Sports betting strategies: the zig-zag theory

Sports betting strategies: the zig-zag theory

We all know the drill, right? If you’re trying to avoid getting shot, run away in a zig-zag pattern*. Well, that’s a grim intro to a sports betting article, we hear you say, but hear us out. While this method doesn’t actually work for escaping a gun, it might just help you become a better sports bettor.

*PS, this doesn’t actually work in real life, if you’re ever in an actual situation with an active shooter, run away in a straight line as fast as you can, or hide. Zig-zagging only slows you down.

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Because people genuinely had nothing better to do with their time in 2020, the World Rock Paper Scissors Association (yes, that’s a real thing) let the world know that the best way to win at this infamous game is to act truly randomly and play each move about one-third of the time.

Okay, but what does that, or the gun thing, have to do with sports betting – well, besides the fact that Rock Paper Scissors is an official sport that you can bet on, that is? Simple: these two strategies both take cognisance of the zig-zag theory.

This theory works on the basis that each game (or move) has an impact on the next one. Specifically, when it comes to sports betting, this theory imagines that the losing team from the first game will play harder during their next game in order to gain back their advantage, or pride. Therefore, it would, at least in theory, make sense to bet on the first game’s loser during the second game.

The zig-zag theory takes advantage of the way bookmakers calculate odds for any given game. For instance, the ‘home-team advantage’ is a well-known phenomenon where sports teams often perform better when playing at their club’s grounds. This advantage makes sense for many reasons: psychologically, the team is more comfortable being at home; they are more familiar with the grounds; their supporters are more likely to fill the seats. As a result, home teams are often favoured in the odds.

However, the smart bettor will also take into consideration what happened during the relevant teams’ previous matches. They will look at who won and who lost, and how the team is addressing this.

They will also look at game-specific statistics. Historical statistics can teach us a lot about how games play out. What percentage of games result in a win for the home team? In a tournament, which games tend to show more upsets and unexpected results?

The zig-zag theory is pretty contentious. In essence, it requires you to bet against the odds in favour of the loser of the previous game, based on the idea that they will come back hard and fight to win.

Statistically speaking, however, it’s a lot more complicated than that. To truly, accurately determine who will win any given game is impossible, of course, but we can look at the specific statistics for each type of sport to see how often applying this theory could work. For example, if the statistics show that, during a rugby tournament, the team that wins the first game wins their second game 65% of the time, the odds will reflect this. Betting on the other team has a statistically lower chance of resulting in a win for the bettor; however, the potential gains are much higher. In practice, you would apply the zig-zag theory to assume that the underdog will win this match and bet on them.

The actual results vary, depending on the type of sport and how tournaments are structured. This theory is favoured by ‘sharp’ bettors who believe it can provide them with an advantage that leads to potentially huge wins.

Firstly, don’t use it in isolation. The zig-zag theory is only one of many tools that the smart sports bettor uses to fine-tune their betting strategy. If you exclusively use this method to determine your bets, you may as well pick names from a hat – your chances of winning are about the same.

To use this tactic effectively, you need to consider more than just who won or lost their previous game – you also need to look at the tournament’s historical statistics, home-ground advantage and other factors. In other words, you need to use it in conjunction with other methods. The zig-zag theory works better for some types of sports than others; in fact, it was invented specifically to help sports bettors bet on NBA games, where tournaments follow a 2-2-1-1-1 structure for home/away games. The reliability of this method drops when the specific sport’s tournament structure is different.

Your best bet as a bettor is to carefully consider all factors involved in any given game and bet accordingly.

As a sports bettor, working out your personal strategy can be both challenging and rewarding. Our Sports Betting 101 series helps you come to grips with the basics of sports betting, while our sports betting strategy guides take your betting to the next level.