7 things you MUST know to make money on golf betting

The sportsbook at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.

The sportsbook at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.

Getty Images

As the PGA Tour returns Thursday after a nearly three-month shutdown due to the spread of the coronavirus, so does betting on the PGA Tour. How can you cash in? Let this series help. 

Next to every casino roulette wheel is an electronic board that shows every number the ball has ended up on over the past few spins. And next to every electronic board are people looking at that board. They’ll see that the ball has landed on “red” four out of the past five times and place their chips on “black.” Black is due. The board says so. 

That board is one of the casino’s greatest inventions. Or cons. 

The ball, theoretically, could drop on red on every spin from the time you enter the casino, eat dinner, grab a drink and make your bet. And, theoretically, it could keep landing on red when you leave. Every spin has the same set of odds. The ball doesn’t remember. The board is a trick. 

Casinos are in this to make money, after all. 

It’s a business. It’s even a smart business, when you consider how many folks look at that roulette board and believe they’ve cracked the Vegas code. (Of course, that the casino itself has placed it there might give you some clue as to their true intentions.)

All of this is one of the biggest things to know if you are to win at golf betting as the PGA Tour resumes play Thursday at the Charles Schwab Challenge

Casinos are in this to make money on your sports bets, too. Sports odds from a casino aren’t exactly a predictor of who will win a tournament. It’s close. Think of them more as a predictor on who you think will win. 

Betting websites such as BetMGM list Rory McIlroy as the favorite to win the Charles Schwab, with BetMGM and FanDuel listing him at +700 and DraftKings at +750. (Bet $100 to clear $800 or $850 total.) McIlroy could very well win; he’s the No. 1-ranked player in the world. You know that. And those three betting websites know that you know that. They are setting odds based on that knowledge of you. 

The idea is for them to make money. If every single person betting on the Charles Schwab were to bet on McIlroy, that number would go down, to the point where a bettor would refrain from wagering on McIlroy. The same goes for all of the players. At the bottom of the three sites is Keith Clearwater. (BetMGM lists him at +250,000.) Should every single person bet on Clearwater — and, hey, he did win the thing in 1987 — the Clearwater number would go down, too. Someone will win the tournament, someone will have bet on that player to win, the sites will pay those people and they hope that based on the odds that they set to get wagering on different players, they will make a profit. 

Here are six other things to know if you want to win at golf betting

1. You have to win and lose wisely

Let’s go back to McIlroy. Say you bet $100 on him for all 136 tournaments he’s played on the PGA Tour from 2012 to the present, and the odds were +700 for each, as they are for him for the Charles Schwab. McIlroy won 16 times, so you’d have cleared $12,800 — putting you out $800.  

The “real” odds for any player are based on the number of entries. If there are 150 players in the field, McIlroy has a 150:1 chance of winning the tournament — or if you bet $100 for him to win, you’d win $15,000, and not the $700 that the casino is paying you. That’s how the sportsbooks turn a profit. 

The odds will adjust based on the golf bets you make. Besides the “winner” wagers, there are “place” bets (a bet on a player to finish in the top five, 10 or 20); “matchup” bets (a bet on a player to beat another player); “group” bets (a bet on a group of players to beat other groups); “daily” bets (a bet on who will post the day’s low score); “live” bets (bets after play begins); “futures” bets (a bet on a tournament in the future); and “prop” bets (a bet on a player to make a hole in one, for example). The key for all of them is to win and lose wisely. 

Back to our McIlroy bet. What if you bet a little smaller — or not at all — during the years where he didn’t win during that stretch (2013 and ’17) and bet bigger last year, when he played 19 events and won three times? By betting $100 on him only last year, you’d have cleared $500. 

Of course, the trick is knowing when to put more of your chips in the middle. More on that below. 

2. Research (and don’t let love blind you)

When you get paid at your job, it’s because you work hard. (If you don’t work hard and still get paid, please let all of us know where this magical place is.) If you are to cash-in on gambling, you will have to work hard.  

Read GOLF.com. Track players over their past 10, 20, 50 events — hot play can carry over, though over the long term, players usually are who we thought they were. Examine player statistics — a good putter will handle tricky greens, an accurate driver will handle tight fairways, a long driver will handle longer courses. Look at how a player has fared at the course in the past — some setups consistently favor certain players.

Back to McIlroy. He loves East Lake Golf Club, home of the Tour Championship. Over his six entries there, he’s finished in the top 10 five times, including two wins. His reasons why he loves it could guide your bets on similar tracks. 

“I think one of the great things about East Lake is it’s very simple,” McIlroy said before last year’s Tour Championship. “There’s no real — there’s not many real doglegs. There’s not bunkers placed in weird areas. There’s not any ridiculously slopey greens. It’s a very fair test. You have to put your ball in the middle of the fairway. It makes you play angles a little bit. Some holes, well, if you’re on the left side of the fairway, it gives you a better chance to get to that back right hole location or whatever. But, as I said before, it’s a strategic golf course, but it’s simple. It’s right there. It’s straightforward. It’s in front of you. I think guys appreciate that. They appreciate the simplicity of it.”

After your research, determine if you’re getting good value. If your insight tells you, for example, that a player has a good chance to win and the Vegas number says otherwise, jump on it. 

You’re looking for a favorable number — and not your favorite player. You may like Rory. But, unless your devotion can influence his drives (and hey, there, too, please tell us if you can), stick to the facts.

3. Pay attention to line movement

Back to our McIlroy example. Say everyone does begin to bet on Rory. His return on investment will drop. Someone else’s will likely rise in order for the sportsbook to balance things out. And if that number now returns value based on your research, pounce.

Remember, you are betting toward a number and not the player. Sharps, professional bettors who bet large enough to “sharpen” lines toward their favor, “don’t have picks; they have positions at favorable prices,” according to the Vegas Stats & Information Network website.

Of course, this unexpected line movement may tell you something. What do they all know that you don’t? It could be something simple, such as Rory supporters wanting to support Rory. It could be something more. It’s worth at least an investigation to determine whether you need to react, or bet opposite an overreaction.

4. Don’t hero bet

You’ve lost your last five bets. Don’t compound the error by making a wager five times what you normally would to catch up. Don’t decide to make five more bets this week, either. 

Re-evaluate your study. Stay patient. It’s worth noting that sharps win only about 53 to 55 percent of just their head-to-head bets, according to the Vegas Stats & Information Network website.  

5. A parlay is a carnival game

A parlay is where you make multiple bets on one ticket to attract bigger odds and potentially a larger payout. All you have to do is win three (or more) bets, and you’re a winner. Or more accurately, it’s difficult to win one bet, but, yeah, let’s go ahead and see if I can win three (or more.) 

There’s a reason why sportsbooks offer these. 

According to the Vegas Stats & Information Network, the casino wins 30 cents on every dollar wagered on parlays. They win only 5 cents on individual sport bets.

6. Bet responsibly

Do your research. Place your bet. Watch and win, or watch and lose. Have fun.

If your betting deviates from this, stop. 

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.