A Betting Guide to Mixed Martial Arts, Part One


-280?  Anchor? Prop for inside the distance at +300?  What the hell am I talking about?  It’s all a bit confusing when you get started, but MMA betting can be both a fun and profitable addition to your fight watching experience.  With the sport growing and the old fans becoming more knowledgeable about cage fighting, I’ve decided to run a series of articles on everything having to do with MMA betting.

These installments will answer your questions on various terms used in the betting community, fine-tune your prediction skills, help you make smarter bets, and much more.  So, let’s get started!

Part 1:  The Basics of MMA Betting

An Overview of Betting

MMA can draw a great range of emotions from us all, whether it be undying loyalty, utter hatred or just pure joy at the sight of two combatants putting it all on the line.   Nothing can compare to the feeling of having a little (or a lot) of money on the line as well though.  Betting on MMA makes the excitement that much more palpable, and can make you invested in fights you normally wouldn’t care about otherwise.  Getting into the world of MMA betting is a lot of work, but can be rewarding, both in the monetary sense, and in the high you get when tuning into fights.   This installment of “Learning to Bet on MMA” will explain what a moneyline is, the math involved in breaking lines down, and examples of different bets. Betting has a lot of unique words and phrases, so whenever you see a term in italics this is a term that will be explained at the bottom of the article in the Word Index section.

The Moneyline

For those unfamiliar with this system of betting, or with betting in general, I’m going to discuss moneylines.  Being as it’s the system I learned on, I will use American odds throughout this series.  If you’re already into sports betting and are used to fractional or decimal odds, your sportbook will have a converter built in to help you follow along.  If you’re not familiar with odds at all, moneyline odds are the most prevalent for online betting worldwide, and are on every fantasy MMA site on the net, making it your best option.

Here’s an example of a moneyline odd:

Fighter A -300

Fighter B +220

This line represents two things:

1. This is a measure of your pay out when betting. What this means is, to win $100 on Fighter A, you would need to bet $300.  Conversely, if you were to bet $100 on Fighter B, you would win $220.  These two halves of the moneyline are called favorites and underdogs, with the negative number being the favorite, and the positive the underdog.

2. This represents the odds of the fight. When bookmakers put up these odds, they do so with the intention of having even betting on both fighters, which ensures a profit.  They also take a cut of the underdog for the same reason.

As a bettor, you don’t need to concern yourself with what the bookmaker thinks, but with how you think the fight will go.  Because of that, this moneyline needs to be broken down into a percentage.  We do that by taking the favorite, or negative line, move the decimal two places to the left, and dividing it by one more than itself.  In example:

Fighter A -300   Take 3.00 and divide by 4.00 = .75 or 75%

What we end up with from the above example is:

Fighter A : 75%

Fighter B: 25%

Some bettors recommend converting the underdog into a percentage based on their line, but I don’t do this, as it makes some needlessly complicated math to work around the sportbooks cut.  Instead, I opt to give the underdog a round percentage number to make it an even 100%, and facilitate a smoother thought process.

You might also run into situations where both fighters are at a negative number.  This happens when a fight is very close, putting both men as having a better than 50% chance of victory.  At this point, your math will get a bit screwy, so your percentages will no longer equal 100% total.  When this happens, use the above formula for both fighters to determine proper percentages.  You may also see the word EVEN instead of a line in this situation.  That means the line is at -100.

This percentage will be what you deal with as a bettor in determining if the odds fit how you view the fight.

Determining Your Own Percentage

This is, hands down, the most crucial part of MMA betting, and something I will go into in great detail in an upcoming segment.  While most sports fans look at an event as “This guy wins, this guy loses”, we can’t do that in the betting world.  What you have to do is come up with a realistic percentage of victory for each fighter, which you can then use to determine your course of action with betting.  The days of having a lock is long gone, especially in the UFC or other large scale promotions, and we’re often dealing with very close fights.  Being able to assign a realistic percentage to fights will keep you from blowing your bankroll on fights that you should avoid betting on all together.

How It Comes Together

The purpose of these percentages is to compare the sportbook line to how you think the fight will actually pan out, and decide if there’s value in a bet.  How you determine value is entirely up to you, and will be different depending on the bettor’s style.  Some bettors are conservative and won’t bet unless they know their fighter will win, some are loose and will bet on anything even close to their percentage, and some use combinations of the two.  It really all comes down to who you are as a person, and what you’re comfortable doing.  As you learn about the sport and betting, your style may change over time.  It’s also important to remember that a sportbook odds represent who they think people will bet on, and NOT who they think will win.  This is why your percentage might look nothing like a sportbooks, as you’re looking at a fight in completely different ways.  If you’re looking for advice on betting, it’s important to look at other bettors and what they have, and not at sportbooks and how they have the fight.  Here’s a couple examples of situations you may run into as a bettor:

Example 1:

Fighter A -300/ 75%

Fighter B +220/ 25%

Your percentages:

Fighter A 90%

Fighter B 10%

In this example, you think Fighter A is much more likely to win than the percentage giving by the bookmaker.  This would be considered a valuable conservative bet, as you feel your fighter wins much more often than the odds indicate.

