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Calculating Value

One of the key differences between a sharp – an educated, professional bettor – and a square – someone who is just a casual bettor – is understanding the value of a betting line. It’s just like in the stock market: is Apple a good company? Yes. But is it a good company to own shares? That depends. A casual investor would just buy Apple because of what they’ve heard. An educated investor will understand that it could be a good stock to own only if you buy it at the right price. The same goes for sports betting. The key to unlocking greater profits is by understanding the value in the line and knowing when to bet.

Instinct and Feel

Sports betting nowadays is like being a general manager in sports: the way things have been done for many years (and still now) is instinct and feel. It would be great if there were a simple way to explain this, but really, this aspect of sports betting involves practice. Many shrewd bettors can look at a betting line and determine which way the line will move. For example: if the Dallas Cowboys opened as a -2.5 favorite, should you bet it right away because the line will go higher (to -3 or -3.5)? Or should you wait because more money will pour in on their opponent, and you can get a better price later in the week? It’s a tough question to answer, but the better understanding you have for the sport, the teams, the momentum, and the betting patterns of sharps and squares, the more you’ll understand where the line will go.

Creating Complex Models

Sports betting is kind of going the way that sports front offices: instincts and feel are still a factor, but analytics and new data is coming into play. One way to determine value is to simply have a feel for what’s happening, but the other way is to be a math whiz. Some sit at home with Excel spreadsheets and either have formulas created already or manually project their lines to compare to what’s on the market. That way, they can quickly assess whether there is value in a game or not.

For example, some sharps will have formulas that point that their projected line is significantly off of what the oddsmakers have put out, which means that’s a game they’ll want to bet. This might be for futures, sides or even totals for a specific game. Here’s an example of a basic one that some people use for totals:

(Home Team Median Points Scored + League Average Points Score)/2=A

As you can see, this is just a basic formula where you’ll plug in the numbers and compare them to what’s on the market. This is a basic model, but many sharps use analytics nowadays and create complex models that instantly point out where the value is.


One way that sharps look to get value is by monitoring the totals and how they’re tie to the spread or moneyline. That can sometimes uncover value. For example, if you see a big spread in a game but like the under. Let’s go with an example that the Green Bay Packers are a big favorite – say -10.5 – but we know that going into the game, Aaron Rodgers is nursing a bum-throwing shoulder. If you like the under in this spot, it also means that the opponent is more likely to cover the big point spread in a low-scoring game. In this case, there could be value based on that correlation (assuming that you’re right).

Shop Around For The Right Price

There are several things you can do to find the best price for a sports betting line. Starting with the easiest approach, you’ll want to have multiple sportsbook accounts so that you can shop around. Let’s say the New York Yankees are a -140 favorite at Bet365, but Pinnacle has them at -127. That’s a 13-cent difference. If you want to get the best price, then you’ll have to shop around. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of one sportsbook, and you could get ripped off from time to time.