Research & Analysis: Strategy for Betting on Sports
Sports betting is hard. Actually, scratch that. It's not. Sports betting is really rather easy. You simply pick an event to bet on, make your selection, and then put your money down. That doesn't seem too difficult, does it?
Of course not. Anyone can do it. It's part of what makes sports betting such a popular form of gambling. Millions of people all over the world regularly enjoy betting on sports events, even though the majority of them lose. Sports betting might be easy, but making money from it isn't.
We hope that doesn't come as a big surprise to anyone. There's a reason why the best-known bookmakers and betting sites are huge companies that make big profits every year. They're very good at what they do, and most bettors aren't. That's the simple reality of the situation.
Want to know the funny part? Most bettors don't even care about this. They would like to win and many even dream of one day being successful, but for the most part they are satisfied just having fun. They're not prepared to put in the time and effort that's required to make money, so they don't give any real consideration to strategy or anything like that. They bet based on instinct and any relevant sports knowledge they may have.
There's nothing wrong with this approach at all. We know lots of losing sports bettors who are fully aware that their betting costs them money. They don't mind though, as they enjoy what they do. They view their losing wagers as the cost of their entertainment, and anything they win is simply a bonus.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are the bettors who DO care about winning, and a few of them are very successful. In fact, there are quite a few wealthy people who have made their fortunes from betting. The majority of people who care about winning still lose though. Why? Because wanting to win isn't enough. Effective sports betting takes a lot more than simple desire. It takes hard work and commitment, you have to be willing to learn about all the strategy involved too.
That's why we've put together our comprehensive guide to sports betting strategy. It's packed full of useful information and advice that can help anyone go from a losing bettor to a winning one: if they're prepared to work hard enough that is.
We can say with confidence that this article in particular is one of the most critical articles to read in our entire strategy guide, despite the fact that it doesn't actually contain any strategy advice. Why is it so special then? It explains the research and analysis required before APPLYING sports betting strategy. No one, and we mean NO ONE, can expect to make money from betting on sports unless they spend time researching and analyzing the relevant information. In this article we're going to teach you how to do that effectively.
The Importance of Research & Analysis
To be honest, we're not entirely sure we need to explain that research and analysis is vital when betting on sports. If we assume that anyone reading this article has at least a passing interest in becoming a successful bettor, then we'd like to think that they already recognize its importance.
However, maybe you're a complete beginner to sports betting who really doesn't know what it takes to be successful. Or maybe you know that research and analysis is crucial, but you're just not sure why. We like to be thorough in all our articles anyway, so let's get on with our explanation. We'll start by asking you a question.
It doesn't matter what your actual answer is here. It could be soccer, football, golf, tennis or any other sport. We can be pretty sure of one thing though. The sports you bet on the most are the sports you know the most about. Are we right? Of course we are.
With very few exceptions, sports bettors bet on the sports that they're familiar with. This makes perfect sense. By choosing to bet on the sports they know and understand the best, their chances of selecting winning wagers significantly increases. We have a much better chance of making solid predictions on sports we know a lot about, then on sports where our knowledge is limited. Agreed?
Let's think about it this way. If it makes sense to bet on the sports we know the most about, then it also makes sense to assume that we should strive to know as much as possible about the sports we want to bet on. When it comes to sports betting, information and knowledge equals power. The more we have, the better.
To make good betting decisions, we need to have plenty of information at our disposal. We can't simply rely on our existing sports knowledge. We might have an in-depth knowledge of football and how it's played, for example, but that in itself doesn't necessarily help us when we're betting on the NFL. Not in isolation of other information. Knowing the different factors that affect the likely outcome of a football game is essentially useless information unless we actually research and analyze those factors.
Not convinced? We'll use another football example to explain. Let's say you're a genuine football expert. You understand exactly what it takes to win a game of football. You know which positions are the most important on the field, you recognize that the coaches play a key role, and you know that certain playing styles are effective in some situations and not so effective in others. Great! Now take a look at the following betting market.
