A betting Guide to Mixed Martial Arts, the Final Chapter


Last time out, we looked at the basics of fight predictions and how to generate percentages of victory in MMA.  In the final installment of the MMA Betting Guide, we’ll go over betting strategies and money management, as the final piece of the betting puzzle.  You will learn different styles of betting, how to properly manage your bankroll, and learn about advanced betting tactics like line shopping and prop bets.  This section will reference the other two frequently, so if you haven’t read up on this series yet, you should definitely brush up on the other sections first.  So, let’s get started!

Part 3: Money Management and Betting Strategies

Sports betting is a complicated beast that makes poor men out of sports experts.  As a younger man, I decided to try my hand at MMA betting, and despite the fact I was one of the best prediction guys in the game, I still found myself losing money.  What I came to learn was that MMA betting is half understanding the sport, and half understanding how to bet.   I will break this final section down into three categories:  Betting styles, Money Management, and Advanced Betting Strategies.

Before getting started, I’d like to give one word of advice.  In my second section, I ran over the Golden Rules of Fight Predictions, which are rules that pertain to every aspect of picking fights.  Betting only has one Golden Rule, but it’s a biggie:

Don’t Force A Bet

Betting is an exciting thing that pairs nicely with the excitement of the fights themselves, but it’s important to keep your head at all times.  There will be events where you make a wager on a dozen fights and there will be events where you don’t make any.  The quickest way to go broke in sports betting is to make bets where none exist.  You need to trust in yourself to have made the right percentages for fight picks, and not bend those rules when no bets present themselves.

Betting Styles: Sports betting is a lot like poker.  Some people like to throw caution to the wind on a whim, some like to hold their chips until the perfect moment, and some people play somewhere in between.  While every style has it’s pros and cons, the uniting factor is that the players are comfortable with what they’re doing.  You need to love this sport to dedicate the time to learn to bet on it, and you’ve got to learn to love betting if you’re going to make it through the ups and downs of it.  Below, I’m going to outline a few of the different styles in betting.  Think not so much about how much money you’d like to make, but about how these styles fit with your personality and comfort level.

Conservative Betting:

One of the two major styles of betting along with value betting, conservative betting means large wagers on low risk/pay out bets.  While some people consider this a good “beginner style”, I disagree, as your percentages have to be very solid in order to make this work.  If done right, you’ll make small amounts of money with little risk, although this will be an infrequent process depending on what match-ups are taking place.

Value Betting:

The other popular style of betting, value bettors tend to make several wagers at differing amounts.  This style requires a large bankroll to cover several bets, and is known for wild fluctuations, from huge wins to crushing losses.  If done right, you’ll always come out ahead over time, but might sweat a bit during the process.

Hammer and Anvil or Anchor Betting: A hybrid style of the two previous ones.  This style is where you make large bets on one or more low risk/pay out fights at amounts to cover some value bets on the card.  The idea here being that even if all your value bets fall through, you break even as long as your anchors pull through.  This is a somewhat advanced style, as you have to be strong in both predictions and knowledge with betting, but leads to few losses and anywhere from small to large gains per event.

Casual Betting: This is something that a lot of betting blogs don’t cover, but is a perfectly acceptable form of betting.  Some people simply don’t have the time or money to dedicate to hardcore betting.  These people can still make money and enjoy the rush of sports betting though.  A casual betting style would be betting on one or two bets when you’re familiar with both fighters.  If done right, you should cover your PPV costs and enjoy betting without having to sink hours into researching fights.

How it works: Below, I will demonstrate how each style works with five example fights broken into percentages, alongside mock percentages.  Reference the first part of the MMA Betting Guide if you’re unsure about the percentage breakdown.  You might want to write this example down for ease of reference as we go.

Sportbook                                           Your Percentages

Fighter A vs. Fighter B

Fighter A  -300/ 75%                       90%

Fighter B +220 / 25%                       10%

Fight 2

Fighter C -300 / 75%                        40%

Fighter D +220 / 25%                      60%

Fight 3

Fighter E -180 / 64%                        60%

Fighter F +150 / 36%                       40%

Fight 4

Fighter G -200 / 67%                       70%

Fighter H +160/ 33%                       30%

Fight 5

Fighter I -1000 / 91%                       80%

Fighter J +600 / 9%                          20%

Conservative: As a conservative bettor, you’d take interest in Fighter A in Fight 1 and Fighter I in Fight 5, as both have very strong chances of winning.  In this style, you’d bet heavily on both fighters and expect roughly 5u return on a risk of 25u if both hit, and guaranteed loss if you missed either bet.

