If you’re hoping to make money regularly from sports gambling, you’re going to need an edge or a system of some sort that delivers more wins than losses. Or, to be more specific, when you win the amount you win needs to be more than the total of your losses. These two are not the same thing – but we’ll come back to that in a moment.

Frist, though, let’s consider a few basic truisms. And these are as true in the world of gambling as they are in investing or trading – or any other arena where people are trying to make money in a market where everyone else is essentially doing the same thing; a market is a market and all markets have their own market dynamics.

It’s fundamentally important to understand that the future is, in no way, predictable in terms of what will happen – though the probabilities are. This is essential for any gambler and whilst most would nod their head in agreement – they don’t actually practice what they preach. They’re swayed by “expert” analysis and consensus – and a whole host of other factors rather than the relative values based on the numbers – the odds.

Ergo, good decisions can turn out to be wrong and bad decisions can turn out to be right. It’s hard, therefore, to “look” right very often – so we shouldn’t even try. This is not about vanity but cold, hard numbers only. The best gamblers are simply right more times than they’re wrong. Or more specifically, their overall wins are relatively bigger than their losers (even if the latter quantity is actually greater). They make more on their winners than they lose on their losers. So we all have to accept randomness and that we’ll get things wrong.

So let’s say, for example, that a friend is willing to gamble his 51 units of whatever against your 49 on the toss of a coin. The coin is true and fair and tossed by a third party – but your friend wins three in a row, pockets your 147 units – whatever they may be – and subsequently laughs all the way to the bank.

But here’s the thing; YOU were still right to take the bet – and you’d be right to take that bet forever. The fact that you actually lost is beside the point entirely.

The same goes in relative value in sports betting – even at much longer odds. If football side A is top of the league and side B is bottom and 10-1 against to win a game in which there has to be an eventual winner, the only decision you need to make is whether team B would be likely to win one from eleven games or more. If you think they’d be likely to win two out of 21 such games, for example, you would back them. This is relative value.

But how do you decide about this stuff? After all – with really big sporting events, you’re unlikely to be able to truly know something the rest of the market doesn’t.

The trick is in knowing your stuff and having the courage to be contrarian and have an understanding of the afore-mentioned probabilities and relative values; that’s all there is to it.

Some sports offer excellent opportunities for those who can truly specialise and have an inside edge due to their superior knowledge. In particular, sports where one person is playing one other person can be easier to read for the experts. So, for example, an experienced observer of tennis is more likely to be able to predict the way a match is going to develop than is an expert at something like 15-a-side Rugby Union, or 11-a-side football etc. This is because the observer can study one individual and ‘know’ to some extent at least, what is going on in the player’s mind and body and to be able to read tactics.

Some tennis players at the top of their game, for example, will be confident enough, even in the four major Grand Slam tournaments, to use the first set to find their range and generally settle into the match. This comes from the confidence that they’ll win the ensuing three sets with relative ease.

With betting exchanges that enable you to back or to lay either player at any moment during the game, and to gamble on the winner of individual sets, this offers obvious opportunities to the expert observer.

The gambling opportunities with Betfair and betting during play with a sport like boxing may be even greater. Again, this is because the experienced expert observer can read into a fight what the rest of us simply can’t. They will know when a boxer may be feigning fatigue or what his tactics are going to be in later rounds etc. Even those of us who don’t know much about boxing will have heard about or will be able to remember the Muhammed Ali versus George Foreman “rumble in the jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) back in 1974. In this fight, the man who many consider to be the greatest boxer of all time, Ali, let George Foreman punch himself out in the early rounds before launching a tirade in the eighth round.

Of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as that. Ali had jabbed away accurately at Foreman during the preceding rounds to help tire his opponent whenever he got a chance between the blows that were raining down on the side of his head (protected by Ali’s hands) and his body – and he taunted him continually. But it was mainly the effort Foreman had put in without much effect during rounds two to seven in particular that took its toll on the bigger man.

Now if you’d been a keen observer of boxing and understood what Ali was doing, and you began to see the signs that the more powerful George Foreman was just maybe beginning to get tired in the sixth round or, better yet, you anticipated that he was bound to start tiring (say around the fourth or fifth rounds) you would have been able to profit from your judgement.

Of course, exchanges and the like weren’t around in those days, but the point is valid anyway. But the interesting thing – and the vital point to remember – is that you may have been wrong. In a hypothetical re-run of that fight, you may back Ali in the sixth round but then the tiring George Foreman may have conserved a small amount of energy sufficient to land a haymaker in the eighth – anticipating Ali’s onslaught. In that case – we’d all have been left wondering what was wrong with Ali that night, why he just didn’t seem to ‘turn up’ for the night after all the publicity and preparation etc., and whether Foreman’s big punch was the greatest ever thrown perhaps.

But if this had been the case – you’d still have been right on the balance of probabilities to have backed Ali earlier on in the fight – which is entirely our point here. You will never get them all right and you may as well never even try to do so (be right that is). Instead, you should try to be able to demonstrate that the decision you took was the right one based on the overall balance of probabilities. As we said earlier; good decisions can turn out wrong, whilst bad decisions can turn out right. The crucial point is that you made the right decision on a value judgement basis at any particular point.

Let the outcomes take care of themselves and don’t sweat the times you lose because you’ll win more than you lose in this way. You could say you just have to roll with the punches perhaps!