Betting Against The Public: How To Win Fading Favorites

In today’s lesson, we will be learning how the approach “betting against the public” works and if you should be using this strategy yourself to make more money in sports betting.

What Is Betting Against The Public?

Betting against the public is a sports betting strategy where a bettor will bet on the side getting the least amount of action. This is the side where the minority of people are betting on.

This sports betting strategy has been around for a long time now and has been quite profitable for some bettors who do it.

Betting against the public is also termed as “fading the public“.

Since most people tend to bet on the most popular franchises with the most popular players, it’s a betting strategy done by savvy bettors who know better than just betting based on gut feeling and public perception.

The idea behind this strategy is that the public is more often wrong than right.


How To Find Where The Public Money Is On

Since bookmakers started taking action on major sporting events, it attracted a whole lot of attention from sports enthusiasts.

These people love winning and high scoring teams, and it’s easy for bookmakers to affect the public’s opinion with the help of different sports media outlets. 

Casual bettors make up more than half of the action in sports betting. Most of them are those who place their bets on the home favorites and the over more often than not.

It’s hard to blame them because who does not want a good home team to win and for both of these teams to score a lot of points, right?

Finding where the public money is fairly easy, it is the side where the majority of bettors bet on.

These are the teams that are usually favored by the media.

As most media outlets can easily affect the perception of the general public, you can easily deduce which team to bet against. Sports fans are conditioned to cheer for winners and are very optimistic when it comes to estimating the total score of a certain game.

The picks made by the public are often called “consensus picks” or “favorites” by some, and the easiest way to know what the public is betting on is to watch your television or browse the Internet for these so-called consensus picks.

Is It Profitable Betting Against The Public?

Making money betting against the public is one of the easiest strategies to do and profit from today.

You just have to find where the public money is on and bet the other way, but how profitable can it be you ask?

Just look at how sportsbooks make money.

If the general public always wins, then how can bookmakers stay in business. It’s pretty simple logic actually, because the general public doesn’t always win.

Public betting is greatly affected by bias, and because of this bias, sportsbooks can easily manipulate the line in their favor, and make money out of the public’s gut feeling and recency bias.

A good example is the previous NBA playoffs, throughout the playoffs, the betting favorite to win It all were the Golden State Warriors.

Even when Durant went down during the Western Conference Finals, the sportsbook still favored the Warriors to win the championship since they made an easy work of the Portland Trailblazers in the West Finals despite missing one of their superstars.

Not until the fourth game of the NBA finals did the public began favoring the underdogs which were the Toronto Raptors with the best player of the series Kawhi Leonard leading the charge.

Those who bet that an Eastern Conference team will dethrone the Warriors made a good amount of profit fading the public during those times.

Running The Numbers

For us to properly assess how profitable betting against the public is, let’s take a look at some stats from these sports, the NBA and the NFL.

NBA Away Underdogs

First, let’s examine the performance of away underdogs against the spread, and how the under stack up against the over, for the previous NBA season.

Team Records for Away Underdogs (2018-2019 NBA Season)
TeamWinLossWin. %ATS
Golden State7653.80%3.6
Okla City81142.10%0.8
LA Clippers121840.00%0.9
LA Lakers81436.40%3.3
New Orleans92031.00%3.1
San Antonio62221.40%-4.1
New York73118.40%-1.5

Out of all 30 teams, 18 of them have a positive against the spread record when playing as away underdogs.

The data also shows that of all 30 NBA teams, the highest mark for a negative against the spread record belongs to the San Antonio Spurs that has a -4.1 ATS +/-, which is kind of surprising for a great organization like the Spurs.

Although, things have not been going so well for them ever since they let go of Kawhi Leonard. No offense meant, Spurs Fans.

Betting Tip

Now if you’re still not convinced how betting on away underdogs can be profitable, let’s look at some of the bad teams’ ATS +/-.

The table shows that the Cleveland Cavaliers only lose an average of 1.5 points when away at home and as underdogs. The same can be said to the New York Knicks.

This means these teams as away underdogs play well and can keep things close despite having negative ATS records.

The public doesn’t pay much attention to these teams since they’re not that entertaining to watch, but for sports bettors betting on these so-called “boring” or “bad” teams can be a way to make money.

Word of caution though, betting on bad teams should be done with good research since not all NBA teams match up with each other quite well.

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NBA Over and Under


For the graph above, you can see that the over and underperformance across the association are almost identical, and there is not much difference separating the two.

Putting your money on the over every time, will not be a wise betting strategy to use, and you won’t profit doing that at all.

For a sports bettor to profit from sports betting, one must win at least 53% to make money or break even.

For game total bettors, we have compiled a more comprehensive guide on how you can make more money betting on the NBA by applying proven strategies.

NFL Away Underdogs

Now let’s go to the NFL, and see if the same can be said to NFL away underdogs during the 2019 NFL season.

