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Betting on Large Market Sports vs. Small Market Sports

Aaron Gray

by Aaron Gray

Updated Feb 24, 2020 · 3:11 PM PST

If you’re new to betting, you may have heard the terms “large” and “small” markets. If this leaves you scratching your head in confusion, don’t worry! We’ll walk you what constitutes a large and small market sport, as well as the difference of betting on each. Read on to get the best tips and tricks to make the most of both.

Large vs. Small Market Sports: What Are They?

At a basic level, large markets can be described as the most popular sports. Conversely, small market sports are typically more obscure sports.

As you can imagine, professional leagues like the NFL and NBA have some of the biggest markets out there. Their fan base and media attention guarantee that they receive the most wagering action. As a result, sportsbooks offer stronger betting markets for the most popular sports.

This extends to college sports like the NCAA, which pull millions of viewers and bettors alike. In fact, 77% of 2017 sports bettors bet on football, with basketball following close behind.

Smaller sports markets are soccer, golf, boxing, and female leagues of major sports (like the WNBA). Of course, there’s more to distinguish the markets than their popularity, especially when it comes to betting.

Tighter Lines for Larger Sports

Due to larger betting volume and amounts of cash coming into sportsbooks from the more popular markets, it makes sense that these sportsbooks concentrate their handicapping efforts on them. With millions wagered, a faulty line on just one game could put any sportsbook in a precarious position.

Sportsbooks have to pay attention and keep tighter control over the lines for the most popular sports, meaning that there’s always a chance for a little more wiggle room when it comes to smaller sporting markets.

For example, despite growing in popularity, sports like MMA are still relatively new to sportsbooks. In such cases, it is very easy for bettors to know more than the oddsmakers, making lucrative betting opportunities more possible.

Betting Limits Differ

The betting limits for markets and sports can vary widely. Popular sports which bring in the most bets naturally have the largest limits—another reason why sportsbooks pay more attention to these lines.

A bettor wagering on the NFL may be able to bet up to $2,000, but only a maximum of $500 on MLB. Why? Because oddsmakers aren’t as confident in these smaller markets.

Pros and Cons of Large Market Betting

One of the biggest drawing points for wagering on the larger markets are the higher betting limits. If you consider yourself a bit of a high-roller, you’ll have more opportunities to bet more and, hopefully, win big.

You also have a wide range of bets available for just one sport. When betting on the NFL, you can take your pick from straight bets, moneyline, over/unders, parlays, teasers/pleasers, halftime bets, props, futures, and much more.

On the other hand, while markets for the nation’s favorite sports are still beatable with the right betting strategy, sportsbooks work hard to correct any mistakes or inefficiencies, so it’s more difficult to have the edge.

Pros and Cons of Small Market Betting

Small market sports don’t receive nearly as much scrutiny or adjusting from oddsmakers. This means that incorrect prices can often go unnoticed and unchanged for longer than they would in a larger sporting market. You can enjoy more favorable betting lines if you’re paying more attention than the sportsbook!

Smaller sports often offer smaller betting limits, so if you prefer to bet big, you may consider this a disadvantage. It can, however, be a great thing for a rookie bettor to bet low and steady. You can build and manage a nice bankroll without the risk of losing big.

The Downside of Small Market Betting

While winning is usually a plus, continually beating the sportsbook in smaller markets will get you noticed. Just because they pay more attention to the larger markets, doesn’t mean they’re totally blind. You will run the risk of being limited or banned from your sportsbook.

Another major complaint about smaller sports markets is the lower maximum betting limits. It can get quite restrictive and frustrating, especially if you know exactly what you’re doing and simply want the freedom to do it.

The Rise of Small Market Sports

With the help of the internet and sports streaming sites, US bettors are getting into sports that they don’t normally see on their usual TV channels or subscription sports channels. They can watch niche sports for free (and everybody loves a freebie).

This simple change in viewing is giving rise to the popularity of the more obscure and ‘foreign’ sports. Soccer, rugby, and cricket—predominantly European sports—are growing in popularity amongst American sports fans.

As these foreign and niche sports gain interest, bettors want to be able to place wagers, and sportsbooks have to offer lines for multiple sports they know little about.

The Best Strategies for New Bettors

If you’re looking to cut your teeth on sports betting, small markets can be a great way to quickly learn about strategies with less risk. The best thing a new bettor can do is take their time. Before jumping in headfirst, learn a few betting strategies to keep you in the game, or brush up on the fundamentals in Sports Betting 101. 

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