How to Beat the Odds: Tips to Help You Beat the Bookies and Sportsbooks
By Loot, Professional Sports Bettor, Lootmeister.com
To get to the point where you can beat the odds means you are doing a lot of things right as a handicapper. Some has to do with the actual handicapping of the game, but other things have to do with how you handle money and how you handle yourself. If you can do most of the following things, you will at least put yourself in a position to beat the odds.
In any form of gambling, the odds are stacked against us. That’s why they’re able to build replica Eiffel Towers in Las Vegas. Sports betting is no different. What that means for you is that it is going to require a special effort to buck the house-edge. You can’t just stumble along and hope it all works out. You need to approach your sports betting studiously and with a level of seriousness. Let this serve as a checklist. And then there are still a ton of things to do. This would certainly be a good start.
Understanding Betting: Before embarking on an activity where you put money on the line, it helps to really have a lot of know-how. To fully comprehend sports betting, there is a lot to learn--beyond the surface understanding that many of the general betting public possesses. Know the odds and what they truly represent. Understand all the different bets so you can employ the most sensible weapons against the book. In other words, have a really solid handle of all the ins-and-outs within the discipline of sports wagering.
Understanding Yourself: Before anyone makes a sports bet, they have some idea of what they are in terms of a gambler. Are you a bad gambler? Are you an impulsive gambler? Is self-control a trait that evades you? Acknowledge all the characteristics you have that run counter to what a successful sports bettor is and then make some accommodations.
A successful sports bettor is a highly disciplined person who practices high levels of selectivity and self-control. If you picture that being something that will be hard for you, make the proper adjustments. The reason most people fail in sports betting is because they are not disciplined, they don’t stay within the game-plan, and are guided by impulse. You know yourself better than anyone. Be honest and realize there may be some gambling traits you have that need to be worked out before you can become a successful sports bettor.
Fix Your Leaks: Sports betting is a calculating form of gambling. We do everything we can to make our best picks and swing the odds more in our favor via a variety of tactics. The results take place over the course of time, where we hope to show a longterm profit. We need to remind ourselves why it’s important to stick to sports betting. What good is it to painstakingly handicap games and practice sound sports betting practices and money management skills if at the end of the day, we’re just going to gamble it away on a different form of gaming?
No one is saying to not recreationally gamble. If playing poker is your thing, go ahead and have at it. It’s just that a lot of otherwise profitable sports bettors lose because they participate in forms of gambling where the edge is all with the house. It makes no sense. If being a serious sports bettor appeals to you, it’s imperative that your bankroll is not put in jeopardy constantly because you’re playing games where you’re almost guaranteed to lose.
Money Management: We’re not going to get into a laborious description of money management or explore all the different systems. Let’s just throw a few guidelines out there. There’s a few things you need to do--keep your bets small in relation to your total bankroll and don’t go off the deep end with your bet amounts. A lot of bettors who show a lot of talent find their way onto the extinction list because they can’t get this aspect of their game together.
There are guys who go broke after going 10-2. They win 10 straight bets and turn a $100 bankroll into $1200. Then they make two $600 bets and lose them both. Don’t be that guy. Have patience in getting the desired results. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” is a worn-out slogan, but it’s important to keep that in the forefront of your mind when betting sports. If you constantly have all your money laid out there in outstanding bets, it’s just a matter of time before the doo-doo hits the fan. Raise the amounts of your bets sensibly and in proportion to the growth of your bankroll. You’ll be happy you did.
Selectivity: This an indispensable weapon in the arsenals of sports bettors. But only if it used to its full potential. Look at it this way--the bookie has to put a line on every game. That doesn’t mean you have to bet every game. In fact, the best bettors are the ones who are best able to isolate the terms of battle along the lines that are most favorable to them.
Selectivity is the one main dynamic that is in the bettor’s favor. A bettor can sit back and wait for the spots that present the best value. Other forms of gambling force you to play every hand, spin, roll, and game. In sports betting, you play when you’re good and ready. This can only be of aid to the bettor who is discriminating and playing only the best picks.