Team Records For Away Underdogs (2019 NFL Season)
Kansas City1010
San Francisco4112.3
New Orleans314.9
Green Bay321.2
Tampa Bay337.5
LA Chargers121.5
NY Jets140.1
NY Giants15-0.6
LA Rams022.2

So just like the NBA, more NFL teams have a positive against the spread record than those who don’t.

The largest negative ATS difference is less than a touchdown, at -5.5, belonging to Carolina Panthers.

Betting Tip

You may start considering betting on NFL teams that are given 7 points or more as underdogs, but still be cautious since not all NFL teams match up well to other NFL teams. There’s always the possibility of a team blowing out their opponent just like in any sports.

If we lower our standards a little bit and include teams that have a negative ATS that is less than a field goal, which are those teams with negative against the spread record of less than 3, the number of teams that qualify jumps to 27.

Because of that number, one could say that teams in the NFL, even the not so good teams, can keep some games close.

What can we conclude from all those?

It’s that betting on away underdogs are a good way to profit when betting in the NBA and the NFL. Even though the team is not winning games, as long as they’re able to make the game close, you can still win money by betting on the underdogs’ point spreads.

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How Sharps Fade The Public

In sports betting, sharps are considered the elites when it comes to betting in sports.

These are the people that sportsbooks watch out for, and can be the reason why the line moves the other way for a sporting event like the NBA or MLB.

Most sharps enjoy betting on baseball more than any other sport. They say it has more parity than any other major US sport.

Baseball betting is the opposite of tennis betting where more than 68% of the favorites win their tennis matches.

Sharps wager large sums of money on baseball since odds are more even than in any other sports. And for this reason, their bets are often viewed as an investment by most spectators.

Being able to know how sharps bet or wager their money can be beneficial for any sports bettor in the long run. So how do we follow where the sharps bet on?

For us to know where sharps bet on, we need to know how bookmakers operate first.

Bookmaker’s Point of View

The public perceives that for the sportsbook to earn money is for them to have equal bets on both sides of the game.

But in reality, that rarely happens, and sportsbooks have found a way to make more money out of that kind of situation.

At the end of the day, sportsbooks, just like a casual sports bettor, wants to make money. And to make money, bookmakers adjust their lines to attract more attention from the public, and once this happens, the sharps come in and bet the opposite.

As mentioned before, the public loves home favorites and the over in most games, and that’s why the odds on those types of bets are set to be very tempting.

Sharps on the other hand love underdogs and going for the under. 

Sometimes when sportsbooks know information that the public does not, they will adjust the odds for the other side to attract more action, and wait for the game to conclude and collect their profit afterward.

If you’re seeing a strange line movement, you might think twice, and investigate the situation more before placing your bet.

It might not be that strange after all if you look at the big picture. It can even do you a lot of good if you’ll be going the other way like a sharp.

Notable Sharps In Sports Betting History

Most sharps stay away from the limelight and are very hard to get a hold of. You may only interact with them if you operate a casino or a sportsbook.

One of the most famous sports bettors in history is Teddy “Covers” Sevransky. Teddy has been gambling since the 1990s, and his favorite sports to bet on is the NFL.

Teddy’s best advice to sports bettors is to shop for the best lines, saying that the small difference between the odds offered by bookmakers can add up in the long run, so it’s better to take the best one you can get your hands on every time you bet.

Another big name who enjoyed betting in the NFL is Jon Price, he was known for having great skills in mathematics and utilizing statistics to find an edge in sports betting.

His most notable win was when he won a future bet in 2015, not in the NFL, but Major League Baseball, for betting the Kansas City Royal to win it all that year.

Another great sharp was Bob Voulgaris, a sports bettor and a poker player. Bob’s favorite sports to bet on is the NBA, where he was able to win consistently.

Some say during his heyday, Bob was flipping $1,000,000 a day on NBA games. Because of his sports betting achievements and his keen eyes for data, he was hired by the most modern NBA owner in the business today, Mark Cuban. Bob Voulgaris is the current Director of Quantitative Research and Development for the Dallas Mavericks.

The Sharpest of Them All

Special mention to Mr. Billy Walters, a retired professional gambler who had a winning streak of more than 30 years, and one of the most successful bettors in Las Vegas. Walters placed bets on NBA, college basketball, NFL, and college football.

He was so successful, sportsbooks declined to accept his sports bets. For this reason, he had to use runners, people who placed bets for sharps, for him not to be detected by the bookmakers.

Betting Against The Public – Final Thoughts

Betting against the public is a good strategy to follow to make money in sports betting.

Though it’s not a guarantee you will win every time it’s still a much better option compared to going with the consensus picks every time.

What you can do to be a better sports bettor is to not base your decisions in any type of bias, instead rely more on data and facts. If you’ve done your research and it showed you that there is a good chance an underdog will win the game, you don’t have to be bothered betting the opposite of what the public thinks.

Using data and facts is how you win, and that’s how you can stay in the game for long, and the data shows you that betting against the public is indeed a viable option.

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