The irony of the Robert Frost poem “The Road Less Traveled” is that the phrase has become a cliché. A coffee-mug adage. Bob’s so-called “less traveled” road is practically peeling-off blacktop at this point.
When a hobby becomes oversaturated in the public sphere, industries notice changes as the consumer base sorts itself out. The Yogi Berra maxim “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded” can apply as consumers grow weary of a warmed-over trend. But it rarely, if ever, happens in the gambling world. Gambling never goes out of style, even when everyone is doing it.
Sports betting is a growing cash cow that owes its popularity to the free world’s love of sports, games and TV. That’s not the whole story, though. Gamblers can wager on sports exclusively from the comfort of their couches. Tourists will always flock to Vegas and fight the crowd. For those who prefer serious handicapping, betting from home seems more and more appealing.
But the new legion of armchair Ace Rothsteins must deal with its own unhealthy trends.
Social gambling reaches a peak with the Super Bowl and on “circus” prizefights such as Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor. People are glad when they win those bets. But it’s not really why they’re laying down the cash. Recall that lottery tickets become a more-popular purchase when jackpots are freakishly high and therefore almost impossible to win. There’s a psychological trap involved.
Such fads make gambling a lot like buying a drink for a divorced guy…a happy gesture made in vain. We can all have our different reasons for betting on sports, that’s great. But doesn’t anyone have fun by winning anymore?
Wagering on the circus is a hoot, but nothing is as pleasurable as winning bets. Minor leagues and less high-action sports around the world are often mispriced by online bookmakers for a host of reasons. It’s a glowing opportunity to wrestle the advantage away from the house.
To make more winning picks at higher payoffs, start looking at roads less-traveled.
The Well-Kept Secret Sports Betting Calendar
Take a peek at this month-by-month chart of valuable betting markets which are often overlooked by sports gamblers in the United States.
Note that no truly esoteric sports are included. Instead the focus is on different versions of familiar games, some involving familiar athletes. Gamblers must enjoy the scouting process or lose focus and effectiveness making picks.
Why Sportsbooks Get Obscure Odds Wrong: A Shinny Fable
An Ugly Duckling got its day in the sun in 2018. Helped by curious NHL fans on the internet, the IIHF World Championship has begun to draw more state-side and Western European interest, along with a significant pool of bettors.
The tournament, held just 3 months after the Winter Olympics, wasn’t an all-time classic. Canada and Russia finished out of the medals, and Team Sweden won gold again in its cool, precise style. But the charm of host Denmark (including an H.C. Andersen-inspired mascot named “Ducky”) and a bronze medal for a Team USA led by Patrick Kane helped to boost the event’s profile.
NHL Network televised virtually all elite-division faceoffs, while Bovada Sportsbook ran hundreds of betting markets on the Worlds. Even lower-division games got the full spread, money line and props treatment.
But there still isn’t enough action on the annual World Championships for NFL/NBA-centric bookies to really pay attention. Betting sites outside of Europe rely on recent trends and World Ranking when setting the odds on contests like Norway vs Austria. Vegas tends to lose money on the Worlds when things don’t go according to the trend line.
It happened again this time around. A thin lineup of goaltenders struggled in Denmark, and state-side sportsbooks didn’t adjust fast enough. “Over” bets cleaned up during the round robin, with a Sebastian Aho-led Finnish team beating Canada 5-1 to cover a consensus O/U line of (5 1/2). Later in the tournament, sportsbooks overreacted by predicting blowouts when tight games were bound to occur.
What’s the moral of this story? That it isn’t possible for all odds-makers to be experts in all sports. When there’s one person or a small team of managers setting certain lines, mistakes happen. Odds on less-hyped events are a pure numbers game to the bookie. The gambler has the advantage of rational thinking.
Even if a sportsbook pays for an in-house handicapping service, John Q. Picksum can’t devote as much time to soccer in South Africa as he can to the Super Bowl. Casinos spend vast human resources on their main sources of income. Less attention is paid to less-busy markets.
Like a good baseball hitter, the savvy sports gambler can knock ‘em where they ain’t. Speaking of the diamond, let’s examine how Minor League Baseball can be a refreshing wager when the MLB feels boring or unpredictable.
