Sports betting can be a great way to add a little extra excitement while watching a game; a few of you might bet regularly and wonder what it might be like to sports bet for a living!
However, the reality is that most sports bettors lose in the long run, and in this article, we'll be breaking down why that is and what you should avoid if you want to start profiting.
Mistakes a Sports Bettor Makes
Sports betting is hard to make money from as not only do you need to accurately predict the outcome of a game you need to beat the built-in vig that sportsbooks add to their lines. The risks presented by sports betting are why some people see it as a waste of money since there is a slim chance of making money out of it. With the proper attitude and action, bettors can minimize their losses. To give yourself the best chance of profiting, avoid these mistakes:
Failure to Research the Players/Teams
The professional sports environment is always changing and if you're serious about betting you need to stay up to date with all the latest goings-on around your sport. Too many people rely on their previous knowledge of a team or a player when making a bet. The problem with this is that the human mind isn't perfect and not only can the information be way out of date, but it can also be tainted with biases and can be misremembered. Professional bettors do not assume they know everything and will always update themselves with the latest details on specific sports leagues.
If you are looking to bet on an event, it's important to look at the state of the teams in the lead-up to the game. Look for things like recent changes in form (good or bad), recent injuries or suspensions for key players, whether a certain referee is officiating the game, etc. All of these variables can have a big impact on the short-term result of an event and could provide value if you think the line hasn't adjusted properly.
Betting Based on Emotions
Part of the fun of gambling is the thrill of winning and the agony of defeat, but allowing your emotions to come into play whilst placing your bets is a recipe for disaster.
Sports betting profitably is about analyzing information, using that analysis to predict the likelihood of an outcome, then placing a wager on that outcome if you can find a line that is profitable based on your predictions. Nowhere in that sequence is there any room for emotional thinking.
Emotional thinking clouds your judgment and makes you disregard important pieces of information because you feel strongly towards one team or another. If we're not allowing ourselves to fully consider all the available information when making our decision, our decision is inherently flawed. Keep the emotions for when you're celebrating/commiserating after the game and let logic make your bets.
Placing Too Many Wagers
With hundreds of games across dozens of sports available to bet on every day, it's easy to get caught up and start betting on everything that catches your eye! The problem with this is that by betting on a large number of games, you're limiting the amount of time you can spend researching each one.
When trying to bet profitably, it's best to stick to a single sport and to limit yourself to a handful of games that you can research in full. Part of becoming a good sports bettor is being able to quickly identify value when looking at the lines set by the bookmaker. You don't want to waste your time researching a game when the line is unbeatable, instead look for the games where there's value to be had and spend your time researching and betting on those. This will get easier with practice.
You should never gamble with money that you can't afford to lose and must accept that losing is a part of gambling. This is especially the case with sports that have recurring events within the same day, like horse racing betting.
Even the profitable gamblers don't win every time! It's important that when you do lose you accept it and move on. If you ever start to feel angry, annoyed, upset, etc. then immediately stop and take a break.
These emotions can trigger people into wanting to chase their losses, and when you start to chase your losses you're on a train heading for disaster. Whether it's sports betting, blackjack, or roulette, the house has an edge and only a very few people are skilled enough to beat it over the long term. Therefore, trying to win back your money by emotionally betting even more money will only set you up for failure and the best thing to do is to stop gambling until you're emotionally ready to start again.
Being Biased When Betting
If you're betting on sports, you're likely a sports fan with a favorite team/player that you follow. I'm sure many of you have placed bets on your home team to win or your favorite player to score and enjoyed the double enjoyment of them doing well and you winning money.
While this seems like the perfect picture, in reality, you're likely costing yourself money. Remember, when you sports bet you're doing so to make money and you make money by finding value. Now, it could be the case that there is value in betting on a team/player you support, and if there is go right ahead!
However, most of the time that's unlikely to happen, and sometimes the value might be in betting against your team!
If your goal is to make money you need to put loyalty aside and focus on finding where the value is.
Constantly Betting on Under Dogs
Who doesn't love an underdog, especially when betting on boxing or MMA? A scrappy, down-on-its-luck team facing off beating the wealthy, in-form giant of the league are stories we tell for years and why we love sports. On top of that, bookmakers offer us long odds on these events to happen so we can turn our small investment into a huge payday!
Unfortunately, there's a reason bookmakers offer such long odds on underdogs - they don't win very often! Not only do they not win very often, but bookmakers regularly offer much worse odds than you would expect given the likelihood of them winning. I'll give you an example. If a team has a 5% chance of winning, their fair price would be 19-1. So factoring in the vig that bookmakers add to their lines, you'd imagine that they price this team winning at around 16/15-1 right? Wrong! Often you'll see bookmakers price way shorter odds like 10-1 or even 9/8-1.
They know that these long odds are attractive enough for some people to bet, even if they're way off what they should be. Occasionally there will be value in a longer-odds bet, but don't be taken in by an underdog story.
Drinking Whilst Betting
There is a long list of things that you shouldn't do whilst drinking and it's about time we added sports betting to that list. Drinking alcohol or taking narcotics dampens your cognitive ability, so trying to analyze information whilst drunk is going to result in some pretty poor analysis.
If you just want to have a good time watching the game, having a beer, and throwing a $5 bet on the home team then that's fine. There's nothing wrong with drinking and sports betting if it's purely recreational. However, if you're looking to profit from sports betting you need to be fully focused when analyzing the data you've collected so no alcohol or narcotics can be involved in the decision-making process.
Save the champagne for celebrating a big win rather than using it as inspiration for choosing your bets!
Methods in Profiting from Sports Bets
Set a Sports Betting Bankroll
Part of taking sports betting seriously is having a dedicated sports betting bankroll. Being able to track exactly how much you're up or down from day to day or week to week will help pinpoint when your decision-making is at its best or worst. A bankroll can also help you determine the ROI of sports bets you previously placed and are planning to make.
Having a dedicated bankroll allows you to scale up your betting as you win, creating a positive snowball effect where winning now means your future winnings get bigger. The best benefit of having an allocated bankroll is that it's always there when you find a good spot - there's no trying to find spare cash or borrowing off a mate, it's all there ready to bet with.
Look for Player Injuries and Sports News
Information is power, and nowhere is that more true than in sports betting. The best sports bettors gather as much information they can before a game and analyze it to help them predict the likelihood of each outcome.
Using sports news sites such as Sky Sports News and finding things like key players being injured, managers recently being hired/sacked, poor weather/travel conditions all affect how a team or a player might perform in a game. Your job as a sports bettor is to take in all that information and figure out how much (if at all) it will affect the result of the game, then bet accordingly.
Shop for Better Lines
Not all bookmakers evaluate the information in the build-up to a game the same way and as a result post differing lines. This is great news for us as sports bettors as once we've completed our analysis and decided what the line should be, we can shop around the various bookmakers to see which one gives us the best value.
Some bookmakers offer boosted odds on some big events or will give you the chance to boost odds on any bet as a reward. These odds boosters can turn a bad bet into a good bet so it's worth taking advantage of these offers if you can find them.
Whilst most sports bettors lose in the long run, knowing what to avoid can help your chances and maybe turn you from a loser to a winner!
This article was published on October 6, 2021, and last updated on October 24, 2022.