“Fading The Public”—Taking A Closer Look At This Betting Strategy

“Fading The Public”—Taking A Closer Look At This Betting Strategy

Online sportsbooks are in business because they make money, which is the modus operandi of the online sports betting industry. So, it stands to reason that they would be more than happy to offer a bet on any sporting event where the odds are favourable to them. Players from various sportsbooks know this when betting online and use it to their advantage by betting against the public whenever possible.

It is one of the most popular sports betting strategies. And with our database of over 20 years’ worth, we found that using the Betting Against the Public strategy will produce a positive return on investment. It’s as simple as finding which team is being heavily backed by online sportsbooks gamblers, then placing your bet with an undervalued underdog.

Which Side Is The Public Betting On?

The first step in this strategy is determining which side of a particular matchup the public is betting on. We’ve found out through our data collection and analysis process that there are several indicators as to whether or not sportsbooks will be aggressively taking action from betting public.

This is not to say that sportsbooks will always bet heavy – sometimes they’ll even go so far as to lay points with the most lopsided action on a game, but there are certain indicators of whether or not they might be laying big numbers because all of their customers are betting one side in particular.

As mentioned above, once the sports betting becomes mainstream, there will be an increasing amount of chatter on which side the public is placing their bets on. If you hear more about it in a certain game, then you can be sure that a clear preference is emerging on the outcome.

Looking Out For Indicators

Looking Out For Indicators

But how will you know which side the public is betting on? There are a couple of easy ways to figure that out. As a start, it is crucial to remember that sports betting odds are ever-changing even after its initial release, and once the public has its say, online sportsbooks can adapt by making adjustments to the betting lines.

Whenever you examine odds in a game, you need to look at the current numbers and where they initially opened. Once you learn how line movements work, you will see where the money is flowing. If you remember the concept of which side is more appealing since the release, you are on the right track.

Another indication of where public money is located can be found via some of the best online betting sites. Several of the best online betting sites track and provide a display of the betting percentages of several online sportsbooks, giving you a consensus view of where the public money is going on all the games that are available to bet.

Apart from multiple sportsbooks, the top online betting sites will often directly release what the betting pattern is on the different sides of the game. Typically, you will be able to find this content on Twitter or elsewhere on the web.

Essentially, knowing which side the public is betting on, especially in popular online sportsbooks, can be an important tool in your handicapping arsenal. But also bear in mind that there is more to it than meets the eye.

Public Betting Trends

Public Betting Trends

You can also use public betting trends to aid your decision-making process. As there is a popular adage in the world of sports betting—the trend is your friend. A blanket statement that is true sometimes. But there are also plenty of times where it amounts to nothing more than noise. And it is also the case with public online betting.

There will be times where public betting is right on the money, but there will also be times where the public is completely wrong as well. There will also be times when the public shows some overwhelming support to one side, and then the game turns out in a completely unexpected manner than almost anyone was expecting. However, this does not mean that you should disregard trends and leave all of your picks to nothing but guesswork.

Instead, think of trends as a valuable part of your overall handicapping toolset. As public online betting trends only point out which way the betting direction points in terms of the overall call on an outcome, and it refers to where most of the bets are flowing, this instantly makes it a valuable piece of information to secure.

You can make an informed bet by making use of the data from online sportsbooks and other top online betting sites—online sportsbooks track the numbers in-house while any sports betting site or online betting site can gather data the public can access. And just because most of the tickets are heading in one direction, that does not mean that most of the money will be heading down the same path.

Why does the public typically bet on the favourite?

Why does the public typically bet on the favourite

The key to betting against the public is picking out teams that sportsbooks are over-rating due to heavy action from the general public. This means that sportsbooks have lowered the number on a particular matchup because they are trying to get action from as many people as possible. By knowing this, we can find value by simply backing the underdog with our bets.

The best way to determine if sportsbooks will be laying big numbers is by looking at their “teaser” numbers, and generally, if there are more sports bettors involved, the public bet will be more square. When the public is heavily favouring one side, data from past seasons can help you identify scoring trends or other advantages to place smarter bets at the best odds.

The public backs the favourite for several reasons. The biggest one is that sportsbooks are offering more favourable numbers on the favoured side, enticing bettors to get involved with lopsided matchups. Also, if there are no notable injuries or changes in starting line-ups, everyone may be betting the same way.