Taking Advantage of Perks: Sportsbooks, both online and on-land, will do different little things to encourage customers to steer their action towards them. Some of the things the books offer can help you tilt the house-edge more in your direction. The main thing we’re looking for is reduced juice or enhanced payouts. When able to bet at -105 odds instead of -110 on ATS bets, we can cut the bookie-edge in half. If standing to win more than we would at other books, we also help cut down on the ever-powerful bookie juice. Try to take advantage of the book’s generosity when they make things easier for us in an effort to drum-up consumership.
Line Movement: Getting the best deal on the odds or point spreads you play can pay big dividends over time. When the number you have on a game is a little better than what most people have, it’s not hard to see how that can pay off over the long-haul. Learning all the ins-and-outs of line movement is not easy and it takes a lot of insight and experience. But even novice bettors can learn some line movement fundamentals that could boost their results. One small thing bettors can do to get better lines is to keep open multiple sports betting accounts, so that when there is a difference in the odds, you can have a choice of the odds that better suit your pick.
Actually Handicap the Games: A lot of bettors rely a lot on feel. Sure, they follow the sport and know a lot about the teams. But when it comes to sitting down and actually doing the hard work of handicapping a game, a lot of bettors fail to do it. There is no substitute for hard work in sports betting. Having good feel and instincts can help, but only when accompanied by real handicapping. Those who work the hardest and search high and low for real edges are the ones who will do better.
Acknowledging the Element of Hype: The element of hype can drastically alter odds, in addition to our perception of different sports. Those who succeed at sports betting are the people who are more immune to hype. They form their own opinions, rather than just assuming a team with a lot of hype is good, while the teams you never hear about are bad.
And when looking at the odds and point-spreads, a team that is being heavily-hyped is not likely to yield much betting value. A good sports bettor can determine when odds are feeding off hype more so than actual merit. A successful sports bettor will bet on good teams, but will rarely if ever take the short end of the stick when it comes to value. And the way to do that is to develop an immunity to hype.
Looking For Things the Bookie Didn’t Notice: The bookies remain in business and profit year after year for a reason. They know what they’re doing. At the same time, there are elements that can determine the results of games that the bookie pays less attention to than other things. A lot of those things exist in the mentality of the players and teams. A team’s season is like a story. The more familiar you are with that story, the more able you will be to isolate the peaks and valleys.
Keep your eyes peeled for teams that are playing in games where their sense of urgency will be heightened. Look for teams that have an axe to grind--like a revenge factor. Look for subtle signs that a team is turning things around, even of their results don’t exactly show it. There are a lot of things wrapped up in the elements of momentum, inertia, and emotion that aren’t always properly accounted for by bookies.
Focus More on the “Why” and “How”: When handicapping games, we will almost always look at past results. That’s a good thing, but only if we delve. Merely looking at a past result in terms of the score can lead us astray. We all watch games where the final result hardly tells the whole story. When looking at past results, look into why and how a team ended up with that result. Then explore what could easily change in the upcoming game that makes those results more moot. For example, a football team may have lost 35-21, but if two of the opponent’s touchdowns were flukes, that could throw a different light on it. Again, it boils down to hard work. The temptation will always be to take a past result at face value. But the more you dig into it, the more you realize that there is a lot more to it than that may not be indicated on the surface.
Lifestyle: When you look at those who bet on sports, it’s clear that a spartan lifestyle is not required. After all, we’re not the athletes. At the same time, betting on sports requires a peak mental condition. Remember, we are doing something where not many people thrive. So, it really requires a special effort.
There are any number of things that can come up in the lives of sports bettors that can compromise mental acuity. Maybe you’re coming off a night of drinking. It might not be the best time to wake up in the morning and try to beat the bookie. Or maybe you and your significant other are at each other’s throats. Again, this is something that tends to not boost your mental powers. A successful sports bettor has the wisdom to know when life is simply not cooperating and the knowledge that there are going to be a plenty of good bets just around the corner. You don’t have to bet today.