Value: As a value bettor, you’d be interested in nearly every fight, taking Fighter A, F, G and J for various amounts, with the idea that you’ll make more than you lose.  This style has more to do with money management than any other, and I’ll break down amounts in the next section.

Hammer and Anvil: Using Hammer and Anvil technique, you’d be interested in the same fights as the value bettor, but with a large bet on Fighter A to cover bets on Fighter F, G and J.  Your payout would be based on Fighter F, G and J’s results, and you’d be anchored by Fighter A.

Casual: As a casual bettor, you’d bet depending on who you were most familiar with.  Considering you’re not investing the time into percentages, you might not see certain high value bets above.  Don’t sweat it though, because you’re just doing it for fun.

Notice I never used Fight 3 in a bet scenario.  This is to emphasis that some fights just aren’t worth betting on, no matter how you look at them. DON’T FORCE A BET!

Money Management: While conservative bettors don’t have to worry about this so much, money management is the biggest part of value bettors, and important to the Hammer and Anvil style as well.  You need to know what kind of amounts are safe to bet to avoid tanking your sportbook if you have a bad run, and managing your bank roll will ensure you never need to re-invest in your sportbook.  The idea is to make money and enjoy doing it, not pay a sportbook’s bills!

Breaking Down Bets: Keeping with the above examples, I’m going to dig deeper into the styles mentioned.  We’re going to assume that you have a $100 bankroll and look into how to go about investing that bankroll.

Conservative: This style uses large amounts of your bankroll, and has more to do with properly assessing fights than managing units.  I’d generally recommend investing no more than 10% of your bankroll to start, and move that percentage up as you become more comfortable with the process.  As an experienced conservative bettor, you might bet 50% of your bank roll per event.  You don’t invest dollar amounts, but percentages.  If you have a good run, 50% of your bank roll will become more and more money, and if you hit a slump, that will go down. In the above example, a $100 bank roll was used to make a $25 bet on Fighter A at -300 and on Fighter I at -1000, for a payout of $10.81.  I again stress that this isn’t a beginner’s style, as you would make little money betting small amounts and even one mistake would set you back several events.

Value: This style uses slightly smaller amounts of money than the conservative style on average, but money management is key here.  I recommend betting no more than 2.5u (5%) on any bet with this style at the beginning.  This style works by breaking down bets into either heavy, large, medium and small bets, depending on the risk/pay out.  A heavy bet would be 2.5u, a large bet would be 1u, a medium .5u and a small bet .25u.  Now, lets break down the above example to see how this would work on all five fights:

Fight 1: Fighter A is a great bet with your percentage being at 90%, compared to the sportbooks 75%.  This kind of risk/payout warrants a heavy bet of 2.5u for a payout of .75u

Fight 2: Fighter D is a tremendous underdog on the sportbooks, but you think he wins more often than not.  This kind of underdog would also warrant a large bet, with 1u paying out 2.2u.

Fight 4: While the odds are close here, the percentage says it’s worth a bet due to the likelihood of victory.  Being as the risk/payout isn’t really there, a medium bet of .5u to pay out .25u makes sense.

Fight 5: Value bettors love a flier.  The payout is fantastic but there’s a low chance of payout.  This calls for a small bet of .25u to make 1.5u if it happens.

Now, this should give you an idea of what you’re looking at when assessing bets.  Great payout at little risk warrants a heavy bet, great payout at moderate risk warrants a large bet, moderate risk/payout equals a medium bet, and large payout as a large risk a small bet.

