NASCAR betting weekend notebook: Survey reveals unrealistic expectations of most gamblers

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Marcus DiNitto
·6 min read
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A survey conducted by Whistle Wise finding 76% of sports bettors view gambling as a form of entrepreneurship (h/t Sports Handle) drew a collective gasp from the sports betting community, which knows the true percentage of people who make money betting on sports is nowhere near that.

Zack White, a professional bettor who specializes in NASCAR, laughed when told of the survey‘s results.

“It’s not even close,” White said. “You‘re talking 1%.”

It‘s not impossible to win betting on sports, but it takes tremendous intelligence, hard work, discipline and capital. Proficiency in math and computer programming helps as well — necessary, in fact, some say.

“Everybody thinks they can do it,” White said. “There’s very few people that are able to do it year over year for the long term. It takes a lot of different aspects as a person — discipline, money management. You‘ve gotta be well-bankrolled to start. Nobody’s gonna take $10,000 and turn it into enough money to live off of.

“These days, you (also) need computer programmers, you need inside information to create a well-rounded betting portfolio to win long term.”

RELATED: NASCAR Bet Center | See the betting odds for Sunday’s race from BetMGM

The good news for NASCAR bettors is the sport‘s betting markets are neither as liquid nor efficient as those for the NFL, college basketball or even golf. In other words, not as much money is bet into NASCAR as those other sports, so it‘s easier to find an edge.

“It‘s just a matter of being able to dig a little deeper than the sportsbooks,” said Blake Phillips, another sharp NASCAR bettor. “I don‘t know how much work is actually put into creating the opening lines, and it‘s a pretty illiquid market, so (it‘s easier to beat) than the NFL or NBA.”

Easier. Definitely not easy.

And that‘s OK. Even if you are not among the 1% of bettors who win over the long haul, you can still derive plenty of enjoyment from getting some action down on NASCAR races. The key is to view gambling as recreation, not a form of income. Budget an amount you‘re comfortable losing and stick to that budget.

For example, instead of going out to dinner Sunday, give yourself $100 to play with for the Instacart 500 from Phoenix Raceway (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX). Even if you lose, you‘ll probably have more fun cheering on your wagers than you would waiting for your overcooked steak. And the beauty of betting is sometimes you win. No one goes out to dinner and comes home with more money.

RELATED: See the starting lineup for Sunday’s race

TOO SOON TO FADE HARVICK

Bettors are fading Kevin Harvick in early wagering on Sunday‘s race in Phoenix, as the line has moved against the No. 4 Ford in three matchups posted at SuperBook USA. Here is how the numbers have shifted since Tuesday‘s openers:

Chase Elliott vs. Kevin Harvick
open: Elliott -110, Harvick -110
move: Elliott -120, Harvick even-money

Kevin Harvick vs. Kyle Larson
open: Harvick -130, Larson +110
move: Harvick -120, Larson even-money

Kevin Harvick vs. Denny Hamlin
open: Harvick -130, Hamlin +110
move: Harvick -120, Hamlin even-money

Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

“People are anti-Stewart-Haas since they were so bad last week,” Ed Salmons, who handles NASCAR odds at the SuperBook, said in a text message.

Phillips isn‘t sure this is the right sentiment, noting Harvick is the co-second favorite to win the race, offered at +500 at the SuperBook.

“I‘m a little more tentative (to bet against Harvick),” Phillips said. “If I‘m going just based on (my statistical) model, sure Harvick doesn‘t look great, and the model is going to be really heavy on (Brad) Keselowski (the +450 favorite to win the race). It‘s going to make him look like an absolute superstar, and it‘s going to make Harvick look like he‘s going to struggle here.”

Giving us a peek into his handicapping process, Phillips said his model provides “a rough approximation of what‘s going to happen and then I decide what I‘m going to be cautious on. I‘m really cautious betting against Harvick this week, just as I‘m cautious about betting blindly on Keselowski. I think that he‘s a little bit overrated on the model right now.”

Phillips added, “If there‘s a race where Harvick is going to make a rebound and show us what he‘s got for the 2021 season, Phoenix is going to be the track. If he‘s still struggling after Phoenix, it‘s going to really inform my opinion on Harvick for the next few races after that.”

GROWTH OF LIVE NASCAR BETTING

Last Sunday, we monitored in-race wagering on a variety of apps, and we found that Barstool Sportsbook offered some fun ways to get involved after the green flag had dropped. You could bet on the driver you thought was going to win the race (eventual winner Kyle Larson could be had for 8-1 odds in live betting), for a driver to finish in the top 3 and even on a few head-to-head matchups.

As legal sports betting expands, the live betting options for NASCAR will grow along with it, according to bookmakers and pro bettors.

The expansion of legal gambling “will pump some liquidity into the market and give us some more offerings,” Phillips said.

For now, since the amount of money wagered on NASCAR is relatively small, there‘s caution on both sides of the betting counter when it comes to in-race wagering. For the books, posting live odds for NASCAR races is less formulaic and more labor intensive than for stick-and-ball sports, White believes, and from the bettor‘s perspective, the limits (the amount of money books allow you to bet) aren‘t high enough to make the work required worth it.

“There’s not a huge market right now for that, so I haven’t really dived into trying to analyze the race as it’s going on,” White said. “There’s not really a market for me to bet into if I did find an angle there. But I’ve got some ideas if it does become widespread.”

Phillips is also looking forward to in-race betting achieving a critical mass, particularly live matchup props.

“I intend to spend more time on it,” he said. “I‘ve done a little bit of in-game betting on outrights (the driver to win the race), which is primarily the market you‘ll find there. It‘s definitely on my radar. I think there‘s a lot of opportunity there.”

Marcus DiNitto is a writer and editor living in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been covering sports for nearly two-and-a-half decades and sports betting for more than 10 years. His first NASCAR betting experience was in 1995 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where he went 0-for-3 on his matchup picks. Read his articles and follow him on Twitter; do not bet his picks.