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Being a positive EV bettor, you know that one of the keys to staying alive is making sure your accounts don’t get limited or banned. This is a widespread issue at recreational sportsbooks, and it is a critical issue to solve if you want to make it long(er) term betting on sports.
Lesson 1: Make a Plan
As a +EV or profitable bettor, you’ve probably realized that you’re going to be scrutinized by the books the same way a card counter would. Making profitable bets is the easy part. The hard part is not getting caught. I employ the following framework of thinking about my betting “outs” (places where I’m getting down a bet). This is my plan of what I’m attempting to do with all these different books:
1) “Smash and Grab” books (all DFS apps, as well as smaller sportsbooks with a limited menu and market share)
These books are the ones who have limited capital and betting menus, which means two things for the player. First, if you win basically any amount over a few thousand, you’re getting scrutinized. Second, it’s much harder to “disguise” your action by betting a wide variety of things. Every bet you make will be obviously +EV, and there aren’t enough other options for you to bet to make it worth your time to do “cover plays.” Win as much money as you can here and then deal with the fact that you’ll get limited.
2) Peer-to-peer books (I use @KuttBet personally)
A relatively new option for bettors, I could not recommend this option more highly. You won’t get limited at these places because you’re betting against other players and the house is simply taking a small commission. There are many +EV bets to be had on these platforms, but you need to be paying attention and always comparing to lines at sharp books. Since there is no risk of being limited, fire away at these.
3) “Longevity” books (the market leaders, you know who these are. As well as your local bookie)
These are the books that, if you play your cards (and your bets) right, you’ll be able to milk for a ton more money than the DFS apps and the small guys. The goal here is longevity, plain and simple, not maximizing every single edge that you possibly can. I’ll have a much more detailed post soon about the techniques I use to not get instantly limited (as so many people sadly do) from these market leading sports books. The name of the game here is build relationships and make breakeven cover plays.
Quite simply, without getting into more detail, your goal is to look like a big gambler who seems to be perpetually on a hot streak. If you resist the temptation to “smash and grab” some of these larger books, you’ll be able to profitably extract money from them for *years* before they’ll eventually catch on.
In conclusion, the most important thing you can do at this early stage of realizing you can win at betting is make a plan for your longevity. Decide which books you want to avoid detection at and which ones you don’t care about, and also check out P2P for more opportunities. Future you will thank you.
Lesson 2: Be the Customer They Want You To Be
I have three basic principles on how to avoid detection and increase longevity at some of the larger books out there. In these lessons, I will not name specific books, but you probably can tell who I’m talking about here. For what to do on smaller books/DFS apps, make sure to read lesson 1.
Everything about staying active for as long as possible boils down to one thing: customer profiling.
In order to understand how to stay on the good side of the books, you must learn to think like them. What does their team (or algorithms) look for beyond just someone who’s winning? And how do they even know if you’re winning and not just getting lucky?
Your singular goal is to get yourself profiled as a recreational player on a hot streak who is eventually going to give the money back. The vast majority of your profits in sports betting will come AFTER you have established yourself as a recreational customer and BEFORE the books realize that your “hot streak” is actually sustainable and you’re beating them. Your goal is to ensure you get labeled as a rec, and then maximize the amount of time that you get until the books wake up to the fact that it isn’t luck.
Principle 1 – The first few bets matter more than anything
The first few weeks or even days of your account are critical.
In order to understand why, let’s think again about what the books are trying to prevent. The fastest way possible for a sportsbook to either lose money or vastly underperform their targets would be the following scenario:
They have weak customer profiling and security – allowing syndicates and networks of pros to create hundreds of dummy accounts and smash +EV bets at $500 a pop and pummel the book into oblivion. This is the most significant thing the books are trying to prevent. Therefore, when any new account is created, they will significantly monitor those first few bets.
Are they immediately finding the softest college basketball total on the board and hitting that with size? Or are they putting in several smaller parlays across a main slate of NFL or NBA games? What you do the first few days and weeks really matters, and I would argue it’s optimal to bet recreationally and just explore the book’s full menu to get a hang of the offerings.
Principle 2 – Think like a recreational gambler
So let’s say you fancy yourself pretty sharp. You’re up on +EV tactics. You have an odds screen. Maybe you even originate a small market or two. Good for you!