Here’s a list of some indicators we’ve found in our research:

  • Favourites with high win percentages and big spreads (e.g., Manchester United) will often be bet on by the casual betting public.
  • Contrarian or unpopular teams with low win percentages and big spreads (e.g., Brentford) will often be bet on by the casual betting public.
  • Teams that are on winning streaks of four games or more receive heavy action out of the general public, especially if they’re an underdog; these can be great bets for the average contrarian.

But there is another reason behind all this, and it is a combination of human biases and the fact that point spreads are not set like typical markets.  

In terms of point spreads, many sportsbooks equate relative levels of supply and demand by setting the margin to make the chance of favourite covering the spread to be set at roughly 50 per cent.

By biasing the spread very slightly against the favourites, this approach is widely adopted and is profitable for them because, despite facing virtually even odds, many sports betting players are still more likely to bet on the favourite than on the underdog, i.e. everyone cheers for the underdog, but no one wants them to win.

“When people decide how to bet on a game, first they identify who is going to win.”- Leif Nelson, Associate Professor, Haas School of Business. 

This brings us to our next point—people’s confidence in their intuitions guide their decision-making, regardless of whether that confidence is justified or not. It is very easy for players to bet on the favourites, especially in situations when both teams are not evenly matched. When the choice to back the favourite becomes faster and even easier to make, then players are much less concerned with whether their intuition is correct when it comes to answering the question of whether the favourite is going to beat the point spread.

Most experienced bettors will say that it is incredibly challenging to determine whether the favourite will beat the spread—the fact being that online sportsbooks have calibrated the spread to make it as close as a virtual coin flip, meaning that most players only have their intuition to rely on. And because their intuition strongly suggests that the favourite will win, the absence of other important information to the country will also suggest to them that the favourite will win. However, in the situation where two teams are evenly matched, players’ feelings of confidence towards the favourite will begin to diminish, hence causing them to less likely pick the favourites to cover the spread.

What is even more interesting is the fact that the persistent bias of sports players towards picking the favourites does not seem to cost people very much. In a situation where the point spread is calibrated to give favourites a 50 per cent chance of beating it, meaning if people bet on their  favourite every time, they should win at least half their bets—much like if they choose at random or bet on the underdog.

And in another case, the favouritism towards the match favourites persisted even when the playing field was tilted in favour of the underdog, where players continued to show interest towards the favourites even when more points were added to the spread that significantly dropped the favourite’s odds below 50 per cent. Even more worryingly, players still showed their loyalty towards the favourites even when they have been explicitly told that the spread was artificially inflated.

In the real world, many online sportsbooks have noticed the trends—favourites and overs—and have adapted accordingly to reap the benefits. It is evident that the betting public overwhelmingly bets on favourites and overs and has been well documented in the online sports betting markets.

Even though online sports have been integral to online gambling and that there will always be a financial risk involved, favourites and overs have always been a safe form of betting to the gambling public—and it makes sense.

At the end of the day, the favourite is supposed to win the game, and they will probably score a lot of points while doing so and it is this specific piece of knowledge that allows online sportsbooks and sports betting sites to raise point spreads and totals in their favour; they know who and what online sports betting players will bet on so they adjust their lines to reflect this. And this is the exact moment where you fade the public by betting against them.

Think about it; you will get better points, the best odds or more competitive odds, and the better payout–just like the house. The whole point of this practice is to go where the house goes, and since they are the ones making the rules, you are much better off being their side when push comes to shove.

There is no doubt that human biases and other subtleties within the betting markets are one of many reasons that a lot of players take advantage of fading the public. But another question to consider is why fading the public is sometimes the correct thing to do.

Why Should You Bet Against The Public?

Why Should You Bet Against The Public

By going against the public, you are essentially betting with the betting sites, which is a smart move because betting sites are usually known for doing well themselves. Otherwise, how else can it remain in business?  

Why many sports betting players choose to bet against the public is because that it is the most logical thing to do. Since the top online sportsbooks and online sports betting sites are the ones that set the line to get equal action on both sides of the sports wagering, this will allow them to win all the losses and collect the betting juice from the winners.

However, when the gambling public decides to place their bets on only one side, it will be the sportsbooks that come out ahead.