Which team is going to cover? Are the Seahawks going to win by more than three? Or are the Saints going to keep it close, or maybe even win?
These questions are practically impossible to answer, since you have absolutely no context for the game. You might be tempted to assume that the Seahawks are going to cover based on the fact that they're typically the stronger of the two teams, but that would essentially be guessing. You're using general football knowledge rather than considering the specific factors that are going to affect this game.
Let's now imagine that the Seahawks are without their star quarterback, their starting tight end, and their best running back. All three of these players are injured, and won't be playing in the game. Suddenly, we have some context for this game. Seeing as how the Saints will be without three of their key players, we have good reason to believe the Saints will cover.
This is a slightly more informed judgement, because we're working with relevant information. However, it's still only a limited amount of information. This data alone doesn't tell us everything we need to know in order to make a good betting decision. What if the Saints are also missing some key players? Or what if the Seahawks have been missing those players for the last two games and have still posted comfortable victories?
If you don't know very much about American football, then what we have just discussed probably doesn't make a lot of sense to you. There's no need to worry. It all serves to highlight the main point we're trying to make. Don't expect to make properly informed judgements unless you're actually properly informed. This SHOULD be obvious.
Even if you knew everything there was to know about a sport, you'd still need to understand the specifics surrounding the game or event you're betting on. Otherwise, you won't be able to consistently make accurate predications. Not to mention, you won't be able to properly identify where the value lies.
Identifying value is absolutely vital if you want to make money from sports betting. If you're not familiar with the concept of value as it applies to betting, you need to be. Please read our article on probability and value in sports betting for a detailed explanation
Now, how do you think you get to know the relevant specifics surrounding a sports event? You guessed it; you need to do some research. After that, it's time to analyze your findings. Then, and only then, are you in a position to make an informed judgement about what's likely to happen.
So, let's go back to the football game between the Seahawks and the Saints. We'll assume that you follow the NFL closely and that you're already familiar with the two rosters and their relative quality. That's a good starting point, but there's a lot more you'd want to know before placing a wager.
We recommend looking at the key statistics for the two teams to see how they've been performing in the season so far. Identify their respective strengths and weaknesses, and think about how they'll affect things. Look at recent form, injuries, and anything that might impact the outcome of the game. The end goal is to take a range of different factors into account so that you can form a balanced view on the likely outcome of the game.
We could obviously go into a lot more detail about what you need to research and analyze before betting on a game of football. Then we could do the same for soccer, tennis, basketball, and any other sport you're interested in. But that would take us a VERY long time. And you can find all that in our sports specific betting guides anyway.
The goal of this article is to provide you with some broad insight into why research and analysis is so important (which we've hopefully just done) and how to do it effectively. In the next section we provide some useful tips for carrying out research and analysis, and then we look at the different types of sources you should consider using.
Our Top Tips for Your Research & Analysis
This might surprise you, but there's no "correct" way to carry out the necessary research and analysis. The only definitive rule is that you should actually do some. Beyond that, it's really down to you to work in whatever way suits you the best. Obviously you need to research and analyze different things depending on what sports you bet on. The type of wagers you typically place, and the strategies you use, will also play a part in determining what information is most relevant to you.
For these reasons, we can't provide you with a perfect guide to exactly what to do and how, as it really depends on your betting preference. Instead, what we can do is offer some useful tips that can be applied in a general sense. None of these are especially complicated, but they're still solid advice. Follow them, and you'll definitely be on the right track.
We've listed our top tips below, and then explained each one in detail.
- 1Dedicate plenty of time
- 2Have a plan
- 3Be flexible
- 4Value facts over opinions
- 5Get balanced views
- 6Watch games/events
- 7Always consider context
- 8Find good sources
Dedicate plenty of time
Our first tip here couldn't be any more straightforward, but that doesn't make it any less critical. In fact, it's arguably the most beneficial piece of advice we have to offer. The quality of our research and analysis will ultimately determine how successful we are when betting on sports. We're not exaggerating here. If we don't gather enough relevant information and properly assess it, then we just simply won't be able to consistently make good betting decisions.
