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Online Poker vs Sports Betting

Poker vs Sports Betting

The rise of online sports betting and daily fantasy sports (DFS) as multi-billion dollar industries has seen many poker vs sports betting comparisons be drawn, including parallels to the online poker boom of the early 2000s.

Many online poker networks also host sportsbooks, such as 888 and PartyGaming.

There are some that worry online sports betting could share the same fate as online poker which is banned in many US states. For the time being however betting sports is considered a skill game in the United States, and is legal.

Poker vs Sports Betting – Top 3 Similarities

Both poker and sports betting offer financial rewards to players who make the best betting decisions in the long run, and both involve short-term variance, or ‘luck’.

There are a number of skills shared by successful poker players that translate well to the world of betting sports, whether you’re a fan of the NFL, NBA, baseball, or soccer.

#1 – Bankroll Management

It might not be fun, but it’s probably the most important aspect of both sports betting and poker.

No matter how good you are at picking winning lineups, failing to use disciplined bankroll management will catch up with you eventually.

In DFS for example, GPP (Guaranteed Prize Pool) contests can be compared to large field, guaranteed multi-table tournaments (GTD MTTs) in poker; they’re both high variance, and consequently require a large number of buy ins.

GPP Contest Poker vs Sports Betting Lobby

An example GPP event in the DraftKings lobby, the $10m Millionaire Maker

50/50s and heads-up games are more analogous to cash games in poker, where proven winners can grind out a relatively consistent, low-variance profit.

One key difference in managing your sports betting bankroll though is that when you enter multiple contests on the same day, the results are highly correlated with each other.

If e.g. Chris Paul is widely perceived to be great value on a particular night, the percentage of people who roster him in each contest is going to be similar.

There will be some fluctuation – he might be 59% owned in one contest, and 67% owned in another – but he’ll never be 80% owned in one contest and 15% owned in another.

The result is that when you pick a high-scoring lineup that cashes in one of your contests, there’s a good chance it will cash in the others as well.

Conversely, if your lineup doesn’t do so hot, you might end up with a goose egg for the night.

Contrast this with poker – load up a few cash game tables, and you usually find yourself seated with different players at each table. You might be dealt monsters at one table, while getting cold-decked at another.

There are a lot of independent variables at play that separate your results at each table, and you’re much more likely to finish with a middling result.


 One of the largest fantasy sports sites, DraftKings recently partnered with the World Poker Tour

#2 – Psychology

While both DFS and poker are mathematical games at their core, there’s no denying the element of psychology inherent in each of them.

The role of psychology in DFS is most prominent in the GPP format, while 50/50s and HU matches are mostly data-driven.

The GPP fields are big, the payout structures are top-heavy, and there’s only so many players that can be rostered. Inevitably, some people end up with identical lineups. If they finish in the money, that means they have to split their prize with other entries.

GPP players sometimes try to avoid this by making unorthodox contrarian picks, making it less likely that others will share their exact lineup.

It’s often correct to pick a lineup that you expect to perform worse than others on average. You might finish in the money less often than others, but it’s made up for by the fact that you’ll have to share your prize money less often when you do cash.

The psychology, then, comes into play while trying to predict which players others will choose. Being aware of the day’s sports headlines is important, as sites like ESPN are very influential on casual fantasy sports players.

One of the best ways to get a feel for public sentiment is to keep tabs on some of the major sports discussion forums. Many people openly discuss their picks, and you can adjust your lineups accordingly.

#3 – Data Analysis

Online poker players use tools such as Hold’em Manager to track a variety of statistics on their opponents, and to analyze their own play.

In online sports betting, most of the data you’re concerned with involves the athletes themselves. Not all data are created equally, and identifying the most relevant stats for your sport is crucial to finding success in sports betting.

Bet on football, tennis, snooker and more on 888 Sport

This might be most apparent in baseball, which has a larger and more diverse body of data than any other sport.

For a long time, earned run average (ERA) was the go-to stat for evaluating MLB pitchers. With modern analysis, we now know that ERA is actually a terrible metric, and that strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) and walks per nine innings (BB/9) are far better predictors of future pitching success.

There are various sites that give sports player projections. Instead of relying on any one site, the best way to use this information is to combine them in a spreadsheet to create aggregate projections.

Aggregate projections have been shown to outperform the vast majority of individual projections. You can use the aggregate as your own projection baseline, but you’ll still need to account for other factors like late lineup changes.

Another very data heavy sport is basketball, with poker pro Haralabob Voulgaris famous for using mathematic models to bet on the NBA.

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