How to go From Being a Winning Poker Player to a Profitable Sports Bettor

If you are a professional poker player and you are looking to diversify your sources of income, sports trading has to be on the top of your list. 

Not only are the conceps similar, but also you can use similar winning strategies. 

In fact, the founder of Trademate, Jonas Gjelstad, found out these similarities and went from $10 000 to $1 000 000 in a year with sports betting. Also check out his interview on the Joe Ingram Podcast on HSPLO and Sports Betting below.


How Poker Relates to a key Principle from Statistics

One of the fundamental principles of poker is that it is a long run game.

Similarities between poker and sports betting

What this means is that over time the good and the bad luck will even out between players.

The players that actually possess an edge over the opposition are the ones that will be profitable in the long run.

What then is the long run? The easiest way to measure would be the number of hangs a player is playing.

The professional online poker players aim to play tens of thousands of hands every month, hundreds of thousands in a year, and millions over their career.

Over such a large sample size of hands, statistics and the law of large numbers come into play.

Basically, the law of large numbers, which you can read more about in this article, states that the mean of the results that you get from a large number of trials will get close to its expected value. (You can read more about expected value in this article).

Over a smaller sample size, there will be variance (good and bad luck), which are referred to as up and downswings—streaks of good and bad luck over multiple hands.

Up and downswings can last for long periods of time over many hands played.

If you know that you have an edge over the opposition, the only way to beat it is to keep going and build the sample size.

Eventually things will even out re the Law of Large Numbers.

Just make sure that the variance does not inflict crippling damage to your bankroll in the meantime.

The risk of which can be mitigated through proper stake sizing such as the Kelly Criterion and variance (risk) management.

The great thing about the Law of Large Numbers with regards to poker is that it gives the statistical underpinnings for why poker is a game of skill.

If you play enough hands, the good and bad luck will even out and you will be left with your expected value.

This is basically an indication of your skills relative to the opposition.

The best poker players consistently put themselves in +EV positions, because they know that over time it is going to play off.

This is why having a mathematical understanding of the game and being able to calculate pot odds is a fundamental step towards mastery.

If you don’t know how to calculate pot odds, you are lacking the tool to calculate whether you are making decisions that will pay off in the long run.

The Law of Large Numbers: Over time your results will equal the expected value or mean of your trials

The Law of Large Numbers: Over time your results will equal the expected value or mean of your trials

Poker is a zero-sum game and skills separate the proftiable from losing players. 

One of the great things about poker, which separates it from casino games, is that it is a game where you are playing against other players.

However, it is still a zero-sum game so the skill will be relative between players.

With the rise of educational poker sites and youtube channels over the last 10 years, the skill difference between players has even out.

With more skilled players, the game got tougher to beat.

A factor further complicating the matter is that the house also wants to have their cut for hosting the poker games.

From every hand that is played, they take a cut of the pot, in poker terms, this is called rake (also referred to as vig or margin).

So in order for a poker player to be profitable, not only do they have to beat the competition, they also have to beat the house rake.

On average the rake or margin is typically between 2.5%-10%.

The higher it is, the tougher the game is to beat and the larger the advantage the player needs over the competition in order to be profitable.

For example, if the house margin is 5%, the player has to be more than 5% better than the opposition in order to be profitable in the long run.

Luck, Edges and the short vs long run in poker

Now, in the short run (or a low number of hands), luck or randomness will play a larger impact on the outcome relative to skill.

But in the long run, a great player will crush a rookie.

For every hand that is played they will get a small +EV advantage that compounds with the number of hands played into a large advantage in the end.

So if you are playing against a superior player in a heads-up tournament.

You might actually be better off deciding the outcome on a coin flip all in, than trying to beat them over time.

There is a reason that a lot of the players at the WSOP final tables every year are the same.

Those players have managed to master the skill of poker and gained an edge over their competitors.

Value betting in Poker

So how does all of this relate to value betting?

First off, inside poker, there is a specific term called a “value bet” or “value betting”.

This refers to a situation when you are confident that you have a better hand than your opponent (you have a +EV or positive expected value).

So you determine you stake size for the next bet (the value bet) in order to maximize the profits you take away from the hand.

