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The Best Sports to Bet On: Which Leagues Are Most Profitable?

Patrick Cwiklinski

by Patrick Cwiklinski

Updated May 6, 2024 · 1:42 PM PDT

What is the best sport to bet on? Depending on how you want to look at it, this can be a difficult question to answer. “Best” is an inherently subjective measure, or one that can’t easily be removed from the influence of opinion and contextual differences.

Here at SBD, we like to back our statements with hard facts and detailed data, and our approach to identifying the best sports to bet on is no different.

At the end of the day, people bet on sports to make money. This article reveals the best sports to bet on in terms of potential return on investment, which is the best metric to directly compare the profitability of the different major sports leagues.

Let’s take a detailed look at the data to compare the profitability of betting on the NFL, MLB, NBA, college football, and college basketball.

Use Data to Compare Sports and Teams

There’s no shortage of data available in terms of comparing different sports leagues, but it can be a massive challenge to cut through the noise and directly compare profitability.

SBD Sharp is a proprietary tool that tracks teams as investments over time, showing you how much you’d have won or lost betting on them throughout the course of the season.

Washington Wizards sports investing

Hands down, it’s the best place to find the teams that are most profitable to bet on. By comparing the most profitable teams in each league, we’re able to determine which sports offer bettors the most value.

Sharp allows users to evaluate teams for their profitability on the moneyline, against the spread, and when betting totals (over/under). It also allows you to see trends for each team when playing at home, on the road, when favored, or as an underdog. Try the tool yourself to see the data firsthand, and have some fun looking for surprising trends. You’ll find that the strongest teams on the field aren’t always the smartest ones to bet on!

Here’s how we used SBD Sharp to find the best sports to bet on…


We found the best sports for moneyline, spread, and totals betting with some simple calculations using data from SBD Sharp. To find the sport that offered the most potential profit, we averaged the return on investment from the five most profitable teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and NCAA football and basketball. We call this number the “Optimal ROI Score” for the purposes of this article.

Return on investment (ROI) is the best metric for this analysis because it considers the influence of fluctuating odds and allows for an apples-to-apples historical comparison that applies to all bettors, regardless of the size of their bankroll. Evaluating ROI allows you to identify the teams and sports that will make your money go further: betting on sports that offer higher potential ROI means you can risk less of your bankroll on each wager and make more money with fewer bets.

So, what are the best sports to bet on if you want to make your money go further?

Best Sports to Bet On: Key Insights

  • College football offers the most value to bettors across all bet types, closely followed by the NFL
  • Baseball offers the lowest potential value across all bet types
  • College basketball offers significantly higher potential ROI than NBA betting
  • The NHL and NBA are remarkably similar in terms of potential ROI across all bet types

Best Sports to Bet on the Moneyline

Here are the most profitable sports when betting on the moneyline:

  1. College Football (159.23% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  2. NFL (78.7% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  3. College Basketball (29.22% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  4. NBA (13.92% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  5. NHL (10.07% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  6. MLB (7.34% OPT. ROI SCORE)

Best Sports to Bet Against the Spread

Here are the most profitable sports when betting against the spread:

  1. College Football (97.83% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  2. NFL (90.2% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  3. College Basketball (36.91% OPT.ROI SCORE)
  4. NHL (12.39% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  5. NBA (10.33% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  6. MLB (8.81% OPT. ROI SCORE)

Best Sports for Totals Betting (Over/Under)

Here are the most profitable sports when betting totals:

  1. College Football (92.97% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  2. NFL (46.2% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  3. College Basketball (33.96% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  4. NHL (13.97% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  5. NBA (10.82% OPT. ROI SCORE)
  6. MLB (10.09% OPT. ROI SCORE)

A Note of Caution…

Clearly, college football takes the cake when it comes to the highest potential ROI.

Volatile investments like football offer higher potential ROI, but you still need to pick winners to cash in. Football features significantly fewer games per season than the other sports, meaning there are fewer opportunities for error.

It is important to note that since we’ve only considered the historical ROI of the five most profitable teams in each sport/league, the Optimal ROI Score assigned to each sport is not representative of the ROI for most teams in the league. This means that the lists above only apply if you’re identifying and betting on the most profitable teams in each (these are rarely the teams with the best win-loss record). Luckily, you know exactly where to find the best choices: SBD Sharp.

Show me the most profitable teams

Value Comes with Risk

Please consider the reality that football offers bettors the most potential profit because it is also the riskiest sport to consistently bet on. Sure, baseball generally offers lower returns in the long run, but each team plays 162 games per season. Compared to the 10 – 13 games played by each college football team, this gives bettors a much more comfortable margin of error if they distribute their bankroll consistently throughout the season.

Here’s the bottom line: When it comes to betting on sports or making any other investment, the riskiest wagers will generally offer the biggest opportunities to make money. But they offer an even greater chance of losing money. That’s why it’s impossible to definitively determine which sports are the best to bet on.

In the end, bettors should wager on the sports they are most interested in and know the most about. There is simply no substitute for dutiful research and a realistic assessment of your own knowledge. Used as intended, tools like SBD Sharp are a great place to find information that will help you make smarter picks. Picking up an ESPN BET promo or another welcome offer can also help you bet with more confidence because you’ll have extra bonus money to wager with.


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