A1 lot of sports bettors wonder what the best way to analyze information is. For the casual bettor, this is really easy. You just look at the two teams playing and figure out which one has the advantage. But this is a big problem. Sports books spend a lot of energy and time trying to figure out this information and where the true line should be set. Ideally, the spread that you’re given in an NFL game puts the chances at 50/50. Yes, a random choice like what most bettors go with will help you to win about 50 percent of the time, but this will lose you money over time. That’s why you never see a line set at even. Instead, it’s always at -110. So if you’re winning money 50 percent of the time, but you’re risking more than you are winning, you are at a big disadvantage.

What this means is that you need to find yourself some sort of edge to make up this ground, and this ultimately means putting forth more effort than you might originally think. Looking at historical information can help. For example, if two 2-13 teams are playing each other during week 17 of the NFL season, what do past statistics imply will happen. Maybe you will find that the team that scored more points over the course of the season has won, in the past, 75 percent of the time. If this is the case, placing a bet on the team with more points can be a good thing for you since stats are on their side.

But the big problem that a lot of data miners face is that past results don’t necessarily influence the future. So even though stats say that one team will win 75 percent of the time, this information doesn’t truly affect the current game that you are looking at. So some combination of historical data plus your own knowledge and insight into the sport will be the best method of analyzing your sports bets.

The best approach is to start out by looking at the line itself. Let’s say you’re looking at the Patriots/Bills game where the line was set at +/- 9.5 in favor of the Patriots. Now, the second step. If you find that, after looking at your database, the home team is able to keep the game within 7 points 75 percent of the time, what’s the correct play for you to make? That leads us to the third step. What are the payout odds that the book is offering you? If it’s at -110, as it will almost always start out at, you’re getting good odds since winning 75 percent of the time offsets the advantage that the book has by making you pay more than you win. But if your database says that the Bills will only beat the spread 52 percent of the time—even though 52 percent seems like an advantage for you—if they’re only offering -110, the bet is definitely not worth making.

Let’s illustrate this with another example. Suppose you have a coin. There’s a 50 percent chance that it will land on heads, and a 50 percent chance that it will land on tails. In an unbiased flip, over a 10,000 flips, it will be pretty close to 5,000 of each. It might not be exact, but it will be close, and the more flips you do, the closer it will be to a 50/50 shot. Now, if you’re winning $1 when it lands on heads and losing $1 on tails, since this is also 50/50, you should end up breaking even. But if you’re getting $2 for heads and losing still the same $1, you are getting more when you’re right and losing the same when you’re wrong. Over 10,000 flips, at 50/50, you’re earning $10,000 and losing $5,000. Now apply this to sports betting. When you’re true odds are 50/50, and you pay more when you lose than you earn when you win, you will be at a disadvantage. This is why knowing the complete picture is so much more important than just knowing who has a slight advantage.