What Percent Have to Win to Beat Sports Betting?

Betting on sports has become popular in recent years, but what exactly does it mean to ‘bet on sports’?

To start, placing sports bets means you are wagering on the outcome of sporting events such as football, basketball, and baseball games.

However, betting on sports can also mean you are taking a side in a debate regarding which player is going to win a game. For example, if you believe that the underdogs will triumph over the favorites, you can bet on those teams. The concept of ‘betting on’ is very broad, and can mean many different things to different people.

Since betting on sports can be difficult to understand, this article will go over what percent of the outcome of a sporting event a bettor has to win to make that bet attractive.

The Basics Of Percentages

To grasp the concept of percentages in sports, it is essential to understand what they are and how they work.

Simply put, percentages are used to express the likelihood of something happening, or the chance an event will occur. For example, if you want to know what is the chance that a coin will come up heads, you can use a 50% probability to find the answer. One way of thinking about it is that you have to hit the target (50% chance of coming up heads) with an arrow (the coin) ten times in a row to win the bet. However, keep in mind that this is only true if you are using a precise probability, and not just assuming it will be fifty-fifty.

Knowing what percentages are and what they mean is important. For example, if you see that the favorite in a sports matchup has an 80% chance of winning, that means they will probably win the game 80% of the time. However, if you are using a 70% probability to find that answer, you are likely overestimating the likelihood of the favorite winning the game. In reality, they might only win 65% of the time.

How To Use Percentages To Find Winning Probabilities

Since percentages are used to find the likelihood of something happening, that means they can be applied to any situation to find an answer. For sports betting, the formula is generally quite easy to follow. Simply follow these steps:

  • Find the percent chances of each team/player winning the game
  • Add up all the percentages to find the total winning probability
  • Divide that number by two to get the straight-up payout (i.e. winnings)

Let’s go over each part of these steps in detail. First, you will need to determine the percentage chances of each team/player winning the game. For the purposes of this example, we will use the 2014 World Cup (the soccer tournament) to work through these steps. If you want to follow along, you will need to look at the group standings at the end of this particular tournament to find the winning percentages for the 14 teams who made it to the championship match. (If you want to follow along by watching the games, you can use a tool like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? to follow the answers as the games progress.)

Team And Player Winning Percentages

One of the first things you will want to do is find the team and player winning percentages. To do this, you have to look at the tournament’s group standings to see who was placed in which group and who was unseeded. (The unseeded teams were essentially the wild cards of the tournament.) From there, you can determine how each team performed in comparison to the others. For example, Germany was a 2-seed, and was therefore expected to win approximately two games, while Argentina was an 11-seed, and was therefore expected to win only one game. In this case, it would be appropriate to say that Germany had an 80% chance of winning, and Argentina only had a 20% chance of winning. (Note: Germany won the 2014 World Cup, and Argentina did not make it to the championship match.)

After you have found the team and player winning percentages, you can add them together to find the total winning probability for the entire tournament. To do this, use a calculator and follow these steps:

  • Add up the percentages for each team
  • Divide by 2 to find the total probability of the tournament

If you use the example from before, where Germany had an 80% chance of winning and Argentina only had a 20% chance of winning, the total winning probability for the tournament would be 1-2=1, or 100%. That is, if you guessed correctly, which would be very likely, Germany wins the tournament 100% of the time. (If you did not guess correctly, then Argentina wins the tournament with 2 out of 11 matches.)

In this case, you would need to win 8 out of 11 games, or 72.73%, to win the bet. In reality, of course, you would not need to win all 11 games, but you do need to get a majority of them right to maximize your chances of winning. (A minority of the wins would still earn you the bet amount, but the odds become much more favorable as you get closer to a majority win.) You can use this example to find the percent chances of any given team winning a particular tournament. Just replace the words ‘World Cup’ with the appropriate tournament, and you are good to go.

Total And Straight-Up Payouts

Once you have figured out the winning probability for the entire tournament, you can find the total payout for the bet, and the straight-up payout, or winnings, which is simply the amount you win regardless of whether or not the team you bet on actually wins.

To find the total payout of a tournament, you add up all the team winning percentages and divide that amount by two, as with the total winning probability. (If you did not do this in step 3, you would add the individual team wins together after you found them in step 4.)

For the straight-up payout, you add up the winning percentages of each individual team and divide that number by two, as was done for the total winning probability. If you did not do this in step 3, you would divide the total amount of wins for each individual team by two after you found them in step 4.

As before, this is only accurate if you are using precise probabilities. For example, if you guessed that Germany would win the tournament 100% of the time, you would say they had an 80% chance of winning, and therefore would need to win 7 out of 11 games, or 64.44% of the time, to make the bet worthwhile. (If you did not guess correctly, then Germany does not win the tournament, and you would lose your $10.)

Knowing this, it is essential to always keep in mind that the chances of winning are not the same as the outcome of the game. For example, Germany’s 80% winning percentage was based on all the games they played in the tournament, while their 7 out of 11 win percentage in this example is only used to find the winning probability, and is therefore irrelevant to the actual outcome of the tournament. (The same goes for Argentina’s 20% winning percentage & 2 out of 11 win percentage.)

To find the straight-up payout for any given team in a tournament, simply find their winning percentage, add up all the individual wins, and divide that number by two. (If you did not do this in step 3, you would divide the total amount of wins for each individual team by two after you found them in step 4.)

Example

To continue working through these steps, let’s say you wanted to know what percent of the 2014 World Cup had to be won for an individual game winner to be generated. Simply follow these steps: