In the last of our three-part series on March Madness betting, we tell you about the most important thing to remember before you make your NCAA basketball picks.
Just like Randy “Macho Man” Savage, we can see the Madness in your eye. The biggest thing in sports betting is almost here: the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. And it could be extra special this year, if this happens to be the last time we’ll see “one-and-done” freshmen in college hoops. We’ve explained why you should care about March Madness. We’ve shown you the first steps to take before making your picks. Now that you’re ready to join the Sharp Side, it’s time to reveal the dirty little secret behind the NCAAB odds board.
OK, it’s not really a secret, or we wouldn’t be telling you. But not everyone can wrap their heads around this simple fact: It’s a marketplace. When you make your NCAA basketball picks, you’re competing against all the other bettors – not the sportsbook. At the same time, the sportsbook is competing against all the other books in the marketplace – not you. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take advantage of the mistakes your fellow bettors make. That’s where the profit margin lies. And oh my goodness, do they ever make mistakes.
Circling the Square
Or do they? There was a time, not very long ago, when we would talk about the divide between “sharps” and “squares” in the betting market. Sharps make sophisticated decisions about their picks; squares do not. Squares bet on their favorite teams without much thought. Maybe they went to the same college, or they’re from that town/state, or they just like the uniforms. Silly squares.
If you’re still thinking in these terms, you’re costing yourself money. It’s perfectly OK, and not a mistake at all, to bet on whichever team you like – if entertainment is your goal. Respect these people. Encourage them to join in the fun (responsibly, of course). If everyone in the betting market thought only about money, profit margins would dry up, because everyone would be trying to assess the teams correctly. Betting on March Madness would become like the stock market, where the key to profit these days is to have the shortest distance between your bank of computers and the wall you plug them into.
Having said that, the actions that “recreational bettors” take still provide the rest of us with the profit margin we need. They bet too heavily on the big-name programs, then the books adjust their odds and leave us with a better price on the other teams. It’s a small margin to work with, but you only need to be right at least 53 percent of the time to make a profit in the long run, assuming the standard –110 vigorish. And there will be multitudes of recreational bettors entering the March Madness marketplace. Each passing round will bring more of these bettors into the market and boost our profit margin.
Now that you know your mission, you know what to do: Make those sharp, contrarian bets, size up your bets as the margin increases, and make sure to visit our March Madness page to stay on top of all the action. May the sphere be with you.