Minor League Baseball Betting
There was a fable we all heard as children, and it began with young baseball prospects joining tryout teams or signing with a Single-A ballclub. If they looked great on that stage, then an AA call-up could be in order. Finally, an outstanding ballplayer would ascend to a Triple A league and get a crack at the majors after a patient and hard-working stretch of paying his dues.
Maybe that was true in times past. But in today’s Minor League landscape the old description of weakest-players-in-Single-A and best-in-Triple-A is too simplistic to be accurate. Every Major League Baseball club is different in how the franchise interacts with its subsidiary rosters. That makes present-day Minor League competition a grab-bag, and the results much more chaotic at times.
For instance, some players are jumping straight from Double-A leagues to the MLB, and sometimes back again, bypassing the traditional AAA route. Many franchises are stacking their Double-A teams with blue-chip youngsters, trusting that other front offices will do the same.
Take hurler Forrest Whitley of the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks as an example. Playing against fellow future major-leaguers, he began 2018 by striking out almost half of the batters he faced and pitching one shut-out after another. The Houston Astros own Whitley’s rights and will not bother with Triple-A if he keeps it up. They’ll bring him right on up to the MLB level and stock the Hooks with another top green-horn while ignoring the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies roster.
Triple-A managers must be yearning for the good old days. Meanwhile, gamblers and odds-makers each have to adjust to a scenario in which the best available athletes are not making any extended stops in the “biggest” minor leagues.
After all, the Triple-A clubs still have the biggest fan bases and play in many large cities. Most offered betting markets will fall on those teams, though 5Dimes has recently offered bets on the Double-A postseason and the Grapefruit League.
Value in the Wasteland: Minor League Baseball Betting Strategy
When key players take alternate routes to and from Major League Baseball, handicappers of Triple-A games are stumped. All else equal, whenever a star veteran is due for a rehab stint in the minors these days, there’s a 2/3 chance he’s not headed to the marquee club in the farm system.
Advantage goes to the baseball fanatic, not the systems-bettor. Even if a diamond fan is a newbie to sports gambling, she can use the web to scout players that the bookie doesn’t have time to look at closely. Sportsbooks, throwing-out “extra” odds on postseason MiLB games, are more likely to misprice them.
Triple-A rosters are becoming more filled with career minor leaguers. That creates a void in easily-obtained analysis, since MLB players’ scouting reports are in every database. Pitching stats from the Texas League are not. Casinos are pricing Double-A and Triple-A games from paper, not from actual scouting. The MiLB fanatic can use his superior knowledge of the teams to take advantage of mistakes in the odds.
No betting system would ever encourage it, but a low-risk way to score major winnings on the minors is to pick heavy underdogs late in the season. When a club in the minors is eliminated, player development becomes 1st, 2nd, 3rd and honorable-mention priority for the manager and coaches.
Batters on poor minor league teams are encouraged to whale away as the season nears its end. It makes the outcomes of ballgames more volatile, and gives Triple-A clubs like the Reno Aces a fighting chance to come from behind or blow an opponent out through 5 innings.
The Aces are 33-39 on the season and often face long odds even at home, where the club has a losing record. But their bats are always a threat to come alive. Socrates Brilo lets his bat ask the questions – ahem – do the talking for him with a batting average of .350+ and 15 doubles in 55 ballgames. Catcher Anthony Recker has slugged 10 home runs in just 35 outings for the club.
A manager letting those kinds of bats swing away will create a lot of crazy outcomes, including occasional comeback wins at long odds. But the Aces are also a handy futures pick to keep an eye on for 2019 if the pitching staff can improve. Reno recently faced the 1st-place Memphis Redbirds in a series and won 3 out of 4 ballgames, blowing out the O/U with 8-5 and 7-6 victories.
Cheer for Tim Tebow…but don’t bet on him
Finally, a word of advice about Tim Tebow, the world’s most famous minor league ballplayer. On a perfect planet, everybody would agree that there is wisdom in what the New York Mets are doing with Timmy. If you could capture joy in a bottle and give it out to everyone in your entire organization, would you do it? You’d be dumb not to, as a business owner and as a human being.