Handicap Yourself: Just as we analyze the games, we need to turn the handicapping inward at times. What are our weaknesses? What are some reasons we may not make it in sports betting? What are we doing to undermine ourselves? It could be something about the way we are picking games. It might be the fact that we are being too willy-nilly with our money. It can really be anything.
Also explore your expectation levels. A lot of fledgling sports bettors expect winning to be like someone getting on a hot run at the craps table. They expect too much, thinking their bankrolls are going to inflate exponentially. Sports betting success is accrued slowly and over time. You win some, you lose some, and hopefully it works out in your favor over time. A lot of bettors can’t mentally handle the deliberate and ponderous nature of sports betting and they start doing things they shouldn’t do. That’s how a lot of bettors end up on the sidelines by midseason--they never give themselves a chance to work it out. They want to hit the ground running and when they don’t, they lose their cool.
Don’t Side With the Public: For some bizarre reason, bettors find comfort if knowing that the bulk of the general betting public in on their side. The fact that the general betting public loses should indicate to you that forging your own path is critical. Sports betting is one of those things where it pays to stand on your own two feet. Being original and willing to take unpopular stands will get you further than riding the public’s coattails.
This isn’t apparent in all games, but there will often be a side that is favored by the public. Maybe it’s because one of the two teams is a national favorite. With some games, it’s just obvious who the “public” team is. Now, if you were a bookie and knew one team was going to have a lot of support, you wouldn’t need to make the odds or spread on that choice all that enticing. The value would likely be on the other side. Not that you should pick against the public in knee-jerk fashion, but there is no comfort to be found in having a lot of people on your side.
Hard Work: To be an expert bettor on sports is something that requires a lot of time and work. It’s not for everyone. Those who are already busy in their everyday lives will find it difficult to crowbar in the work of handicapping into their routines. At the same time, there is an unavoidable component of work that goes into successful sports betting.
You have to watch the games. Not just the teams you like, but all the teams--in order to formulate a better understanding. You have to follow results, different players’ progress, and a whole bunch of other things. And that’s before you even sit down to handicap a specific game. Following sports well enough to justify betting on it and the handicapping itself takes a lot of time. There is unfortunately no substitute to circumvent the hard work.
Avoid Sucker Bets: Throughout the season in any sport, you will come across bets that seem almost too good to be true. The odds are so favorable-looking that the temptation is to bet everything on it. In sports betting, all that shimmers is not golden. In fact, you could be going headlong into the bookie’s trap.
On one hand, we want to find bets with favorable odds. There is a fine line, however, as some odds will just be serving as a big carrot the bookie is dangling for us to bite into. If a bet looks too good, there could be a few different things at play. We could just be guilty of some major oversight we’re not taking into account. Or the bookie knows something we don’t.
For example, if there is an NFL prop bet where you pick which of two receivers will have the most yards and one guy leads the league in yards and the other pick is a marginal 2nd receiver on his own team, your sucker bet antenna should go up. The time-worn expression “if it’s too good to be true..” really holds water in sports betting.
Avoid Extravagant Bets: We’re not going to sit here and plead with you to never make parlays or any of the dozens of other more exotic wagers available. There is no “nevers” in sports betting. But by the same token, there’s a lot to be said for the bettors who make it easy on themselves by making straight bets--where they’re asking for one thing to go their way.
Making straight bets where you need one thing to happen helps you avoid a lot of heartache. First of all, they are far and away the most sound bets to make from an odds standpoint, offering the best value of any wager you can make on sports. It is also a good idea to have the success of your picks not rely on the success of other picks in order to get credit for them, which is required in bets like parlays and teasers.
