Note from PointsDoc: This article was originally sent as a WagerLife Newsletter Issue on 4/1/21. Make sure to subscribe so you can get exclusive content directly in your inbox!
In my article on Bankroll Management, I teased that I would eventually talk about my handicapping process and the importance of line shopping. In truth, though, it turns out that my handicapping process basically boils down to a version of line shopping on steroids. I want to share that approach with you, but first I have to ask an important question.
Are you a buyer or a shopper?
If you asked me that question, I would give you a long-winded response saying what I choose to impulse buy and what I choose to research. How I don’t pull out my phone to price check something if I know the savings will be smaller than the time value it takes to drive to the other store. How I heavily research my cars before buying and then I spend several days playing the dealerships against each other using email-only negotiating tactics to arrive at the lowest possible purchase price.
But then again, my current home was the ONLY one my wife and I looked at! Since I don’t always stay true to my principles, I can’t really say I’m always a buyer or I’m always a shopper.
Why does this matter? We are talking about sports gambling!
When I’m asked for advice on investing for retirement, I try to make sure that even if everything I say eventually ends up being forgotten, at least this one main takeaway point remains stuck in the other person’s brain:
Once you’ve decided to start investing and you’ve decided what investment you are going to make, you can only control these two things: how much you invest and how much you pay in fees.
Just like with gambling, how your investment choices play out is basically up to chance. You might make 10% every year, you might make 5% every year, you might lose 5% every year. However, if you use a brokerage company that charges 1% annual fees versus one that charges 0.1% annual fees, you will lose so much money over 30-40 years it will blow your mind.
OK, I will trust you to click the link about fees and lose your mind later. Seriously, this is leading to something about sports gambling!
Here is my “paint the fence” moment.
Whether you are coming up with your bet choice on your own or tailing a handicapper you like… after you’ve decided on how much you want to bet, there’s only one thing left that you control.
Just like choosing a brokerage based on its fees, you control which sportsbook gets your action based on the odds they assign to the bet. The better the odds, the better the payout if you win. In the long run, this is just as important as saving money on fees when investing for retirement.
The sportsbook does not control the odds of the bet. You do. If you don’t like the odds, take your business elsewhere until they start giving you odds that are worth taking! If you live in a state with legalized sports gambling, so many sportsbooks are competing for your business, you are in the driver’s seat.
To keep things simple, let’s pretend you follow Travis K’s advice, you only place straight bets, and you only risk the same amount of money on every play. You are a GREAT sports bettor, and you win 56% of your bets every year. Also, you have the choice to play at three different sportsbooks, and they always have the same odds for every bet type you like to play.
Sportsbook A: -115 odds (breakeven win percentage of 53.49%) – Annual Return on Investment (ROI) 4.7%
Sportsbook B: -110 odds (breakeven win percentage of 52.38%) – ROI 6.91%
Sportsbook C: -105 odds (breakeven win percentage of 51.22%) – ROI 9.33%! That’s almost double what you get at Sportsbook A!
The concept I just laid out is not groundbreaking, and it has been covered by others many times before. This site has a great set of calculators you can use to test out different odds and winning percentages.
Now that we all agree on how important it is, and that everyone should take an extra moment to look at each sportsbook app instead of assuming it’s -112 everywhere else, I can start to explain how I apply the concept of line shopping to my Odds Boost/House Special/Profit Boost value hunting approach.
The PointsDoc Value Based Line Shopping Process
I like being transparent. I want you to have the same information that I have when I decide a play is worth posting to Twitter, and I try to include my rationale when I share a play. I want to lay out my systematic process so everyone is aware of what goes into my approach. At the end of this article, I will include a link to a spreadsheet I created of all plays I have posted to Twitter (follow me at @wagerdotlife) that followed this process. It will be updated as new plays are posted to Twitter.
Percentage Profit Boosts
I will start with profit boosts because it is the quicker one to explain. If you are not aware, some sportsbooks will offer percentage profit boosts that can be used on certain qualifying bets. You can see some examples here and here.
When I see a promotion like this, the very first thing I do is look for anything being offered by the other sportsbooks in my state to see if there’s either any arbitrage opportunity or a chance to create a risk-free bet. For example, if there is a 50% profit boost in the NBA on one site and a “no juice” or “reduced juice” odds promotion on another, I could bet one side with the boost and place an alternate spread bet on the other side to create an opportunity for both bets to win if the score falls within the window.