Essentially, these sportsbooks and online sports betting sites know what they are doing, and it is because of their extensive knowledge of the gambling public’s patterns that fading the public is much more logical. In other words, if the betting sites are going to win, just follow their lead.

Another reason why many sports betting players choose to fade the public is because of the line movement that happens from the speculation period until the time where the match starts. Once a point spread or line has been set, players will then begin to place bets. And as these bets begin to slowly pour in, things may get a little one-sided—the conditions favouring one team over another.

This practically puts the sportsbooks between a rock and a hard place, forcing them to move the line to offset the betting patterns seen. For example, if Liverpool are the -1 point favourites to win the match versus Manchester City and they are receiving all of the betting action, then the sportsbooks will raise the number to entice gamblers to bet on Liverpool. Thus, the point spread could change to -1.5, -2, or even -3 depending on how much money is pouring into Liverpool.

This will allow the sportsbooks to cover themselves and keep the money on both sides of the bet. In theory, the sportsbooks make their only bet on the -3 odds—commonly known as betting juice or the vig. Because of this, keeping an eye out for line movement can greatly help to inform you when you place bets. Long story short, you will be able to see who is betting where and then make a better bet yourself. 

How Does Betting Against The Public Work?

This is a very simple strategy because all you have to do is a bet against what the public is betting. For example, during an English Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal, if the favourites are Liverpool, then you do the exact opposite and bet on Arsenal.

And the concept behind this is so that sports books will shade the lines to reflect what they believe the public will do. At the end of the day,  the main goal for an online sportsbook is to set lines that draw a 50/50 action, rather than predicting the actual outcome of a game. This will eventually lead to some soft lines whereby, if you go against the public, you might gain a competitive advantage.

But the real question is, how do you find out what team the public is backing?

Given that many online sportsbooks and online betting sites do not publicly disclose reports on betting patterns, you will have to do a fair amount of guesswork, but a good way of trying to figure out which way the public is betting is to ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Is there a big or notable name involved such as Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, or even Barcelona? Names that have been known to have a long history of success are more than likely to draw in a greater level of betting action.
  • Do the teams involved have extremely passionate fan bases? Take for instance football teams like Celtic and Rangers. Or in the context of rugby, teams with passionate fan bases such as the Green Bay Packers, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Eagles, and New York Knicks; the point of this is that fans are much more likely to bet on their favourite teams.
  • Do the teams in play have a star player that attracts lots and lots of attention? Some notable examples include Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United, Mo Salah from Liverpool etc. And in terms of basketball, you will hear of names like Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, and Clayton Kershaw of the L.A. Dodgers. Long story short, if you have heard of them, chances are they will draw a lot of attention and sports bettors to the fray.
  • Do any of the teams involved get an excessive amount of sports coverage? If you tune into any sports channel, you will be able to quickly spot these teams.

The key function to fading the public is to identify where you believe the public bias is driving the sports betting action, and then place bets the opposite way.

When it comes to the pros of this strategy, there is one salient item that you can use to your advantage—its simplicity. Fading the public is something that can be done in a matter of minutes. If you are not the kind of person to spend long hours researching games and analysing statistics, then this strategy is the strategy for you.

All you have to do is look out for big-market teams, teams with a die-hard fan base, and major star players to get started. If you are good at it, you will even be able to make some profits spotting teams that are being highly overvalued on lines for the public’s sake.

However, one of the downsides to be aware of is the fact that betting options like these are a double-edged sword—its biggest advantage is also its biggest drawback. And by this, we are referring to the simplicity of this strategy.

This is one of many betting options that anybody can employ, which raises the notion that if it brings results, then everybody will be doing it. This is not to say that there is no element of skill involved in fading the public because sharp or skilled sports bettors have definitely made a fortune before with this tactic.

But just because there are some success stories, it does not mean that you are going to retire early. If that is what you have been thinking, then you are going to be in for a huge disappointment.

Another thing to consider is the fact that the modern online sportsbooks are most likely equipped with software in place to spot sports bettors who are specifically fading the public.

In other words, if the online sportsbooks believe that you are a bettor that specifically fades the public, then they could just end up refusing your service or even withhold all your winnings. So, remember to read the terms and conditions plus some sportsbook reviews before you try to fade the public.

Does Fading The Public Have Any Credence? Or Is It A Myth?