Make it easy on yourself. Making straight bets requires you to be good in order to profit longterm, but at least it is possible. It can be done. At the same time, don’t rule out the more extravagant bets altogether. Making straight bets can make you feel like you’re running off-tackle every play. That “three yards and a cloud of dust” tactic is advisable, but it’s OK to spice it up sporadically and throw the ball downfield. But if you find yourself doing that on every play or every other play, you are making it really hard on yourself.
Handling Winning and Losing: Believe it or not, both can present problems. The winning bettor can start to get a big head and get away from the things that led to the success in the first place. And as we discussed before, a lot of people use winning as an excuse to elevate their bets to unreasonable levels. The thought behind it is well-intentioned enough. A person could easily rationalize making bigger bets. If they’re winning betting small, they can win more betting big, right? Well, it doesn’t work that way. The winning streak always comes to an end and if it does when you decided to go bonkers on your bet amounts, it won’t take long to wipe out all the progress that you made.
Handling losing can be a real challenge. Losing in sports betting is not like losing in other forms of gaming like blackjack or slots or whatever it is. In those games, the input from you is secondary. A robot could do it. But losing in sports betting is more personal. It’s like an assault on our intelligence, our knowledge of sports, and our overall analytic powers.
It is imperative to develop a callous when it comes to losing because it’s going to happen. And it will happen a lot. To win in sports betting is to lose in sports betting. They go hand in hand. If every time you lose, you are thrown off-center and start acting out of desperation, that’s a big problem. If you feel compelled to chase losses without a level head, disaster is just around the corner.
The idea is to win more than you lose, but that’s something that takes time to establish. Along the way, there will be days or even weeks that are brutal. The true test is not in winning, but rather in your ability to withstand the rough patches. If you keep your wagers small and never chase or try to double-up with huge bets, you will give yourself a chance to withstand the drought. If you do the equivalent of throw your hands up in the air and go for broke, broke is what you will become. Again, it’s easy to look good when winning. The real barometer of your ability to succeed in sports betting will be based on whether or not you can handle losing with a clear head.
No Such Thing as Big Games in Sports Betting: What this means is that just because a game is a massive attraction doesn’t make it worthy of a bet. It’s a common problem with bettors, who think a Super Bowl means it’s the Super Bowl of wagering. In sports betting, every game is viewed the same way--a chance to make money or not. The magnitude of a game does nothing to affect its worthiness as a bet. If anything, the big games usually offer less advantages because the lines and spreads are drum-tight.
Don’t Be a Fan: Well, let’s rephrase that--don’t let your being a fan get in the way of your success as a bettor. It’s a good idea to avoid betting on teams you really love. Some people can avoid betting with their heart and if you can, good for you. But when you have strong feelings for a team, whether positive or negative, it is difficult to establish clear vision when handicapping their games. You might bet on that team because you like them or go out of your way not to bet them just to prove you’re not a homer. Either way, there are enough other games to bet on if you are unable to abandon all your biases when betting on teams you feel strongly about.
Another common mistake is when people bet on games that are going to be on TV. Maybe it’s a Thursday night football game and you want to have “action.” If you legitimately handicapped the game and found an edge worthy of making a bet, that’s one thing. But a lot of bettors make a pick that really amounts to throwing something against the wall to see if it sticks just so they can have some action riding on a game they are watching on TV. We’re not saying to make sports betting a joyless endeavor, but letting entertainment-value propel your bets is not a winning recipe.
Look Within the Specific Matchups: A major mistake on the part of a lot of bettors is to look at competing teams or athletes as individual entities, rather than trying to account for how they will mesh on the playing field. In other words, sporting events are not played on paper. It only takes us so far when we simply judge the individual power of a team or athlete. It’s not about ranking teams on our little internal scales of power. It’s all about figuring out how those two different sides will mesh. What those teams will create when they compete is what we need to predict. A lot of bettors fall by the wayside by looking at sporting events like a pose-down.
