Expected Value Betting Explained

Expected Value Betting

One of the fundamental ways to become a successful bettor is to understand the principle behind sports betting, and a concept that can help in doing that is Expected Value (EV). EV is the concept that shows the profitability of a bet in the long run.

This guide will explore everything you need to know about expected Value in sports betting, including:

  • What is EV in betting?
  • How to calculate the Expected Value? 
  • What are tips for using the positive Expected Value in sports betting?
  • How to identify value bets?
  • What are the risks involved in Value betting?

What Is EV in Betting

Expected Value is a common term in the finance industry that comes from probability theory representing expected loss/profit without disregarding all risks. Expected Value in sports betting is simply a way to measure the probability difference between a punter’s expectation and the bookmakers’. In other words, it is a concept in sports betting that involves finding bets with greater winning chances than the odds implied by the sportsbook. 

There are 2 major Expected Values in sports betting, namely:

  • Positive Expected Value (+EV)
  • Negative Expected Value (-EV)

The positive EV in sports betting is a wager expected to be profitable in the long run, which means it will win more than it loses long term. The probability of winning this bet is usually greater than what the sportsbook implies. The negative EV of sports betting is a situation where the expected return of a wager is negative, meaning that the winning probability of a game is less than what is implied.

In sports betting, EV bettors target the positive expected value bets as this option guarantees a profit in the long run.

How Do You Calculate the Expected Value (+EV)

Calculating the Expected Value of a bet is fairly simple. You need to follow the EV formula:

Expected Value = (Probability of Winning x Amount to be won per bet) – (Probability of Losing x Amount to be lost per bet)

A simple way to understand how to calculate EV is by thinking of a coin toss. Assuming the coin and toss are fair, the probability of each outcome (heads or tail) in a coin toss is 50/50. It means that there is no advantage to either outcome. If the expected Value here is calculated, you should get zero.

However, if the odds of a coin toss deviate from the actual probability, you will get either a positive or negative expected value. For example, if a sportsbook offers 2.5 odds ($15 profit on every $10 bet) on the heads outcome of a coin toss, the Expected Value (EV) becomes:

(0.5 x $15) – (0.5 x $10) = 2.5

With a 2.5 EV, there is an advantage to betting on the head outcome, as you will get $2.5 on average on every $10 bet over the long run.

How to Put the Expected Value Formula to Use (Example)

As you have probably inferred, to utilize the Expected Value formula in betting, you need to know 3 variables: the probability of winning or losing a bet, the potential payout, and the bet amount.

For example, a sportsbook offers the following market on an NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Boston Celtics Philadelphia 76ers













The Expected Value for a $100 bet on the Boston Celtic is calculated as follows:

(0.72x$38) – (0.32x$100) = -4.64

The negative Expected Value here suggests that a punter will lose an average of $4.64 for every $100 staked. You should note that a negative EV doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose a bet. It just doesn’t provide a good value to be worth the risk.

You should also note that, unlike coin tosses, betting odds are subjective and only show the bookmaker’s opinion on probability and might be quite different from the actual. The goal of +EV bets is to outsmart the bookmakers and capitalize on where they have got it to run to make money long-term.

Staking Methods in Expected Value Betting

Another important factor to consider after calculating EV in sports betting and locating the best +EV bets is the staking method. Staking methods refer to how punters manage their bankroll and determine the optimal bet on each +EV bet.

There are several staking methods that you can use in Expected Value betting, and they include:

  • Flat/Fixed Staking: This is the simplest staking method, which involves placing a fixed amount of money on every bet.
  • Kelly Criterion: This popular staking method accounts for the Expected Value of a bet and the size of a punter’s bankroll. It determines the optimal percentage of a bettor’s bankroll to stake on the wager.
  • Martingale Betting System: The system is a progressive staking method that doubles your bets after every loss. The principle is that you will eventually win and recoup all your losses. But this high-risk method can also result in significant losses, especially if a losing streak happens.
  • Fibonacci Betting System: The Fibonacci staking method also increases the punter’s bet after every loss by following the Fibonacci sequence. The idea here is similar to the martingale system but less risky.