Our research and analysis obviously won't be particularly high quality if we only spend five minutes on it. This is something we need to dedicate a significant amount of time to. This doesn't mean we'll need to spend hours upon hours poring over every little detail, but we certainly need to do more than the bare minimum. Consider this simple equation. More time spent doing research and analysis equals more informed judgments. More informed judgments typically lead to making more money.
Have a plan
We find it very useful to have a defined plan for our research and analysis. We like to plan which sources we're going to use, what information we're going to look for, and how we're going to factor that information into our betting decisions. By having a plan, what we do becomes a lot more effective.
As part of our plan, we also like to have some kind of schedule. We try to allocate some fixed times to work on our research and analysis. This approach is much more effective than simply trying to fit it in whenever we have a spare moment or two.
This tip may seem a little contradictory to the one we previously mentioned. It IS important to have a plan, but it's equally important to be able to deviate from that plan when necessary. There will be times when we need to use slightly different methods, or apply different strategies, depending on what we're betting on.
If we're too rigid in the way we do our research and analysis, we can end up being too rigid in our thinking. This is bad news for sports bettors, as it will only harm us to always look at everything in exactly the same way. We need to adjust our thinking based on new information and different circumstances. If we don't do that we can end up making a lot of bad decisions, or missing out on some good betting opportunities.
Value facts over opinions
This tip is extremely relevant when betting on mainstream sports. Sports like American football, soccer and basketball get a lot of media coverage. Let's face it; the media is full of people who like to offer their opinions. While their opinions can be very insightful, there's also a chance they may be complete nonsense.
That's why we need to be especially careful about overvaluing the opinions of others. Our goal should always be to form our own opinions. That's the whole point of doing our research and analysis in the first place. There's nothing wrong with considering other people's opinion and factoring them in, but it's FACTS that ultimately tell us a lot more.
Get balanced views
This is a continuation of the previous tip. We just got done explaining why there's nothing wrong with considering the opinions of others, but we must warn you. This CAN be dangerous if we're exposed to views that are too one-sided. The main advantage of considering other opinions is that it helps us ensure that our own opinions are balanced. This advantage is lost if we're overly influenced by any kind of bias.
For example, let's say that there's an upcoming soccer game between Liverpool and Manchester United. As part of our research, we decide to visit an online Liverpool fan forum. We figure this will give us some insight into how the team is playing and what their chances are of winning. This is a perfectly valid thing to do. As you'll discover later, fan forums are one of the sources we recommend using for research. Here's the problem though.
Obviously, a Liverpool fan forum will consist of mostly Liverpool fans, who aren't going to have an unbiased view of the upcoming game. This is especially true considering they're going up against Manchester United: their most fierce rivals. Their judgments on the outcome of the game will be completely clouded by their love for Liverpool and their hatred for Manchester United. What we're trying to explain here is that their opinions really won't help us at all.
Instead, we should look into a different fan forum. One that's used by fans of various different teams to discuss soccer in general, as well as upcoming games will be the best option. We'd be much more likely to find some unbiased insight here, which would be far more valuable to us.
An excellent way to carry out research and analysis is by actually watching the games/events. There are certain things that we can only really discover from actually watching teams and players in action. Plus, it helps us to form our opinions about how good they are and what sort of form they're in. It will also help us identify their strengths and weaknesses, see how they react to certain situations, learn about their preferred style(s) of play and all kinds of other things.
We try not to bet on anything if we haven't seen the relevant participants in action recently, regardless of what sport we're betting on. We genuinely believe that seeing them play/compete is that valuable. We're not suggesting that you need to be as strict as us, but never overlook the benefits of watching games and events.
Plus, this is actually a very enjoyable way to spend your time!