Styles mean everything. Some teams are just harder on other teams due to the way they play. A boxer may be able to annihilate brawlers of high-standing, but a lesser fighter who employs a moving-style beats him. There are different elements that lie within the styles that can suggest many things. We need to be willing to dig under the surface to discover these things. We’re looking for details within all the different stylistic quirks that suggest a team has a better or worse chance of winning than what the bookie is forecasting. In a nutshell, that’s what it is all about.
Avoid Patterns on What You Bet: Value in sports betting can be found across the entire gamut--home teams, road teams, favorites, underdogs, good teams, bad teams, and the list goes on. Avoid falling into patterns, where you are betting on one thing all the time. Some guys are so hellbent on not buying the hype that they always bet underdogs. Some players do the opposite, thinking they have the edge by having the “better” team. With odds and point-spreads, that doesn’t work, either.
Mix it up. Be just as likely to bet on a good team as you are a bad team. Be just as likely to take a road team as you are a home team. Again, the goal is to look for value. That can be found anywhere. If falling into a rut betting one way all the time, you’re likely leaving a lot of good betting value on the table.
Nuances in the Scheduling: No team, fighter, athlete, or competitor looks at every game or match exactly the same way. Throughout the course of a season or year, there are peaks and valleys. In football, for example, there are simply games that are bigger, that mean more, and that teams try harder to win. It could be that a team’s entire season is hinging on a game--like a team that needs to win to get into the playoffs. Or it could be a rivalry game that just commands more attention and urgency.
The point is that the season doesn’t occur of a flatline. If able to sense where the peaks and valleys are, you can avoid making some losing bets. For example, there is something known as as a “sandwich game,” which is an inconsequential game that comes right between two important games. In college football, it would be like if Alabama played LSU, Memphis, and South Carolina in 3 consecutive weeks. LSU and South Carolina are usually tough conference games. Memphis is a team they’re going to be favored to beat by 40+ points. Not that they won’t cover the spread necessarily, but it’s a potential letdown spot.
And that’s all we’re looking for is “potential.” There are no indicators that are going to yield 90% correct picks. We’d be thrilled with 60%. In other words, teams that are in what may look to a be a letdown spot cover a ton of spreads. Our goal is to build a picture, to develop a story. And this is just one of many elements that plays a role. Sometimes, sensing a team will not be that pumped up or that a team will be highly-motivated can tip a game in our favor.
Injuries: It’s easy when a star player is sidelined. That is readily accounted for by the bookie. But there are some less-celebrated players where injuries can play a big role, even if you’re not hearing about it every 5 minutes on ESPN. For example, a college quarterback and center have been working together for 2 years and the center is our for the week. This is something you may not even hear about that could drastically affect the game. In every sport, there are players whose actual merit far surpasses their star-power. When looking at injuries, we need to account for the more subtle issues.
In addition, there are players who may play, but are nursing an injury that is affecting their level of effectiveness. You may see players who have a fearsome reputation, but playing with this injury has rendered them a dramatically-diminished force. Maybe it’s a running back with a hurt big toe or an MMA fighter with a shoulder injury who can’t afford to bail out on a fight for professional or financial reasons.
A lot of fans restrict their analysis of injuries to looking for the big names. And if both teams have a small list of injuries, the bettor will assume it’s a wash. The thing is that there is almost no good that comes from noting the major injuries because the bookie has already made the accommodation. Where we can really gain an edge is in the more subtle variances--when the injury bug affects less-celebrated players and when a player’s performance is compromised by nagging injuries.
Continuing Education: In sports betting, it’s critical to not rest on our laurels. The landscape of sports changes constantly, as does the betting aspect. Thoughts and beliefs that are stuck in concrete will not produce the best selections, needless to say. We need to maintain an almost-liquid perception of sport. While there are certainly opinions from last month that apply today, things can change on a dime.
To avoid being left in the dust, never assume you have something completely figured out. If you see a team and think you know what they’re about, go ahead and watch them play again. In sports betting, it’s up to you to stay on top of everything. And that doesn’t simply apply to the teams. It also applies to the betting angle.
