Betting Against The Public – Sports Betting Strategy

Written by: Joseph Falchetti, Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert
Last updated:
8 minute read

Fading the public means to bet against the public. It’s a contrarian method of sports betting where you bet against the gambling public. This and the profitability of said strategy has been a hotly debated topic over the past decade. This is often times the only strategy newly bettors know about, and perhaps the reason for its popularity.

It would seem obvious from afar, that blindly fading the public in every scenario would not produce winning results. After all, if this worked, then anyone could simply bet against the public when they are heavy on a game and profit long term. We all know this is not the case.

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Sports Odds Creation

In the early days of regulated sports betting in the 1970s, and before the industry went mainstream in Nevada, bookmakers factored in public opinion a lot more than they do these days. We’ve come a long way since that time, where bettors basically had the opinion of their friends, television pundits and sports writers.

Sure, there were some who created their own projections and betting systems without the help of computers, but those types were few and far between. Of course, today’s sports bettor still doesn’t have a leg-up on the oddsmakers, but it is worth noting that the average sports bettors today is much smarter than “Joe Public” was ten years ago. The amount of information that today’s bettors have available at the click of a button is night and day compared to what was available in the past. A lot what bettors read or utilize is noise, but there’s no doubting as a whole, sports bettors today are more sophisticated than ever.

Fading The Public – A Balancing Action

Don't Take Betting Advice From ESPN or Sports Media
NOT the guys you should be looking at for betting advice.

At one time, the oddsmakers’ focus was more suited towards balancing action. Since they charge vigorish, the sportsbooks can make a profit if their betting action is split on a market. They don’t want to take too much money one side and risk being overexposed. That’s still the case today, but the public’s opinion on a game is a smaller factor.

The idea that the sportsbooks are weighing the opinion of the public (losing bettors) when creating their odds for the day is laughable. Why would the top linesmakers and managers look for advice from a specific group of people that consistently lose money betting sports?

Obviously, this makes little sense. The oddsmakers aren’t watching ESPN to see who they are hyping and they’re not trying to get inside the head of the average sports bettor. The reality is that the oddsmakers don’t care about the public’s opinion when they are creating the lines.

Sports Bettors Known as Sharps

While the lion’s share of sports bettors are certainly losers, there’s a small but highly significant set of sports bettors known as sharps. Sharp bettors are experienced, high limit bettors who eagerly look for soft lines and are happy to pounce on bad numbers. If the sportsbooks post lines from the start that are intended to produce equal action based on the public opinion, they will likely feel the wrath of the sharps. Sharp bettors hit markets as soon as they open to look for inefficiencies. They also bet considerably more money than the average bettor.

This creates a problem for the sportsbooks if they post a line that isn’t accurate or one that is catering to the public’s opinion. Sharp bettors will pound the weak side and they will be forced to move the line. This can create a scenario where sharp bettors have gotten a lot of money down on the line before it moves. This action is often lopsided and while the bookies will move the line to induce action on the other side, they will have considerable action from sharps at the original line.

Steam Moves In Sports Betting

If a sportsbook posts a line that’s considerably off, and it moves several points to betting action, they’re recreating this scenario several times. They also create a middle area between the initial line and odds’ change, which makes it possible for them not only to lose the sharp wagers but the bets that came in later after the movement.

These moves are called steam moves, which are rapid changes in a betting market due to heavy action. These moves, especially when the odds are first released, are caused by sharp betting action. Many sports bettors “chase steam” after a market move by a well-respected sportsbook that takes a high volume of bets. “Chasing steam” is betting the market of other sportsbooks before the odds change. This can be highly effective if you understand betting markets and has caused many bettors to be banned or limited.

In summary, the sportsbooks don’t value public opinion when it comes creating their odds. It’s much better for them to post accurate lines from the start and not worry about where the public is going with action. Sharp bettors are the largest worry for the oddsmakers and moving a market drastically puts them into a potential nightmare scenario where they can be arbitraged and lose both sides of a market.

Public Betting Percentages In Sports Betting

With all that said, there is still some value in looking at public betting percentages. At this point, there are several industry that post public betting percentages on their sites. Many offshore online sportsbooks also do the same., the bookmaker with the highest betting limits in the US market regularly post betting percentages beside their side and total markets. does the same. This illustrates how insignificant some bookmakers feel about handicappers who use public betting percentages.