Example 2:

Fighter C -300/ 75%

Fighter D +220/ 25%

Your percentages:

Fighter C 40%

Fighter D 60%

In this example, you feel the fight will go a completely different way than what the odds indict.  This would be considered a valuable underdog bet, as you feel the underdog wins more often than not, and is therefore worth a wager.

Example 3:

Fighter E -130/ 57%

Fighter F EVEN / 50%

Your percentages:

Fighter E 50%

Fighter F 50%

In this example, the sportbook has this fight at nearly even, while you have it the same way.  This is a situation where a bet for either fighter doesn’t make sense in terms of risk/pay out.

Example 4:

Fighter G -200 / 67%

Fighter H +160 / 33%

Your percentages:

Fighter G 60%

Fighter H 40%

In this example, your percentages are close to the line, but are less than the sport books.  This is called being overvalued, and there is no bet to be made on either the favorite or the dog here.

Example 5

Fighter I -200 / 67%

Fighter J +160 / 33%

Your percentages:

Fighter I 70%

Fighter J 30%

In this example, your percentage is a slight bit higher than the sport books.  This is called being undervalued, and may be worth a bet to you, depending on your style of betting.

Example 6

Fighter K -2000 / 95%

Fighter L +850 / 5%

Your Percentages:

Fighter K 80%

Fighter L 20%

In this example, you’re in agreement than fighter K wins, but you feel he is extremely overvalued.  This is called a flier, as you don’t feel Fighter L wins often, but he has value in a longshot bet.

Comparing Bets In Units

The best part about betting is sometimes sharing information and bets with your fellow bettors.  When doing this, bettors will speak in terms of units, rather than amounts of actual money.  A unit is 2% of your bankroll.  This is done for three reasons:

1.  It allows bettors to give advice to people with all different bankrolls. Someone with a $1,000 bankroll will be betting significantly more than per fight than someone with $100 to wager with.  Rather than the person with $1,000 telling the other person to bet $20 on a fight, which could be potentially disastrous, he’d say to bet one unit or 1u.  This tells the person with $100 to bet $2 on that fight.  It keeps all the advice given relevant across the board.

2. It allows people to keep a level of privacy to their betting. By talking in units, rather than dollars, someone doesn’t have to feel odd about betting $2 when people are talking about placing $500 on the same bet.  If it’s 1u for everyone, than it doesn’t matter what the dollar amount is.

3. Not everyone uses the same currency. Someone from Finland telling an American to bet 15 Euros on a fight is needlessly complicated.  If both bettors speak in terms of units, it means the same thing to both, regardless of nationality or currency.

Opening a Sportbook Account

If you live in a country that allows gambling in person via sportbooks, this information likely won’t apply to you.  For some people, this isn’t an option, and all betting must be done via the internet, with online sportbooks.  All sportbooks are different and will have different amounts of money required for initial deposits, methods of deposit (credit card, money order, etc), and betting minimums.  If you’re looking to open a sportbook account, there are several things to consider.

1. Online gambling is illegal in a lot of places. Check your local laws and see if this is something you can legally do or not.  There may be age requirements, and some credit card companies refuse to deal with sportbooks.  We’re all adults here and I won’t tell anyone what to do, but it’s always wise to know what you’re getting into.

2. Ask around and see what sportbooks people use. Some sportbooks have terrible reputations with insane fees for cashing out or issues with non-payment.  Keep in mind that if a sportbook goes out of business, you may have no legal recourse to get your money back.   Go with one that your fellow bettors trust and who have a solid reputation.  Keep this information in mind, as you may end up opening multiple sportbook accounts down the road, to take advantage of different odds when line shopping.

3. Every sportbook will post different odds. Before opening a sportbook, look at some of the odds being posted and see where you can make most of your money.  Some sportbooks will have loose odds compared to other sportbooks, and some will have much tighter odds.  It all depends on your style.  Also, some sportbooks put out odds a lot sooner or later than others.  I’d recommend ones that post odds first, as there’s better value in being quick on certain bets.

4. MMA betting is a long term investment. You shouldn’t expect to put $100 in on Friday and take it back out with profit on Sunday.  The money you’re putting in the sportbook account will be there for a long time if you are looking to profit from it.  Depending on betting styles, you’ll make different amounts of money per event and may be able to start pulling money out sooner than other people, or you may be in it for the long haul.  Just keep this in mind when activating your account, and consider the money you’re putting in as absent from your wallet until further notice.

