NFL: Betting Against The Public

In the pantheon of NFL wagering, the phrase "betting against the public" means exactly what you think it does: a prediction that largely bucks public perception in hopes of securing a more lucrative return on investment. While this can at times make for a profitable blueprint, it is also one rife with risks and inefficiencies. We break it all down for you below while helping you decide when, or even if, this particular gambling tactic is right for you.

What Exactly Is Betting Against The Public?

Okay, so you already know that betting against the public entails a minority prediction that promises larger payouts should you be successful. But two questions remain: What does that look like in action? And how, exactly, do you go about betting against the public?

When it comes to single-game wagers, you would be dealing strictly in moneylines, spreads and over/under lines. For example's sake, we'll assume that a midseason matchup is taking place in Atlanta against the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Rams.

The Rams might enter as -7 favorites (the spread) over the Falcons. But the majority of bets from gambles may be getting placed on the underdog Falcons at +7. As someone looking to go against the public, you would then choose the Falcons at -7. 

By doing this, you might put yourself in a position to secure a larger bag in the event of a win. Mostly, you're catering to timeworn statistics that say betting against the public more often than not works in your favor. 

This shouldn't surprise you, as oddsmakers tailor lines based on the action being laid. If bettors are flooding to one side of provided odds, be it a moneyline, spread or over/under, there's a good chance, logistically speaking, that it's too good to be true.

That brings us to the second question from before: How do you go about finding out what the public is betting on?

Unfortunately, this is a query with no definitive answer. Many sites have polls embedded onto their pages that will show who is betting on what. But that places a ton of faith in the honor system. You not only have to assume that everyone who responded to the poll actually placed a bet on the game in question, but you also have to count on them being honest about the wager they made. 

Tips For Accurately Betting Against The Public

Monitoring lines after their initial release is a far more effective way of detecting where the public is going.

Moneylines specifically are extremely useful here. Any team that sees the return offering go down is typically the one that's being heavily invested in by the majority of gambler.

Continuing with our Falcons-Rams example, let's say Atlanta enters as a +350 underdog while Los Angeles is established as a -200 favorite. If after a day or so you circle back and see the Falcons have moved to a +275 and the Rams to a -140, you know that people have flocked toward Atlanta's end of the spectrum. This would then give you enough evidence to bet on Los Angeles if you're trying to go against the public.

It works the same in reverse. If the Falcons enter as a +350 underdog to the Rams' -200 favorite status, but you see in a couple days Atlanta has become a +400 to Los Angeles' -275, then you know that a majority of the action has affixed itself to the latter. That, in turn, leaves you to bet on the Falcons if you're still committed to investing against the public.

Identical logic should be applied to spreads. If the Falcons begin the week as a +7 but end up as a +5 in a day or so, you know that most of the spread bets being placed are directed at them. And once again, you would have all the signals you need to turn around and buy stock in whatever the Rams are laying (a -5 in this specific example).

This can also be put into practice with over/under lines. Should the over/under for this game be set at 47.5, but move to 50.5 over the next two days, you'll know that most of the wagers placed have been devoted to the over, paving the way for you to choose the under.

Sensing a theme here? You should be. 

Betting against the public entails patience. You are free to submit tickets with your sportsbooks as soon as certain lines drop, but you won't have had adequate time to track the ebbs and flows of all the lines. So if you're looking to work on at an against-the-grain pace, you'll need to wait a couple of days—or at least a day—after single-game odds get dropped before deciding which dog to roll with in the upcoming fight. 

Betting Against The Public On Futures

Battling against the popular pick on futures takes a little more patience than it does when investing in single-game outcomes.

For Super Bowl odds, you need to see which teams are rising and falling as weeks and months go by, not just days. Winning and losing streaks can impact these lines as well, but remember: Oddsmakers deliver numbers mostly based on where the money is going. So if the New York Giants begin the regular season as +2,500 Super Bowl winners but have plummeted to both +7,500 by Week 5, you know that both their record and betting volume is substantially worse off than expected.

This applies to win-total over/under lines as well. The only difference is you have a smaller window. 

Win totals are typically released in the most official capacities sometime between after training camps open. If the Giants' over/under starts at 10.5 victories and then moves to 9.5 over the next two weeks, you will know that not many people were taking the over.

But there is, as previously alluded to, a finite amount of time for this logic to carry serious cachet. Win totals are heavily impacted by actual records once the regular season kicks off. If the Giants go from an over/under of 10.5 victories in Week 1 to 8.5 in Week 6, you're not actually detecting a downtick in over bets. Rather, oddsmakers are accounting for the most likely outcome—that New York is worse than expected.

Granted, at this point, that means over bets on their win total will subside. But in this case, you're not so much betting against the public as you are wagering against common sense.

Pitfalls Of Betting Against The Public

We have already broken down one of the drawbacks to traveling against public perception: putting meaningful value on website polls that tell you how the general population is investing their money. That, as we've outlined ad nauseam, can be remedied by tracking the lines yourself.

The other, arguably more dangerous pitfall? Blindly implementing this strategy.

Bets against the public should not be placed singularly or in volume just because. This is essentially another form of betting on the underdog, only in this instance, the favorite can be an underdog because you're merely trying to counteract public opinion. No matter how you view it, though, the cardinal rule of sports gambling mandates that you have a good feel for what you're spending your money on.

This often means you need to believe that the team you're betting on is going to hit. It can also mean that you're using a tried-and-true formula or pattern that has panned out for you in the past to make block of bets. And yes, that formula or pattern could technically refer to wagering against the public, but whereas many advanced strategies incorporate nuanced algorithms, there is less of an exact science to betting against the public—unless you have intimate knowledge of sportsbooks metrics.

Moral of the story: Don't take this approach lightly. Believe in what you're doing—believe in the team, in the bet, that you are making.

If you don't, well, then odds are you shouldn't be making that wager to begin with.

Lessons Learned About Betting Against The Public

  • Betting against the public entails figuring out where the majority of action is going, and then investing on the other side
  • Website polls are an unreliable resource when trying to track public betting patterns
  • Monitoring the movements of lines is the best way to detect where the majority of bets are being placed
  • Patience is a virtue of betting against the public, both when it comes to single-game wagers and futures
  • Do not employ this practice blindly, as it is too imprecise on a game-by-game, bet-by-bet basis without having explicit knowledge of sportsbook metrics