Don’t Forget to Focus on the Game You are Playing: As we spend time handicapping the games upon which we bet, we may forget the other game, the game we’re playing--sports betting. As we fuss over every detail on the field-of-play, it’s easy to forget that we are also playing a game, a game where we need to be at our sharpest to win.
Just as we may criticize a team for not taking the right approach, we need to turn some of that sentiment inward. Make sure you’re doing everything in your power to be the best at the game you’re playing. That could mean choosing the bets that give you the most mileage on your gambling dollar. It could mean to fully use your powers of selectivity. The bottom line is that we can’t just worry about the game we bet. We need to focus on the quality of our game as sports bettors.
Finding the Right Book: It’s imperative that a sportsbook provide you with the canvas you need to showcase the full scope of your sports betting abilities. You’d be surprised how much variation there is from book-to-book, from the bets they offer to how much they pay for the various wagers.
Find a book that gives you the best shake for your money and the most variety on the bets you make. Most books cover the basics, but if you like adding some of the more obscure wrinkles to your bets, make sure the book is in line with what you like to do. Some books restrict what money lines you can parlay or they handcuff you when buying points. There can be any number of things that one book has that aren’t offered by a different book.
With the sportsbook world being so competitive, bettors can be discerning in where they steer their business. If a book offers a -105 betting line against-the-spread, that’s a great perk, allowing you to cut the bookie juice in half. (You can find -105 reduced odds sports betting at 5Dimes) Other books may offer enhanced parlay payouts or “ties win” on their teasers. On baseball bets’ maybe they offer a “dime line,” as opposed to the 20-cent line offered at a lot of places. Don’t just blindly sign up at a book and assume everything will be up to snuff. Do you research. It’s easy. No one is more than a few clicks away from finding out who are the solid and trustworthy books and what they offer or don’t.
Steeling Yourself Mentally: It helps to prepare yourself for all the pitfalls that betting on sports can provide. If you are going to bet on sports, you have to resign yourself to certain facts and not all of them are pleasant. Chief among those things is the fact that you’re going to lose some bets. That’s right out of the gate. And a lot of them are going to be in agonizing fashion. Whether betting on football, basketball, baseball, boxing, MMA, soccer, hockey, or whatever it is--there will be some losses that are borderline-torturous.
There can be a lot of failure and grief in sports betting. You need to steel yourself for the full scope of possibilities that await. Everyone goes through their ups and downs. What allows the winners to stand out is that they were able to withstand the rough moments and patches. That takes a certain amount of preparation, sort of like how someone walking on hot coals would psych themselves out beforehand. Know what you’re getting into and that not everything will be roses all the time. After all, so few people succeed at this. Therefore, it’s only right that we own up to how difficult this is and that it’s natural to take some knocks along the way.
Choose Advice Wisely: Even capable bettors can fall prey to listening to the wrong people. In sports betting, it really helps to be able to stand on your own when it comes to forming opinions on what will happen in a sporting event. Sports is one of those areas in life where people feel quite comfortable in offering up their opinion freely. How many of these people are really experts? And beyond that, how many of them are figuring odds and point spreads into their analysis?
There are people who know a lot about sports and listening to them can be of some use. But most of it is utterly worthless and if anything, it can steer us in the wrong direction. There are just certain people who are not going to help us cover spreads and win bets and that list includes talking heads on sports news TV, radio talk show hosts, a bartender, a co-worker in the break room, your sports-crazy friend, or your neighbor. That also extends to the guy you see at a sportsbook who is dying to tell you what his “locks” are.
While it’s OK to take some bits and pieces here and there from people we respect when it comes to sports, there is a big difference between being a fan and being a bettor of sports. Nothing you see on TV is geared toward a sports bettor. The guy at the water cooler at work talking football might not even know what a point spread is. And maybe the guy at the sportsbook who smells of 3-day old beer isn’t a good candidate to become your guiding light in wagering.