But Tebow remains one of the most maddening athletes on the planet to wager on. His debut heroics in preseason, Single-A and Double-A baseball have led to the creation of some very inflated proposition betting lines, such as “Will Tim Tebow hit 20 or more home runs during the season?”
No, he probably won’t. It doesn’t help that he’s a 30-year-old philanthropist in an Eastern League full of young, laser-focused MLB prospects. But Tebow’s occasional power-hitting streaks also tend to scare off any bets against him. The bottom line is that Tebow remains as unpredictable on a baseball diamond as he ever was on an NFL field.
Mid-Major vs Power Five Games in College Football
The University of Central Florida Knights shocked the NCAA football landscape with a 34-27 win over the SEC’s Auburn Tigers in the 2018 Sugar Bowl. Then-head coach Scott Frost ripped into the College Football Playoff committee after the win, confessing, “It looked like a conscious effort to me to make sure that (the CFP committee) didn’t have a problem if they put us too high and a couple teams ahead of us lost. And oh, no, now we have to put them in a playoff.”
No doubt there was wisdom underneath Frost’s seething anger. The CFP committee will often rank teams from favored “Power-5” conferences in the top 10 before the season begins. When those schools play and beat one another, at least one gets a “quality win” over a highly-ranked opponent.
Meanwhile, schools from strong-but-overlooked leagues like UCF’s American Athletic Conference are left out, even after beating up on the Oklahoma Sooners, Notre Dame or the War Eagle.
Try an experiment though – ask a sports gambler or handicapper how they feel about Power-5 bias in college football. The answer, if honest, will be “mixed emotions.” Yes, the landscape of the FBS isn’t fair, and leaving undefeated mid-major teams out of the College Football Playoff leads to all kinds of fan disillusionment and other bad things.
But it also leads to valuable mistakes by odds-makers. When an SEC powerhouse plays a mid-major school or even an ACC program in a big contest, impulse-wagers made by biased football fans can drive an already-dodgy point spread in an inaccurate direction.
Nick Saban’s ballers are so good that they often win ATS. But 2017 slip-ups such as Alabama 27, Texas A&M 19 and a nail-biting Crimson Tide win at Mississippi State showed that cool-headed, well-balanced teams can hang around and beat the spread against ‘Bama regardless of depth-chart disadvantages.
Even FCS teams can be valuable upset-special picks against the big-shots of the south. In November 2013, Florida took the field expecting to easily blow away Georgia Southern, a Football Championship Subdivision program at the time. The Eagles had not even qualified for the FCS postseason, while the burly Gators were anxious to blow off steam on Senior Day after what had been a frustrating year.
But Georgia Southern was coached by Jeff Monken, a triple-option guru who would go on to turn around Army’s football program in a few short seasons. Monken knew that his Flexbone playbook could baffle an overconfident SEC defense and produce 1st down after 1st down. The FCS unit also had the advantage of morale and motivation. The Swamp was hoping for a crushing win and sank into despair when it didn’t happen, while the Eagles played like crazy on every snap.
The result? An incredible 26-20 upset win in which Monken’s team did not complete a single pass. Bettors who had picked GaSo to win against a massive spread knew that they had won by the late 2nd quarter. Those brave souls who picked Georgia Southern on the money line at ridiculously-long odds? Their successful profiling of a downbeat Florida squad made for a holly-jolly Christmas.
Why Are Certain Mid-Major Schools So Deadly ATS?
Underneath all of the micro-analysis of Power-5 student-athletes – such as recruiting rankings, the “star” system, and social-media scrutiny – lies a more fundamental truth on the macro-level. There are so many talented young football players now performing in high school that the Georgias and Alabamas of the world could not give out 2000 scholarships each and snag them all.
There are all kinds of football players, but only 5 recruit-ranking stars. The folly of trying to rank athletes with whole numbers creates scenarios in which bookies and gamblers are fooled about the “superiority” of certain programs.
UCF may have shocked handicappers with the upset New Year’s win over Auburn. But was it really an upset? Not for people who engaged in macro-analysis and understood the mistake casinos were making.
