It’s hard to make money betting on sports. Great insight, right?
But it’s true. Insert your favorite cliché – I prefer “if sports betting were easy, everybody would be doing it.” I think there’s a lot of truth to that. It’s hard to beat the book, the sharp money, the betting public, and your own personal failings, and to do it all at the same time. Now, do that successfully on at least 52.4% of your bets, more if you’re paying more than the standard -110 juice.
Most bettors don’t get anywhere near that 52.4% break-even point.
Making money from football betting is possible, it’s just hard to do it consistently. Sports seasons are long, and a single season of victory is likely to be offset by two weeks of losses.
The tips in this post are designed to help bettors make more money betting on the NFL than they’re making now. I’m not promising wins or profits or anything like that – I can’t even guarantee my own wins. But the ideas in this post will push
Track Your Progress
Keeping a record of your bets sounds boring and unnecessary. There’s lots of value in keeping track of your performance. Not only will you identify trends in your own performance that you can address, but you’ll have an easier time managing your money, working out your return on investment, and approaching the hobby of sports betting as an investor and not just a hobbyist.
I used to love betting on game totals until I got serious about tracking my bets and found I was losing most of my money betting on college football over/unders. I gave up that part of my strategy and recovered those losses, applying them to smarter NFL money line bets in advantage situations. None of that would’ve been possible without my simple pencil and paper tracking system.
You can take your pick from apps, special notebooks, and other software, or you can just write down all your bets, the wagers involved, and the outcome. During the offseason, you can use this data to improve your strategy for the next season.
Stick to the Money Line
Picking the straight-up winner of a game requires less homework, less strategizing, and less financial investment than playing against the spread or betting game totals or props. Winning money betting on football means keeping things simple and consistent. By sticking to money line bets, you’ll have an easier time handicapping games and identifying profitable trends.
Here’s an example of a profitable trend in money line NFL betting – most NFL teams win way above the break-even point when favored at home. It sounds like common sense, and I suppose it is. But there’s good data backing this up.
Going back fifteen seasons, all but one NFL team won at least 52.4% of their games as home favorites. The one team that didn’t break even – Washington – still won a respectable 50.9% of their games when playing as home favorites.
The downside of this strategy should be obvious. You’re not going to get long odds on these teams since they’ve got home-field advantage and are already favored to win.
There’s also the not-so-small issue of paying more juice to back home favorites. If you pay -115 for your bets instead of -110, you’ve got to win more than 53.4% of your bets to break even. When you get -120, your new break-even point is 54.5%.
Still, the best money line performers as home favorites are winning at high rates that you can leverage into success even at short odds. The Packers are 92-22-1 over that time – a win rate of 80.7%. They beat the spread by an average of 3 points in those wins, suggesting an equally intriguing ATS strategy.
All told, 11 out of 32 NFL teams won more than 2/3 of their games as home favorites. Those rates represent profit for average odds as long as -190. You’re not going to make much money at those odds, but you’ll still break even at least.
Backing favorites at home, while boring and relatively low-paying, will earn you money in NFL betting.
Only Take Long Odds
The easiest way to increase your chances of winning money is to adjust the break-even win percentage. How can you do that? By taking the longest odds you can find.
If the break-even point of 52.4% isn’t good enough for you, take longer average odds so you can break even with a lower winning percentage.
At +120, your break-even point is 45.5%, which means you can win less than half your bets and protect your bankroll from losses. It gets better as your odds get longer. If your entire season of NFL bets averages +150, you only have to win at a rate of 40% to break even. Once you hit average odds of +205, you can win just 1/3 of your bets and avoid losses altogether.
The most immediate effect of sticking to plus-money bets will be a smaller slate of possible wagers.
Looking through the odds available at my favorite books, I’ve only found two plus numbers above +200. One of them, taking the Raiders on the road against the Cowboys for +270, is so bad the book is currently offering even odds on the Raiders to cover the spread, as in no juice.
The other game is more intriguing – the Titans visiting a surging New England team. The Titans are getting +225, but the total number is relatively low, 43.5, well below the average PPG for both teams would suggest. This might offer some value, at least relative to the long-odds Raiders bet.
The idea is simple – you can afford to lose more often if you take longer odds. Longer odds mean you’ll lose more often, but because you’re winning more money, you can afford it.
It’s a little bit risky, but with proper handicapping, bankroll management, and line shopping, you can use this contrarian strategy to win more money at football betting.
Pay Attention to Changing League Trends
There’s nothing more poisonous to your bankroll than old information.
As trends change, updating your strategy means staying relevant.
The big story in the NFL around 2020-2021 was the death of home-field advantage. 2020 was the first year that home teams lost more games than they won, a trend that continued the very next season.
The average team in the NFL has won just 51.5% of all home games since 2018, a huge drop from the heyday of home-field advantage in the 80s and 90s.
There’s still value in backing most home teams, but the strategy has shifted to embracing home favorites, a small tweak that resets the strategy, limiting profits but softening the necessary break-even point.
Continuing to bet as though home-field advantage still bestows a near-8% edge will eventually be a completely unprofitable strategy, should league trends continue.
Try a Wong Teaser
Plenty of gambling writers will tell you to avoid parlays and other combined bets. I think that’s usually sound advice. But for people looking to win money from NFL betting, a proper Wong teaser may be appropriate.
It’s called a Wong teaser because it’s named after the guy who invented it, Stanford Wong.
Using a Wong teaser properly, you can give yourself an edge over the book. All you have to do is blindly tease two NFL teams in the right contest.
The break-even point for a 6-point teaser (at standard -110 odds) is 72.4%. If you can find two teams with a chance greater than 72.4% of covering after moving the spread 6 points in your favor, you can usually pull off a Wong teaser.
It works because 69% of regular season point spreads in the NFL are covered going back almost twenty years, when bettors have teased those 6 points. Remember, our break-even point is 72.4% so that 69% rate isn’t going to work on its own.
A Wong teaser involves underdogs during the regular season with spreads between +1.5 and +2.5 (and -7.5 and -8.5 for favorites), which have covered exactly 75.0% of the time, historically.
Something is standing in your way – the fact that books know about this and actively try to prevent it. For example, you’re not usually able to find a 6-point NFL teaser at -110 odds. Lots of bettors will attempt Wong teasers at odds as short as -120, which opens up new Wong opportunities at books that attempt to prevent them. The profits are smaller, but still theoretically there.
Anybody who promises you more money based on their tips is trying to get to your wallet, that’s as true now as it ever was. That doesn’t mean there aren’t habits you can learn or mistakes you can avoid that will lead to winning more money on your football bets.
The NFL betting strategies that work are generally boring – things like tracking bets, managing your money, and reading injury reports aren’t the glamorous side of the hobby, but they’re the things that lead to the most long-term betting success.