Fading the Public

The concept of sports betting has forever seemed very simple for those on the outside looking in. And at times, it can be. Just pick a team that you think will win, and hope for the best. The lower the odds, the better the chances of winning, or one may think. Typically a neutral sport betting line for either the Moneyline, Spread, or Total is set at “-110”, so the sportsbooks get their cut. A team at “-300” means you need to bet 3 times the money you are betting to win it back because they are more likely to win according to the sportsbook. A team at “+300” is less likely to win, but you will return 3 times the amount of money you bet if you bet on them and they win.


It seems simple enough, but there are constantly unexplainable upsets across the board every day. Besides a team having a bad day, what else factors into this? There is a long-lasting strategy in the world of sports betting about betting against the “public” money. The term public refers to any side of the game that has over 50% of the action and/or money on it from casual sports bettors. These bettors are often known as “squares”. “Sharps” are experienced bettors that pride themselves on being experienced and “fading” (doing the opposite) of the public. This is because of the theory that the public is inexperienced and never wins.


The theory stands strong due to many factors. Casual fans and sports bettors are less likely to know in-depth analytics to games and are often persuaded by media narratives, team and player reputations, and home-field advantage. The reality of the situation is that there is always a hidden edge to these factors that are not often seen or known until afterward.


Another large part of this theory relies on where the money is at. Maybe not for Moneyline (straight-up pick), but rather when betting the spread, and there is a large majority of the money on one side, that side ends up not covering the spread even though they logically should. According to Odds Shark, in the NFL over the past eight seasons, games in which 75 percent of the public is on one side lost roughly 53-54 percent of the time, obviously meaning that fading them has resulted in more wins than losses. Likewise, large underdogs were among the best bets during this stretch with the underdog covering the spread 55 percent of the time when 70 to 75 percent of the public was on a favorite of 7+ points.


Many times these scenarios can seem unexplainable to the untrained eye, but as mentioned earlier, there is always an edge that seems to play out. This past NFL season in week 18, the Indianapolis Colts (9-7) traveled to play divisional rival the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14). The Colts were 15 point favorites and valued for the Moneyline at -1000. The only meaning this game had was that the Colts needed to simply beat the Jaguars to make the playoffs. It seemed simple enough, but the Colts hadn’t beaten the Jaguars on the road since 2014, even though they played them every season. Many threw this stat out the window citing the Colts as Super Bowl contenders and the Jaguars as contenders for the 1 overall pick in the draft, meaning they were the worst team in the league. Despite all of this, the Jaguars won the game by 15 points, completely shocking the world. The significance of this is that the Colts had received over 70% of pubic bets on their spread, and over 90% on the Moneyline. This is just one of many examples of how fading the public and following trends has worked in the favor of sharps over the years.