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Betting Against the Public

Written by: Richard Janvrin
10 min read

Betting against the public is a powerful sports betting strategy and when it’s used correctly it can help your bottom line in a big way.

The world is full of casual, largely uninformed sports fans making casual, uninformed bets. The idea that these casual fans are wrong a lot of the time is the cornerstone of betting against the public.

Do you think you know more than the average sports fan? Do you have a good feel for when popular perception is off? Do you regularly notice when there is a media bias overhyping an outcome? By looking for key indicators, you can find fantastic opportunities to bet against public opinion.

In this article, we’ll clearly explain what it is, how it works, and how to use this sports gambling strategy to hopefully win more bets.

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What Is Betting Against the Public?

In simple terms, betting against the public means betting against what the majority of people think will happen. Another term for this is “fading” the public. People vote with their money and whatever outcome is being backed most heavily represents what the majority of the betting public thinks will happen.

When you notice that the action in a bet is particularly one-sided, that the vast majority of people are betting on one outcome, it means there is likely to be value in betting on the opposite outcome.

The thinking behind this sports betting strategy starts with the fact that the public as a whole isn’t right all the time. If they were, a lot more people would be successful sports bettors. People who believe in betting against the public believe that the majority of bettors often get their predictions wrong. Furthermore, betting against the public requires the ability to see when the betting public is off-base.

Key Terms

  • “Fading” the public is another word for betting against what the public thinks will happen
  • “Squares” is a term used to describe casual bettors.
  • “Sharps” are experienced bettors who typically make money from betting.
  • “Action” is another word for a bet, or the money being placed on a bet.
  • “The favorite” is the team or player most likely to win, according to the odds.
  • “The underdog” is the team or player most likely to lose, according to the odds.

How Does It Work?

Disregarding ties where you get your money back, every bet can split into two possible outcomes. For example, those outcomes could be:

  • Win or lose?
  • Will there be overtime, yes or no?
  • Will there be over 48.5 points, yes or no?
  • Will there be a red card, yes or no?

There are tons of bets like this available on every game, in every sport.

Whichever side of the bet has the most action (that is, the most money being bet on it) represents the prevailing public perception. If you think public perception is off, which statistically speaking it generally is, you should bet on the opposite outcome.

Look for Moving Lines

In order to minimize their risk, sportsbooks always want to have a roughly equal amount of action on both sides of a bet. When the majority of the betting public wagers on one side too heavily, the sportsbook will often adjust the lines and odds to make the other side more appealing.

Moving betting lines is a very good indicator that most of the public is betting one way. Not only is this a good opportunity to fade the public if you think they’re wrong, but you can also get even better odds since the casino is trying to make the less popular side of the bet more enticing.

Factors that Influence Public Opinion

Popular opinion can be shaped by lots of different factors and not all of them are based on hard facts. If you can identify spots where most people’s opinions are being influenced by other factors it can be a great opportunity to bet against the public.

Here are some common ones to look out for:

The Media Narrative

The media can play a big role if they are hyping up one outcome over another. People are easily influenced by the dominant media narrative and public opinion has a way of snowballing.

Team Reputation

Higher profile teams are much more likely to be bet on more heavily by the public. Casual fans are likely to be influenced by their basic knowledge about a team or sport, betting on reputation rather than probability. The more famous a team, the more action there will be on them.

Home Advantage

In team sports like football, hockey, and basketball, home advantage is usually a big factor that influences public opinion. While it’s true that statistically playing at home is a big advantage, make sure to do the research and see what that particular team’s results say. Pay especially close attention to short term history to see if playing at home is really helping them and how much.

Star Players

Something as simple as recognizing a star player can be hugely important in determining how the public bets. Plenty of people backed the Cavaliers to beat the Warriors last season for one reason only – LeBron James. Of course, star players have a big influence on the outcome of a game, but the extent of their influence can be distorted.

Gambling Psychology

Psychologically, people are much more likely to root for lots of points and winning teams. This is equally true for betting. People rarely want to bet on a low scoring game or a tie. This is an important concept for gamblers who like betting against the public.

Another important thing to remember is that even if you think the public perception is largely correct (for example, on which team will win a match) but that the public is off in how much the team will win by, you still have the opportunity to fade the public.

There are many different types of bets that can be used effectively to bet against the public, taking into account the above factors.

