Why (Truly) Winning Sports Betting Strategies Are A Tough Sell
The stuff that works isn't necessarily the stuff that sells.
By | February 25, 2022
Before we get into today’s article, some brief Betscope updates:
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Go take a look and let us know what you think.
In the last article, I talked about long-term thinking, price sensitivity in sports betting, and how to contextualize your process and results. Most of the piece talked about the flaws of results-oriented thinking, and I wanted to expand on this topic a little more, specifically on why results-oriented thinking is such a common mistake among newer and experienced sports bettors alike. Inexperience definitely plays a role for newer bettors, but even those who are familiar with basic concepts of sports betting still have some erroneous beliefs on what makes for successful sports betting. To get a better idea of where those beliefs come from, we can take a look at how sports betting tools and services are advertised, and how those advertisements can play a role in shaping false beliefs about how to be a successful sports bettor.
If you’re selling sports betting products or services, there are two types of advertisements that convert customers far better than others. The first is anything that shows winning large amounts of money. This was a staple in the heyday of daily fantasy sports, where GPPs were structured to be more top-heavy over time so sites could brag about how much money you could win with a single entry. The DFS tools space quickly learned the same lessons as well; all the most successful marketing campaigns revolved around how their founders and/or users won 6 figures with their tools.
In sports betting, the analogous ads revolve around parlays, and how operators and reporters alike are quick to promote any time a double-digit leg parlay gives someone a huge payday:
There’s a simple, straightforward reason these types of ads work: people like the idea of winning a lot of money at once. It doesn’t matter that all these events aren’t all that probable even if you’re a winning DFS player or sports bettor, the fact that it happened to at least one person is enough to cloud the low probability in their minds and convince themselves it could be them as well. And if there’s a pick service or tool that claims it can help you score that big payday too, then who wouldn’t like to win all that money at once?
The second type of advertisement that reliably converts is streaks. If you’re selling picks or tools, any mention of how your picks went on a 7-0 run, an 8-0 run, or won 10 out of their last 12 have the most success in “proving” that your service works.
You might think that lifetime winning records would be a more reliable selling point for handicappers since short-term results are volatile and don’t give a meaningful snapshot of someone’s long-term ability (even though that’s an accurate statement). The “problem” with advertising long-term records versus short-term streaks is it conveys far less certainty than people who shop for picks are looking for, even though that certainty fundamentally doesn’t exist in sports betting. Streaks also highlight what many bettors actually value in sports betting: they would rather feel good from being “right” a lot and winning many bets, even if the payouts from those bets are small. You can see how these streak stats could just as easily be manipulated. If I wanted to generate a streak for myself, I could make a series of -1400 moneyline bets, or limit my prop bets to favorites of -170 or better in order to boost my odds of getting a marketable streak, and correctly advertise when I won 8 bets in a row. The people who would convert on those streak advertisements wouldn’t be scrutinizing that track record all that much, because at the end of the day, they’re craving certainty and being right, not maximizing their long-term return on investment.
If you’ve read a couple of articles in this newsletter before, you might begin to see how the strategies and tactics for developing winning sports betting habits I’ve previously written about are in fundamental opposition to these types of advertisements. In no particular order:
Winning sports bettors don’t habitually run all their bets through a single parlay, because the increased vig from all of the bets severely diminishes the long-term expectation of those parlays.
They also don’t lock in all of their bets at a single sportsbook: they have multiple outs at every operator that will take their bets, ensuring they have access to multiple prices for every bet.
They don’t care about the win/loss record of the outcomes of their bets (and streaks by extension), they care about whether the price they got for their bets was good enough to put money on them.
They don’t go for moonshot payouts all at once, but rather grind out 2-5% expected returns one bet at a time when they see a favorable line.
Winning sports betting is far more of a grind than the advertisements make it out to be. It’s not a single YOLO bet that takes you to the moon, it’s hammering favorable lines over and over again when you get the right price for months and years at a time. If it were as easy as these advertisements make it seem, everyone would be making money, but there’s a reason plenty of first-time bettors get disillusioned pretty fast- because it takes more work and skill than they might have imagined.
None of the realities of winning sports betting make for great advertisements; in fact, they work against the types of selling points that attract most people. It’s just a reality that “ON A 9-0 RUN!!!!!!” is going to make a better first impression than “GROW YOUR LONG TERM EXPECTED RETURNS BY 2.3%!!!!!!!”. Part of that is frustrating when trying to market something like Betscope, since the reality of winning sports betting is far less glamorous than competing services that won’t actually help their users all that much make it seem. But we never started out wanting to make a product that would have to compete against those services: as I’ve said before, we started by building something we would use ourselves, and accept the challenge that it might be more difficult to sell, educate, and convince users on the merits of the approach. We’re fine with that, because we still believe there’s enough people who will understand why our strategies work and will be willing and ready to use them to become genuinely successful bettors.