Be a Better Bettor

The Sharp Side Podcast – Austin Tarke

Gambling, the great life game of luck, skill, and fun. The old saying is the “House Always Wins” and this is correct because in the long run if you gamble enough you will lose. No matter how much you know about blackjack, strategies for roulette, or ideas you may have about table games you will always have an inferior edge to the house. Sports betting on the other hand is different.

Unlike card games where the odds can be precisely calculated, sports betting has so many unknowns that an edge can be found. You can find edges through being on top of incorrect lines, through a matchup advantage that plays into your side, injuries that aren’t accounted for in the line, home field advantage, narratives, and much more actionable info. You get the point, there are many factors that can be found in a matchup that gives sports bettors an advantage over the bookmaker.

That being said, there is a scarce amount of information that the bettors know that the bookies do not know. The factors that give bettors an edge on a matchup is almost always accounted for in the line. Therefore, you may think you have an advantage in a matchup but through the book’s correct line you could still be in a losing position. This is what makes sports-betting so difficult. This is why in order to succeed long term, bettors must be smart with their money and make positive expected value decisions. In this article, I will be highlighting the strategies to win long term and to avoid making the bets that bookies smile over.

In order to win long term just betting lines that are -110, bettors need to win at a 52.4% rate over their lifetime to profit. That being said, no one just bets straight lines on games throughout their lifetime. The casual bettor likes parlays, props, teasers… the fun bets that have a chance for a bigger payout. These are the bets that define the casual bettor. I’m not saying avoid these bets because that’s what makes gambling fun; however, there’s certain aspects to avoid that will save you money long term.

Overall, sports-betting is very difficult to win long term. There is no formula to win every bet and there are no prophets in the sports-betting world who always win (do not ever buy picks – while you may be purchasing a bettor who makes strong plays, he has no information that you or I cannot find.) The only thing bettors can do is make smart bets and decisions that benefit you long term. Following these strategies will save a lot of money for your bankroll. If you enjoy this article, be sure to check out our Twitter – @TheSharpSidePod for more betting advice and picks.

Crucial Information to win long term

  • Bet early in the week: This requires you to do your homework before the lines are posted so you can be ready to pounce on a favorable number.
  • Go Shopping: The phrase “shop for numbers” is commonly used in the betting space. The sharp bettor should have multiple betting sites in order to find the best number. It’s difficult living in a state where sports gambling isn’t legalized but there’s many offshore books that are reliable.
  • Understand key numbers: The underlying factor of a sharp bettor is getting the best value out of a number. In the NFL, the most important key numbers on spread wagers are 3 and 7, followed by 6 and 4. Therefore, a sharp bettor looks to always get the best out of a number. An example is -2.5 on a pointspread in a close matchup and at least +7.5 when taking a big underdog. To really dial this point in, a sharp bettor will bet Team A at -2.5 at the beginning of the week and the casual bettor will be placing bets on Saturday night after the line has moved to -4. Both bettors may win in this situation but long term the player with the better number will have a better profit. This requires patience and attentiveness. Spreads usually don’t hang around under a key number for long so you have to be quick. However, sometimes you have to be patient and wait for the number to fall in a position of value for you.

Key Numbers for NFL Totals in order of importance are: 41, 43, 37, 44, 51, 33, 47

  • Don’t bet out of frustration: Betting takes patience. There will be losing weeks and cold streaks. The worst thing you can do is bet when you are down and chase your losses. This leads you to dig yourself into a deeper hole and can get you to make bets that you aren’t comfortable making. Learn to accept your losses for the day and reassess what went wrong for the next week.
  • Don’t bet just to bet: Look I get it, it’s a Saturday night, nothing is on but UFC Fights and this Polish guy looks super tempting. Long term you will lose making bets on wagers that are just for rooting interest and that you have no edge on. I know this is the fun of betting but if you want to save your bankroll you have to avoid this temptation. Only places bets that you see an advantage on and is a calculated decision.
  • Bad Beats: There is nothing worse than picking the right side on a bet that loses on the final minute. You have to understand that long term these beats even out. You will keep having bad beats but you will also have lucky bets that go your way. Just remember to not get overly frustrated when it happens.