Examples of Wagering Against the Public

We’ll break down a few examples of good opportunities to bet against the public to show you exactly what we’re talking about.

Example #1: Bet on the Underdog to Win

Let’s start with a simple one. A casual bettor on a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Houston Astros in MLB baseball. He hasn’t been following either team much this season, but he knows that home-run hitter Edwin Encarnación plays for the Reds. That’s enough for him, he bets on Cincinnati.

Since he hasn’t been paying attention he’s got no idea that Encarnación has been in a slump and not producing. The Astros, on the other hand, have momentum from a few consecutive wins.

There are a lot of people out there like the first guy. Enough people will bet on the favorites based on star players or just basic psychology. This creates a situation where the majority of the action is on the favorite, which inflates the odds on the underdog even though they could be a more logical choice.

This is a prime situation to bet against the public.

Example #2: Bet on the Favorite Not to Cover the Spread

When betting on the road favorite, the public may ignore the importance of home advantage, in favor of the big name on the road.

Say the Golden State Warriors are playing on the road against the Boston Celtics. Even though the Celtics have home advantage, the vast majority of the public are likely to bet on the Warriors, because of their reputation, their star players and their recent success.

The casual fan may not know or care much about the home team, but they hear the name Golden State Warriors and they bet on them. In this case, even if you think the Warriors are going to win, chances are public opinion has created an unrealistic point spread.

Maybe the public have bet so heavily on the Warriors that the point spread is -10. Now, even though you think the Warriors will have enough to beat the Celtics, you know it’s going to be a close game. You can bet that the Warriors won’t cover the spread and still make a profit when they win.

If you want to read more on NBA betting take a look at our in-depth guide, how to bet on NBA.

Betting Against the Public on Point Spreads

Betting on the point spread is one of the best ways to effectively bet against the public. The point spread is basically how many points the bookmaker thinks the favored team will win the game by. This is also known as handicap betting.

You can think about this as how many points advantage it would take to even out a game. So if, for example, the spread in a game between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs is -7 for the Patriots, the market is suggesting that it’s roughly even money that the Patriots will win by 7 points.

If you want to bet on the Patriots at odds close to 1:1 in this scenario, they will have to win by at least 7 points to “cover the spread” and win you your bet.

Learning how to bet on point spreads can be great way to make money betting against the public if you agree with public opinion on the outcome of a match, but disagree on the margin of victory. Since the Chiefs can lose the game by up to six points in this example, it’s a good opportunity to fade the public if you think they’ll probably lose but still cover the spread.

Betting Against the Public on Over/Unders

Over/under bets are wagers on the total points scored in a game by both teams combined. The sportsbook sets a line and you can bet on the final total being over or under their line.

For example:

  • If the line is set at 3.5 and you bet the over, it means you think there will be four goals or more in the game.
  • So, in this case, if the game was a 2-2 tie or a 3-1 win, you would win either way.
  • Alternatively, an under 3.5 goals bet means you think there will be 3 goals or less.
  • The game could finish 3-0 or 0-0 and either way you would still win.

The reason over/under bets are a good strategy for betting against the public in low-scoring games like hockey and soccer is due to the psychology associated with sports betting. Remember, people rarely want to bet that a game will be low scoring. The general public loves to root for goals and excitement.

Imagine Portugal were playing Argentina in the World Cup final. You can be sure the media coverage of the prospect of Ronaldo vs Messi would mean that a lot of people will be expecting a lot of goals. Plus, it’s the World Cup final and people are excited. As more money is bet on a high scoring game, it becomes more and more profitable to fade the public. Especially when you know that the World Cup final is a traditionally cagey, low scoring match.

Over/under betting is popular in other sports too, and the principle behind it is largely the same. When public opinion is leaning towards an unrealistically high number of goals or points, you can consider an ‘under’ bet to fade them.

Betting Against the Public on Moneyline Bets

A bet on the outright winner of a match is referred to as a moneyline bet. Point spreads or handicaps are not taken into consideration. Instead of using a point spread to handicap the superior team, sportsbooks manipulate the payout odds to make both sides of the bet equally appealing.

Just like point spreads, money line bets offer good opportunities to bet against the prevailing public opinion.

When a large majority of people bet on one side, the casino will often move the line to make the other side more appealing. Not only can you fade the public in this scenario, but you can also even pick up better odds.

To do so on the go, we’ve put together a list of the best sports betting apps available. Check it out.