With this style of betting, you’re not always going to win every bet, as you’re admittedly putting money on a fighter you feel only wins 60% of the time.  If your percentages of victory and money management are strong, you’ll come out ahead here more often than not.  In the example above, you can expect to hit on Fight 1  and 4 for a profit of 1u total.  Fight 2 and Fight 5 cost you 1.25u to play, so if neither pan out, you’re only out .25u.  If either or both pan out, you’re up significantly with Fight 2 paying 2.2u and Fight 5 paying 1.5u.  You may lose some money sometimes, but just based on percentages, you’ll make around 3u six out of ten times, and lose .25u around four out of ten times.  Once you’re comfortable with this style, you simply up the amount of units accordingly, but keep the same set of multiples where heavy is twice the units of large, large twice the units of medium, etc.

Hammer and Anvil: This style is halfway between the Conservative and Value betting styles, using one strong bet to cover all of your other bets.  Using this style means you have to be very sure of your percentages, as losing your “anvil” could lose you a bit of cash.  With this style, we’d make the same bets as the value betting example, but the amount on Fighter A would be 5.75u.  This covers all of your other bets, making any that come in pure profit. In the above example, you’d likely be making at least .25u, but likely 2.45u, or more if your flier comes in.  This style, if done right, has several small gains and occasional large ones, with little risk.  Once you’re comfortable with this style, you can increase the amount of units accordingly, staying with the formula, ensuring your anvil covers your bets.

Starting Out: Depending on what sportbook you use, they may have a minimum bet, which can affect your betting before you have a formidable bank roll.  You can tackle this two ways. 1) Deposit enough money in your sportbook so that you can make bets a small as .25u. 2) Only make bets that stay with the formula.  In example, if you can’t make a .25u bet because the minimum won’t allow it, just don’t make that bet, and adjust your wagers accordingly.  As time goes on, you’ll add to your bankroll and open up those opportunities.

Making Units and Losing Units:

The beauty of all your math being in terms of units is that no matter how much you win or lose, the formula stays the same.  If your bankroll soars from $100 to $500, the units stay the same, but the actual dollar amounts change.  Conversely, if you drop down to $20, the math is the same as well, although you might have to play like you’re starting out and drop some of those smaller bets.

Advanced Betting Strategies: The above sections and previous MMA Betting Guides should be all you need to start betting on MMA and doing well for yourself.  There’s more to betting than what I’ve covered thus far though, and below I’ll run over some of the advanced options you can use as a bettor to make even more money.

Line Watching/Forecasting: When betting lines are released by a sportbook, they attempt to make them so there is equal betting on either side of the line.  If they’re incorrect, the lines will move depending on where most of the money is coming in, driving the numbers up or down to compensate for this miscalculation by the bookies.  Part of being a smart bettor is having an idea of what the betting community and general public think of a fight, and placing your bet when the line is most beneficial to you.  An example:

Sportbook                           Your Percentage                              Public Opinion

Fighter A -300 / 75%       80%                                                        40%

Fighter B +220 / 25%       20%                                                        60%

This might look strange to you, but if you remember, I mentioned casual bettors above.  Casual bettors make up a huge portion of the betting community, especially as the sport continues to draw in new views.  These are people that throw money around, and don’t always know what they’re betting on.   In the above example, you might consider betting on Fighter A when the line is released, but wait a few days, and the line now looks like this:

Fighter A -260

Fighter B +200

All that money from casual bettors has shifted the line downward to compensate, giving you a better line to bet with later on.

Another example of this:

Sportbook                           Your Percentage                              Public Opinion

Fighter C -200 / 67%        80%                                                        100%

Fighter D +160/ 33%       20%                                                        0%

In this example, the line is released far lower that what the majority of fans think it should be.  This means you bet on the line ASAP, as in a few days, your bet will be outside that critical risk/payout.  A final example of this:

Sportbook                           Your Percentage                              Public Opinion

Fighter A -150 / 60%       50%                                                        25%

Fighter B +120 / 40%       50%                                                        75%

In this example, the line is going to “flip” meaning the sportbook had this one as being close, but in the wrong direction.  You were going to bet on Fighter B anyways, so you drop a few units on him, and in a few days, this is the line:

Fighter A +120 / 40%

Fighter B -150 / 60%

So, you already have a few units on Fighter B at +120.  What you can do now is place an equal amount of units on Fighter A, also at +120.  While some people aren’t a fan of this, I think it’s better to make a small amount of guaranteed money every single time, rather than risk money on a fight you knew was close.