For Frost, local recruiting at Central Florida meant access to hundreds of fast, tough teenage prospects who cut teeth on the searing summer gridirons of The Sunshine State. It’s harder for great athletes to get noticed on prep fields around Miami, Orlando and Tampa, because there is such an abundance of talent. Fast sprinters from rural Montana can gain 10,000 yards in high school, because everyone chasing them runs a 5.0 in the 40-yard dash. But a speedy tailback from Jacksonville may not even get to start until his junior year.
At UCF, Frost took advantage of those circumstances to find diamonds in the rough whose strength and conditioning already matched that of many NCAA athletes. The kids just didn’t necessarily have 5 stars next to their names, or gaudy statistics from their prep careers.
Games are not played one-on-one. They’re not even played 11 on 11. Especially at the college level, football is better-described as one culture squaring off against another. Like Mexico at the World Cup, one should never count out a passionate sports culture no matter who is lined up in opposition. Mid-major dynamos like Boise State, San Diego State and Toledo specialize in recruiting overlooked studs who love to play, and the athletes tend to stay in college and play as seniors.
Service academies outplay their measureables more often than most other FBS programs. Sportsbooks have mostly caught on to the trend, but there remains a fly in the ointment for odds managers setting money lines against Army and Navy.
The same Flexbone offense that Monken used to bedazzle Florida with an FCS unit is in full effect at Army and Navy. The Black Knights of West Point won riches for money line gamblers when they upset Rashaad Penny and San Diego State in the 2017 Armed Forces Bowl, and Navy’s 2016 upset win over Greg Ward and the Houston Cougars was only a shock to those handicappers who are unfamiliar with the Annapolis playbook.
Betting Value at the Olympics and Elsewhere
You might notice there aren’t many “exotic” sports in our set of topics. Sure, we could take a spin and talk about rally racing, or plow through some fun facts on the Iditarod, where it’s always risky to bet on the dogs in front.
But where’s the advantage on the bookie? It’s hard to scout video clips for the AFL Grand Final if your knowledge of Australian Rules Football boils down to, “they sure punt a whole lot.” It’s easy to scout Asian baseball or African soccer because the gambler is already familiar with those sports. But casinos still can’t afford an all-out effort to get the odds right. Unfamiliarity is bad for the house. Familiarity is good for the player.
The Olympic Games are a setting in which hundreds of mostly-unfamiliar contests take place. The only thing which saves the house handicapper and the sports bettor from each going mad trying to turn a profit from the Olympics is the fact that many of the events are simple, and follow age-old models of rule-setting such as “object and receptacle” and “fastest time down the hill.”
Still, we’re all helpless to understand the subtleties. It’s a bottomless pit to try to understand figure skating or the discus toss better than whoever set the odds, unless you’re willing to sacrifice a lot of time between each Olympics.
Of course many Olympic sports are familiar to most westerners, like soccer, baseball, hockey and so on. Action on such marquee events invites closer scrutiny from odds-managers, who may adjust the lines often. Gamblers must be quick on the draw. By and large, the house stays safe.
But there is another way to find winning bets and get in the black with your bookie when the Olympics roll around again.
Big Money, Big Myths Affecting International Odds
Leading up to the PyeongChang Olympic Games, the western media focused almost exclusively on North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and DPRK’s surprising participation in a South Korean version of the Games.
But the distractions didn’t stop there. A trio of events in which Las Vegas bookmakers were fooled out of cash would become an instructive lesson to Olympics gamblers looking to score big once every 2 or 4 years.
Germany’s Johannes Lochner enjoyed months as the odds-on favorite to win the 4-man bobsled competition. While it’s strange to see individual names dot the betting board in a 4-man team sport, there’s no denying that the driver of each bobsled has the most responsibility and must deal with the most pressure. Lochner has been impeccable at the World Bobsled Championships and his dominant season-to-season record made pundits think he was the man to beat in Korea. But there is one pressure-cooker that the 27 year old hasn’t learned how to handle.
Lochner also struggled at the 2014 Olympics, where he was touted for potential gold before finishing out of the medals. Oddsmakers wrote off the lousy result in Russia as a youthful hiccup and installed his team as the favorite in PyeongChang. But savvy bettors knew that veteran Francesco Friedrich was a better wager at 3/1 or 4/1 odds. The cool-headed Friedrich handled a weird Korean track with confidence and won gold, while Lochner finished in 8th place.
