to bookmark our Free odds page

For more March Madness tips, download our free betting guide

If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to reach out to the Sports Insights staff by utilizing our live chat feature, commenting below or emailing us at help@sportsinsights.com

Josh Appelbaum

Josh Appelbaum is the Customer Service Manager and Betting Hangout Host at Sports Insights. You can reach him directly at joshua.appelbaum@actionnetwork.com or on Twitter at @Josh_Insights

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