Something to keep in mind with Line Forecasting is casual media advertising.  The job of a fight promotion is to make a fight look competitive and compelling, and shows like UFC Primetime and the commercials and sport show clips do a great job of selling a fight.  What these shows often mean is that odds will tend to settle towards the middle, as it’s perceived to be an even fight.

Betting Futures: While some sportbooks don’t release odds until a few days out from the event, sometimes heavily hyped fights will have odds posted before the fight even occurs.  This is a double-edged sword when betting, as while you might get some nicer odds by betting on a fight four months away, those are units you can’t use in the mean time.  Take a good look at new odds that are far out and apply what you know of forecasting to determine if they’re going to move a great deal or not.  If you’re going to miss an opportunity and have the bankroll, by all means put some money down, but if not, keep those units close at hand.

As a side note, always look at the “fine print” with these future bets if there is no event scheduled for said bout.  Sometimes the sportbook can hold this bet for up to a year, and take that money far out of any future wagers you want to make.

Multiple Sportbooks / Line Shopping: A great way to make money as an advanced bettor is to re-invest in another sportbook.  Every sportbook releases odds at a different time and will have variances in each other’s odds from small dollar amounts, to huge opportunities.  This may open up bets for you on one sport book that aren’t lucrative at odds posted on another.  The only drawback to this is that it makes removing money from the sportbooks more expensive, as they charge fees for wiring the money back to you.

Parlays: Parlays are a string of bets, where the base bet and all winnings are placed onto the next bet, and so on.  An example:

Fighter A -120

Fighter B -200

Fighter C +145

If you bet $5 on each bet individually and all panned out, you’d make $13.92 profit.  If you were to parlay that same amount ($15) on those three fights, you’d make $59.81.  While this sounds impressive, keep in mind that if any of those bets doesn’t go through, you lose everything.  For this reason, I’m not a huge fan of parlays, but will outline a few techniques that work well.

Underdog Parlays: These are tough to hit by definition, but pay out huge when they hit.  By selecting two or more fights with a positive number, you can jack up your profit greatly if all fights hit.  This is something to do if you’re low on available units, so rather than betting each fight, you bet less money on a handful of dogs and hope to hit it big.

Conservative Parlays: Similar to underdog parlays, you sometimes find yourself with a large number of heavy favorites.  Rather than investing a ton of money on these bets, a parlay of all of them with less money can free up units for other wagers.

Booster Parlay: Sometimes there’s only one bet that you think has real potential on a card.  In this case, betting that bet solo makes sense, but you can also “boost” it by adding in a few fights with odds similar to your percentages.  This creates slightly more risk but a much greater payout on a solitary fight.

Longshot Parlays: The name says it all, as these are half serious and half just for fun.  By parlaying a small amount on every fight on the card, you can occasionally hit parlays that pay out exponentially, sometimes a thousand times your wager.  On sportbooks where they have small minimum bets, it’s oftentimes worth a laugh to put $1 into one of these and see how far it goes.

Prop Bets: Prop stands for proposition, and it’s a bet not just on a fighter, but on an outcome or some kind of exotic result.  For instance, you might bet on Fighter A to win a fight with Fighter B by knockout.  If he wins by anything else, or loses the fight, you lose the bet.  These are often too difficult to reliably bet, but occasionally they’re the smartest bet on the card.  Sometimes two guys fight and have no chance of finishing each other, so a prop bet on Fight Goes Distance is the best bet.  Conversely, you can also pick Fight Ends Inside Distance if two guys will go out on their shield.  Think long and hard about props before making them, as it’s very disappointing when someone sinks a choke on a dazed opponent and ruins your Fight Ends By KO prop.

In closing, you should come away from MMA betting with two things.  A continued love and appreciation of the sport, and some money in hand.  Believe me that the former is the most important of the two.

This concludes the MMA Betting Guide.  I make myself available via twitter to cover any betting aspects I didn’t cover here.  Don’t hesitate to seek me out if you have questions or need clarification on anything absent from this guide.  As always, thanks for reading!

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One Response to A betting Guide to Mixed Martial Arts, the Final Chapter

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