In curling, the American mixed pair of Matt and Becca Hamilton became viral stars as February approached. NBC lavished praise on the siblings as a potential history-making team. The Hamiltons’ witty interviews and photogenic looks caused their odds for a medal to shorten (and other teams’ odds to lengthen) as state-side gamblers laid wagers based on hype and homer-ism alone.
But the Hamiltons lacked world-class ability and fell flat in the round-robin. The Canadian pair of Lawes and Morris won the gold medal with a dominant performance, and bettors who had picked Canada got a higher payoff thanks to the shallow punditry surrounding the Yanks.
Then came the ice hockey tournament, where global politics played a role in creating the most profitable Vegas line of all.
Russophobia Leads to an Easy Betting Pick
The age-old gambling maxim of “betting against the public” needs an upgrade. Winter Olympics bettors can also win big when they bet against the media.
Russia has had an uneasy relationship with the International Olympic Committee for decades. By late 2017, American newspapers questioned whether the country would compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics at all. A well-publicized doping controversy would reach a fever pitch as Russia’s sports federation and flag were banned from the Games. Clean athletes – including the majority of hockey players – would still be allowed to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” or OAR.
A short time later the Kontinental Hockey League deleted a bulletin about players being called for national team duty. The BBC and Associated Press speculated that the KHL, perhaps under orders from Vladimir Putin, would boycott men’s ice hockey in Korea in retaliation for the ban on the Russian flag and national anthem.
Gary Bettman’s decision to forbid any NHL athletes and most AHL pros from taking part in the Games had already bummed out the hockey world. How would the Olympic ice hockey tournament look with KHL pros missing too? Team Russia – or OAR – would be left without an oar.
Sportsbooks reacted by placing a ho-hum futures line on Putin’s team to win gold, around (+250) on most boards. The KHL’s participation would give OAR an overwhelming advantage in Korea, with names like Ilya Kovalchuk (not yet having returned to the NHL) and Nikita Gusev suiting up against journeymen from Canada, Sweden and Finland. But headlines like “KHL Likely Dropping Out of Olympics” kept Russia’s odds from shrinking any shorter.
Except it wasn’t real. Fans who had followed European hockey knew that there was no way Putin would let his best-available skaters sit out a chance at a gold medal in Russia’s favorite sport. The KHL was obviously bluffing.
Gamblers who picked OAR’s futures line at 2.5/1 were like stock investors who got into Amazon in the 90s. The odds would shrink to (+100) once bookies figured out that wishful thinking had played a role in the media’s narrative.
Russian club professionals showed up in Korea after all. OAR romped through the round robin and elimination rounds. When things got hairy in the gold medal game against Germany, Gusev and Karill Kaprizov, 2 bright young stars of the KHL, scored the tying and winning goals.
NHL Myths Can Distort Europe’s Hockey Odds
Almost all American fans and pundits believe that 99% of the best skaters in the world play in the NHL, and that if a player competes for a European club instead, it’s because he’s not good enough. Bookmakers tend to believe it too.
It makes Gary Bettman happy. But it’s simply not the case.
Sports hierarchies don’t work that way – think of a teenage Josh Allen choosing to start at Wyoming rather than be a backup quarterback in the SEC. Likewise, super-talented Euro players sometimes stay close to home where the hockey is more relaxed and less hard-hitting.
The NHL has a majority of the game’s great skaters and snipers, but its version of shinny is a knack on the small rink, and talent level isn’t always the biggest factor in an NHL prospect’s success or failure. Smaller or less-hardy athletes can be brutalized by the 82-game schedule. Given a choice between playing on the 1st line for a Swedish club and the 4th line in the NHL, some skaters choose the former.
At least a couple of KHL teams would look very competitive against an NHL schedule, especially on big Olympic-sized rinks. That’s hard for casual fans from the United States to fathom, considering that outlets such as Yahoo Sports and NBC put down the KHL every chance they get. Metallurg Magnitogorsk goaltender Vasili Koshechkin pitched shut-out after shut-out in Korea, but Jeremy Roenick and other American announcers trashed him throughout the tournament.