Tips for Positive Expected Value Sports Betting

For most sports betting enthusiasts, placing bets on sporting events is a source of fun, entertainment, and a hobby to pass the time. It is often because most punters got into betting due to their love for a particular sport, team, or player. Hence, many approach sports betting for fun, relying on intuition, thrills, and emotions like gut feeling and how they feel when considering their bet options.

It is, however, not a winning strategy for those serious about sports betting. That is why EV in sports betting is important to successful bettors, as it is a winning formula that can help punters to win in the long run. Here are some tips to consider when using this approach.

Don’t Bet on Your Favorite Team

When placing bets on sports, it is important to be objective and avoid making biased decisions based on emotions. While betting on your favourite team may be thrilling and fun, it is not the smartest decision, as it can result in bad bets due to biased decision-making.

It’s better to employ Expected Value sports betting by objectively analyzing the teams involved in the game and basing your decision on the EV. Doing this will help you avoid making illogical decisions while also improving your winning chances. It’s best to only place bets on your team if it supports a good positive Expected Value, or avoid placing them on them altogether.

Don’t Bet on Everyone’s Favorite Team

Another mistake many bettors make in sports betting with EV is placing their bets on everyone’s favourite teams. Just as you need to ignore your emotional attachment to your team, you should not follow the public opinion on the popular and favourite teams. It is because most sportsbooks shade the lines and adjust the odds offered on popular teams’ games to account for the massive attention these teams receive from the public.

Successful EV+ bettors would consider if the Expected financial Value of a bet is good before wagering on popular teams or avoiding such teams altogether.

Don’t Bet on Everyone’s Favorite League

Like betting on favorite teams, avoiding favorite leagues is important when considering sports betting Expected Value for your wagers.

Like everyone’s teams, some leagues tend to get massive attention from sports fans and sports betting enthusiasts. For example, the games in the Premier League receive more attention from football fans and sports betting enthusiasts worldwide than the remaining divisions in the “English football league system.” The “National Basketball Association” (NBA) also receives more public support from fans in North America and around the world than other basketball leagues like “The Basketball League (TBL).”

The downside is that the massive hype and attention these games receive from sports bettors forces bookmakers to shade the lines in their favor.

Naturally, this doesn’t mean that sportsbooks don’t make strong lines on less popular sports and leagues, but it tends not to have much effect on their bottom line.

Watch Out for Home Favorites

Home advantage is another factor to watch out for in sports betting and Expected Value. Home-field advantage is a concept that has spread over many different sports betting markets. While home-favorite advantage tends to have its upside on the outcome of a game, it is important not to overestimate its impact. Betting on a home favorite solely because of the home-field advantage can be a mistake.

It is important to analyze the lines and odds offered to determine its Expected Value and whether it is worthwhile. Due to the perceived advantage of home favorites and the attention they receive, especially with popular teams, the odds offered on such home favorites are usually too low to provide a high-value bet. In such cases, it may be better to avoid the wager altogether.

Be Wary of Heavy Favorites

Betting on the favorites may seem like a safe bet, but this is not always the best option, as the odds are often stacked against bettors. It is especially true for popular leagues and teams. As bettors give these games more attention and place massive bets on them, the wager price will inflate and reduce their Value.

People pay more attention to teams on top of their leagues and often ignore those at the bottom. Most positive EV sports betting punters usually avoid the heavy favorites and, instead, consider teams that don’t receive as much attention.

You can also consider betting on the underdogs with point spreads, as they tend to cover the spread as often as heavy favorites. But to do so, you still need to determine the EV to weigh its worth over the heavy favorites. 

The Best Bet Is Usually No Bet

Sometimes, the best decision when looking to place bets online is usually not to bet. No clear option may be worthwhile when considering the underdogs and favorites.

