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Betting on Non-Marquee Sports

Written by: Richard Janvrin
10 min read

These days the number of different sports and leagues people can bet on just keeps getting bigger. Gamblers aren’t limited to major pro leagues like the NFL or NBA. There are tons of other less popular, non-marquee sports that offer amazing value for betting.

We’re talking about sports like tennis, golf, CFL football, rugby, NASCAR and many more. These sports don’t get nearly as much betting action in the US as the big four pro leagues and since the sportsbooks aren’t spending as much time focusing on them, you can find big gambling edges.

In this article we’ll explain:

  • How to bet on a wide assortment of non-marquee sports and which ones offer the best value.
  • Our favorite easy-to-follow tips and strategies for successfully betting on each sport.
  • Why non-marquee sports can actually be better to bet on than the big leagues.

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What Are Non-Marquee Sports?

Most of the time when you hear people talking about sports bets they’re talking about betting on the NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB. The word marquee refers to the big sign above theater entrances, where you see the name of the band or show. We call the four major US leagues “marquee sports” because they’re the feature presentation. They’re headlining the show.

What’s considered a marquee sport depends on which part of the world you’re in. Internationally it might be soccer, cricket or rugby. In North America, it’s the four major sports leagues we mentioned before.

Non-marquee sports refer to the less popular leagues in North America and around the world, whether it’s golf, tennis, car racing, or even e-sports. In terms of betting action, sports like this are way less popular than the big four. But just because a sport or league is less popular than another doesn’t mean there aren’t great gambling opportunities.

As online sports gambling has evolved and gained popularity, it’s now standard for sportsbooks to offer lines on tons of the less popular non-marquee sports. In the next sections, we’ll take a closer look at non-marquee sports and how to profitably bet on them. And if you’d rather bet on mobile, then take a look at the best betting apps on the market.

Top 5 Advantages of Betting on Non-Marquee Sports

The issue that sportsbooks have with setting so many lines across so many different sports is that they run the risk of spreading themselves thin in terms of staying up to date on the latest news and spending the time required to create dead-on accurate lines.

Whether it’s moneylines, point spreads, or over/unders, the less time the oddsmakers spend setting lines, the less accurate they’re going to be.

Oddsmakers have to dedicate the majority of their time to the big leagues because they represent such a big part of the book’s business. That often leaves the smaller leagues and less popular sports far less scrutinized.

Here are some of the biggest advantages to look for and keep in mind when considering taking a shot at betting on non-marquee sports:

  1. Do early research and hunt for lines that haven’t adjusted to recent news. One main advantage of betting on non-marquee sports is you can find lines where it’s clear the bookmakers are not as up to date as they would be for NFL news, for example.
  2. When odds and lines move in marquee sports it is often based on a majority of the public betting big on an over-hyped favorite. Generally speaking, when the public moves a line it is not based on smart money. With smaller leagues, if you see a line shifting it is more often from smart bettors who have found an edge overlooked by the sportsbook. This is a good chance to follow the smart money and make a smart bet.
  3. There are many cases of oddsmakers missing out on vital news for non-marquee games because the stories aren’t reported in the mainstream media and you will only know if you follow a particular team closely via their website, Twitter, Facebook, etc. If you notice something significant before the house does you can get an edge.
  4. Record the lines throughout the year and see if you notice trends in the oddsmakers’ lines. Take a game by game measure of how they set their money line, point spreads, and point totals. Are you noticing any mistakes or exaggerated lines? Are you noticing patterns or redundancies? If so you can exploit it to make a profit. They may just be relying on averages and ignoring important events within the league.
  5. If you are an avid fan of a smaller league, make sure to track the statistics closely but do so for many teams, not just your favorite. Sometimes the oddsmakers will base all of their lines on historical trends but will miss out on current affairs that alter the end results.

There are lots of advantages to betting on non-marquee sports but there are still some drawbacks to pay attention to:

Less Betting Options

Compared to marquee events you can expect far fewer betting options when it comes to non-marquee sports. If you like individual player prop bets, for example, you’ll have a hard time finding a good variety compared to the big leagues. Different sportsbooks offer different options so make sure to do some investigation and find a set that has good options for the sport you want to bet on.

Most likely you are going to have to choose between moneyline, point spread, or totals. It’s a bit of a catch-22 because if your sportsbook does start offering in-depth betting options for the non-marquee league you’re interested in it indicates that they are now paying more attention to it and subsequently they will be setting much tighter lines and odds.

Less Media Coverage

This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your level of research. As mentioned above the more popular a league gets, the more attention the oddsmakers will give to it.

If you are a fan of a sport that is mostly ignored by mainstream media it means you have the opportunity to be quicker than bookmakers when you come across fresh and important news about a team or game. The downside is that research takes a lot more legwork.

Less Research Resources

These days, thanks to the internet, you can dig up data like never before. Even when information is hard to find there are other means of obtaining what you seek. You can ask on forums, send tweets to fellow fans, or even email a team directly.

Again, if information is hard to come by you can also see this as a positive and an opportunity to become an expert on your niche team/league in order to outsmart the bookmakers.