There are other European hockey myths. For instance, big ice is not necessarily a catalyst for scoring chances. When a good KHL team is ahead by 2 or 3 goals and decides to shut things down, there isn’t a forward line in Moscow that can break through the defensive wall. Wider rinks make it easier for goalies and defensemen to keep the puck outside and out of the net.
Live betting a leading KHL club is a profitable low-risk bet. Payoffs may be slightly higher than they ought to be, since American bookies subconsciously factor “big ice, weak goaltending = lots of chances” into live goal spreads.
When picking international games, some handicappers simply add up the number of NHL players on each team and tout the one with the bigger number. When the “10” team loses to the “6” team there are always excuses, but no real reckoning. That kind of prejudice will continue to affect the odds.
As an example, Team Latvia faced Sweden in the quarterfinals of the ’18 Worlds in Denmark. The Swedes had more than 15 NHL players on their roster, while Latvia had zero. Some sportsbooks gave Latvia 2 and 1/2 goals in the spread, thinking that Sweden would blow out the old Russian province. But Latvia’s head coach Bob Hartley knew that his team of KHL skaters could defend on the big rink. He employed a masterful game plan to choke out the Swedish attack, and the eventual gold medalists had to scrape by 3-2 to advance.
It wasn’t a hard pick ATS for anyone who had seen Latvia take the USA and Canada to OT in the round robin. It appeared as though state-side oddsmakers hadn’t bothered to follow the individual games.
License to Ilya
Prejudice against KHL and other European club hockey extends to players who travel back and forth across the pond. Ilya Kovalchuk is still one of the finest scoring talents in the world, but pundits in America doubt whether his 2018 return to the National Hockey League will make much noise.
Consider that the 35 year old’s new club, the L.A. Kings, is currently at 30/1 odds to win the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals. That seems reasonable enough at first glance since the Kings have appeared to fall back after years of contending for the NHL crown.
Except that the (+3000) line is based on the Kings’ roster without Ilya Kovalchuk. The number has not changed throughout June ’18. In other words, L.A.’s futures odds haven’t changed despite the addition of an international superstar. That feels like more anti-KHL bias at work.
The reason there isn’t more action on L.A. is because too many gamblers think of Europe as a place old broken-down skaters go when they can’t hack anymore. Kovalchuk must be a shell of his former self or he’d have been scoring 2.5 ppg in Russia, right?
Not exactly. Kovalchuk often skated limited minutes in Russia with St. Petersburg, a team that often goes up 2-0 or 3-0 on opponents in the 1st or 2nd period. Scouts agree that Kovalchuk has looked like a less-motivated player in the 3rd periods of routine wins. At age 35, Kovy cannot dominate the NHL’s Western Conference over the span of 82 games. But he can score big goals, spark the Kings’ power play, and make players around him better and more creative.
Kovy’s stats line has actually improved over his time in the KHL, from less than a point per-game in 2013-14 to 78 points in 60 games in 2016-17. His scoring in the KHL dipped below his average output in the NHL before snapping back up again, which should give you an indication of how underrated the Ruskie league is.
The L.A. Kings are a primo futures bet for the Stanley Cup Finals, and will continue to hold value until more gamblers realize what a difference-maker the team’s new acquisition can be. The puck doesn’t know what league a legendary sniper has been scoring in.
A Sports Gambling Track Less Galloped
The Kentucky Derby is an annual betting orgy, but against-the-public wagering systems tend to fall flat at the Run for the Roses. There have a great variety of well-publicized winners at Churchill Downs over the past 20 years, and the Derby attracts a select batch of veteran Thoroughbred trainers who experienced gamblers trust. As a result, contrarian bets see plenty of action at almost every gate. There’s rarely a “mob” of superstitious bettors to hedge against.
Not to disparage the United Kingdom, but by comparison, the 2018 Grand National at Aintree may have showed that English “jump” racing is still experiencing old-timey betting trends in the 21st century.
