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If you’re a casual sports bettor, you should consider fading (otherwise known as ‘betting against’) the public from time to time. Fading the public is a simple strategy that provides positive returns, year after year. 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!

For starters, the public bet is represented by the side of the wager with the most action. Bettors choose sides for a variety of reasons, but trends show that the public bet almost always represents 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).

Why, you ask? 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, sports books 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.”

A general rule of thumb is that if there are more bettors involved, the more square the public bet will be. Using data from past seasons can help bettors identify scoring trends and make better bets.

Through our findings, we’ve found two trends relating to NFL and NCAA football 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 amongst 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.

Conclusion

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!