Sizing Your Bets – Betting Strategy Guide
Luca Fury fills you in on the right way to determine the size of your bets based on mathematical facts and proper gambling theory.
This is entry in a long list of betting strategy guides found here on Fury’s Fight Picks. Whether you’re about to take the plunge into the sports betting world for the first time, or are looking for tips to gain an edge, these guides provide expert advice that will help improve your result. You can find all entries in this series here.
This time, I’ll be focussing on the proper way to determine the bet size for your plays. This is a very different discussion than the basic 1-5 unit system I recommend using, where 1 unit equals 1% bankroll. Specifically, this is how to use the different levels of that scale, such as what bet is worth 2 units and what bet is worth 4.
As always, feel free to send us any questions, or to suggest a topic for further series entries, by emailing [email protected]!
The Importance of Scaling Bet Sizes
A very common misconception is that you should bet more on bets that you have a high level of confidence in and less on bets that you are not as confident in. It may seem like it makes sense at a glance, but in reality, that is a very poor longterm strategy, and it’s not even debatable.
Determining the size of your bets should be mainly about how much value there is in the line. It is an indisputable, proven fact that if you bet larger on plays with more line value and smaller on plays with less value, you will make more profit longterm than if you based your bet size on your confidence level on the plays. Numbers never lie, and the math backs this up in a big way. You should also factor in your read on the matchup (i.e. how familiar you are with the fighters, are there many question marks regarding a fighter’s form, etc) but that is a bit less important and I’ll cover it at the end of this piece.
Of course, you do have to be accurate in your assessments of which lines actually have value, but that remains true no matter what your betting strategy is. Line value is when the odds say a fighter have a certain likelihood to win, based on a percentage that the line represents, but in reality that fighter has a greater chance at winning the fight than that given percentage. If you consistently bet lines that fit that criteria, you will win longterm. That’s the only way, in fact, as it is literally impossible to win longterm if you’re not mostly betting on lines that truly have longterm value. But on top of that, you also need to have the proper strategy, which includes scaling your bet amounts the correct way. Plus, correctly scaling your bet size will win you much more longterm than if you were to either scale incorrectly or not at all (betting every play the same size).
Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty here of why it is so important to scale your bet size based on value level rather than confidence level. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, so here are two examples.
- Example 1
Let’s say there is a fight that you think one fighter wins 60% of the time but the odds say they only win 52%. This means that you feel the line should be -150 for that fighter, while the actual betting odds are -110. That line would have a good amount of value because you think one fighter has a much better chance to win than the odds indicate. You’re obviously not that confident in this potential bet’s chance to win, since you think the fight is only 60/40 in their favor, but because of the high amount of live value it is worthy of a good sized bet.
- Example 2
Let’s pretend there is a fight that you think one fighter wins 70% of the time but the odds say they only win 67%. This means that you feel the line should be -233 for that fighter, while the actual betting odds are just -200. This is again a line that has value since the odds say the fighter has less of a shot to win than you estimate. Now unlike in Example 1, you are pretty confident in this fighter’s chances to win, given the much higher percentage you’ve appointed to them (70% compared to 60%). However, your increased confidence in the fighter is reflected in the line, as the offered betting odds here are also higher than they were Example 1. More specifically, your estimation is closer to the betting line here than they were in this Example 1. Because of that, there less line value which makes this play worthy of smaller bet size, despite the higher level of confidence.
Now, you may be thinking that if you’re more confident in a bet (Example 2) that it is more likely to win than a less confident play (Example 1), which should in turn profit more longterm. That’s the common thought but it’s not how things works in reality, at least not over the longterm. This can be hard to wrap your mind around, so let me outline why this is. Be I’ll go over how these betting results would play out longterm, assuming the true odds you’ve estimated for each fighter are indeed accurate, of course.
- Parameters for Example 1
Offered Betting Odds: -110 (52.38% implied win rate)
Bet Size: Risking 1.10 unit to win 1 unit
True Odds: -150 (60.00% win rate)
Occurrences: 10,000 fights
- Results for Example 1
Winning Bets: 6,000 (60.00%)
Units Gained on Winning Bets: +6,000 units
Losing Bets: 4,000 (40.00%)
Units Lost on Losing Bets: -4,400 units
Overall Unit Profit: +1,600 units
Total Units Risked: 11,000
Return on Investment: +14.5%
- Parameters for Example 2
Offered Betting Odds: -200 (66.67% implied win rate)
Bet Size: Risking 2 units to win 1 unit
True Odds: -233 (69.97% win rate)
Occurrences: 10,000 fights
- Results for Example 2
Winning Bets: 6,997 (69.97%)
Units Gained on Winning Bets: +6,997 units
Losing Bets: 3,003 (30.03%)
Units Lost on Losing Bets: -6,006 units
Overall Unit Profit: +991 units
Total Units Risked: 20,000
Return on Investment: +4.9%
As you can clearly see, Example 1 proved to be much more profitable longterm despite the lower win percentage and lower confidence. Not only did Example 1 result in a higher number of unit profits, but the return on investment percentage was much higher as well. So if you were to bet all plays for the same amount, you would win more on the bets that have more line value (like Example 1) and less on the bets with lower line value despite their higher confidence (like Example 2). However, you can take it one step further and profit much more if you bet bigger on the high value spots (like Example 1) and smaller on the less valuable but higher confidence spots (like Example 2).