Tiger Roll was considered a dodgy pick when April rolled around. Very few 8-year-old horses had won The Biggest Race of All compared to 9 year olds, which reinforced stereotypes about the temperament of younger stallions and their ability to handle the handicap weight on an arduous course. The animal had shown magnificent agility and poise in his 8th year, but not enough for bettors to get over the stigma and increase the action on Tiger Roll’s (+1100) odds-to-win. Meanwhile, all that American gamblers read in headlines was “9 Year Olds Will Have Advantage Again at Aintree.”
Tiger Roll won, of course, cashing in 11-to-1 tickets for pony players who had ignored the buzz.
The gambler doesn’t have the advantage of betting against the bookie in horse racing. But when the media runs a narrative into the ground? That’s a great time to hunt for mistaken prices on the board. The big narrative is usually flawed.
Betting Sites for Alternative Leagues and Races
Quite a few websites aimed at American sports gamblers offer betting markets on Asian baseball leagues, European ice hockey leagues, club soccer in over a dozen countries, and basketball leagues of an equal or greater number. Most offer FIBA and IIHF tournaments. Any state-side racebook worth its salt is expected to offer odds on the Grand National and other overseas horse races.
The challenge for the customer is to find a sportsbook that faithfully offers the odds on international sports and won’t yank the rug out on any of your best and luckiest events. Bovada Sportsbook is thorough, but tends to post lines later than the ideal. MyBookie is selective in which markets are offered but a little more timely. 5Dimes offered odds on the recent Olympic Games weeks before similar books did.
For those not in the United States, SuperLenny is known as the most in-depth of sports gambling sites for a reason. If you’d like to bet a table-tennis tournament in Tuva, chances are it’s offered (complete with paddle-props) at SuperLenny.
Final Word: A Betting System Without Numbers
You might have noticed that not many charts and equations have gone into the advice given in this post. There are plenty of stats-based gambling systems out there. The world doesn’t need another one.
Instead, here’s a 3-point system for betting less-popular sports markets, a system which can be employed without a calculator. Ready to take notes? Wait, this is the internet. Just bookmark the page.
Find lesser-known leagues and events that you have an affinity for and get to know them inside and out. The more that a fan can develop an intimate knowledge of a forgotten sport, the more of an advantage she can have on the bookie when placing a bet. But like a diet, it’s not going to work if it doesn’t taste good going down. You can’t force the enthusiasm that makes learning easy.
If you rode ponies as a kid, look into the overseas horse races. If you played on the punt team in high school, check out Aussie Rules. Or pick out less-popular versions of sports that most of us know and love already, like FIBA basketball, the World Baseball Classic, and so on.
Next, check the odds at every opportunity even if you don’t plan to bet very often. In fact, a daily odds-checking habit combined with placing a small number of monthly bets can help create an even-bigger advantage on the house.
Mispriced betting markets can be put in 3 categories: subtle (like a ½ run discrepancy in an MLB ballgame), dodgy (like giving the Russians (+250) at a KHL-dominated tournament) and epic (Joe Namath and the New York Jets = double-digit underdogs in Super Bowl III).
By checking the odds every day while making a modest number of bets over time, the gambler protects his stake against the house while picking as many “dodgy” mistaken odds and “epic” mistaken odds to take advantage of as possible. Meanwhile, his large sample-size of potential wagers means he can afford to ignore subtle mistakes altogether. That means losing less often.
Finally, bet with confidence whenever you see an obvious mistake on the part of the bookie. This is where being a genuine fan comes in handy.
When fans who know an obscure league bet against bookies who only know its box scores, such bettors have the advantage of contradictory confidence. Contradictory confidence is a step above just having an opinion. If someone called your sportscar a “pickup truck,” you would laugh and contradict them, because you have 100% confidence that your car is not a truck.
Mistaken odds often look obvious, as if the bookie is mistaking a car for a truck. Don’t second-guess. Strike when they appear.
Less-traveled paths aren’t the one and only secret to beating a sportsbook. It’s not a daily-bread system with which to make a living. But when used in the right circumstances, the tactic is effective and a lot of fun, with the bonus perk of gaining knowledge of unique lesser-known sporting cultures.
It can feel strange being better-informed about an event than a casino’s pro handicappers. Believe it or not, it’s possible to start feeling sorry for the house when following the 3-step plan for betting on overlooked events.
Not for very long, though.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.