Always consider context
We mentioned earlier that facts are far more important than opinions. We should also point out that facts can be misleading. Certain facts don't always tell us everything we need to know. Even worse, they can sometimes paint an entirely false picture.
For example, let's say we're about to bet on a basketball game between San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings. As part of our research, we take a look at the recent form of the two teams. We see that the Spurs are on a streak of five consecutive wins, while the Kings have lost their last four. The obvious assumption is that the Spurs are in the better form.
This would be a mistake. While betting on the Spurs might be the best decision, we can't come to that conclusion based on that one small piece of research. Not only do we need to consider a lot more than recent form, but we also have to remember that simply looking at results doesn't necessarily tell us the whole story. We have to also consider the context of those results.
If we did our research and looked into the details of these games, we might discover that the Spurs had actually been a little lucky to win in three of their last five games. They didn't actually put in great performances, but the bounce of the ball just seemed to go in their favor. When we dig a little further, we realize that their last five games also happen to have been among the easiest in their schedule, and two of the teams they faced were missing a couple of key players due to injury or suspension.
When we then look at the Kings results in more detail, we see that they've actually had some pretty bad luck. Even though they haven't been performing poorly, they just weren't getting the kind of results they deserved. They've also been facing some tough opposition, and have been missing their star small forward who typically scores a lot of their points.
This is an entirely hypothetical situation, but it highlights the importance of looking at the context. Once we dug into the detail, the form of the San Antonio Spurs wasn't as impressive as it first seemed. And the form of the Sacramento Kings wasn't as bad as it seemed.
Find good sources
Our eighth and final tip is a big one. The quality of the sources we use for our research will ultimately define just how much we gain from our analysis. If we're analyzing information that isn't especially accurate or useful, then our conclusions are likely to be flawed. If we're analyzing information that IS accurate and useful, then the conclusions we reach should be valuable to us.
We are blessed to have a TON of reliable and useful resources available to us. There's simply no need to use poor resources. We just have to be willing to put in the necessary effort into finding suitable ones that will give us the information we need.
Chances are, you probably already have your list of preferred sources. We encourage you to ask yourself these questions. Do you have quality sources? Do they provide exactly what you need? Do you use a large selection of different sources? Or do you limit yourself by relying too heavily on just one or two sources?
With this in mind, the next section of this article looks at the various types of resource you should be using for your sports betting research.
Useful Resources for Sports Betting Research
We could simply provide you with a list of recommended resources here, but that's not we're going to do. Although this would be useful to some extent, we'd have to keep it constantly updated. A good resource today might not be so good in the future. Some resources, for whatever reason, let their standards drop. Meanwhile, other resources improve and new ones come along that have a lot to offer.
So what we're going to do instead is suggest a few different types of resource that you should consider using. Here's our list.
- 1General Sports Media
- 2Official Websites
- 3Stats Websites
- 4Fan Websites, Blogs & Forums
- 5Sports Betting Websites, Blogs & Forums
- 6Social Media
Now, we're going to do our best to explain each one of these resources in detail to give you a better understanding of why they are useful and why we recommend using them. Where appropriate, we'll also list some specific resources that we know are useful. Please note that not everything we discuss here is relevant for ALL sports. Most of it applies to mainstream sports though.
General Sports Media
This should be your first stop as you begin your sports betting research. General sports media includes any of the many sports channels on TV in addition to what's found on the written press. These sources are both useful, but the most valuable sources of all are the websites operated by the big sports outlets.
You'll find all the major news you need to know on these sites, and plenty of interesting editorial pieces too. They're great for keeping up on the changes that teams are making during the close season, and great for keeping track of injuries and suspensions once the action starts. They typically publish insightful previews of upcoming games and events, and detail reports on past games and events.
In short, these websites contain a lot of useful information. Most of the major ones cover a wide variety of different sports too, so they're good resources regardless of what sports you bet on.
