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Betting Against the Public: Fade Like a Sharp

Aaron Gray

by Aaron Gray

Updated Nov 27, 2020 · 11:40 AM PST

  • From college football to NBA basketball, public interest often sways the odds on the year’s biggest sporting events
  • The public generally knows very little about evaluating sports bets, which creates opportunity for bettors who can outwit them
  • Follow the strategies outlined here to grow your bankroll betting against the public

Fading (otherwise known as ‘betting against’) the public is one of the oldest sports betting strategies in the book.  Bettors love this simple strategy for the positive returns it yields year after year, and because it’s easy to understand how and why it works.

Placing your bet in opposition of the public perception is advantageous for several reasons, and becoming more aware of these opportunities will net you more cash in the long run!

Which Side Is the Public Betting?

The public bet is simply the side that more people are wagering on. You can make an educated guess about which side the public is betting by looking at the odds for a given sporting event. Bettors choose sides for a variety of reasons, but trends show that the public tends to back the favored team or the team with “home-field” advantage. This thinking also applies to lines based on scoring (the over is usually preferred against the under).

Oddsmakers manipulate lines to attract equal action on each side, so you can be relatively confident that the pick that offers longer odds is the “against the public” option. The easiest way to confirm which side the public is backing is simply to use a tool that shows you.

Why does the public typically bet on the favorite? The answer is rooted in the tendencies of human behavior.

Understanding the Mind of an Average Sports Fan

As sports fans, we’re conditioned to cheer for winners and remain optimistic when projecting scoring outcomes. For these reasons, we find comfort in betting on the “expected” winner, or in thinking there will be more points scored instead of fewer. This thinking is magnified by media outlets, who feed off stories about teams and players on winning streaks.

So when it comes to handicapping games, oddsmakers open their sportsbooks with tempting spreads to attract bets. As wagers are placed, sportsbooks move their lines in an attempt to attract bets to the other side of the wager. The way a line moves is a great indication of where the public bet is, and catching a line at the right time is crucial for fading the public.

How Do Sharps Know When to Fade the Public Bet?

There are two types of bettors that make up the market. Casual (inexperienced) bettors are typically referred to “squares,” and more experienced bettors—who have proven winning track records—are referred to as “sharps.”

Generally, if there are more bettors involved, the public bet will be more square. When the public is heavily favoring one side, data from past seasons can help you identify scoring trends or other advantages to place smarter bets at better odds.

Through our research, we’ve found two trends relating to NFL and NCAA football betting that sharp bettors follow:

1. Sharps love betting on the underdog.

Over the past four seasons, underdog teams went on to cover the spread 63.8% of the time when receiving less than 40% of the public bet. This data was collected using the first 3 weeks of each season.

We can speculate that hype from off-season trades, incoming rookies, and last season’s results had a huge impact on the public perception during the early weeks of the season. Betting against the public in the early weeks has resulted in more cash for sports bettors.

2. Betting on the home underdog is the ultimate fade.

A study by Steven Levitt, an American economist, exposes road favorites to be the most popular bet in sports. He suggests that betting on the home underdog is a winning strategy among sharp bettors.

His study goes on to state that, during his sampling, home underdogs went on to win 53% of the time in both NCAA and NFL football games. Although the home underdog is never a sexy pick, it’s a bet that can shift the odds in your favor over the long run.


As every sport is subtly different, betting trends differ between sports, and even leagues, as well. The above scenarios are relative to NFL strategy and NCAA football strategy, but might not be relevant to NHL hockey betting strategy. We encourage you to read the rest of our Sports Betting 101 guide to become more educated on sports betting and get more money in your pockets!


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