If I don’t see an opportunity to get creative, I simply follow one of the picks from a trusted handicapper I follow and hope for the best.
Odds Boosts/House Specials
This one will take a bit more time to unpack. I want to start with the most important point first, which is: Don’t let the promo tail wag the dog.
I say this a lot in my tweets. What do I mean by this? Basically, don’t blindly bet every single Odds Boost just because it is called an Odds Boost.
First, you will probably get banned from playing Odds Boosts by the sportsbook if you seem to be abusing the promotions. Especially when you first sign up with a site, you need to bet enough on unboosted bets so you don’t draw attention. Even so, if you are successful enough you will get cut off or reduced.
DraftKings is the site that I wagered on the most, with almost $40,000 of unboosted wagers placed from the creation of my account to the point where they decided to reduce my Odds Boosts plays down to a maximum $5.85 each. It really stinks, but don’t worry, I’ll still share ones I consider valuable so you can decide if you want to play them!
Second, you need to compare the odds to other sites to make sure it is even a good value. One site’s House Special might not beat the special odds promotion on another site, and it might not even be as good as the normal odds on another sportsbook! Here are some recent examples of PSA tweets I’ve made, warning everyone to look before they leap:
Avoid this DraftKings Odds Boost.
You can get better odds for an easier number of made 3's on FanDuel.
That said, I am not playing this one. Just think of it as a lineshopping PSA. pic.twitter.com/fXx7dSVPgy
— Wager.Life PointsDoc (@wagerdotlife) February 24, 2021
Lineshopping PSA: FanDuel has much better odds than DraftKings tonight for LeBron/Steph to each score 30+
Make sure to line shop before hitting submit!
— Wager.Life PointsDoc (@wagerdotlife) March 15, 2021
— Wager.Life PointsDoc (@wagerdotlife) March 10, 2021
Now that I’ve hopefully explained the pitfalls of abusing the system and why you need to make sure an Odds Boost is actually the best available odds before you place your bet, I want to walk you through my process.
Step 1: Look at every promotion and Odds Boost/House Special available in your state for the day
I try to quickly look at each site’s Promos section and Odds Boost section before I walk in to work for the day. If I see something I like, and especially if I think the odds might change later in the day, I will lock it in and tweet it out.
If I saw something that looked interesting, but I wanted to make sure more player news became available or I thought another site might add something similar later, I will look through all the sites again during my lunch hour. At this point, the number crunching begins.
Step 2: Look at player news and projections
I will do a separate review in the future, but one of my main resources is FantasyLabs, which is part of the Action Network. They are mainly geared towards Daily Fantasy Sports players, but they also have a section that compares player projections to listed odds on the major sportsbooks. There is also a section with player news and another section with articles written by their staff. The articles are especially helpful when I am deciding how to attack golf betting promotions.
If I have time, I will also use search engines to look for interviews with star players to try to gauge their motivation for upcoming games. For example, Zach LaVine was once quoted after a game saying he realized he needs to be more aggressive early in the game. I used that information for his next game when I placed a wager on the time on the clock when he attempted his first field goal.
Step 3: Pick out the bets worth line shopping
This is the make or break point for the bet. By the time a bet makes it to this step, I’ve decided it is a bet I feel comfortable making if the price is right (scroll up and read underneath the Karate Kid video if you need a refresher…)! There’s as many as 30 or more bets listed across the sportsbooks every day, and usually 5 or less make it this far.
Step 3 is where I decide if a bet is “valuable” enough or not to play it. Simply put, I try to see if there is an apples to apples comparison available on other sites, and then I compare the odds difference.
Some line shopping scenarios include:
If a bet involves a player prop parlay for the same game… I will build the identical player prop parlay everywhere I can and compare odds. FanDuel and PointsBet currently offer Same Game Parlay/Single Game Parlay in the state I live. DraftKings/BetRivers/Barstool has player performance parlays available for some of their games. It must be identical. I will not compare the odds of Luka Doncic triple double to the odds of Luka Doncic triple double/Mavs win, for example, because they are not the same reward for the same risk.
If a bet involves a multi-game player prop parlay… I will build the identical parlay everywhere and compare odds.
