Sports gambling is rife with crackpot theories and superstitions. At the same time, there’s some published science to suggest certain strategies can give you an edge.
From the color of a team’s jersey to the weather forecasted for the game, the advice listed here may boost your odds of placing a winning wager. Just keep in mind: Researchers who study this stuff consider a “successful” strategy one that produces a W more than 50 percent of the time over the course of hundreds of contests. These tips are far from locks.
BUILD A BETTER TOURNEY BRACKET
Statistically, your odds of picking early-round upsets are low, indicates research from St. Louis University. Instead of trying to guess the upsets, just stick with the favorites.
After the first two rounds, your ideal strategy depends on the number of betters in your pool. If you’re competing against a handful of buddies—say 10 or 15 people—keep riding the favorites, the researchers say. But if you’re in one of those massive pools with hundreds of players? Hitch your wagon to a lower-seeded team, like a 3-seed or 4-seed, and ride them all the way to the championship. Your odds of winning are still crappy. But your best shot will come if you differentiate yourself from the pack.
CHECK THE GAME-TIME TEMP
In pro and college football, wind, snow, and rain tend to mess with both team’s performances. But when it comes to game-time temperatures, teams that are acclimatized to cold or warm temps may struggle when playing in unfamiliar conditions. For example: If Miami is playing at Buffalo on a cold day, research suggests the Bills are a good bet.
BEWARE BLACK-JERSEY BIAS
University of Florida researchers found hockey teams suiting up in black jerseys are penalized more often than teams wearing white. They hypothesize that our culture teaches us to associate white with good and black with evil—the old white knight versus black knight mythology, and that this likely extends to other sports.
Especially in games like basketball, where the ref’s play outsize roles, betting against teams wearing black may yield profitable results.
LOG A TEAM’S MILEAGE
The farther a team has to travel for a road contest—especially late in the season—the worse their chances of covering the spread, finds a University of North Florida study. Especially if the visiting team is an underdog and has travelled into a different time zone, you may have an advantage by wagering on the home squad.
AVOID THE HERD
Is one team a massive favorite? Putting your money on the underdog may be a good strategy, according to research from the University of Wyoming. The larger the spread gets, the more people are likely betting the favorite, they say. You’re better off betting the dog.
TAKE THE UNDER
Historically, betting the “under” in pro football wins a little more than 50 percent of the time, according to a study from Clemson University. Why? A lot of guys would rather root for teams to score, as opposed to a defensive battle. So in football and other sports, there may be a baked-in preference for offense that drives up the number of “over” bets, the researchers say.