Bankroll Management

  • This is the most difficult part of gambling but also the most important. This requires prior knowledge, commitment, and yearly adjustment.
  • At the beginning of a betting season, establish a bankroll and assign a dollar figure to a unit bet. For example, for a $2,000 bankroll, you should have unit sizes around $50. For games that you have a strong opinion on, bet around three units. For games that you like but don’t have a strong opinion about it, bet a single unit.
  • I recommend spending a season tracking your bets. You can do this through an Excel Sheet or apps such as Action Network. Through having a set unit, you can see how well you’re doing throughout the season and you can also assess reasons for why you may be losing. After a year of tracking your bets, evaluate your betting and possibly increase unit sizes for the next season.
  • It is crucial to stick to your units and to not over-bet your wager sizes. Betting too much money on games is a recipe for disaster and can lead you to chasing your losses. Even when on a hot streak and you feel you have extra money to spend, stick to the unit sizes and stay consistent to the process.


The boom or bust bet. The bet that with a small wager you can win an amount that is bragworthy to friends and family. Personally, I don’t make a parlay over two to three teams. I’ll throw my three favorite money line plays in a parlay and hope to have Ruth’s Chris for dinner that night. Even this may be frowned upon long term but it’s better than what the casual bettor throws in a parlay.

  • Let me explain why parlays lose value long term. The risk doesn’t match the amount awarded. For a single bet, there are two possible outcomes (a win or a loss). For three straight bets in a parlay, there are eight possible outcomes. You can win two of them and lose one, lose two and win one, lose them all and so on of different combinations. The only way you win the parlay is hitting all three. This is an 8-1 proposition. However, three sides at (-110) pay out closer to 6.5-1 for hitting all of them. This puts you in a losing position long term as you can never get that 8-1 value. Now just imagine your long term value when doing more than three teams.
  • The casual bettor throws 5+ teams in parlays on a consistent basis. There is too much variance in games to have this many teams in a single bet. You’d be surprised how quickly the losses add up when betting these large parlays frequently.
  • The casual bettor loves to throw heavy favorites into a parlay. We all know those football weekends where Alabama, LSU, Patriots, Chiefs, Ravens are all -300+ favorites and you think “there’s no way they lose.” A parlay like this pays around +250. You may think you have an edge here but there is so much variance in sports betting that it’s not worth it to have all of these heavy favorites together. We will get into this below but if you like certain favorites so much, make a teaser. You can get two -300 favorites down to a pickem spread while only having to pay -110.
  • Parlays should be a fun bet. A bet that you don’t care if you lose the money on it. I like to make one parlay a week with a small wager just to spice up the games that I’ve bet on.


This is a type of bet that bookies get a big grin on their face because of how poorly players make this bet. Teasers give you the option to take off 6, 7, 10, or 13 points off the spread on two or more teams.

  • For this bet it’s crucial to remember the key numbers that I mentioned earlier. It’s also important to think about wasted numbers when teasing a game.
  • The most optimal teaser strategy is a 6 point teaser. Betting a favorite of -7.5/-8.5 and getting the favorite down to -1.5 to -2.5 & betting an underdog at +2.5 up to +8.5. Through doing this, you hit all of the key numbers of 3, 4, 6, and 7.
  • Wasting numbers lose you value long term. Don’t tease through zero! Teasing a -3 favorite down to a +3 underdog may seem tempting, but it’s losing you money. This takes you through the numbers of +2 to -2, all wasted numbers that do not help your odds on a bet. The same goes for teasing large underdogs. A +7.5 point underdog up to +13.5 underdog has infrequent numbers that hit on the way to +13.5. Not to mention, an underdog this large has the potential to lose by a large margin anyway.
  • I would recommend not making large teasers. Two teams following the optimal strategy is profitable long term. You can add a third team as long as it follows the optimal strategy but I prefer to not increase my variance.

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