Here are a few sites that we consider to be especially valuable sources.
Official websites of the appropriate leagues or competitions that you're betting can also be useful sources of information. You'll only find bare facts here, but sometimes they're all you need. There are details of schedules and fixtures, for example, as well as league standings. Some official sites also have sections for the news or stats.
Here are the official sites for some of the most commonly bet on leagues and competitions.
Most sports teams have their own official sites too. They won't provide a wealth of information, but they can be useful for researching certain facts.
For a lot of the sports we can bet on, statistics can be very powerful information to have, assuming we're able to analyze them properly and interpret our findings of course. If we do that well, then stats can really help us make good betting decisions.
Finding the stats we need on the internet is not hard at all. As we just mentioned, the relevant stats are often displayed on official websites. The NFL website, for example, publishes extensive statistics for its teams and players. Many others do the same.
There are also lots of "unofficial" stats sites out there that provide even more detailed statistics than official websites. The top quality sites provide accurate data that's regularly updated. We won't list any here simply because there are so many of them, for a variety of different sports. We are positive you won't have trouble finding them yourself though; a simple Google search will be proof of that.
Fan Websites, Blogs & Forums
Sports fans can be very passionate about the teams (or individuals) they support and follow. Some are passionate enough to launch their own websites and blogs dedicated to their favorite team or athlete. A lot of the websites and blogs are pretty useless for any kind of meaningful research, but that's not the case for all of them. Some of these resources can be very helpful for getting some alternative points of view, or even real insight, from someone who knows a lot more about a specific team or player than we do.
The same principle applies with fan forums. We mentioned these earlier. Most of the professional sports teams we're likely to bet on will have at least one or two dedicated fan forums. These can be very useful for picking up some information from people who are more knowledgeable and up to date about a particular team than we are. Just remember what we said earlier about being wary of biased opinions!
There are also lots of other general sports forums that can be useful too. Again, we're not going to list any here for the same reasons as before. There are too many of them, and they're reasonably easy to find.
Sports Betting Websites, Blogs & Forums
Expect to uncover countless sites dedicated to sports betting on the internet. These include informational sites (such as ours, which you're reading right now), as well as blogs and forums. As in the previous category, many of these sites will not be very useful. Others (like this one!) are excellent, and provide lots of valuable information.
These kind of sites aren't necessarily the best for researching specific events you're planning to bet on, but they're great for researching sports betting in general. This is something worth investing your time in, as you should never stop trying to improve your sports betting knowledge and learning about all the strategy involved.
Also, some of these sites ARE useful for researching specific events. Take our gambling blog for example, or our news section. We write a wide variety of different posts and articles for these, including previews for sports events. These previews not only provide an overview of what to expect in the relevant event, but they also feature at least one or two recommended wagers.
Social media is full of sports betting tipsters. Especially Twitter. Most of these tipsters barely deserve the label, as they're not very good at what they do. Some of them, however, are worth following. It wouldn't be wise to just blindly follow their tips and picks, but it doesn't hurt to take what they say into account when it comes time to make your own decisions. The best tipsters will thoroughly explain their reasoning for choosing to pick what they did, so this is also a great way to gain more perspective.
An especially useful social media site to use is Reddit. There are lots of sports and sports betting related sections on here, many of which feature very interesting discussions. We definitely recommend taking some time to explore this site.
More Research & Analysis to Consider
Before we finish up this article, there are two more pieces of advice we want to offer. The first is that you should spend some time analyzing your own betting performance. If you keep detailed betting records (and you should), there's a lot to be gained by regularly reviewing those records and looking for ways to improve. This is a great method for enhancing your betting skills over time.
The second piece of advice is that you should research the various different betting sites you can use, and make sure that you're betting with the right ones. There are numerous benefits to using the best betting sites, some of which can directly help you make more money. Want to learn more about this subject? Read our article on choosing where to bet. Or for an even quicker solution, check out our list of recommended sites we have provided below.