The Best & Worst Bets in All 4 Major Sports

Four Major Sports Logo, Hand Holding Money

America’s 4 major sports have different things going for them:

  1. The NBA is young, fast-paced, urban, and mega-popular.
  2. The NFL is a high-impact league with lots of tradition.
  3. Baseball is the national pastime, a stately game with an equally-stately season length.
  4. The NHL has mostly regional appeal, but where it’s found, it’s viral.

Each of the 4 sports has characteristics that make some forms of betting good and some forms bad. This post explains the best and worst bets for each of America’s 4 major sporting leagues.

A Note on the Words “Best” & “Worst”

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. What I mean is, what makes one bet good and another bad is liable to be different from one person to the next.

For the most part, I think of a bet as “good” if it’s likely to win relative to other bets. The same goes for bad wagers – these are usually long-odds bets that promise big payoffs for some amount of risk.

If you’re a risk-taker and you like the thrill of high-risk/high-reward situations, you might have a different opinion than me.

Sports bettors like to win. You could probably extend that to every kind of gambler. Sure, some bettors prefer to chase that 8 team parlay for a big jackpot, but most of us just want to win more often than we lose and be able to buy an extra round of beers for the guys.

For this post, when you think of a “good bet,” think of one that’s likely to win. The same goes for a bad bet – if it’s a long shot, I’m going to think of it as a bad one.

1 – The Best & Worst NFL Bets

Most NFL bettors bet against a point spread. It’s a big part of the hobby, and it’s popular now to the point where you’ll see coverage of the spread on major sports news networks during game broadcasts.

But I don’t think betting against the spread is the best NFL bet. I’d say the easiest bet to handicap, and the easiest bet to win is a straight-up bet on the money line.

Betting on the NFL money line just means picking the team that will win outright.

When you read NFL odds, the money line tells you the potential payout and the implied probability of your wager in one easy-to-read location.

If you want to make your life even easier, bet on a home favorite. NFL teams favored to win at home have won around 65% of the time going back to the 2016 season. You can build a profitable system by only backing home favorites on the money line.

If you do a little more research, you can identify specific teams that perform particularly well in this situation.

Further Info:

Green Bay has won a profitable percentage of their home games as favorites in every season going back to their disastrous 2008 performance. Betting on the Packers when they’re favored at home is about as safe an NFL bet as you’re going to find.

Books aren’t going to give you great odds on home favorites, but the bets are relatively safe.

What’s the worst NFL bet?

It’s tempting to say, “parlays and teasers,” but that’s a bit of a cliché; plus, I think there’s some value in small parlays and teasers when they’re used by people who know what they’re doing.

I’d say the worst (meaning hardest) NFL bet is any futures bet. In a league that prides itself on parity, implementing a draft system, salary cap, and free agency market designed to level the playing field, it’s harder than in other sports leagues to pick out playoff participants, much less a conference champion or Super Bowl winner.

Placing a future bet on something like MVP or Coach of the Year is probably best approached as a pure game of chance – fun for a distraction, but not part of any serious betting strategy.

2 – The Best & Worst MLB Bets

Baseball betting is a tough nut to crack. It comes down to the sport’s schedule (long, repetitive, with lots of meaningless games), the streaky nature of hitting and pitching, and the lack of a point spread system.

Beating the book at baseball means winning consistently over a long period, wagering on a grumpy and streaky pool of players stuffed into ever-changing rotations.

The best bet in baseball, meaning by far the easiest to win, is a money line bet on an underdog team in April. Betting on the money line is straightforward – pick the winner, and you win.

Why do I pick underdogs in April?

It’s early in the season, and the books just don’t have a good sense of these underdog teams this early in the year.

Teams in this situation only win about 45% of the time, which isn’t profitable on its own. But because you’re backing underdogs, you’re getting better average odds than backing favorites, so it’s usually profitable, at least during the first three or 4 weeks of the year.

You can tweak this to meet your needs – if you see an underdog on a 2 game losing streak in a 3 game series, you’re likely to get reduced juice (+105 odds) on a team that’s very likely to pull off a face-saving series-ending W.

A really bad bet in baseball, a wager you’re not likely to win, is a bet for a home favorite to cover the run line. Remember that you’re backing a favorite, so you’re getting terrible odds.

It doesn’t help that only 4 teams covered the run line as home favorites enough to represent a profitable system. Home favorites are relaxed – they’re going to win, but they’re not going to press the runs.

3 – The Best & Worst NBA Bets

The NBA shares more features with baseball than people recognize. Both sports can turn on a single play, much faster than in hockey or football. A well-time 3, or a poorly timed defensive move that draws a foul, can flip the game and up-end even the most precise handicapping.

The easiest NBA bet to win – the best NBA bet – is a money line wager on a road favorite to win outright.


Since 2015, all but 2 NBA teams have won enough in this situation to produce a profitable betting system. That means they won more than 52.4% of the time as road favorites.

Golden State, the LA Clippers, and the Milwaukee Bucks have all won at least 70% of their away favorite games, which is a stunning statistic considering they’ve each played in nearly 200 such situations.

The only 2 teams who missed the mark – the Knicks and Atlanta – both won more than 50% of the time they found themselves in this situation.

The worst NBA bet is the point spread. Some writers argue that beating the spread in the NBA is the single hardest thing in traditional sports betting. The margins are narrow, the books are sharp, and NBA teams are equal enough in talent that it’s a tough win.

Going back to the 2015 season, just 3 teams (Boston, Miami, and the LA Clippers) have beat the spread consistently enough to work as a profitable system, but only just so. Boston’s 54% record ATS is profitable by less than two percent.

4 – The Best & Worst NHL Bets

Most sports bettors will tell you off-hand that the NHL is the toughest league to bet. I think that’s probably true, if for no other reason than it’s the sport that gets the least wall-to-wall coverage. The NHL is also the least forthright in terms of reporting rosters, injuries, and other information to the media.

There’s also some truth to the idea that NHL games are harder to handicap and NHL performances harder to predict than in other sports.

The best NHL bet is a wager on a rested road favorite. This works a lot like in the NBA, where the sportsbook is good enough at their job that a road team given favored status deserves a lot of respect.

Part of the reason road favorites do so well in the NHL is that home-ice advantage doesn’t seem to be worth much to NHL teams. Road teams win more often in hockey than in any other professional sport.

Rested teams have a huge advantage due to the physical nature of the game and the weight of its equipment.

The worst NHL bet is a weird one – backing home favorites, or even backing home teams ATS, appears to be particularly difficult, at least to do profitably. In most seasons, home favorites beat the spread less than 40% of the time. The trend is so striking that you can almost build a system around this, backing home and away underdogs blindly against the spread.


Understanding the characteristics of the sport you’re betting on is important.

You can’t bet on NHL hockey and NBA basketball in the same way, no more than you can play the two sports in the same style. If you want an easy path to betting success, match the sport you’re betting on to the bet that makes the most sense for that sport.

Jim Beviglia
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About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.