Can You Make a Living Off Sports Betting?

If making a living off of sports betting were easy, think how many people would do it! Because it is so difficult to be a professional sports bettor, the tips and tricks used by the pros are often protected like state secrets.

Find out some basic strategies for becoming a profitable sports bettor and turning a hobby into a career. Figure out what type of betting is right for you and start building your bankroll!


Can you make a living off sports betting? Many people dream of making a living from their favorite leisure activities, such as sports betting. You love sports. You spend every waking hour thinking about, reading up on, and talking over sports. Sometimes, you even lose sleep because your mind refuses to stop racing over tomorrow’s slate of games.

But transitioning from being a person who knows a lot about sports to a profitable and sports bettor is not simple, and losses are extremely likely, which is why sportsbooks are profitable in the first place. If it were, think how many professional wagerers would be spread throughout the world!

However, there are those elite few that not only make money at sportsbooks but can win often enough to live off the profits. Reaching their level is no simple task and requires patience, discipline, and, often, a mathematical genius.

What Are the Chances of Making Money Through Sports Betting?

To most outsiders, making money through sports betting relies on picking winners more than half of the time. This line of thinking is overly simplistic.

vegas sports betting boards

With so many games on the board, the pros prioritize those their models say have the highest value.

Winning consistent money through sports betting not only requires placing future bets on winners, but the right winners. For example, if you just choose heavy favorites on moneyline bets repeatedly, you will never build a significant bankroll. Taking the easy wins at -10000 odds will never get you anywhere.

Instead, to make money picking winners, you need to not only win but win the right type of bets.

Think of it this way. If you only risk your money on -10000 favorites, you will win $100 for every $10,000 put at risk. Just one upset can throw your whole system into disarray.

But if you identify the right odds or underdog play, you can more than double your take with one win. At +150, a $10,000 bet results in $15,000 in pure profit. Those are the types of bets that can lead to a comfortable lifestyle.

100% up to $400


Are There People Who Actually Make a Living Gambling?

But to make a living by simply picking winners, you cannot just rely on one bet. Rather, you need to identify highly profitable wagers on a consistent basis. And you have an entire corporate industry of bookmakers trying to ensure you fail.

Making a living from gambling usually is much more complicated than picking the right winners. Instead, professional gamblers set up a system or model using data and information.

The more information and data points a professional gambler can identify, the better mathematical model they can build. However, there are three overarching systems that professional sports bettors use to create plus expected value.

These are: arbitrage betting, matched betting, and value betting. Each has its own pluses and minuses. Most of those lucky enough to make a living betting on sports are using some aspect of all three systems at the same time.

Arbitrage Betting

Arbitrage is the process of identifying different prices for the same item then profiting from the difference. If you can (legally) buy an item for $5 in one place and sell it for $10 somewhere else, you can make an easy $5 in arbitrage.

To make a living from arbitrage, you need to build scale and minimize transaction costs. If transportation costs more than $5 dollars, selling the $5 item where it goes for $10 will end up costing your money. And one $5 score is not going to pay the bills.

In sports betting, to make arbitrage bets, you need to find different online sportsbooks that have different odds on the same game. Imagine a hypothetical matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat.

If one sportsbook lists the Heat as +150 underdogs and another has the Mavericks as +150 underdogs, you can make money by betting on both lines. Because one team must win the game, a $100 bet on each team at the right sites will result in $50 of guaranteed profit. If the Mavericks win, you will lose the $100 Heat bet at the first sportsbook but win $150 at the second.

This is an extreme example. Good arbitrage bettors are usually seeking out a profit of 1%-2%. They need a long-term outlook and the computing power to instantly identify and bet arbitrage possibilities. However, if done correctly, it is theoretically risk-free.

Matched Betting

Matched betting is a lot like arbitrage betting, only it takes advantage of various sportsbook promotions, which are very similar to casino bonuses. By identifying the maximum bonuses and perks available, the matched bettor places a wager on one side of a game using a promotion while simultaneously playing the other side at another sportsbook. The best will use promotions on both sides of the equation.

via GIPHY (matched bettors know this feeling)

No matter the outcome of the game, the bettor will win. And since some (or all) of the funding for the bets is promotional, matched bettors do not need as large a bankroll when starting out.

Value Betting

Unlike arbitrage and matched betting, a professional value bettor only wagers on one side of a game. This is the legendary sharp gambler who can pick winners consistently.

But value bettors do extensive research and build algorithmic models that show when sports odds on a game create positive value. Then the bettor strikes, typically with a large bet.

Over time, if the model is strong enough, a value bettor will win at a rate that is profitable. Value betting is the only of the three systems where there is a theoretical risk. However, a professional value bettor trusts their model to create plus expected value situations and has discipline to follow the math.

The sharp money from value bettors can quickly affect the line and odds on a matchup. To be a successful value bettor, you must flush out even the smallest fractions and percentages. Therefore, a value bettor typically has relationships with multiple sportsbooks. Identifying friendlier odds can make the difference between profitability and failure.

Will I Be Banned if I Win Too Much in Sports Betting?

This is what we call a good problem to have. However, it can become an issue for professional bettors. The fewer options you have to place your bets, the fewer chances you will have to identify arbitrage or value odds.

Professional sports bettors use a variety of tactics to ensure access to multiple sportsbooks and house limits that will allow long-term winning. However, if a sportsbook believes you are an amateur, they will likely continue to take your action even after winning a lot of money.

The sports betting industry has matured just within the last decade. Betting is widespread, legal, and focused on mobile sports betting sites. The center of the American sports betting industry has shifted from Nevada to New Jersey, at least by total handle. This gives sportsbooks more control over who they take action from and at what levels. Their own mathematical models can usually separate a lucky hot streak from a sharp systematic bettor. The safest sportsbooks are also usually those with the most sophisticated monitoring systems.

However, there is also greater competition between the various sportsbooks than ever before. If you are just beginning the trek to making a living from wagers, it is wise to be cognizant that sportsbooks may eventually stop taking your bets. But you need to worry more about kitchen table issues first, like building a bankroll and perfecting your model.

Is It Possible To Become Rich From Gambling in Las Vegas?

The old maxim says that love cannot buy happiness, but most gamblers will tell you that more money – more problems is a fallacy. That does not mean there are not cautionary tales about people who have gotten too much money too quickly.

Las Vegas Strip

The allure of Las Vegas draws those hoping for quick winnings. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

In poker and gambling circles, the story of Stu Ungar is legendary. The three-time WSOP Main Event champion was so bad with money that he was always hitting his friends up for cash.

Despite being reputed as one of the greatest gamblers of all time, he died destitute. Ungar also had an addiction and mental health issues that complicated his money troubles.

More recently, Gus Hansen saw a meteoric rise as a poker professional that took down multiple big tournaments. But he considered himself a cash game specialist and the cash games led to his eventual downfall. After netting millions in winnings, he became an accountant with a desk job to pay the bills.

The answer? Yes, it’s entirely possible to become rich from gambling in Vegas, but be prepared to manage your money as carefully as you manage your bankroll, or you’re at risk of blowing through your windfall.

Las Vegas always holds out the hope of getting rich quickly. But successful professional sports bettors almost universally have a long-term outlook on wagering. Their systems play at the margins of sportsbooks and do not lend themselves to fast cash. You may end up getting rich from betting on sports, but it will typically be a long, slow build.

Ready to bet (professionally or not?) Discover the best sports betting sites, or learn more about horse racing betting

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virgina and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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