Best Non-Marquee Sports to Bet On

Non-marquee sports are a big opportunity for sports bettors looking for an edge. In this section, we’ll explore the most popular non-marquee sports to bet on.

NCAA Football

College football is a huge market that has tons of teams. The most popular divisions and teams definitely get a lot of attention from sportsbooks but the lower level matches are often largely overlooked.

The question is, how deep are you willing to dig? As mentioned before, it is about being in the loop, monitoring the lines, and being quick to take action off of anything you discover that sportsbook don’t yet know. Make use of our weekly college football best bets to gain an advantage on the sportsbooks.

NCAA Basketball

The same factors that make NCAA football a good betting opportunity also hold true for college basketball. With these bets, one thing to pay close attention to is smaller team’s coaching systems and how they operate their offense. Are they up or down tempo? Do they shoot a lot of threes with the closer college 3-point line?

The key is that sportsbooks won’t be spending as much time on less popular teams and matchups. Make sure to stay up-to-date on less well-known news and developments and you’ll be able to find great value in this league.


The CFL brand has grown quickly in recent years and so has its sports betting reach. While it’s primarily a Canadian betting interest, the constantly increasing wagering options shows that sportsbooks are paying the league more and more attention. Even so, it’s still tiny compared to the NFL.

With three-down rules and a wider/longer field, there is a lot of passing in the game that drastically impacts both the score and the prop lines. Also, with different end-of-game rules for clock management you will find a lot of points scored late in games. This is a huge factor for both the spread and the point totals.


The Women’s National Basketball Association, while far less popular than it’s NBA counterpart and even the men and women’s collegiate game, does have a strong and loyal following. If you’re already part of that fan base you have an opportunity to turn your WNBA knowledge into profit.

WNBA lines are historically looser than all other basketball betting options. With only 12 teams and a reduced 34 game schedule, it isn’t too tough to become an expert of this league.

Pay close attention to any line movements in WNBA games. As mentioned earlier, when a line shifts in a marquee league it’s often emotional “dumb money” coming in from the public. When it happens in less popular leagues like the WNBA it’s often because of savvy bettors have found an edge and are putting lots of action on it. Try to react quickly and follow the smart money.

PGA Golf

There’s always been a loyal customer base for betting on PGA golf, and it continues to grow, but it’s still small compared to sports like NFL football. There didn’t use to be a ton of betting options for golf. Gamblers were restricted to simple bets like who would win the tournament, perform best on the day, or choosing between two players competing against each other in a ‘better than’ wager.

Now golf betting action is starting to open up and offer more options including live betting. For punters, this opens the door to some great opportunities, especially if you are prepared to do your homework and study how each player fairs in very specific conditions.

For more on golf betting tips, check out our Wise Kracks podcast episode on golf betting.


Similar to golf, tennis is mainly an individual athlete sport. It’s a lot different than other team sports and it definitely has big implications when it comes to betting. This is especially true when you’re betting on lesser-known players.

Of course, the Federers, Nadals, and Djokovic’s of the world are all going to have sharp lines. They are known by all and the betting action that tennis attracts will focus mainly on these superstars. Everyone knows them and everyone talks about them, including the oddsmakers. It’s hard to get an edge.

It’s those matches on the satellite courts with two young kids fighting to get into the tournament where we’ll find the loose lines. If you’re willing to put in the work you can find great value on your bets.


NASCAR is huge in the US but it’s relatively small in terms of gambling markets. With America’s new legal sports gambling landscape beginning to make an impact across the country, we’ve started to see more sites offering more betting options for NASCAR.

For avid fans who also take their sports wagering seriously, this is a prime opportunity to outsmart the bookies and identify loose lines.

Take a look at how NASCAR compares to NFL when it comes to revenue, audience, salaries, and more. Read “NFL vs NASCAR” here.


Over the last decade, we’ve seen both Bellator and the UFC make huge waves in the sporting world. More TV time and ad revenue has made it an industry leader in terms of pay per view and brand recognition. Gambling lines are starting to follow suit as many sportsbooks are now offering lines on more events, more fights per card, and also more props per fight.

With many fighters now entering the UFC from smaller fighting circuits, the oddsmakers have a challenging time discerning exactly where to set lines for up-and-comer fighters. By digging deep into these fighters’ backgrounds, especially with most athletes having their full resume viewable on youtube or elsewhere, you can use this information to get a leg up.


With the way esports are gaining popularity, and with the stunningly massive spikes the industry earns in revenue, it is no surprise that sportsbooks are getting in on the action. The thing is, are oddsmakers actually experts?

Most sportsbook oddsmakers have no clue about gaming. Why should they? It’s basically a brand new phenomenon in the grand scheme of things. In order to set lines efficiently many books have to reach out to experts in the gaming field.

If you are into the e-sports space you are likely just as qualified as anyone else in terms of knowing how well different teams and players are going to perform. For now at least, this is an avenue for finding great betting value.


Non-marquee betting action has spread so far and wide that prop bets on major non-sporting events are popping up all over the main sportsbooks. There are wagers on politics, bets on the entertainment industry, beauty pageants, even bets on which organization will first land on Mars.

