UFC On the Line is back for UFC 238 and it’s the perfect card for UFC’s resident Wise Guy, Gianni “the Greek” Karalis, to teach you the difference between a bet with a guarantee and a bet with value.
You can take the -5,000 Alabama Crimson Tide to beat the +5,000 Lindenwood Lions every Saturday with obvious success but with the lack of return value, there’s not winning in… winning. Value comes from bets that are winnable but not always guaranteed. And timing the lines.
“For me it’s now about predicting the winner of the fight, it’s about making good bets,” Karalis said. “With sports, I approach it the right way. I’m looking for good bets not necessarily guys who are going to win the fight.”
One fight in particular caught the interest of Karalis and though it’s far from a guaranteed bet, it’s the smartest bet.
“With Cerrone and Ferguson, I think Ferguson is going to win that fight,” Karalis said. “I don’t think his win probability is as high as the price reflects. That’s where we differ. I don’t differ with the bookmaker that he should be the favorite, I differ with the bookmaker on how great of a favorite he should be.”
When the betting lines opened, Ferguson was placed as a -260 favorite over “Cowboy” Cerrone. By conversion, the bookmaker is essentially implying that “El Cucuy” has a 72% chance of beating Cerrone. Although Karalis does like Ferguson to win, it’s far from a 72% chance is his mind. All -260 means to “The Greek” is money.
“I actually think Cerrone matches up with him,” Karalis said. He’s got that one punch knockout power, I know it’s a quick turnaround but it’s nothing he hasn’t done before. No matter how deeply I dig into this matchup, even just straight handicapping, I just cannot conclude that Tony has a 70% chance of winning this fight.”
Whether you predict Ferguson to win or not, the decision needs to be made, how sure are you vs how sure is your opponent.
If you and your friend bet on a coin flip and he tells you that he’s 72% sure he’s going to win and he’ll make you a bet that reflects that, taking that bet before he realizes his odds are 50% is the key to success. Is “The Greek” 100% sure Cerrone can beat Ferguson as his bet indicates? No. But are you 100% sure you’re going to win the coin flip? No. But mathematically seeking out a true -125 who is valued at -260 is how to have sustained success betting sports.
Now that the recipe for success is laid out, it’s easy to go make money betting sports, right? Wrong. There’s another aspect to beating the lines and that’s timing.
“Unfortunately for me, I’m not just competing against me,” Karalis said. “I’m competing against the oddsmaker and their client, the bookmaker. I’m also competing against millions of other bettors who are doing the exact same thing I am who are looking for inefficiencies and mistakes in pricing.”
Bookmakers are paid to be good and often, are. It’s not often they offer a 72% chance on a coin flip and with the ability for them to adjust the lines means when you see odds you like, pounce. They aren’t likely to stay in one place long and that sometimes results in missing the value you’re after.
To look inside the bookmaker’s mind, you must put yourself in their shoes. If you see the Alabama Crimson Tide are taking on the Lindenwood Lions, you eat the fact that anybody putting money on Alabama is going to win that bet. Now your job is to minimize your loss in some way.
The same translates to fighting and every + or - is considered as a win for the bookmakers.
“If I can take fighter A who’s really a +200 and by the time the fight starts, I have him at a +150, I have done my job,” The Greek said. “As a bookmaker, even if I didn’t win that bet, I did my job. Their job is to make sure you’ve gotten the worst of it.”
Finally you’re competing against the casual betting fans.
“In MMA the two things that are going to force a line move are money and respect,” The Greek said. “The public doesn’t get respect from the bookmaker, but they do bet a lot of money and when they bet a lot of money on one side, the bookmaker is going to be forced to adjust his line to try to attract money the other way and limit his risk.”
In the case of UFC 238, the fans have dropped so much money on fan favorite, “Cowboy” Cerrone that bookmakers avoid giving him a lot of value to begin with. It’s easier to limit risk when, as a bookmaker, you’re pricing to lose from the get-go because you know the public is going to swarm to the fan favorite.
When that happens, it’s just another chance for Gianni the Greek to pounce.
“What happens is the public will come in, be on one side, make the books move that line so significantly that many times it will offer up a value for a sharp like me to come in and say, ‘wow, ok. Now I can come in and bet the other side. The public just completely mispriced this,’” Karalis said.
Being a successful bettor is an intricate world and sometimes you need to go east to go west but numbers don’t lie and aside from being a successful professional gambler, in the handful of UFC On The Line shows ahead of each pay-per-view, Gianni has turned a profit of $2,700 on the show and far more in real life betting on the UFC and the key to success is finding value instead of worrying about the individual results.
Catch Brendan Fitzgerald, Tyron Woodley and of course Gianni “The Greek” in the latest episode of UFC On The Line NOW ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!