The strategy to ‘fade the public’ occurs in a situation when the online sportsbooks are having a difficult time trying to aim for a 50/50 betting split where profits will be guaranteed no matter which team wins, thanks to the betting juice. But most of the time, the game will land at 51% of bets one way and 49% the other; sometimes, it can also be 55/45 or 60/40 where there is no obvious public side.

However, there are times where the bets run 75/25 one way, 80/20, or even 90/10. Or incidentally, there was a podcast on Spotify where four podcasters were talking about how they like the same team in conjunction with some major sporting events, and soon you begin to hear about the term ‘fade the public’ pop up in conversation.

Myth or Fact?

Myth or Fact

“It’s not a total myth. There are some winning subsets. But with the example of media members and casual bettors thinking it works, that’s a case of selective memory,” – Brad Feinberg, Gambling Expert, NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Using the Philly Eagles as an example, if there were talks about how the public was betting the Philly Eagles, and after matchday, they failed to cover the spread, then it might just become another case of the public taking a side and knowing you have won because you bet the other way.

However, let’s say next week, the team is the Bronco Denvers, and everyone is betting on them. But then they win the game, and it would not be mentioned for the most part, and after a while, they just forget about it. Then, whenever the same situation occurs again, everyone will just talk about what happened with the Philly Eagles instead. 

Selective memory plagues most of the bettors betting public for sure. But one thing to note is the fact that the markets are very efficient. If fading the public was really a surefire way to make money, then every sports betting player would be doing it and the online bookmakers will always be on their feet trying to quash each and every player that is trying to fade the public to earn themselves some “free money”.

But viewpoints differ aplenty, and not everybody has the same line of thought about fading the public.

Arguing that the definition of public is subjective for everybody along with the fact that information has now become so accessible, that the public has now closed the gap. In short, the public will win sometimes and the public might lose sometimes, otherwise, there would not be any business.

Also, given the current online betting landscape, there are too many good gamblers that are well ahead of their game. Opening lines from online sportsbooks these days do not take into account how they expect the public to bet as much anymore, because they are wary that professional sports bettors might just start betting and skew the lines in their attempt to try and go which way the public is going to bet. Another notable aspect of fading the public—especially in over/under—is the visible fact that the public tends to always bet on overs.

People tend to root for points—a key part of psychology. Logically it would be safe to say that if the public is almost always skewing toward the over, then the best course of action would be to bet under. However, data from major sports leagues—NFL games—in the 2020 season evidently noted that 50.4% of games went over the points total, while 48% went under, with the remaining 1.6% being draws.

It goes to show that some due diligence should always be done before trying to fade the public. While some things may be out of your control, it is always better to improve your chances and minimise undue risk.

Should You Bet Against The Public?

Should You Bet Against The Public

While there is no solid answer to this question that covers every possible situation—given the contrasting viewpoints held by many individuals of the public—bear in mind that if you ever receive a suggestion to bet against the public, they will have some explaining to do should the public turn out to the right.

Depending on the situation you find yourself in, the answer will really depend on the context at hand. There will be times where the online sportsbooks will be off by a game despite their high levels of competency, causing the public to swing solely to one side when it happens; they may even go on to cash out on some tickets.

Bear in mind that the ultimate goal when placing your bets is to beat the numbers—sports betting sites—and not to simply outsmart the public. Although many players —when betting online—like to occasionally make the calls that others are not seeing, that is not the premise of the practice.

And as the legal betting industry continues to grow on its upward trajectory, there are going to be many talented professionals who will set the line and ever more sharp bettors who are looking to capitalise on the opportunities available. The long term goal of a player is to eventually join the ranks of a sharp bettor and not get hung up about winning bets or whether to go with or against the public. Rather than worrying about outsmarting the public, they focus on the implied probability within the betting odds instead.

In a Nutshell…

While fading the public requires some due diligence—comparing odds around the best betting sites, reading sportsbook reviews, reviewing your online betting options, etc—before you bet online, the idea is that players should always exercise judgement and focus on improving their betting skills rather than being caught up on where the public is going. It is also helpful to understand that some things may be beyond a player’s control and that it is important to keep a tight leash on your online sports betting behaviours as well as knowing which direction the public is going before placing your bets; discovering in which betting markets can you find reliable odds and fair odds.
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