Most bettors would try their luck with as many games as possible when placing bets, but a punter that uses EV in betting will only bet when there is a positive value. While doing this will undoubtedly be less thrilling, it is more likely to make you some money in the long run. So, if there is no clear positive Expected Value in the bet you are interested in, it is best to wait for other opportunities. Doing otherwise would only have you solely relying on luck, which can result in many losses.

Shop Around

When they need to buy anything, the habit of most people is to get the best Value for their money by doing price checks at multiple stores. This habit should be utilized in plus EV betting. After all, even the slightest addition in implied percentage points can benefit an experienced EV+ bettor.

While the difference is often small, different sportsbooks will have different odds or lines for the same game. With several sportsbooks available online, some offer better game odds than others. So, don’t hesitate to do window shopping across multiple online bookmakers to compare odds and lines to find the best prices for your bets.

You should also note that shopping around also applies to live betting opportunities. These markets can offer even better Value if you can react to the changes in the game quickly enough.

Look Early, Look Often

Between the opening lines and a game’s commencement, most sportsbooks tend to adjust the odds offered on games. It usually happens due to several factors, such as team news, injury update, and the betting patterns of bettors.

True plus EV betting enthusiasts are ready to pounce at the most vulnerable lines, usually when the line has just opened. After a while, the general bettors and even the sportsbook can further influence the line, making the Value lower than when it opened.

Although a sportsbook’s line may only move a little or not at all between the game’s start and opening line, every difference still means more profit. So, it would be best to always look for bets with good Value and quickly jump on them as soon as you spot them.

Arbitrage a Positive Expected Value

Another way to maximize sports betting and Expected Value is using the arbitrage betting strategy. Arbitrage betting involves making multiple bets on an event’s possible outcomes on different sportsbooks to guarantee a profit regardless of the outcome. It can be done by identifying situations where the odds offered by various sportsbooks for the same event are sufficiently different that you can make a profit by covering all possible outcomes.

The only downside to arbitrage bets is that it requires that punters bet a large sum of money to earn a small profit. Identifying positive value bets can help players find bets with good potential. Employing arbitrage betting with Expected Value analysis can be a highly effective strategy for generating profits. The best part is that arbitrage bets guarantee profits.

How to Identify Value Bets

The key to identifying Value bets (positive EV bets) is the probabilities of the stakes. As mentioned, a Value bet is where the possibility implied on an outcome by a sportsbook is lower than the actual probability. For example, if a sportsbook assigned a probability of 40% to a result while the true probability of the outcome is 50%, then there is Value in such a bet. The difference in odds creates room for a positive EV bet.

Here are a few things you can do to help identify Value bets:

  • Understand the basics of probability: You must fully understand how odds and probability work in sports betting to place Value bets.
  • Analyze the odds: You need to look for odds on games that appear lower than what you would expect from your calculations.
  • Research the teams and players: You should research the teams and players involved in a game. It would help to keep your ears tuned for information that can affect a game, such as injuries.
  • Compare odds across multiple sportsbooks: As mentioned, the odds offered on sporting events differ from one site to the other. Comparing odds and probabilities across various platforms can help identify the best Value.

What Are the Risks Involved in Value Betting?

One mistake many newbies tend to make in plus EV sports betting is assuming that they are sure to guarantee a profit. The reality is usually not so. It is because Expected Value betting comes with certain risks, like all forms of gambling. It is important to approach Expected Value betting as a long-term way to ensure profits and not a short-term get-rich-quick strategy.

The biggest risk you need to be aware of in positive EV sports betting is that you won’t win every time you engage in positive EV bets, as sports betting is unpredictable. It means you can lose EV bets, sometimes even resulting in losing streaks. Hence, having a proper bankroll management plan when you place bets is important.