If all you do is log on for 2 minutes at a time to snipe value 8 hours before the game starts, and then you log off, you’re screwed. It’s not just that your bets are getting CLV or are good bets, it’s that that behavior isn’t what recreational gamblers do.
Recreational gamblers are logged into the app a lot. They’re clicking around. They want to see how many points LeBron is projected to score. When they lose on Monday Night Football, they might check to see if there’s Australian tennis they can chase with. Everything you do on these apps are tracked, even when you’re not betting.
This gives you some free opportunities to simply scroll around, add a few things to your betslip, and generally just feed data into the system that you’re active, you like to gamble, and you like to bet on anything (especially when you’re down).
The best thing you can do is mix in your +EV plays during longer app sessions. Click on stuff, click again, “find” a play that happens to be good, bet it, parlay it with other stuff (that also happens to be good), then go use a bonus bet on a Sunday night SGP. Now that’s what a gambler would do.
Principle 3 – Embrace Variance
A lot of people get limited even though they might know these principles. Want to know why? Their egos hate losing. They don’t just want to win, they want to show the books (and twitter) that they’re smart. So they stick to very high ROI straight bets so they can show green on their Pikkits.
Well, congratulations, you got yourself caught! Remember that our goal is to maximize the amount of time between when you’re profiled as a rec and when the books realize you know what you’re doing. How do we do that? Variance.
Let’s say you have two bettors – bettor A and bettor B. Bettor A puts in 20 straight bets in a row. 13 of them get great CLV. Many were placed hours or days before the game. Almost all were placed when this sportsbook had the best number on the game in the whole market. Bettor A uses every profit boost on a straight bet at a great number. After these 20 bets, any trading team or algorithm in the world can tell that bettor A is probably sharp. Bettor A lasts about 2 weeks before getting limited.
Bettor B is different. Bettor B puts in 200 parlays and SGPs. The parlays get some CLV on some legs, and the SGPs might get CLV but it’s tough to tell, since they are all 3-5 leggers and there are many variables. Many of the parlays get no CLV at all, some are even placed 5 minutes before tipoff. At the end of the 200 bets, Bettor B is slightly up after 200 bets, but if he’d just lost one or two more he’d be down. He uses some of the profit boosts, but not others. He uses a free bet on some crazy 7-leg futures parlay that is very -EV. The trading team is having a much tougher time trying to figure out what to make of Bettor B.
With his strategy, 200 bets is nowhere near enough time to figure out if he knows what he’s doing or not. But since he’s betting a ton of parlays, which the house loves, they profile him as recreational and move on to bigger fish to fry (another pro just tried to make an account for his wife and sister, so they focus on that). Bettor B is going to have a lower ROI overall on his bets than Bettor A, but he’s going to make a lot more money if he actually knows what he’s doing. It can take at least 10,000 slips of someone using a high-variance strategy (maybe more) to tell if they’re going to be a long-term winner or not.
In summary, the key to longevity in sports betting as a +EV bettor lies in cleverly balancing your strategies to align with the behaviors of a recreational player. It’s about blending in, embracing variance, and being strategic with your bets.
While Bettor A focuses on high ROI straight bets, Bettor B adopts a high-variance approach with parlays and SGPs, making it harder for the trading teams to profile them accurately. Remember, the ultimate goal is not just about winning bets; it’s about maintaining the facade of a lucky recreational bettor for as long as possible. This approach requires patience, smart play, and a willingness to embrace different betting formats – even those that may seem counterintuitive at first.
By following these principles, you can potentially extend your profitable betting career, navigating the tightrope walk between being a skilled bettor and appearing as just another hopeful gambler.
Lesson 3: Red Light, Green Light (Know Where you Stand)
Today’s lesson will be focused on an important yet overlooked part of your relationship with the sportsbook. At all times, you want to have a good idea of the trading team’s perception of your account. The books, obviously, make this very non-transparent and difficult to do. Fortunately, there are clear clues you can watch for, which will help you assess your account’s health as you go.
We’ll call this exercise “red light, yellow light, green light.” Below I’ll share examples of how you might know you’re in the clear, or close to getting limited. It’s vital to practice this, as once your account is limited, it’s usually permanent.