Donald Trump’s odds were pretty juicy in 2016 and some books had him as much as a 7 to 1 underdog the night of the election. Each year when the Oscars roll around you should have no problem finding lines available for nearly all categories on nearly all sportsbooks.

Even at the time of this writing, there are major sportsbooks taking bets on who will sit on the Iron Throne at the conclusion of HBO TV series Game of Thrones.

The point is, sports betting is expanding its reach and that gives punters ample opportunity to find value. Just make sure you don’t end up on the sucker’s end of those props. That where a little homework can save you big bucks. And to make sure you’re taking advantage of the best sportsbook offers, have a look at the best betting bonuses and welcome offers in your state.

Less Interest from Sportsbooks Means Looser Lines

Loose lines refer to inaccurate odds set by the sportsbook and they’re what sports bettors live for. This could be a point spread that gives way too many points to the underdog, a point total that is way off the mark or moneyline odds that are way too loose for one team or the other.

We see loose lines more often in smaller leagues and sports simply because oddsmakers are spending less time on them. Loose lines are especially common when the smaller level game runs concurrent to a major marquee game happening in the big leagues.

When this takes place the smaller event flies so far under the radar that it can seem like the sportsbook threw up the line without doing any homework at all.

Relatively speaking there’s such a small amount of the sportsbook’s action riding on the non-marquee game, it doesn’t make much sense to spend a lot of time setting the perfect line. Instead, you’ll find sportsbooks post lines based on historical averages and computer models instead of careful deliberation.

The Super Bowl, for example, will be scrutinized endlessly by oddsmakers because there’s a ridiculous amount of money riding on it. If there are less popular games and matches happening at the same time, it’s a great opportunity to find loose lines.

Smaller Leagues Mean Easier Research

Not only are smaller leagues easier to research by virtue of their size, they are also perfect for getting angles on information that only small groups of dedicated fans share amongst each other. This type of news stream is hard for oddsmakers to keep up with, especially since there are so many leagues and teams around the world in so many different sports.

Becoming a member of a team’s online community through forums, official homepages, social media etc, is a perfect way to get up to the minute information as soon as it happens. If you are able to take fresh news of something that can impact a game’s outcome and apply it to the odds before they get adjusted (assuming they ever do) you just found yourself some added value. That’s the name of the game.

This point ties in with the next section which explains how creating a betting niche for yourself can pay off big.

How to Create a Betting Niche

Like we mentioned at the beginning of this article, online sportsbooks are offering a bigger variety of sports to bet on than ever before. This includes lots of smaller, less popular sports that weren’t available for wagering before.

One really powerful sports betting strategy is to focus way in and create a narrow niche for yourself. Focus on one league or even one team and learn absolutely everything there is to know about it.

This approach can earn you an edge over oddsmakers because they’re responsible for setting odds on tons of different sports, teams, and leagues. By restricting yourself to a narrow slice of one sport you can become an expert.

Here are some tips for creating a profitable betting niche in non-marquee sports:

Exploit Human Error

Computer models and artificial intelligence are smart, and getting smarter all the time, but in the sports betting world the final decisions on odds are still made by humans. That means human error is still a factor you can exploit.

Oddsmakers don’t make a lot of mistakes in leagues like the NFL and NBA but they definitely miss the mark from time to time when it comes to less popular, non-marquee sports. By becoming an expert in a narrow niche you’ll be able to spot their mistakes when others can’t.

Explore More Sports

Finding a betting niche is a prime example of how and why non-marquee sports betting is a great opportunity. Explore other less popular sports to find a niche that looks inviting. Niches work best when you’re passionate about following the action and all the latest news.

If you are lucky already and you’ve found some lower-level leagues that you follow closely and have the opportunity to place bets on, great. If not, look for sports you’re interested in that are also offered by the sportsbook you use.

Remember, you don’t have to already love a sport to find a new niche league to bet on. Dig around, talk to people, register for some forums. You might find yourself becoming a fan of something you otherwise never would have followed.

Start Recording Results

In order to learn how to take advantage of loose lines in niche markets, you need to track each game and its odds. It may take some time at first and it helps to create a spreadsheet. This homework will let you see both the line movements over time as well as the odds that the sportsbook are laying.

When you are privy to news from a team you follow closely, be sure to quickly check the odds to see if you found out before the house did. If the odds don’t reflect the latest news, seize the opportunity.

Small Leagues = Big Wins

Whether you’re already a die-hard fan of a non-marquee sport, or you’re willing to discover and learn new sports to bet on, less popular leagues offer outstanding betting opportunities.

If you focus your time and energy on becoming an expert in a narrow niche, like one team or one division, you can actually become more knowledgeable than the oddsmakers who are in charge of setting the lines.

Add to that the fact that many sportsbooks barely skim the surface when setting odds for some non-marquee sports and you can find a big edge.

With non marquee sports, when you hear news there is a good chance you’re one of the first. If you are savvy, quick, and diligent you can use this information to your benefit with huge dividends.

For more tips to improve your sports betting results, browse our library of sports betting strategy guides.

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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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