Two weeks ago
Jul 1, 2019

Book review: The Logic of Sports Betting

A great job of covering the basics

Valuable information bettors cannot afford to miss

Joining an elite list of recommended reading

Book review: The Logic of Sports Betting
The Logic of Sport Betting is being hailed as one of the best betting books of recent years. Does the book deliver on its promise to answer an array of betting questions with “a dash of humour and a whole lot of real talk”? Read on to find out.

I’ve read a fair few betting-related books. While I’ve enjoyed some more than others, I feel like they always tend to offer something a bit different. Some might be a great learning experience that teach me things I didn’t know and some might be an entertaining read. In some cases, you come across a book that manages to do both.

The Logic of Sports Betting is co-authored by Ed Miller and Matthew Davidow and was published on May 17, 2019. This is one of those books that fall into the category of being able to both inform and entertain. Whether you’re completely new to betting or have been doing it for decades, there is something in this book for everyone.

A great job of covering the basics

The two authors of The Logic of Sports Betting come from an esteemed gambling background. Ed Miller has enjoyed success on the poker circuits and is a best-selling author of several poker books. Matthew Davidow is a modeller and founder of sports analytics firms who has also spent over 15 years beating major sports betting markets.

You could be forgiven for thinking that, given the wealth of knowledge shared between its authors, The Logic of Sports Betting would focus on advanced concepts and complex ideas. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s actually the book’s simplicity and concise, well thought-out explanations that make it such a good read.

There are three clear sections to the book. The first explains how sportsbooks operate (both on an individual level and as an industry as a whole). The second focuses on the logic that is required to avoid mistakes when betting, with a lot of useful guidance on how to become a successful bettor. The third part builds on the knowledge from parts one and two and explaines how to put it into practice across different types of markets.

It is important to note, as the authors do in the introduction, that this book isn’t a guide to being a professional bettor. Anyone hoping to read it and instantly start making a living from betting on sports will be sorely disappointed. There is much to learn about betting beyond what The Logic of Sports Betting provides, but it is certainly a great place to start.

Valuable information bettors cannot afford to miss

The Logic of Sports Betting is 230 pages of quality research and accurate information distilled into strategically-structured explanations. Thanks to the writers’ ability to condense a lot of information into easy to digest chunks, it feels much shorter than it actually is (when you consider the amount of information there is, it could easily be 500+ pages).

While Ed Miller and Matthew Davidow cover an awful lot of ground in the book, there are a few sections in particular that will jump out to readers. These aren’t necessarily the most important parts of the book, but it’s definitely worthwhile paying particular attention to them.

The Logic of Sports Betting falls into the category of being able to both inform and entertain. Whether you’re completely new to betting or have been doing it for decades, there is something in this book for everyone.

The first concept that I would urge readers to spend plenty of time on to ensure they fully understand (especially those trying to make money from betting) is what the authors refer to as “0% synthetic hold”. The hold (or margin to some) is synthesised because it uses two different markets to create a lower hold than what is available at one sportsbook. This hold isn’t always 0% but the closer it is to zero, the better (it can sometimes even be a minus hold). 

This synthetic hold is really the crux of the strategy that Ed Miller and Matthew Davidow suggest bettors should use if they are trying to improve their betting results. It’s important to note that this strategy doesn’t make you better at sports betting, it just limits your losses when you’re wrong.

The second part of the book that is really worth spending some additional time reading and taking in is the advantages and disadvantages a sportsbook holds over its customers (as well as the advantages the bettor has).

I won’t list the advantages and disadvantages as the authors do a great job of explaining them in the book. However, it goes without saying that if you’re serious about betting then you need to have an awareness of the sportsbooks’ advantages and disadvantages, so you can minimise the advantages and maximise the disadvantages.

Joining an elite list of recommended reading

If you’re interested in sports betting, you’ve probably done a search of “sports betting books” or been recommended various different options that will help you with your challenge of trying to beat the market.

While there are several good books that focus specifically on sports betting, there is also plenty more reading material out there that can help you learn more about betting, even if that isn’t the main intention of the book. The Logic of Sports Betting has certainly made its way into my must-read collection for anyone interested in sports betting. I’ve highlighted some other suggestions below.

The Logic of Sports Betting is 230 pages of quality research and accurate information distilled into strategically-structured explanations. Thanks to the writers’ ability to condense a lot of information into easy to digest chunks, it feels much shorter than it actually is.

Michael Mauboussin’s The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing does a great job of getting readers to question what is luck and what is skill. Mauboussin’s luck-skill continuum (which he calls the paradox of skill) is something every bettor should be aware of (especially those who believe they are skilled bettors).

Whenever you place a bet, you should know there is an element of randomness that can impact the result. While many of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s books could make this list, I think Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets is perhaps the one I would most recommend for anyone trying to beat the betting market, closely followed by The Black Swan.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction are another two you will commonly find on a list of recommended reading for bettors, and rightfully so. Silver’s use of data and model building to predict outcomes might seem more useful, but Kahneman’s explanations of heuristics and biases is something bettors simply cannot afford to ignore.

The final book that makes my list is quite different to those already mentioned. Joe Peta’s Trading Bases isn’t as advanced as any of those above but a real life story of someone trying to make money from betting can provide some very useful lessons to bettors. Peta’s data analysis and bankroll management highlight some of the basic requirements for anyone who wants to take betting seriously but being intertwined with his personal story makes it easier to understand for anyone new to these kinds of concepts.

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