Are profitable sports betting based on luck or skills?

I believe, that every sports bettor who is betting for some time asked himself at least once – is my profitable betting based on skills or luck. And the question is legit.

Most sports betting picks on the internet are not based on skills

Yesterday I saw a random guy on Instagram, who bought a daily card (all picks from one handicapper for one day) for $499. He received 3 bets, Moneyline, handicap, and a parlay.

He bet on a parlay

The guy bet $1400 on this bet predictions in a parlay on all 3 bets.

All bets were lost.

  • The guy lost $1400 and an extra $499.
  • Combined $1899 in one day.

So, who is to blame?

The guy, who sold the picks or the guy who bought picks?

The answer is simple for me. I would definitely not blame a sports handicapper if he is honest with results if he explains what sports betting is (speculative and high-risk business) and if he has in his terms and conditions, that nobody can guarantee, that one game will be 100% winner. After all, he charged his work, he set the price and the offer was accepted. And don’t get me wrong – I don’t sell picks and I think any following picks is not an optimal way how to win at betting.

Lack of Sports betting basics create dumb money

So, 100% responsibility goes to the guy who bought that pick. If he would understand, that sports betting events are single events, where anything can happen, he would never buy one game. Nobody can guarantee that one game will be profitable. Secondly, behind those bets, there were no estimated probabilities, no last prices (odds) to take and the bets were not VALUE BETS, but simply “winner” based. In other words, his focus was on a winner, he was expecting that the game will be a winning game. No matter if he bet at +110, +105, -110.

Understanding betting odds – the odds are the key

When you decide to bet on something, you decide to pay for something. The odds are nothing else, but the prices that you pay. And when you buy something with the intention to make a profit, this price is crucial.

So, there are a couple of critical mistakes – one game, no estimated price that can be compared to the current price on the market, not understanding the market, the risk and how things work in general.

Following betting tips is usually wrong

It is the same with all followers, who are blindly following all kinds of bets. If you are a follower and if you are looking to bet other people’s picks, you will probably never make any money in sports betting. And I will try to explain this now.

We don’t know that we don’t know

Most bettors who win in a short period of time are lucky

Most bettors we see, are just lucky. Even if you see a tipster, that has a winning record for the last 2 years, he is maybe not a skilled bettor. He was just lucky. And doesn’t have the extra skill or better skill, than someone else, who made a loss in the last 2 years.

And the reason is simple. Most bettors simply don’t understand, what is important to win at sports betting. I am not talking about how to win a game, I am not talking about how to make a profit here.

I am talking here about recognizing the skill, luck, and knowledge on how to beat a bookmaker. It’s easy to confuse whether a tipster’s track-record shows a statistically significant predictive ability or just a good run of luck.

Skill vs Luck in Sports Betting

From pinnacle:

“Let’s say we run a simulation which sees 10,000 tennis tipsters (or monkeys, it really doesn’t matter) each with a 50% chance of either making $10,000 a year or losing $10,000 a year. If any tipster has a losing year, they are eliminated. The tipsters/monkeys make their predictions by simply pushing one of two buttons. If we run the test for one year 5,000 of our tipsters would be $10,000 in profit and the same number $10,000 in the red and binned. In year two we would have 2,500 monkeys with perfect record and if we keep going by Year 5 we would have 313 monkeys from that original cohort that would statistically be able through pure luck to make successive accurate predictions and $50,000.”

After 5 years, 313 monkeys (bettors without any skill) made $50,000. And we have a lot of monkeys (tipsters) in the real world, that were just lucky.

Nobody is talking about the other 9,687 tipsters, that lose on Twitter, that stop betting, that closed their accounts, but the funny thing is that those 313 monkeys start believing that they have the skill.

And this is how that guy paid $499 to the monkey.

Most bettors don’t know that they don’t know. Maybe we are all just lucky/unlucky. The more I learn about the topic, the more I have a feeling that I don’t know anything. :)

So what is important and how to win at sports betting?

  • Luck

As we see here, you can always win by pure luck. And you know what…you can always rely on luck. You don’t need to follow anyone, you don’t need to pay anyone, you don’t need to work a lot. For this, you don’t need any method, any huge research, any huge analysis. There is still a chance, that you will make a profit.

You don’t believe me?

Check monkey story. You can always be a monkey and you still have a chance to win. After all, most paid handicappers are just monkeys.

After all, when I started betting, I was lucky too. I was probably lucky first 2-3 years and this was probably a reason, why I continued. Maybe if I wouldn’t have such luck at the start, maybe I would quit back then. And on the other side, maybe someone else, who had more skills, but was unlucky stop betting.

  • Skill

Of course, most of us don’t want to rely on luck. We want to be in a position to say, that we have a skill and with that skill, we can say with a bigger chance, that our future results will be positive.

Is it possible, that you are a skilled bettor, but still don’t make a profit?

Yes, of course. Unfortunately, this can also happen. Like with monkeys without skill, who still make a profit in 5 years of betting, it can also happen that even if you are a skilled sports bettor, even if you understand everything, even if you beat the line and the market, you will not make a profit.

But this is a risk, that is taken into account. We will never have control over such things. As we don’t have control on many things that will happen in our life. Sometimes you do everything right, but you are unlucky.

Don’t be a monkey in sports betting

Despite we understand, that we can be always victims of luck or bad luck, we still don’t want to be monkeys.

I hope you agree with me.

The only thing we can do is to understand what is important, how to recognize if we are going in the right direction and hopefully we win in the long run. This is, I believe, how a skilled bettor would think.