Green Light – You’re Good (For Now)
Obviously this is the tier you want to be in, and being in the “green light” tier basically means you fit the profile of a recreational gambler, which is the persona you’re trying very hard to maintain (for tips on how to do this, see Lesson 2 above). You’ll want to look for the following signs that your account is in the “green light” tier:
1) You’re getting your fair share of daily promos, boosts, and offers from the sportsbook.
If you’re seen as a recreational bettor, you should receive valuable promos. Not just a single $10 no sweat bet, but a significant amount of boosts and opportunities for free bets. Note that some books have scaled marketing back towards the end of the year as they run out of budget, so don’t freak out in December if you don’t see as many as you used to.
2) You have a VIP host who is responsive to you.
There’s a lot of information available on the benefits of getting into VIP programs, so I’ll skip those details here. If you have the bankroll, and it’s an option for you, absolutely do it. Check in with your host every once in a while to make sure they are paying attention, this means nobody has raised an issue with your account yet to your host.
3) Your bets go through without any delay or trader review
Ideally, you’re smart enough with your action. You’re not piling the max limit into mispriced lines, which can lead to your bets getting manually reviewed by the trading team. If you try betting up to $900 on a college basketball game, or an NBA prop, and it goes through immediately, you’re in a good spot.
Yellow Light – Be Alert, It Might Be Time for Some Cover Plays
If you’re getting a tingly feeling down your back that you might not be firmly in the ‘green light’ zone, you’re probably in the ‘yellow light’ zone. This zone is ok to be in temporarily, but it means its time to work a bit on making sure you get back to the Green Light zone.
1) The max bet on your promos gets cut very quickly
Again, as mentioned before, marketing budgets are drying up towards end of year so this will be happening regularly even to accounts in the green zone. However, if you used to have a $100 max bet on all your odds boosts and overnight it goes to $25, that’s a decent sign that something might be up. At this stage, it’s unlikely a sportsbook employee has directly intervened, given the large number of player accounts. More likely, the algorithm managing promos has decided that you’re using them too efficiently, and has reduced your exposure to them.
2) You notice your pregame bets taking a bit longer than usual to go through
If you live bet frequently, you’ll notice that on a live wager, the bet usually is pending for around 3-4 seconds before it goes through. This is to ensure that nobody is “courtsiding” – or, sitting at the game and betting knowledge of something that just happened before the data feed can catch up.
If this starts happening on your pre-game wagers, pay attention. There’s no reason a bet shouldn’t immediately go through. If it’s pending for a few seconds (the same way a live wager would be), it’s possible that the algorithm is determining if there needs to be a trader review on this bet or not. You don’t want this frequently happening to you.
3) You just went on a heater/got tons of CLV
This isn’t really a book behavior that you’re observing, but more so being diligent about your own accounting. If you just went on a sick run of wins, including some plays that got great CLV, it’s probably time to back off for a hot second and throw in some cover. After getting CLV on a bunch of plays, the last thing I want to do is confirm the book’s suspicions about me and go hunt for more CLV.
Red Light – Your Time Might Be Numbered, Act Now
Things that we’ll discuss in the “Red Light” tier are often products of your account getting to a spot where the algorithm has determined that you might need to be limited, or there’s a trader manually reviewing your account history. This is not a great spot to be in, and extreme caution is recommended.
1) Your VIP host goes unresponsive
Typically, this will happen after you get limited, but occasionally the trading team will give the marketing team a heads up that they think the player is sharp before officially bringing down the hammer. If your host isn’t texting you back, be concerned.
2) You’re getting a significant number of bets sent to trader review
If you’re in the Green or Yellow zones, trader review should rarely come up other than maybe in one-off cases where you didn’t realize what the limits were in a market. If it’s happening more often, and for amounts less than $500, then you are one step away from getting limited.
At the end of the day, there isn’t much more to say about the red zone other than that it happens quick and fast, and if you find yourself there, it might be too late for you already. That’s why I emphasize staying very diligent on CLV rate, the status of your promos, and if your bets ever seem to be getting reviewed at a significant rate or not. And sometimes, it’s really as simple as knowing if you’ve recently been winning or losing, and adjusting your strategy accordingly.