If a bet is for a standalone player prop… I will line shop it everywhere. If it is a player prop for an obscure player (such as in the “Meme Team” section on PointsBet), I will compare to the projected output on FantasyLabs and approximate the value to buying or selling points on FanDuel or PointsBet.
Once I have arrived at the two highest sets of odds to compare, I calculate the payout as if I wagered $100 on each site and divide the two to calculate how much the percentage boost really is. I ignore what the site offering the boost is saying. I don’t care if it is boosted from +230 to +300 on FanDuel, I care if +300 on FanDuel is a big enough difference from all the other competing sites for me to consider it valuable.
What percentage do I consider “valuable” enough to play, and why is it important?
My current rule for myself is do not play an Odds Boost unless it is a minimum of 10% better than all other sites, but generally I try to avoid anything that is less than a 15% better payout.
My reasoning is this: if something is less than 10% difference, I have to assume that the house still has a large enough edge that it will not be profitable in the long run.
Why is line shopping boosts so important, anyway? Well… unless it is a boosted standalone player prop such as Steph Curry to score 30 or more points in a game, the chance of any individual bet to win is lower than 50%. I try my best to only wager on Boosts that I think have are close to a coin flip, but some of them are much lower than that. The key is that by only betting on Odds Boosts that have a large payout boost value, it lowers the win percentage needed to make a profit.
Let’s work through a real example of a FanDuel Odds Boost I played on 3/31/21:
Two Odds Boosts I am playing from FanDuel.
Luka o34.5 is unlikely to happen. But the next best odds is +240 on PointsBet. 58% better payout.
— Wager.Life PointsDoc (@wagerdotlife) March 31, 2021
Including the game that was wagered, Luka Doncic has scored 35 or more points in 10 of his 40 games played (25%) in the 2021-2022 season. Using the handy Odds Convertor calculator on this web site, 25% implied probability gives American Odds of +300. The only identical bet available for that game on the other 5 sportsbooks in my state was +240 by PointsBet.
380/240 is a 58.3% better payout than PointsBet, and 380/300 is a 26.6% better payout than the implied probability estimate. Both of those percentages are well above my minimum threshold, so I placed the bet. Luka was fouled on a three point attempt late in the 4th quarter and he made his free throws to end up with 36 points.
Again, why is this important in the long run? Let’s pretend that PointsBet and FanDuel both offered the same bet and same odds for all 40 games Luka has played in, the bet won 25% of the time, and we wagered $50 each game.
I ran the scenario through a bet simulator and here are the results:
PointsBet Simulated Results: average loss of $300.61
The average ending bankroll after game number 40 would be down a little over $300. PointsBet sends you marketing emails thanking you for playing and wishes you the best of luck on your next wager!
FanDuel Simulated Results: average profit of $403.50
The average ending bankroll after game number 40 would be up a little over $400 – that’s $700 better than how you would have done on PointsBet! FanDuel hopes you’re losing on moonshot parlays, because if you keep this up they are not going to make money at your expense.
Wrapping it all up
If you practice proper bankroll management, maintain a strict line shopping value approach, and mix in an appropriate amount of non-promotional bets to avoid getting flagged as an abuser of the system, you too can also use this same system to profit over the long run.
I promised I would share my spreadsheet with you. This is a permanent link to a spreadsheet of all my posted plays on Twitter that are part of this value based line shopping approach. At the time of publishing, my win percentage was 37.97% and my personal ROI was 36.68%. Since you might be reading this long after I originally published this article, I hope it’s still that good when you click! ?
Keep in mind, though! This is a volatile approach and your bankroll WILL go through periods of losses. Scroll through my results and you will see MANY stretches of losses. Your unit size must be appropriate compared to your bankroll size. As of when I originally published this article, I am currently comfortable betting the usual $50-100 max on Odds Boosts, because it just happens to match the amount I wager on all my bets. You should follow Travis K’s suggestions for unit size and only wager an amount that makes sense for your bankroll, not mine!
Your goal should be to grind over a period of YEARS to grow your bankroll larger and larger. Of course, if you are just gambling with disposable income for fun and you don’t mind reloading your account, feel free to do whatever you like!
Let me know what you think of my process in the comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback! I’m always trying to improve my process. Good luck with your wagering, and remember it’s us against the books!