Is Betting Against the Public Profitable?

It certainly can be but it’s not as simple as always picking the opposite side to the public. Every situation is different and every bet is different. The key is to have a feel for when public opinion is being influenced by factors that won’t actually affect the outcome of the game. Go back and brush up on the most common factors like media hype, star players, and team reputation.

Tip: The bigger the match or event, the more hype is generated around it by the media. When public opinion is being swayed by a media narrative, there is often the possibility to bet against the public effectively.

Betting Against the Public in Soccer

Soccer betting is becoming a more and more popular market to fade the public. The Premier League in England has 760 games per year. The MLS in the United States is growing every year and is attracting some of the biggest names in the sport like Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. There are a number of ways to fade the public in soccer.

While it is possible to bet against the spread in soccer, because it is a low scoring game compared with many others this is not always a popular bet. Backing home underdogs in the Premier League is a good option to bet against the public. The Premier League is a complicated and long competition and the popularity of the big names like Manchester United can distort the odds when the play on the road against a mid-table underdog.

Another good option to bet against the public in soccer is Over/Under betting.

We compared the MLS and Premier League to find out which league makes more money, has more fans, has a bigger following and more. Take a look at “MLS vs Premier League“.

Betting Against the Public in Football

Betting on the NFL is the most popular market in the USA. The more people betting in a market, the more squares there are. There are plenty of people who know very little about betting or even about football who like to place a sociable bet on NFL games. This means that there is usually a great opportunity to bet against the public.

The scoring system of the NFL means that there are key numbers to think about when betting. The most important number is 3. The most likely margin of victory in an NFL game is 3 points. Games that go into overtime or games that are tied in the fourth quarter are more likely to be decided by a field goal, which is worth 3 points.

A converted touchdown, which is worth 7 points means that 7 is another key number in NFL. If one team is chasing a game and needs a touchdown, the other can aim to run down the clock, meaning that the margin of victory will be between 4-7 (as a field goal would not have been enough to tie the game).

When there is a lot of action on high scoring NFL games, it can a good bet to buy points on or off a 3 point or 7 point spread.

To bet on NFL check out what are the best betting bonuses in your state.

Buying Points to Bet Against the Public

Buying points is an added option in point spread betting. It allows you to pay more to skew the spread in your favor, by giving away fewer points on the favorite or receiving even more on the underdog.

For example:

  • If the New England Patriots are -3 against the Green Bay Packers at +3, you can buy half a point to make the Patriots favorite at -2.5, moving them off a 3 point spread.
  • Your potential winnings will be lower if you buy points, but it can be worth it to move to an optimal spread.

Buying points can be a good option for maximizing your chance to win when betting against public opinion.

Betting Against the Public in Baseball

Casual bettors in baseball are likely to be swayed by the top teams and especially by top pitchers and batters. This creates value on underdogs.

The best opportunities for betting against the public in baseball are often found when a big team or a high profile player are attracting a lot of action. This means that betting on home underdogs can be profitable.

Because there are not as many points scored in basketball or football, moneyline bets are more common in baseball.

Betting Against the Public in Hockey

Hockey, like soccer, is a comparatively low scoring game. This means that money line bets are more common than point spread bets. Betting on underdogs on the money line is good strategy for betting against the public in hockey.

When betting on the money line it is important to remember that winning every bet tends not to be necessary to be profitable if you bet on underdogs. For example, you may place three money line bets on three separate NHL games. Depending on the odds it may be possible to lose two, win one and still make a profit. This is because money line bets on the underdog can have longer odds and bigger payouts than point spread bets,

Like soccer, over/under total points bets can also be profitable, and like soccer, the public’s tendency to bet on high scoring games can distort the odds.

Read our guide on how to bet on NHL.

Try Betting Against the Public Now

In this article, we’ve explained the theory behind betting against the public and gone over some of the most common ways to do it.

Remember, there are thousands of bets available to exploit any value that public action creates in the market but the principle behind all of them is the same: The general public is rarely able to correctly predict the outcome of sports on a consistent basis.

Every sport is different and each one offers its own possibilities to fade the public. Over/under betting, betting the spread, the money line – these are just the tip of the iceberg in ways to bet against the public effectively

If you live in a state that offers regulated online sports betting, check out our list of recommended sites and put your new public-fading skills to work.

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Richard Janvrin

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After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report, Gambling.com, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.

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