Double Credit in Handicapping: A lot of bettors, especially beginning ones try to do the job of a bookie and not a bettor. In other words, they go over different factors of the game to determine if the bookie’s point spread or odds are correct. While that can be useful when able to find unaccounted-for nuggets of information, it can also backfire when attaching too much importance to various elements of the game that the bookie has already meted out.
For example, if you look at a game and think a team will cover the spread because they are at home, you are giving that team double-credit for being at home. The bookie has already made that accommodation in the point spread. Or if you think a team will win because the opponent’s star player is out with an injury, the odds or point spread will already reflect that. When we do that, we could be led astray because we are attributing too much value to a detail within the game.
Don’t Neglect Totals: Betting on totals, also known as over/under bets, is widely recommended by most professionals. It’s a less traveled form of betting and the further you go off the beaten path, the more likely you are to find good betting value. Whereas there may not be gold in the dirt in downtown Manhattan, there just might be in the Yukon. A lot of people simply feel more comfortable betting on who will win or cover the spread than how high or low-scoring the game will be. But sports betting is about making money and if totals is an area where we can make that happen, we should pay it some mind.
Over-Evaluating the Star Player or Key Positions: Teams that have a transcendent player get more betting attention than other teams. This is true in any team sport, where a single player can be good enough to take over a game single-handedly. We need to remember, however, that having a star player is already accounted for in the odds. So if we stumble along taking a team because of that, we’re probably attaching too much value to that player. In addition, the bookie knows he needn’t make the odds all that appetizing, being that no matter what, bettors will support the team with the player who commands a lion’s share of media attention.
The same goes for certain positions. In football, it’s obvious, as the quarterback commands most of the publicity. A lot of bettors will either bet or not bet on a team based on the identity of the quarterback. Fair enough, as long as it doesn’t blind you from the other positions on the field that can also determine a game--a teams’ secondary, the guys on the line-of-scrimmage, and a slew of other players who can tip the balance of a game.
Keeping an Eye on Value: A lot of amateur bettors are all caught up in the simple dynamic of who is going to win the game. Sports betting that is done well is not about that. Sure, picking winners has its place in sports wagering--that goes without saying. The real key to success in sports betting is to locate the selections whose odds are better than they should be. That’s the definition of value.
With odds and point spreads, our opinions os who will win or lose is cheapened to a large extent. The power of our opinions are counteracted by the odds and point spreads we’re betting into. Where a sports bettor really flourishes is in making picks where the odds are a little better than they should be. Look at it this way--if you’re consistently making picks where the odds are a little better than what the actual probabilities would indicate, that should theoretically yield positive results over time.
Knowing Good/Bad Times for You to Bet: Again, it comes down to selectivity, one of the more vital assets we have in our arsenals. If a bettor can acknowledge that there are going to be better and worse times to bet and then act accordingly, he will have a leg up on other bettors and maybe even the bookie.
Sometimes, there is not an advantage to be had. You look at the games and all the lines and spreads are pretty tough. The wise bettor knows that there are more days coming there will be better times to make a move. Then there will be other times where it’s not even about the games, it’s about you. Life is too hectic. Things are going on. Your mind is cluttered and the distractions of life just have your mind in a compromised state. It happens to everyone. The guys who end up making it in this business are the ones who can recognize that today might not be the best day to go toe-to-toe with the bookie.
Record-Keeping: This always seems easier than it really is. We spend a lot of time and energy handicapping, watching, and sweating games. When that’s all finished, not everyone is in the mood to sit down and do yet more work. But you’ll find that over time, you’ll be thankful that you did it. Keeping records is not just a way to keep track of our progress, it’s a way to identify troubling patterns, while giving us insight into the things we are doing right or wrong.
In your record-keeping, account for things that could lend you some insight toward future wagers. Most record keeping consists of the rather useless information like whether you won the bet and how much you wagered. Allow space in your record-keeping for more helpful information. When you lose a bet, a lot of it will fall under the category of it “just being the way the ball bounced.” Other times, however, there will be some very-identifiable reasons why the wager came up short.