On the flip side, if you make the mistake of betting smaller on the high value/low confidence plays (Example 1) while instead going bigger the high confidence/low value plays (Example 2), you will still profit longterm but to a far less extent. This is why scaling your bets based on confidence level rather than the amount of line value is such a costly error, and unfortunately a very common one as well.
In the short term, betting more on high confidence plays can work out better than betting more on high value plays, which is part of the reason so many bettors get sucked into the trap. But longterm, this is undeniably the wrong strategy, as the math clearly shows. You must bet more on high value plays, regardless of your confidence level in that bet to win, or else you are throwing away an incredible amount of profit longterm! The longterm is just about all that matters when it comes to betting, so you must focus on strategies and plays that are good for the long haul, rather than those which benefit the short term.
Not All Reads Are Created Equal
Lastly, at the top I mentioned factoring in the strength of your read on a given matchup. Think of this as having high confidence in your line estimation (which is important) rather than having high confidence in one fighter to beat another (which usually isn’t that important). This matters because there are times when you go through the steps outlined above and determine a line has a good amount of value, but maybe you aren’t that familiar with the fighters involved. This makes your line estimation more of a blind guess rather than a proper calculation.
Obviously you are going to have a much stronger read on say a matchup between two fighters who have several fights in the UFC and loads of tape available on them compared to a fight between two UFC newcomers who have very little footage and info available regarding them. Even if you come to the conclusion that one fighter in each of these two examples should be a 2-1 favorite while the odds are dead even in both — meaning there is a lot of line value present in each — that does not mean you should bet both for the same amount.
In the fight between UFC veterans, your read is likely very strong, meaning you can be sure that you are properly assessing the matchup. That means there is a high likelihood that your line estimation is correct (if you’re a sharp bettor, anyway). However, in the bout between newcomers with many question marks, there is a good chance you are missing pieces to the puzzle and therefore your line estimation is incorrect, which could mean that there is actually no longterm value present in it at all.
Because of that, it’s important to understand how strong your read is on a given matchup and factor it in to your bet size. You have to be more cautious when making a play that you might have a bad read on, and in turn bet smaller on it. On the other hand, when you know that you have a very strong read on a bet, you should look to bet it bigger. Of course you still must also consider the amount of line value in the play when determining the bet size, as outlined in the first part of this article.
Again, this is very different than your sheer confidence in one fighter to beat another. For example, I bet Ryan Bader over Phil Davis last week at +200 odds. I was very confident that my read on the matchup was correct, however that read told me that the fight was a coin flip. This means that I was not confident in the bet’s chances to win, but that I was confident that the bet had a ton of longterm value, since I was getting +200 underdog odds on a fight that should have be dead even. Therefore, despite picking Bader to win a super close split-decision, I made a big bet on him at +200, risking 4 units to win 8. In the end, the fight played out exactly as I predicted, a toss up that went to a split-decision with Bader getting his hand raised and cashing my large bet. This is a perfect example of not being confident in the bet, but being confident in the betting line having a high amount of longterm value.
So, that will do it for this betting strategy guide! Hopefully you’ve found this helpful and informative. If so, please do us a favor and share the article with others. And as always, feel free to send us any questions, or to suggest a topic for further series entries, by emailing [email protected]!
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About Luca Fury
Luca Fury was heavily involved in the betting game for multiple years before eventually turning into a full time professional sports bettor at the age of 22. Several years later, Luca’s dedication and experience is the reason he has the longest running and most profitable MMA betting tips record in the industry. Betting professionally and running Fury’s Fight Picks are Luca’s only jobs, which means he is able to commit all of his time and resources to producing winning betting tips. Whether you’re looking for proper MMA betting advice, or want to tail winning UFC bets without doing any of the work yourself, Luca Fury and Fury’s Fight Picks are the proven number one source.
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