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Last Updated: July 15, 2021

Sports Betting Basic Strategy

Underdogs and the Under. Those two words comprise my basic strategy on sports betting. Follow that and I claim you will do better than most touts and the advice is simple and free. To be honest, I think you would do better with flipping a coin than you will spending money on touts, but let’s not get off topic with that subject.

Last week, I spent much of last week preparing a new page on betting the National Hockey League. Previously, I created similar pages on betting the NFL, MLB, and the NBA. With this latest look at the NHL, let’s take a fresh look at my advice across all four sports.

The following table shows the house edge across the four major sports. For the NFL and NBA, I look at bets against the spread and money line. For MLB and the NHL I looked at bets against the money line and run/puck line.

LEAGUE/BET UNDERDOG FAVORITE DIFFERENCE
NFL (SPREAD) 0.57% 8.36% 7.79%
NFL (MONEY LINE) 3.91% 6.24% 2.33%
NBA (SPREAD) 4.07% 4.84% 0.76%
NBA (MONEY LINE) 3.71% 4.24% 0.53%
MLB (MONEY LINE) 1.51% 2.21% 0.70%
MLB (RUN LINE) 3.66% 3.10% -0.56%
NHL (MONEY LINE) 3.18% 5.91% 2.73%
NHL (PUCK LINE) 3.74% 5.35% 1.61%

The table above shows that underdogs outperformed favorites in 7 of the 8 categories. In the one exception, in baseball, the difference was small.

The next table looks at the house edge on bets on the under and over in the four same sports.

League Under Over Difference
NFL 4.76% 4.17% -0.59%
NBA 4.71% 5.16% 0.45%
MLB 3.20% 5.45% 2.25%
NHL 3.71% 5.38% 1.67%

The table above shows the under bets did better in three of the four sports. I suspect the reason over bets in the NFL did a little better is a small sample size of only 3,220 games over 13 seasons from 2006 to 2018. I plan to update my NFL page before the next season starts in September.

Maybe I should change my sports betting strategy to three words – underdogs, under, and the road. I think the betting public puts too much value on the home field advantage. The following table shows how road vs. home teams did in the same four sports, looking at betting against the spread and money line in the NBA.

LEAGUE/BET ROAD HOME DIFFERENCE
NFL (SPREAD) -1.34% 10.28% 5.10%
NBA (SPREAD) 2.70% 6.22% 3.52%
NBA (MONEY LINE) 3.71% 4.24% 0.53%
MLB (MONEY LINE) 1.70% 2.01% 0.31%
NHL (MONEY LINE) 5.18% 3.91% -1.27%

The table above shows road teams did better in four of the five categories. I would attribute the apparent player advantage on road team in the NFL to the same small size problem I mentioned regarding the previous table.

So, in conclusion, I think my basic two-word strategy of underdogs and the under does well. There are a couple of exceptions, but the difference in house edge is small.

Until next week, may the odds be with you!