This Isn’t Gambling.  It’s Investing

In closing, there is a lot of misconception about sports betting, and you shouldn’t consider it gambling.  To me, gambling is buying a lottery ticket or playing a game of chance.  These things take no skill and are completely up to lady luck.  Sport betting is an investment of your money, based greatly on your own ability to determine a percentage of victory for a fight and wisely put money where it can make you a profit.  There is risk in both gambling and investment, but that risk rests entirely on yourself.

That’s it for this installment of Learning to Bet on MMA.  Next time, I’ll run over the fundamentals of fight predictions and betting, and help you wrap your mind around making smart wagers.  Until then, stay sharp and do your homework!

Know when to bet!


Word Index

Bankroll: Your bankroll is the total amount of money in your online sportbook account, and the basis for how much you will bet on each fight.  Amounts of bets are determined by a percentage of your bankroll.

Betting minimums: Some sportbooks have a minimum bet per wager.  This number can be as low as a dollar, but some sportbooks require more.  Especially when first starting out, you’ll want a sportbook that has a small minimum, as your units may be too small to meet the minimum.

Bookmaker: A person or persons who work for sportbooks and create moneylines.  Their job isn’t so much as to handicap a fight, but to get an idea of how the betting community will view a fight, and make an odd to keep the betting relatively even.  Also referred to as a bookie for short.

Cashing out: This is when you remove money from a sportbook, usually via check or bank transfer.  Always ask your sportbook what kind of fees they have for cashing out, as some charge much more than others.

Conservative: Conservative bets are bets that are almost fail-proof.  Also called solid bets. Conservative bettors are people who make conservative bets almost exclusively, and have a small but steady profit margin when betting.

Favorite(s): The fighter favored to win a bout.  This is the fighter a sportbook feels will draw the most money, and therefore will have a smaller pay out.

Flier: A bet on someone you think is more likely to lose than to win.  This is done when a favorite is heavily overvalued, making a longshot bet on the underdog a potentially lucrative wager.

Line shopping: People with multiple sportbook accounts will place bets on the one with the best odds for certain fights.  Odds can vary wildly depending on when they’re released and how much money is being wagered.

Lock: A term used to describe a fight where the favorite can’t possibly lose.  This is a term that serious bettors seldom use, as no fight at the mid to upper professional level will be a lock.

Loose: Loose bets are bets that may or may not go through, but the pay out warrants a wager.  A loose bettor will often make many bets per event, in the hopes that the pay out of successful bets outweighs the loss from others.  These bettors tend to have wild swings in their bankroll, anywhere from crushing losses to ridiculous profits.  Loose bettors are also called value bettors.

Loose odds: Loose odds are when a line is farther apart than makes sense, with one being overvalued.  This leads to better pay out on underdogs.

Overvalued: This is when the favorite’s moneyline comes out to a higher percentage than what you feel they should be.  This is a situation where you wouldn’t bet on that fighter, as the risk/pay out isn’t right for a bet.

Pay out: The amount of profit you make on a bet.  Any time you win a bet, you have your initial bet returned to you, plus your pay out.

Risk/Pay out: A rough term to describe what you do as a bettor.  As a bettor, you’re determining what the risk of a bet is by making a percentage, and your pay out is determined by the sportbook’s moneyline.  Also referred to as the value.

Sportbook: Either a physical or online place to make wagers.  Physical sportbooks are found in many parts of the world, most famously in Las Vegas, and are generally the only places gambling on sports is legal.  Online sportbooks are plentiful and legality varies depending on country and state.

Tight odds: Tight odds are when a line is very close together, often with both fighters having a negative number.  Generally you want to avoid betting on tight fights, as the risk/pay out will be out of your range.  The opposite of this would be loose odds.

Underdog(s): The fighter favored to lose a bout.  This is the fighter a sportbook feels will draw the least money, and therefore will have a higher pay out to attract even betting.  Also referred to as a dog for short.

Undervalued: This is when the favorite’s moneyline comes out to a lower percentage than what you feel they should be.  This is a situation where you’d want to bet on that fighter, as the risk/pay out makes it a valuable bet.

Unit(s): A unit of measure to describe 2% of your bankroll.  This is often represented as a number followed by a lower case “u” such as 4u.  This allows bettors to recommend wagers or discuss their bets without saying how much money is actually involved.

Value: This term is used often in betting, and basically refers to the risk/pay out aspect of betting.  A fight with a high value means the pay out far exceeds the risk in making the bet.

Wager: Another term for placing a bet.


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One Response to A Betting Guide to Mixed Martial Arts, Part One

  1. [...] original here: A Betting Guide to Mixed Martial Arts, Part One | MMAValor Posted in Uncategorized | Tags: betting, betting-guide, distance, hammersmith, [...]

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