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What Does an Edge Mean in Sports Betting?

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If you’re just getting started in the world of sports betting, the chances are you’ll have read or seen many professional tipsters or bettors discuss their ‘edge’ in the markets. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t mean the white cliffs of Dover. Instead, an edge is a bettor’s advantage over the rest of the sports market.

Finding an edge is by no means a walk in the park. All kinds of elite-level bettors, from sports to poker players, seek out an edge to move the odds in their favour. Sometimes an edge will relate to simply being better than an opponent, like a poker player that probes and ascertains the weaknesses of other players at their table to exploit. In other instances, bettors will suss out edges based solely on the maths, finding statistical flaws that can be used to their advantage.

Without an edge in the sports betting markets, fans are simply flipping a coin with every wager they place. An edge in sports betting gives fans the chance to take odds that are out of sync with the actual probability of a sports team or athlete winning an event. Of course, nothing is ever certain in professional sport, but experienced sports fans can use data and statistical modelling to pinpoint betting opportunities with greater accuracy and find bookmakers whose odds aren’t aligned with the actual probability of an outcome happening.

Bookmaker prices aren’t infallible>>>>> SOURCE: Photo

A bookmaker’s in-house traders are employed to price up sporting events pre-match. They aren’t machines and some traders will invariably offer odds that are out of kilter with what sharp bettors expect. A bettor with a long-term edge can place wagers that have a higher chance of landing than the odds received.

Let’s say for example that you’re looking at the Over/Under goals markets in an English Premier League game between Manchester United and Liverpool. A sharp bettor will look at how often United and Liverpool games finish with Over/Under 2.5 goals, for example. If they find that both teams average 60% of games finishing Over 2.5 goals, the odds on the game finishing Over 2.5 goals would need to replicate this percentage, right? In theory, yes. However, it doesn’t always work like that.

Some sports bettors may get access to team news which suggests United star Christian Eriksen  or Liverpool scorer Luis Diaz are missing through injury. The absence of either player could lessen the likelihood of Over 2.5 goals happening. Sharp sports bettors will look to get odds of 2.50 on Under 2.5 goals (40% probability) or higher before the team news is common knowledge and the pre-match odds fall. That’s the example of a clear edge that enables smart football bettors to beat the closing lines of the leading sportsbooks.

What do we mean by beating the closing lines?

Sports bettors that look for defined edges in the markets will look for ‘smart’ bets that beat the closing line value of a sportsbook. The closing line value – CLV for short – is the final odds offered before the event begins and goes in-play. Bets that can be placed at a higher price pre-match than the CLV are considered smart wagers. At the other end of the spectrum, bets placed at odds worse than the CLV are considered to have a negative expected value (-EV) over the long term.

Those who consistently beat the CLV in their specialised sports or markets are considered to have an edge. It’s the mark of a good bettor that can interpret pre-game data and anticipate how the market will react accordingly.

Sports bettors with a long-term edge for beating the CLV will not get too high with their wins or too low with their losses. Winning and losing runs are all part of the variance of sports betting. Even sharp bettors that encounter losing runs of five or even ten bets in succession tend to be relaxed during such barren spells so long as they are continuing to beat the CLV. That’s because they acknowledge that the variance will move in their favour long term if they continue to do so.