Betting Experts Answer: How difficult is it to beat the betting markets? | Part 2

Welcome to the sixth article in our series:“Betting Experts Answer The Industries Biggest Questions.”

This week we opened up the debate on the accuracy of sports betting markets, as we asked 11 experts the question:

Q6: How difficult is it to beat the sports betting markets? How efficient are the odds?

Check out Part 1 of our answers here, where we get the opinions of betting analyst - Joseph Buchdahl, pro sports bettor - Spanky, Smart Sports Trader - Ryan Bruno and pro sports bettor - Harout Massoyan.

Check out Part 3 of our answers here, where we get the opinions of Pete Ling from Smart Betting Club, Toby Aldous from Punter2Pro & football trader - Alex Ong.


The more efficient the odds are the harder the market is to beat. Efficiency is a reflection of the motivation of the market participants, intentional or otherwise. In the stock market a share prices trend towards what can be considered a fair reflection of the company's true value at a given time. This is because the buyers tend to buy a stock when they believe it to be undervalued and the sellers when they believe the stock is overvalued (many exceptions to this but it will suffice). Both groups disagree on the price at most levels, so when there are no transactions an equilibrium is found in that instance where neither wants to buy or sell and thus there is consensus by action or rather lack of it.

Inside betting

Bookmaking odds seek an efficiency where the most amount of money will be made by the bookmaker presuming the AVERAGE bettor places a bet. They are not seeking an efficiency which represents the greatest predictive accuracy. Instead this is just a by-product of groupthink by many AVERAGE punters and the stabilizing effect of a small group of value conscious individuals. The larger the size of the market the larger the interest of those value conscious individuals and their input to the market scales faster than that of the AVERAGE punters. The relationship is not linear, there is a critical mass of liquidity that once reached means further liquidity grows exponentially. It is once this critical mass is reached that sports betting markets become genuinely difficult to beat. Prior to that point all sports and their various markets are easy to beat in the sense that someone making an effort to model a sport or understand market behaviours should be able to make money. This includes those sports whose matches ultimately end up in the exponential liquidity zone. They will end up being near unbeatable close to kick off but even they are beatable at their inception by even the hard working lone individual.

So what constitutes being difficult? I don't consider arbitrage conceptually very difficult and it is an excellent way to make money consistently. The models required to beat markets are not impossible to build and are often only as good as the data they have access to rather than any individual's exceptional mental capacity. Consistently finding the way to get money into the market at the right price on the other hand is very challenging indeed.

How efficient are the odds? They are brilliantly efficient at maximising expected profit from the AVERAGE punter at almost every level, market, sport etc. They are routinely very inefficient from a predictive accuracy perspective until they have been exposed to sufficient turnover from participants of all types of motivation. One can be efficient in the first way without being efficient in the second and being efficient in the second does not guarantee being perfectly efficient in the first. Ultimately, odds are proportionally difficult to beat with the amount of reward available to those who beat them.

Check out Matthew’s podcast ‘Inside Betting’ here.


It really depends on what market and type of bettor you are talking about (novice, intermediate and toward professional). If you are a novice or even intermediate bettor, beating the markets will be challenging but if you are a syndicate or sophisticated group you can beat the markets but which markets can you beat is very pertinent.

The key for the bettor is optionality. It is difficult but not impossible to beat sports betting markets due to optionality. Whilst the bookie must put up all the markets, you can select which ones you bet into and due to this, you will find certain people are capable of overcoming the house edge. It is widely known that as the limits go up you should see markets become more efficient. Given that, you should be able to find your sweet spot between available limits (what is your bankroll and what type of turnover are you looking for) and degree of difficulty/efficiency (i.e. NFL sides vs WNBA totals). There are the obvious tradeoffs that come with moving into more efficient markets (lower margin and harder to beat but higher turnover) but if you can beat those over the long term, you probably deserve the payoffs.

Follow @BettingPod on Twitter & check out The Business of Betting Podcast here.


The question asks for a quantification without a relative domain, so I’ll just invent one: how difficult is it to beat the market compared to 10 years ago?

And I’ll say that the answer is very market specific. There isn’t as much low hanging fruit in props and derivatives as there used to be, and the large offer markets (NFL, EPL, NBA and such; full game sides and totals) have gotten sharper in their openers.

a guide to modern sports betting

But I don’t think the larger markets have gotten much sharper in their closing lines. Models have been used for some time now, and I don't think their impact is increasing. The models war with each other, and their edges are quickly (in a matter of a few seasons) sussed out and neutralized by other models. Sports betting is a small pond; you make much of a splash and everyone is going to see your dive.

As someone who handicaps the old fashioned way—personal judgment of team and player abilities (though with modeling of some key variables)—I feel just as comfortable in the market as ever. Appraising teams and players is so complex that I’m not convinced that modeling can ever beat an organized, hard-working, experienced judge. But I’m aware of the possibility, every season, that the game will pass me by. That truth makes the game fascinating.

Follow @TruePokerJoe on Twitter & check out his book ‘Sharper: A Guide to Modern Sports Betting’.


Not a very efficient market really. They are somewhat efficient on average and for big markets. However, betting markets are very small in comparison to the financial ones for example, and this is an important factor determining the efficiency of a market. And even on large markets there are some inefficiencies enduring over long time periods. In fact, that even applies over financial markets, as large and sophisticated as they are. Sometimes the crowd is wise, but sometimes it is led by nothing more than its animal instincts.

church of betting

If you asked me the same question a few years ago, I would have probably given the exact opposite answer, but the more I am dealing with betting and financial markets, the more I am convinced that they are way more irrational than most people imagine.

Follow @ChurchOfBetting on Twitter & check out The Church of Betting website here.

Check out Part 1 of our answers here, where we get the opinions of betting analyst - Joseph Buchdahl, pro sports bettor - Spanky, Smart Sports Trader - Ryan Bruno and pro sports bettor - Harout Massoyan.

Check out Part 3 of our answers here, where we get the opinions of Pete Ling from Smart Betting Club, Toby Aldous from Punter2Pro & football trader - Alex Ong.

Love getting the opinions from experts in the betting industry? Then subscribe to the Trademate Sports Podcast, where we interview the most important people in the sports betting industry.

Here are the other questions we have got our industry experts to answer so far:

  • Q1: Top 3 tips for betting beginners? Part 1 & Part 2.
  • Q2: How do you define “finding value” in betting markets? Part 1 & Part 2.
  • Q3: How do you determine whether your betting results are based on luck or skill? Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.
  • Q4: Kelly criterion or flat staking: Which stake sizing strategy do you consider to be the best and why? Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.
  • Q5: What is the best method to use to make money from sports betting? Part 1 & Part 2.
  • Q7: Best way to manage risk in sports betting? Part 1 & Part 2.
  • Q8: Is there a best sport to bet on? If so, what is it? Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.
  • Q9: Assuming you have an edge, at what point can you start accurately evaluating your results and say that variance has played out? Part 1 & Part 2.
  • Q10: What is the one thing you would like to see change in the gambling industry? Part 1 & Part 2.
  • Q11: Do you think emotions play a part in people's sports betting results? If so, how should they overcome this? Part 1 & Part 2.
  • Q12: What are the top 3 mistakes people make when betting? Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.

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