How Predictive Sports Betting Analytics Works

The world around us continues to change at a rapid pace. Technological advancements have been one of the biggest catalysts for that. Virtually no industry has been immune to disruption over the last few decades, sports betting included. Once upon a time, the thoughts of relying on computer output as a reputable prediction method were laughed off.

It’s no laughing matter these days. The practice of sports betting analytics has advanced immensely in recent years. It’s big business, and scores of handicappers are jumping on the train before they get left behind at the station. So what’s it all about and how can you use it to your advantage?

We’re going to cover what you need to know right here. We’ll walk through what they are and how they work, explain what you can glean from them, and much more. By the time you’re through, you’ll have a sense of whether or not sports betting analytic tools are for you. Read on as we explore the fascinating topic in full detail.

What sports data analytics?

In a nutshell, sports betting analytics refers to the practice of gathering together various pieces of data and intel that will have an impact on games, events, and overall performance. All of the variables are brought together into the same spot, and calculated and analyzed from there. The result is what will hopefully be useful and actionable information.

Analytics are used across the sporting landscape, from front offices of individual teams as they manage their rosters, to sportsbooks as they set lines for release to the public, and many points in between. There are plenty of handicappers who have been employing their own set of analytics for years, and the practice continues to go mainstream.

That’s thanks in no small part to the explosive growth of legal sports betting. As always, bettors are looking to uncover edges, and those new to the game are trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible. Analytics can be helpful on both fronts, but it’s important to remember that they are just a piece of the overall puzzle as opposed to the holy grail of betting answers.

How to use a sports analytics tool

At its most basic level, an analytics tool will give you a prediction on what will happen, such as which side will win a game or what the final score may be. Naturally, a lot is going on behind the scenes to get to that point, and also no guarantee that it will be correct every time.

The tool factors in many variables to come to its conclusion, so it can save some of the legwork.

Some tools go much further than predictions with a complete analysis of the situation at hand from a betting perspective. Some of the features you may see include:

  • Best bets: After analyzing a full slate of games, the tool highlights the top sports wagering opportunities of the day.
  • Market analysis: A glimpse at where the public money is going, what the sharp bettors are doing, line moves, and potential inefficiencies in the odds.
  • Performance predictors: Detailed snapshot of what may be to come for teams and players, such as passing and rushing yards for and against.

There are some analytics providers which provide all of the above information and then some, as well as others who specialize in a certain facet. Just like you would do with the odds for a game you want to bet on, the best advice is to shop around. Take a look at what’s out there, and then choose what works best for you and your situation.

Where do I find sports betting analytics tools?

You can find sports betting analytics tools online and in mobile app stores. Many paid options require a subscription or one-time fee, as well as some that are completely free to use. To decide what works best for you, take the time to figure out how much you plan to use the available tools.

If you plan to go all-in and are looking for data that you just don’t have time to pull together, then a subscription option makes sense. Several leading providers do a solid job, so you’ll have options to consider. If your plans call for just a specific piece of intel or two, then it probably makes more sense to lean on the free options.

Finding the resources comes down to how well you can navigate around a search engine or app store. Many times, a simple tweak of a phrase or framing a question in a specific way will help you to uncover things that you were previously unable to locate. Here are a couple of search terms that can come in handy.

  • Best sports betting analytics tools
  • Free sports betting analytics
  • Sports betting predictions

You can also adjust all of the above to include your sport of choice, such as the NFL or NBA. When you search for the ‘best,’ you’ll usually find some detailed reviews of the top options. Also, the sites that tend to be among the most heavily trafficked will come up early in the results, so keep that in mind.

What goes into the software?

To understand how sports betting analytics work, it’s helpful to think through the process that an oddsmaker may use while setting lines. Many moons ago, lots of stuff was done by hand and with general research or gut feel. Advancements on the tech side led to menial tasks being computerized, and sportsbooks are on board with that.

Top shops lean on computers and algorithms to do the heavy lifting. Naturally, there’s a human element overseeing things and analyzing the output in advance of line release, but things like sorting through data and weighing out various factors are handled by a computer. For an analogy, the computer is the pot, while the oddsmaker is the chef adding ingredients and taste-testing.

On the analytics side, the concept is the same. The team behind the scenes has gathered together data points that they deem to be important and weighed them accordingly. An algorithm has been built from there to process the data and information. They’ll monitor for kinks and bugs while making sure that everything is running optimally.

In terms of what goes into the pot, the typical rule of thumb is anything that can have an actual impact on what may transpire. This can include key stats, weather, venue, and much more. If it can impact a game or event, it’s there. Naturally, not all sports analytics tools weigh factors in the same fashion, and there may even be differences in what ingredients are used.

Do pro sports handicappers use tools?

It’s safe to say that there are plenty of handicappers — both seasoned and newer players — that lean on sports data analytics tools. While it’s not a prerequisite for success in sports betting, there are lots of staunch advocates who feel that if you’re not relying on data to make optimal decisions, you’re doing it wrong.

However, there are plenty of other schools of thought on the matter. As with many discussions, it’s not an indisputable truth situation. Some handicappers find success with analytics and others prefer a different approach. At the end of the day, it comes down to the bottom line results and what works best for you, and your approach to wagering.

