What Does Consensus Bet Mean?

By Andrew D

June 22, 2022

Image Courtesy of Alamy

Those of you who have delved a little further into the world of sports betting may have come across the phrase “consensus bet” or some variation thereof.

So, what is the betting consensus?

In this article, we will take a look at the meaning of a consensus pick and how it applies to your online sports betting journey.

Whether it can help or hinder you in your mission to beat the bookies.


The betting consensus is a representation of all the bets that have been placed on an event (in our case NBA game or outcome). This representation is in percentage form.

For example:

Let’s say for ease of illustration that 100 people place bets on Reds vs Blues. 33 of them think the Reds will win. 67 the Blues.

The consensus report will therefore read:

  • Reds – 33%

  • Blues – 67%

How does that help us?

There are debates around the wisdom of using the consensus to decide your own betting. It is perhaps more complex than it seems at first glance so let’s take a deeper look.


We are social, compliant creatures at heart. All of us crave acceptance and conformity in some capacity. Check out Derren Brown and his social experiments if you don’t believe us.

If we see that the majority of people think the Blues are going to win then, as inexperienced bettors, we are more likely to follow suit.

We assume that those people know something we don’t. That they are privy to insider information and secret calculations beyond the realm of our comprehension.

Or perhaps we’re just lazy and assume that more action on the Blues means they’re more likely to win.

Whatever the reasons, following the consensus picks is extremely popular with many bettors. It is an observable phenomenon in betting on all kinds of sports games from NFL football to the good old NBA.

But there’s a problem

Well, there are a few but let’s take them one at a time.

In going with the flow, bettors are themselves contributing to the general consensus of opinion. At what point do we believe the smart bettors with the valuable insight into the game stopped being the ones driving the consensus picks and the bandwagon jumpers became the dominant factor?

Is the mob simply a bunch of sheep following themselves in a circle?

It is not sensible to assume that any of the sharp bettors are siding with the majority. It may be quite the opposite. More of that later.

What if the Blues are a team that regularly sees a lot more betting action than other teams?

What if their fans are particularly affluent and will bet on them to win no matter what?

Loyalty is a fierce driver of wagering sometimes

We might expect to see reverse line movement in this situation if they are technically the underdog.


Ok, so if it’s not always sensible to go with the consensus picks, then betting against the public might be a decent tactic right?

It is certainly one that some people engage in. Let’s take a look at why that might also be a problematic long-term strategy…

When we’re in a simplistic situation of one team versus another for betting purposes, we can go with the consensus picks or we can choose the opposite team.

This is known as “fading the public”

Now it may be that you fade the public purely by chance and never see any consensus statistics. You’re bound to do one or the other when you place any bet.

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Statistically, the bookmakers never lose.

Sure, they have losses and setbacks like any gambler.

But over time they always win

It is a complicated and sophisticated system that they have behind them when it comes to setting the odds and predicting the final score. When we simplify the situation it comes down to this:


Sportsbooks will lessen the blow and make it harder for you to take their money by adding “vigorish” or “juice” to the cost of your bet (essentially a fee for the privilege of betting against them)

But even without the juice, they would still win. Why is that?

They certainly know more than you. They have armies of information and data gatherers who will input their findings into complex algorithms and number-crunching programs.

They are also often run by highly experienced and intuitive gamblers.

So – that’s it then right? Just fade the public each time and, over the long run, you are destined to come out on top?

Not so fast my friend…

As we touched upon when talking about the fans who make up the majority in those consensus picks, we are in the dark as to who is driving the betting.

The betting population which makes up the percentage is completely unknown. To blindly bet against the public simply because they tend to lose in the long run is a poor tactic. You will certainly make money sometimes. Then you will lose it again.

Breaking even would be an achievement this way

But you said that the bookmakers always make money!

And they do. But they are playing a game whereby hundreds of thousands of people place wagers with them. Plus they have juice on top. They don’t have to make massive percentages in order to generate vast sums of money.

Remember the movie Office Space (class – go check it out) They accrue hundreds of thousands of dollars super-fast by taking a minuscule percentage from each transaction. They don’t rely on massive wins.

Just a constant stream of punters with losing bets is enough to sustain and enrich them.

But you don’t have that advantage, so you have to be smarter than that

The bottom line is this:

Consensus figures are not predictive in any way.
They are based on any number of myriad factors that we have no way of quantifying and gauging.

If there is a surge of betting on the Boston Celtics around St. Patrick’s day, are we to assume they have a better chance of winning than they did the week before?

Or is it just a side effect of a ton of misguided people who believe they’re of Irish descent arbitrarily putting money on the side they feel represents their roots?

Interesting aside that pedants and spoilsports love to drag up:-

St. Patrick was actually born in Roman Britain in c385 and was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken there as a slave.

In its essence, sports betting comes down to bettor vs. bettor.

It’s a battle of wits pitted in the arena of the sports event of your choice. One warrior has the might of vast wealth and comprehensive data behind them. (clue, that’s not you)

The other has their intelligence, feel for the game, and good old chutzpah.

Anyone can catch a lucky betting result and even put together a string of them sometimes but it can and will never last. To succeed you need a strategy and perhaps a model – see our article – ‘How to build an NBA betting model‘ for that.


Whoever has the most information has the biggest advantage. Studying betting consensus numbers is empty work. Even if the consensus numbers are accurate, none of the effort put in to decipher them can be carried over to the next day. Consensus numbers apply only to present events and are not predictive in any way.

Inexperienced bettors like consensus numbers because they believe it aligns them with the people who are in the know and have the best chance of beating the odds. But it simply isn’t so.


Betting consensus numbers are an interesting glimpse into how other people view the lay of the land but not much more.

It is simply too difficult to predict how many of the people driving the consensus picks are basing their decisions on good information. And how many are simply following the crowd.

As with everything when it comes to sports betting, it is important not to give any individual pieces of data accumulated too much credence. They must form part of a wider NBA betting strategy that incorporates all kinds of different angles and concepts. See our in-depth article – ‘NBA betting strategy‘ for a revealing, practical look at how that might work.

Do your due diligence. Focus on the information you have available to you and make your decisions based on informed deductions. Not some delusional belief that either consensus picks or fading the public will lead you to glory.

Oh, and always remember the golden rule:


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