Types of Sports Bettors

King Yao discusses types of sports bettors

King Yao is the author of Weighing the Odds in Hold‘em Poker, and Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting. He uses his experience from making millions in financial derivative markets and translates it into gambling. Since he left his trading position in 2000, he has been playing poker and betting on sports. He travels to Las Vegas frequently, especially during football season.

All sports bettors should be familiar with the information presented below. Other types of casino advantage players, including blackjack players of all skill sets, including card counters, should also have a good working knowledge of Expected Value.

Line hunters

Line hunters search sportsbooks for lines that may be different than the general betting marketplace. They do not need to handicap to win; rather, they win by jumping on weak lines. For example, if the line at a sharp sportsbook on the Jets at the Packers is Jets +3.5, line hunters would be looking for Packers -3 or Jets +4. Line hunters look for stale lines or sportsbooks fading lines. These sportsbooks that fade their lines may be getting more action on a particular team, motivating them to shade their line differently than the rest of the sports betting marketplace. They are more focused on balancing their action due to the bets they have already taken. This is when line hunters can step in and take advantage.

Line hunting in Las Vegas is difficult for an individual because it takes time to travel from one sportsbook to another. The walking distance between the large casinos on the strip seems to get longer every year with the addition of new shops and tourist attractions. In the summertime, walking between books is more difficult due to the heat. The traffic has gotten worse every year, making driving from one casino to another more difficult. Included with the driving time is the time spent parking and walking from the parking garage to the sportsbook, which can be ten minutes or more at some casinos. Line hunters have the help of services that present the lines of games at various sportsbooks. However, there is no guarantee that the lines will remain unchanged. The sportsbook may have changed the line during the time it takes the bettor to get there.


Followers are bettors who bet on other people’s picks. Followers follow the advice of a handicapper and bet on the games that the handicapper releases. This sounds simple, but followers need to be intelligent in order to profit from their activity. They need to handicap the handicapper. Following a bad handicapper is negative EV; following a good handicapper is positive EV. Handicapping the handicapper is not as simple as just looking at the handicapper’s record. Good luck or bad luck may have distorted the handicapper’s record, and it is up to the followers to try to separate luck and skill and follow a handicapper with positive-EV picks. In addition, not all online handicappers maintain their records accurately; the business is full of scamsters.

Bonus hunting

When Internet sportsbooks were starting out, bonus hunting was a favorite activity of some bettors. Bettors did not need to beat the sportsbook to make money. All they had to do on the teams they selected to bet was break even or play with a small negative EV. The expectation was that the bonus from the Internet sportsbook would be enough to cover the expected small losses.

Here is a typical arrangement: The sportsbook would give a certain percentage of your deposit as a bonus. If the bonus percentage was 20%, the sportsbook would credit an extra 20% to your account. If the bonus percentage was 20%, the sportsbook would credit $100 to your account for a $500 deposit. The caveat was that you had to play the initial deposit a certain amount of times, called a rollover rate. If the rollover rate was 10 times, then you had to play $5,000 worth of plays ($500 x 10) in order to keep your bonus if you made a withdrawal. Early withdrawal voided the bonus. $100 of bonus on $5,000 of plays is 2%, so you had the expectation of winning money provided your plays would do no worse than lose at 2%. Many bonuses still exist today.


Sportsbooks sometimes offer special promotions to entice you to play. Bonuses are one type of promotion, but there are other promotions as well. Promotions I have seen include free plays, better parlay odds, reduced vigorish (“vig”) lines, free food, and entry into a lottery for a new car or house. Some of these promotions are worth enough that one does not need to be a winning handicapper to get an edge. Promotions vary, so examine the wording of the details carefully.

This is part of an occasional series of articles.

Excerpted with permission from the e-book version of Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting by King Yao, edited for this format.

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