Data analytics for different sports

At the top, the analytics approach is the same regardless of sport: to factor in all of the variables that could impact the results to find the most likely outcome. However, exactly what moves the needle will vary by sport. Here’s a run-through of some of the top factors for several of the major sports.

  • NFL: Yards per play for and against
  • NBA: True shooting percentage and defensive efficiency
  • MLB: Weighted on-base average and walks plus hits per inning pitched
  • NHL: Power play and penalty kill percentages
  • NCAAF: Third-down and red zone efficiency
  • NCAAB: Depth of rotation and quality of opponents
  • Golf: Greens in regulation and accuracy
  • Tennis: Recent form and player history on current surface

That’s just a few of the basics for each. There’s much more that goes into the overall equation. The good news is that many of the factors you may already be considering have been factored in. Based on that, analytics can be quite a time-saver.

Data analytics for different bet types

For each sport on the menu, there are plenty of different ways to wager. Analytics can be applied differently to each of them, but the end goal remains the same: to point you to the best plays. Here’s what you can expect to see for several top bet types.

  • Moneylines: A prediction for the most likely outcome.
  • Point spread: Projection of a fair spread adjusted for home field
  • Totals: An estimate of the total output in comparison to current lines
  • Props: Team-based and fantasy projections for performance
  • Parlays: A potentially optimal parlay play for a slate of games
  • Futures: A season-long projection of how things may shake out

In all cases, analytics can be worked into your handicapping routine. For those looking for simple moneyline picks, analytics can point out the most likely winners for the day which you can then research further. On the spread, you can use the analytics projections as a comparison to current lines.

Once again, we have to reiterate that analytics output is not going to be completely on the money every time. Anything can and will happen when athletes compete, and there’s just no way to quantify the unexpected. It’s important to remember that a most likely outcome is not an automatic winner, nor is what looks like a guaranteed loss a scenario to bank on.

How to use betting analytics when handicapping sports

For those seriously pressed for time, sports performance analytics tools may be just what you’re looking for. The top tools provide you with predictions and insight while factoring in all of the major elements that can have a bearing on a game or event. While there’s no guarantee the projections and predictions will be right on point, you can view it as a bottom-line thing.

If the tool you lean on provides consistently profitable results, then you have a winner. For those that don’t, it’s time to take a closer look and potentially shop elsewhere. When first looking around, look for those that provide transparency on how well their tools are doing, such as an overall win-loss rate or record on best bets.

In the opposite camp, those who prefer to do the majority of their legwork can still find some value in analytics. Think of it as a second set of eyes that can help you spot appealing opportunities you may have missed, or even force you to take a closer look at picks that don’t align with the tool’s recommendations.

For those that fall into this category, the tools can fit right in with your overall process. Here’s a quick approach that can work.

  1. Review the slate or event you’re interested in and check the current odds and lines.
  2. Work through your normal handicapping process and conclude.
  3. Take the time to assess public betting numbers and general expert consensus
  4. Review ancillary factors that may have developed – news, injuries, weather, etc.
  5. Compare what you’ve uncovered with the output of the tool

If you go through those five steps and find you’re not in agreement with the tool, it’ll then come down to your instincts. For those who have been handicapping long enough, there’s a good chance you’ll want to with your gut, but once again, the analytics can open your eyes to potential missteps. As such, they’re a valuable tool to have in the belt.

Can analytic tools help you win at sports betting?

It’s not too hard to find advocates for sports betting analytics these days. There are plenty of folks who swear by them and incorporate them into their handicapping, if not lean on them entirely. While that certainly makes a strong case for using them, it’s still important to place their use in perspective.

There is not a tool — or a handicapper for that matter — that is going to be right all of the time. Things break differently than projections all of the time in the world of sports, and there’s just no way around that.

In the end, using tools doesn’t guarantee you’ll come out ahead, while shying away from them doesn’t mean you’re destined to lose. As the name implies, they’re simply this: tools that can be used for handicapping purposes to help you make more informed decisions. You can’t solely base your profit/loss on them, but they can certainly help point you to positive territory.

The bottom line on comparing data

As legal sports betting continues to soar in popularity, the never-ending quest for edges is picking up even more steam. From new to seasoned bettors and all points in between, those who put money in play in hopes of coming out ahead are constantly looking for ways to potentially up their game.

That being the case, it should come as no surprise that there are lots of resources out there for handicappers, and that segment will only continue to grow. One of the biggest growth areas in recent times has been sports analytic tools. In a nutshell, these tools aim to help bettors make more informed decisions to come out ahead.

The tools can be quite helpful for handicappers across the experience spectrum, but it’s important to know that they’re not the end-all and be-all of handicapping sense. Tools are absolutely useful and deserve consideration, but those expecting recommendations that never lose are being misguided. There’s no such thing.

If you view sports betting analytic tools through the right lens and learn to incorporate them into your overall approach, then you can certainly improve your overall game. By that metric, they’re worth taking the time to research and learn about. In a perfect world, you’ll find one or two that fit your style and strategy like a glove.

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