Value betting in poker is crucial, because if done correctly it enables you to make more money from hands where you have an advantage.

Also, spotting when the competition is value betting will enable you to save money when you have an inferior hand.

Although there are certain similarities, it is not to be confused with the term value betting in sports betting. 

From Poker to Value Betting in Sports

There are a lot of similarities between poker and sports betting.

Both are zero-sum games.

Both are games where the house takes a margin and has an advantage over the player for hosting the game.

In poker, you are only competing against other players, while in sports betting you are competing against other players and against the house.

If the house has a lot of bets on both sides of a game, for example a Premier League game between Manchester United and Liverpool, then you are competing against other players.

If you are betting on English Conference League, then you are likely betting against the house as they will not be able to get an even amount of bets placed on both teams in smaller games and competitions.

Football odds is based probability theory

Football odds is based probability theory

The Law of Large Numbers and Finding Value Bets, Which Have a Positive Expected Value

The Law of Large Numbers applies both to poker and sports betting.

In order for you to be a profitable poker player or sports bettor you have to make +EV bets over time.

In poker, this is betting and maximizing profits when you have a hand that is superior to your competition’s (you can also bluff, but let’s leave that out for simplicity’s sake).

While in sports betting it is about making bets that are +EV relative to the odds offered by the bookmaker (the house).

Finding +EV bets in sports bettings is what Trademate helps you doing.

We compare thousands of games across multiple sports in real-time in order to find value bets.

Basically, we are exploiting the inefficiencies that exist in sports betting markets.

This occurs because different bookmakers offer different odds on the same game.

Contrast this to poker, if you know the cards that all the other players are holding, you can calculate the correct probability of each player winning the hands.

A key difference between poker and sports is that the bookmakers do not know the true probability of the game.

Bookmakers are merely guessing who is going to win and who is going to lose.

And some of them are a lot better at “guessing” than others.

Which is what Trademate is exploiting.

Finding and edge and beating the bookmakers

Now in order for you to beat the bookmakers, finding the +EV bets—or value bets as we call them—is the first step.

The second step is that you need to build your sample size of bets so that the Law of Large Numbers kicks in.

With a large sample, your actual results close in on your theoretical results (your expected value).

This is why at Trademate we measure the closing odds at the time the game starts.

As explained in this article the closing odds (also referred to as closing line) is the best benchmark for determining what is a +EV or -EV bet.

If you are beating the closing line over time, you actually have an edge over the bookmaker.

Did you know you can get a 1 week free trial of Trademate Sports?

Did you know you can get a 1 week free trial of Trademate Sports?

From Professional Poker Player to Professional SporTs Bettor

Jonas Gjelstad who founded Trademate and is one of Norway’s most winning poker players of all time (including Heads Up No Limit Texas Hold’em Champion in 2016). 

He realized that he could find +EV bets in sports betting markets.

Trademate Sports has been built around automating his approach.

To use an analogy, we are a more advanced version of a poker HUD.

Heads Up Display gives you information about the competition when playing online poker, for example Holdem Manager and Pokertracker.

Not only do we keep track of your stats, but we also take it one step further and show you where you can find value bets.

Your part of the job is to place the bets and build your sample size.


Jonas Gjelstad: Professional sports bettor and poker player. Trademate Sports founder.

Jonas Gjelstad: Professional sports bettor and poker player. Trademate Sports founder.

Expectations and using Trademate Sports

Finally, a few words to manage your expectations.

Just like you will not become a professional poker player like Daniel Negreanu after playing 100 hands of poker, you won't get Jonas Gjelstad's results after placing a 100 bets.

Learning a skill and mastering a craft takes time and there are no shortcuts or getting rich quick.

You have to do the work and when using Trademate that implies getting in the bets.

Also, just like Jonas Gjelstad does not share all of his edges in poker or betting, Trademate does not contain all of the answers to profitable sports betting.

Trademate is a tool, which you can customize by setting up your own presets.

But we do have a fundamental approach and setting that has enabled our users to beat the bookies with an avg. ROI of 2.17% per bet over more than 1 million bets placed.

So we are confident in stating that Trademate works well.

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