MLB Public Betting

Another factor at play here is what the information truly means and if it can be trusted. If 70% of the wagers on a game are coming on the Dodgers, and 30% are coming on the Padres, that still doesn’t tell use the volume of each bet. We don’t know which side the sharps are on (they can also bet on the same side as the public) nor the true amount of money coming in on each side.

Furthermore, after a single line move, the action will once again change based on how the market moved. Most sites that post these betting percentages simply calculate the percentage of bets on each side of a market and don’t adjust for movement after the opening line.

Public Betting Percentages
Courtesy of

For our money, the best two sites for public betting percentages are and Both sites do sell services and picks (we can’t recommend purchasing those), but also give out free odds as well. Sports Insights has a slight edge because their product is a little more aesthetically pleasing and organized.

Where do they get their betting percentages? From offshore sportsbooks, those with premium accounts can view each individual sportsbook’s betting percentages. Sports Insights lists them on their FAQ. They’re some of the top sportsbooks online, so there will be no issues with creditability.

Reverse Line Movement – Explained

One of easiest ways to spot sharp action and benefit from line movement is in the situation of reverse line movement. Reverse line movement is easiest to spot during NFL contests as the betting takes about week between games, but can also be utilized in every sport. Using public betting percentages we can see where most of the action is going on a specific contest. In many cases, the action will be heavily lopsided. This is especially common with favorites. Here’s an example using an NFL game:

  • Opening Line:
  • Cleveland Browns +12
  • Pittsburgh Steelers -12

Now a look at the public betting percentages:

  • Cleveland Browns 15%
  • Pittsburgh Steelers 85%

However, despite these percentages, the odds have moved in the other opposite direction of the seemingly lopsided action on the Steelers.

  • Current Line:
  • Cleveland Browns +10
  • Pittsburgh Steelers -10

NFL Public Betting

If you read between the lines here, it’s obvious that sharp bettors have taken a liking to Browns. When the public is extremely heavy on a game, it’s not uncommon for the line to not move at all or just slightly in favor.

However, when the line moves in the opposite direction, it’s a sure sign of sharp bettors pounding the other side. The bookies, take this much more serious than public betting trends and have been forced to move the Browns’ odds to -11 to offset their action, despite the public’s love affair with Pittsburgh. This is a situation where bettors can find an advantage by following the sharp betting action. If they’re able to find the Browns +12 at other shops, they should pounce immediately.

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How Significant Are Public Betting Percentages

They can be useful, but as is the case with just about everything in sports betting, getting the best price on a market and beating the closing line is much more valuable than looking for spots to go against the public. However, in a lot of cases, these go hand and hand, but that’s not always the case.

Keep in mind, there are plenty of instances where the public and sharp bettors are on the same page. Both the squares and the sharps will bet one side and the odds will shift in that direction. Just because a wager is a “public bet” doesn’t mean it’s a bad bet. Public wagers can certainly win, just like the sharps aren’t always correct.

If you’re experienced enough at sports betting, it’s likely that you won’t be wagering on markets that the public bets anyways. Public bettors don’t line shop or look to avoid high-vigorish markets and they also disproportionally bet more favorites and overs.

recreational sportsbooks and betting lines

At many recreational sportsbooks, betting lines are often shaded to public betting patterns, so bettors can usually get excellent prices on underdogs. All and all, public betting patterns are worth looking at, but they shouldn’t be the basis of your research as a handicapper. The sportsbooks aren’t playing games with the betting masses.

Instead, they’re trying to post the sharpest opening lines possible, so they don’t need to adjust them much once they open their odds. There still seems to be the prevailing opinion among many amateur sports bettors that blindly fading the public is some sort of full-proof betting system. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Fading the public blindly is an excellent way to end your sports betting career quickly.

About the Author

Joseph Falchetti

Joseph Falchetti

Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert

Joe is the author of the majority of sports betting pages on SBS and he serves as a gambling consultant to our content team. He's been mentioned on as a gaming analyst, and his articles have been linked by larger publications, such as the New York Times.

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