Does Analytics Really Help in Sports Wagering?


Born in the financial sector, just the term – analytics – has spawned an industry in almost every facet of our lives as a more practical viewpoint of analyzing data to make more accurate decisions based on a given market.

Analytics first crept into many sports fans lives with the Oakland Athletics, in the first decade of this century and was later popularized by the movie “Moneyball” with Brad Pitt playing the role of General Manager Billy Beane, taking newly created data and sorting it in manner to make the team more efficient in areas of offense, defense and pitching. This tricked down later into football, basketball and soccer among the major sports.

In sports wagering, this became a buzzword for those selling sports betting information and has become common place, being accepted as a term with advanced statistical information. Yet, does this really increase win probability for the sports bettor?

Understanding What Analytics Do

First we need to quantify, analytics in sports wagering is really still a new phenomenon, thus to broadly proclaim they provide an edge for sports bettors, it is too early to tell. A key component to this is understanding the supplier of information created. Having a person or persons with Ivy League education creating data from mountain of evidence in the financial world is far different than a three to five year study of line movement in the NFL by ordinary individual with limited skills.

However, being able to select the right data and sort in correct manner, where the given result applies to an edge that is relatable for anyone placing wagers, can be a decided edge if the sports bettor understands what he has.

Case in point is the 2014-16 Golden State Warriors, who made two Finals appearances, winning one championship and almost another. Through this two-year run, coach Steve Kerr assembled “Death Lineup”, which was unique collection of five players who could handle the ball, outrun their opponents, formulate mismatches and score from any position on the floor. Analytics proved this was Golden State’s most efficient unit and with proper usage by coach Kerr, this was a large contributing factor to the Warriors 90-67-7 against the spread record (57.3 percent) the past two regular seasons versus a variety of competition.

Analytics is a Tool, Not a Solution

The use of sports betting analytics does provide new insights into teams and situations and has the potential to generate advantages. Nonetheless, while they can provide certain answers to those betting sports, they should not be accepted as the only way to view outcomes. For the past several years in baseball, there has been a collision in thinking of new school (analytics) vs. old school (statistics), with each believing they are correct, with the truth closer to the middle.

The facts suggest the sportsbooks point spread and human elements are great equalizers and a compilation of analytics, statistics and understanding of teams and coaches is the best way to beat the point spread, along with an open mind to accept new principles.


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