Other risks involved in Value betting include:

  • Inaccurate assessment of probabilities may result in placing negative EV bets.
  • Consistent wins on sportsbooks can result in some sites limiting or outrightly banning your account.
  • Human error can be easily introduced in assessing value bets, like placing the wrong bet or misreading the lines and odds.

Value Betting Compared to Matched Betting, Arbitrage Betting, & Sports Trading

Aside from value betting with positive EV bets, bettors can utilize many options when placing bets on sporting events online. Sports enthusiasts can find the option that best suits their betting needs and employ it in their activities.

The table below compares Value betting with 3 other options based on key factors, including matched betting, arbitrage betting, and sports trading.

Factor Value Betting Matched Betting Arbitrage Betting Sports Betting


A betting strategy where you bet on selections with positive expected Value

A betting strategy where you use free bets and promotions to guarantee a profit

A betting strategy where you exploit differences in odds to guarantee a profit

A trading strategy where you buy and sell sports bets like stocks

Profit source



Price differences

Market movement

Skill Level Required





Risk level



Very low


Requires Betting Exchange










Potential ROI





Betting Example

Placing a bet on an NBA team to win a game with favorable odds (high EV value)

Using a free bet to place a bet on one NFL team to win an event and using another free bet wager against it to cover all outcomes and guarantee a profit

Placing a bet on an MMA fighter to win a UFC Night match with one sportsbook and betting against the fighter at another bookmaker to guarantee a profit

Buying a bet on a game before it starts and selling it after the odds have improved to make a profit.

Should You Consider EV for Sports Bets?

Understanding EV and how it works in betting is important because it allows punters to make informed decisions when placing bets on sporting events. By calculating the expected Value of sports bets, you can determine whether the odds offered by the sportsbooks are favorable to you. A bet is fair if its Expected Value is positive, and a negative EV shows it is not worthwhile.

That said, it is important to remember that while it increases your chances of making a profit in the long run, positive Expected Value bets carry risk just like any bet type. Hence, practicing responsible gambling and proper bankroll management is important. After all, there is no guarantee of success in sports betting, and even the highest-value bets can lose. However, by consistently making plus EV bets, you can expect to maximize your profits and minimize your losses.

Now that you understand how EV works don’t hesitate to explore this sports betting system to increase your chance of winning bets.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there a universal Expected Value formula?
    There is no universal formula for calculating the Expected Value. However, most punters follow this standard formula: EV = (Probability of winning x potential payouts) – (Probability of losing x potential loss). It gives a positive or negative value that shows the Value and worth of the bet in the long run.
  • What does EV mean in betting?
    EV in sports betting is a statistical measure that shows the worth of a bet. It shows how much a punter will win or lose on average per bet long-term.
  • How to calculate the Expected Value?
    To calculate the Expected Value, multiply the probability of a win by the potential payoff and subtract the possibility of a loss by the possible loss. The resulting figure will show the Value of the bet. A positive Value is a +EV bet and is worthwhile; a negative value is a -EV bet and is not of good Value.
  • What is positive EV betting?
    Positive EV betting essentially means that the Expected Value of a bet is positive, indicating the wager is worthwhile. The stake gives punters an advantage over the sportsbook and can help guarantee a profit in the long run.
  • Is EV betting profitable?
    If done right, EV betting can be profitable in the long run for bettors. By targeting positive EV bets, you can increase your chances of winning while minimizing losses. But achieving meaningful success requires careful research, analysis, and discipline.
  • How can I get the expected Value of a bet of 20 dollars?
    To determine the expected Value of a $20 bet, you need to know the bet amount, the probabilities of winning/losing, and the potential payoff if you win. Once you have that, you can apply the standard EV formula to get the Expected Value of the bet.
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    Jimmy E
    Writer & Tipster

    Jimmy is our on-duty tipster and writer. His favorite sports are cricket, tennis, and basketball. If you’re looking for the best betting tips in the business, Jimmy’s your guy. His tips and events previews are among the most read at BetZillion.

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