 Is today my lucky day to gamble?

If you still want to be a monkey, the good news is that you still have a chance to make a profit. You will probably not know, that you don’t have the skill, but you will make some money. If you decide to go this way, you don’t need to read anymore. It’s called gambling.

Skilled bettors don’t rely on luck and they don’t gamble

But if you decide to become a skilled bettor and hopefully survive in the sports betting world not only 5 years, but to make this a lifetime income, then you need to understand a couple of important things:

  • Numbers and the odds are the key. Ability to estimate your numbers for all games before you bet.
  • At the end of the day we end up with the numbers. Period.
  • The odds that you see on betting market are the prices, that you will pay. When it comes to casino or for example rolling a dice, we are absolutely certain of the chances (for example throwing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Casinos (also bookmakers) are making money with margins. It is amazing how gamblers still think they have the edge against Casino, when we know exactly the probability of such event (flipping a coin or rolling a dice). When the house builts margin, you don’t have any edge and it is impossible to win on the long run. In other words, they have the edge and house always wins.
  • In sports betting, we can never be sure exactly what the chance is of particular outcome. The odds or the prices are just the reflection of the estimated probabilities. The good thing is that also bookmakers can never be sure about the price.

And this is why it is possible to make a profit with sports betting. But to do this you need to come with your own numbers and compare your numbers with bookmakers numbers. This is so crucial, that this should be pinned on every single betting site.

The profitable betting theory is not that complex to understand

It is not a rocket science to understand this after all. I am not talking here how to estimate the numbers (or about betting models) but about the importance of getting your numbers before you bet.

I know, a lot of “monkey – tipsters” will say now, that intuition is important, that motivation is important, that jersey colours are important, that referee is important, that coaches wife’s feelings before the game is important,…


But you need to turn that information into the probabilities because, at the end of the day, you will need to compare your price with bookmakers price. This is what it would be called a value betting.

I’ll give you some “value betting” examples from real life

You say – I pay max $15 for pizza.
Pizza costs $45. You will not eat that pizza.
Pizza costs $9. You will eat it.

Same pizza, but you decide based on two prices:

one that you estimated (and you are willing to pay)
one that you see in a restaurant

If you will always take the pizza, no matter what the price is, you will lose.

I am not saying, my sports betting models are completely perfect, but I am can say with confidence, that handicappers, bettors and gamblers that don’t come with their numbers/spreads/totals, before they make final bets, are just monkeys. Some of them very lucky.

Beating the market and beating the closing line.

I didn’t track my closing line value in the past and this is my fault. Maybe I was a monkey too. I made some nice profit in the last 20 years of betting, but maybe it was just luck.

Luckily I try to grow as a bettor every year and I see now how important this is.

After all (and I will repeat this until most of our followers will start understanding this), pinnacle, which has the sharpest odds and one of the biggest sample size of sharp bettors says:

“The key to becoming a winner at Pinnacle is not focusing on results (which can be lucky or unlucky) but concentrating on value and beating the closing line.”


“Beating the closing line doesn’t itself guarantee an individual bet will be profitable, but given that Pinnacle is regarded as one of the sharpest bookmakers online, consistently beating our closing line in the long run is the best indicator of winning bettor.”

And this makes sense in sports betting. Why?

First of all, if you think twice about the concept of making money is almost everywhere same:

  • Know your price
  • Know market price
  • Compare prices
  • Get better price and beat the market

Similarities with stock market

If you are a stock market investor, you want to buy stocks for lower price and then sell it later for bigger price, right? To do this, you need to know what is your price when you buy and for what price you will sell it later.

The difference between those two prices is your profit.

In sports betting, we all try to estimate what is the chance of particular outcome. This is then turned into the price. The easiest way is when you divide 1 by the probability.

But this price on bookmakers websites will not stay the same whole day. The price will be changed during the day (or more days if the odds are open couple of days before the event is played), because of different information, market adjustments, public money, sharp action,…

Just before the game will start, we like to say, that those odds are most sharpest odds and gives us the best reflection of true probability of this event. Because they took into account all possible information.

The goal of a skilled bettor is to beat this price. If you can bet on Red Sox at +120, while other people bet on closing line at +105, you are smarter, you are more skilled and you beat the market (very simple explanation). And to beat the market is the goal of a skilled bettor.
When you start tracking your actual bets taken and the odds with closing odds (latest odds just before game started) then you see if you get better prices and as pinnacle says, this is the best indicator if you are skilled bettor or not.

How to win at sports betting?

So, if you want to win at sports betting, you can do two things:

  • Go like a monkey and try luck, which is completely ok. But you don’t need to follow anyone. Especially not other monkeys :-)
  • Try to become skilled bettor (2 key things: come with your numbers for all games before you bet + bet value; beat closing line)

In both situation you can win or lose, but I believe that in life we can not rely on luck. And the only thing we can do is to gain as much as possible knowledge (so we don’t end like a monkey who buys 1 day picks) and try to become skilled bettor. The profit on the long run is just the result of those two things. Numbers before you bet and outsmart the market (beat closing line).

Don’t follow sports betting picks 

Remember – don’t follow other monkeys. You can be very good monkey too. If you want to win at sports betting, the only thing you can do is to work hard to become a skilled bettor. Invest time and effort into your knowledge and become one.

Most of the bettors, that you see,  are just monkeys anyway. And the best part is that most people can not recognize monkeys.

Skilled sports betting is not just throwing out some picks, but also showing some level of knowledge.