Separating the Pros from the Amateurs in NFL Betting

NFL Betting: Separating the Pros from the Amateurs in Football Wagering

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

A lot of people have this notion that professional bettors are operating on a different planet when compared to the general NFL betting man. In a way, that’s true. It’s just that what separates the two isn’t as mind-blowing as some might think. The results might be very divergent, but the routes taken are not as special as many perceive.

A regular bettor might win 48% to 52% of his bets against the spread. It’s not terrible, but that equals out to steady losses over time. Meanwhile, a “pro” might end up being 57% to 60% against the spread. That’s not such a gigantic difference. there is this thought that pros are winning almost all of their bets and it’s just not the case. They maintain an edge and over time, it adds up to big numbers.

What really separates the pros from the amateurs is remaining steadfast. An amateur has too many leaks. They are too easily ruffled, leading to them steaming off a big chunk of their bankroll. A pro has the underrated ability to make his moves and then simply accept the results. There will be winning weekends and losing ones, but over time, he is confident that the good ones will outnumber the bad ones.

The amateur is too obsessed on the short-term. After a bad weekend or even a series of rough ones, he will begin to unravel. He will bet on games he has no business taking a stand on. He will start overextending himself in the amount he bets. A pro can keep his cool and betting on football is one of those things where doing staying calm can become a major challenge.

The pro is a selective bettor. NFL wagering is not something they do for fun. They use the money they make from betting football to do fun stuff. And one way they win is by establishing and maintaining a stringent level of standards on whether or not to place a bet. When they see an edge, they pounce on it, but only if that edge exists. What plays a huge role in determining if an edge is present is whether or not a bet has good value. For example, if a team isn’t being given enough credit in the point-spread, that would represent a potential edge.

It’s not about who they think will win the game or some half-baked notion they pull out of their head about who will cover the spread. They may have an inkling one way or the other, but their opinions are organically arrived at–after exhaustive research and consideration of all the factors. Some of those factors have to do with the game itself, while others are focused on the betting.

That’s where a lot of amateurs go astray. They make it all about the football game and forget they are also in a game–the game of NFL betting. Just as a quarterback needs to be able to read defenses, we need to be able to negotiate the stormy seas of football wagering. Coaches and coordinators are difficult to outsmart, but bookies aren’t that easy either.

We need to spend our time breaking down the information better. The real sharps in this business know how to get their snout in there and extract the real pertinent stuff. Meanwhile, the amateurs are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, pouring over meaningless facts and inconsequential stats. One way to at least start approaching how pros look at it is to try looking at teams and players less as individual entities, measuring them on a scale as if they exist in a vacuum. Try measuring them up according to what they are facing on a week-to-week basis, how specific things measure up against the likely factors they will face.


We need to be hound-dogs for edges that often lie between the lines. Winning games against the spread usually doesn’t come down to how we gauge how good a quarterback is or if we noticed a stud running back is facing a defense low-ranked in stopping the rush. But if we notice an overlooked guard is facing a big-name DT who he has dominated since college, that kind of stuff can help us. In other words, if we are even going to spend the energy to study the games, we need to concentrate on information that hasn’t already been accounted for by the point-spread itself. When we focus on the overly-obvious, we’re just checking the oddsmakers’ work. To get the real nuggets of valuable information, we have to go off the grid and forge our own path.