When it comes to sports betting, the vast majority of the money is poured into large market sports. The NFL and other professional leagues take in the lion’s share of the wagering action and garner the vast majority of the media attention.
While highly-bet markets are certainly beatable, bookmakers work hard to correct inefficiencies. In contrast, small market sports don’t receive nearly as much adjusting from the oddsmakers, making sportsbooks more vulnerable on these lesser-bet markets.
The difference between large market and small market sports betting comes down to the dollars wagered. The amount wagered on some small market sports in a full year or season doesn’t even account for one week of NFL betting. For this reason, sportsbooks are heavily focused on their bigger markets.
Online sportsbooks regularly take wagers of up to $50k (and sometimes higher still) on NFL sides and totals. With millions being wagered every week, a faulty line on just one contest could put a shop in a terrible position. Sharp sports bettors look for soft lines, and target sportsbooks that have a tendency to be slow to move their lines. Oddsmakers need to be on their toes when it comes to adjusting the lines of larger markets.
Lost in the Shuffle
Providing odds on larger markets might be just one aspect of the books’ offerings, but heavy attention is lavished upon these sports. That leaves the books with less time to spend on the smaller markets, where erroneous prices can sometimes go unnoticed for relatively long periods. Bettors may enjoy more favorable conditions when they focus their fire on small market sports.
Running a sportsbook is tough for a lot of reasons, but the internet age has made the job even more challenging. Players want to be able to bet on every sport in the world, all from one account. This “we need odds on everything” attitude has been embraced by just about every online sportsbook. Even American-focused shops offer extensive odds on soccer, rugby, and other predominantly foreign-based sports.
This usually means a large selection of markets for all major sports, and domestic ones in particular. For some sports, each game may have a dozen or more different markets. Half-time lines, quarter lines, and in-play or live betting markets also need monitoring.
Even when the NFL season is not in session, there are plenty of high-action games to distract the books. The smaller markets won’t garner nearly as much attention. Furthermore, the oddsmakers are much less experienced (and put in less time) when it comes to handicapping these less-prominent sports.
Sports to Target
There are a few sports that are ideal targets when it comes to looking for value.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) has exploded in recent years, but it remains relatively new to online betting markets. Oddsmakers haven’t fully understood how to handicap it, and those that follow it closely have been able to pull in handsome profits.
The WNBA is another sport that has reached “cult status” with sports bettors in the know. The league may be losing franchises, but the sport is still one of the most profitable for gamblers who follow the league closely.
Even Major League Baseball is relatively small compared to the NFL and NBA wagering markets, and with so many games each day, running an efficient market is a sizable undertaking.
Those are just a few examples. Small market sports are more enticing in general, given the low levels of attention paid to them compared to the more popular markets. A US-facing sportsbook may offer odds on European basketball or other relatively obscure sports, but it’s clear that their lines won’t be nearly as sharp compared to their highly-wagered markets.
Basically, betting small market sports is a search for the weakest odds available at a particular shop. No sportsbook can survive dealing soft lines long-term, but this is the best place to look for these odds.
Beating Sportsbooks in Smaller Markets
Small market sports can be an excellent place to focus for those looking to profit from sports betting. Bookmakers know they are more vulnerable when it comes to these lines, so their wagering limits are adjusted accordingly.
If you’re beating a sportsbook for substantial money in their smaller markets, you may be off their radar at first, but that likely won’t last. The risk of being limited or banned from a shop is still quite real.
Many professional bettors attack smaller markets because of the higher number of inefficiencies in their markets. Differences in pricing are also much more common in smaller markets compared to larger ones. This makes line shopping especially crucial. There’s also a much better chance of finding an off-market or rogue line.
Author: Joseph Falchetti