Professional Bettor Elihu Feustel
Feustel models sports markets to find value bets. His group uses big data to create models focusing on live-betting markets in NFL, NBA, MLB, soccer and tennis. He is the co-author of ‘Conquering Risk: Attacking Vegas and Wall Street’.
There are many lessons to be learned from someone with his level of sports betting experience.
The more you can bet, the harder it is to beat
This is a general rule of sports betting which holds true across the board. For example NBA is harder to beat than WNBA. NFL sides are harder to beat than derivatives such as First Halves or Player Props. Feustel’s group has thousands of tennis bets each year and their hold (profit margin) is under 2%.
Low limits are a sure sign of soft markets.
Opinions are to be avoided
Anytime you try to make an adjustment to a number that is based on opinion, you’re playing with fire potentially. A better approach than doing it subjectively is to come up with a way to quantify any adjustment you’re going to make. Feustel doesn’t let opinion interfere with his tennis model and says he’s not really interested in tennis. He very rarely watches and matches and would only recognize a handful of players.
Know your strengths and also your weaknesses
His group completely stopped betting on Round 1 tennis matches because the returns were relatively poor.
Long term is all that matters
The short-term really isn’t important. The only thing that matters is how am I doing at the end of the year?
Feustel believes that most professional sports bettors are like him in that they don’t feel like it’s a gamble. You put in the work (and he recognizes that it is a lot more work than a regular job) but the results will speak for themselves.
Edges don’t last
Anything you do will become obsolete in a few years.
There are a couple of metrics you can use to see whether or not the market is catching up with you. One of those metrics is by how much am I beating the closer? In 90% of cases where a player is identified as the favorite by the model but is the underdog in the market, the odds will move towards Feustel’s bet. Closing line value is a great indicator but edges disappear over time. So if you went back to 2006 using their tennis model you’d be making 6% on turnover. But right now they make less than 2%.
Opportunities are always drying up but then new markets are emerging too. It’s a trade-off so you always need to be working on something new. That’s why Feustel works so hard on in-game betting right now. He believes it’s a less than 50/50 chance that his tennis model is still profitable in 5 years time.
Sometimes you have to swallow your pride
There is a chance that hundreds of hours of work will go into a model but then say it’s not good enough to bet.