Staying in the ‘green light’ zone is your goal, but being alert to the signs of transitioning to ‘yellow light’ and taking corrective action is vital. If you find yourself in the ‘red light’ zone, it may already be too late, but recognizing the early signs and adjusting your strategy can help prevent this.
Lesson 4: Reach Into Your Bag of Tricks
We previously focused on some ways you can assess your account health and know when you might need to back off a bit and give the book some breathing room. Now we’re going to lift up the curtain on some other specific things that I and other advantage players do to throw down some cover and make sure that we’re seen as rec players to the sportsbook.
As a disclosure, everything I share here I do so with the belief that sharing these tactics publicly will not decrease my edge. In fact, I think more bettors doing these things might increase my edge as the overall customer base becomes more unpredictable. There are other things I do that I don’t believe would be +EV to share publicly, and I’m not going to be revealing those (yet). With that out of the way, let’s get into the “bag of tricks”:
Don’t Perfectly Grind the Bonuses
I was slightly hesitant to share this one, as it’s been a hallmark of my arsenal, but I recently heard this openly being discussed on the @CirclesOffHQ podcast and believe it’s public information enough to share.
One thing that the trading team at a book looks at, much more than you probably realize, is how optimal you are at clearing bonuses. Remember that, especially early on in your account history, they have very limited information to go off of.
One immediate piece of info they can gather is what you do with the first few bonuses/promo offers you get. If you have a “Bet $10 get $200” or some similar offer, the advantage player will almost always bet a single $10 bet, whereas a rec player might deposit $50 or $100 and bet a bunch of stuff. Remember, you should be a +EV bettor without bonuses anyway.
There is no reason for you to give a signal to the book that you’re sharp and can stick to a disciplined way of maximizing your bonus EV. I frequently get “bet and get” and “no sweat” bonuses from books, i.e. “bet x amount and receive y.” I almost never bet exactly x amount. Why? because that’s what someone who is really smart and paying attention would do. These bets should be mostly +EV on their own, so I have no problem betting 1.2x or 1.4x to clear that bonus.
Bet for Your Friends
One of the oldest (and best) tricks in the book. What’s the best way to make your action look recreational? Actually send them recreational action.
A quick story on this – my state only legalized betting this year, so my first bet ever on a large legal book was a few years back when my friends and I were in a different state (for New Year’s eve) that had just legalized. We decided, for fun, to pool our money and bet a long-shot NBA parlay.
I agreed to handle the money and post the bet, and everyone chipped in $10. So my first bet on this book was a $100 NBA spreads parlay 30 minutes before tip with only $10 of my own money at stake. I wasn’t really doing all this “don’t get limited stuff” intentionally back then. But in hindsight, that bet was a great start for my account at the new book. Oh, it also won, but that’s not really relevant to the story
If you have money in your several accounts, and maybe you’ve been on a heater, ask your friends what they like this weekend. You can get money down for them, and maybe one of your books has a better line. The best way to cool yourself off is to throw in some honest, recreational action. Bonus points: if your friends lose (of course you’d never root for this, but…), you get to “withdraw” without actually hitting the withdraw button. And if you have friends who don’t pay up when they lose, well, that’s a different problem I’d suggest solving.
Play the Casino Games
If you’re in one of the many states that offer Blackjack and table games now, what’s the harm in playing a few hands? “But Mr. Liiimited, online blackjack actually has a negative expectation and there’s no way to beat it, it’s -EV” Shut up, nerd. These books want gamblers. Here, you’re simply paying for cover. A few dozen hands of blackjack on your account can’t possibly be a bad thing, and costs at most a few bucks in EV.
If You’re on a Downswing, Let Them Know About It
This last piece of advice is for those who like to take advantage of the VIP programs and are very intentional about crafting an image of a whale gambler. However, this can also apply to your PPH outs.
If, in the natural course of betting, you go on a losing streak (and you will), make sure to text your host or your bookie about it. Why couldn’t player X score that touchdown? OMG I run soooo bad. What a week for me huh? You got any deposit bonuses I can take advantage of? Anything? Please man, I need it, I’m down bad.
Under the hood, if you’re a positive expectation bettor, a losing streak should not faze you at all. But THEY don’t need to know that. Act sad, act like your wife is mad at you that your money is gone, put on a show! The longer you can play the part, the longer your action will be welcome at this book.