Write down the reasons you lost bets or any other thing you may be guilty of doing. Maybe you believed the hype. Maybe you put too much credence on one thing that ended up not really impacting the game. After keeping records for a while, you can start to study yourself, handicap your handicapping, so to speak. But it takes time to develop a big enough base of information that allows for meaningful conclusions. After 20, 30, or even 100 bets, there may not be enough there to see patterns.
It’s a Marathon: Everything in our lives makes us crave immediacy nowadays. Technology has made it so we get everything now. The overall attention span of people has sunk to unprecedented levels. So when it’s time for these people to bet on sports, they tend to want things to happen quickly. In order to be good at this, and so few are, you need to have a long-range vision.
Too many bettors get too hung up on what is happening now. If they’re having a losing weekend, they feel like losers. If coming off a big day, they feel like winners. The key is to maintain a flatline of emotions and the knowledge that sports wagering takes years to determine if you’re truly a winner or loser. In other words, there are going to be a lot of peaks and valleys along the way. Not getting too “up” or “down” emotionally is not easy to do, but it’s a cornerstone trait of all capable professionals.
Patience: Like in any parts of life, we start to develop an instinct of when it’s a good idea to do something. The same thing happens with betting. When we have a really good pick, it slides into a peg effortlessly. With other bets, it’s like trying to jam in a peg. Patience is a virtue. Apply that to sports betting and your results will be better off.
A bet should exude from you organically, almost like the bet makes itself. And after a certain amount of seasoning in sports wagering, you will be able to tell the difference. Some bets are just a natural extension of you, while you have to strain more with other bets. Today might be important, but you don’t have to bet. Be almost like a sniper, rather than a maniac just firing indiscriminately at anything that moves.
Find Underdogs in Toss-Up Games: A good part of the time, there are good reasons why an underdog is not favored. It will be fairly easy to identify most of the time. There will be other times where you look at a game and it’s downright difficult to find which team really has a true edge. These are the kinds of games where you want to take the underdog.
When picking underdogs, you can be wrong more often than you’re right and still come out ahead. That might be hard to do when picking underdogs who truly deserve to be underdogs. But a lot of times, a team is an underdog due to things that might have no affect the actual game. It could be tied into public perception, hype, media attention, or any of the things that could impact a betting line. If you look at a game and can’t for the life of you determine a favorite, it makes a lot of sense to jump on the dog.
Looking for Teams Where the Roles are Spelled Out: When you go back through time and look at the most memorable and successful teams, more often than not, those teams had roles that were very clear. All the pieces of the puzzle fit together well and combined to create a team in the truest sense of the word.
When betting on games, not a lot of people pay attention to this dynamic. We know it isn’t how good individual players are that wins games. It’s how the players work together. It’s how they feed off each other and gel to form one cohesive unit. This can be seen at all levels--it doesn’t only apply to championship-level teams. But it should have a place in every bettor’s handicapping model. After all, when betting on team sports, how a group of guys form to make a team is naturally a key consideration.
The Dangers of Wagering With Your Heart: This can materialize in any number of ways and none of them are particularly helpful to a bettor’s bankroll. Sports betting is about money. It’s about doing what we need to do to make a profit. At no time should betting become a mirror of what we want to see happen as fans.
None of us who bet on sports start off with a clean slate. We have biases built up over a lifetime of being a sports fan. There are teams we love and teams we hate and everything in-between. A key to success in sports betting is to separate the thought processes of being a fan and being a bettor. They generally don’t work well hand-in-hand. It’s OK to want things in sports to happen or not happen. It’s just that you don’t want to be one of those bettors who goes broke betting on their favorite team or betting against a team they dislike.
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Not Being Your Worst Enemy: In sports betting, there are more than enough things that work against us. The team we bet isn’t playing up to their full potential. The referees or umpires are making calls that are going to cause our bets to lose. The last thing we should do is undermine ourselves. After all, the troops depend on their general and we need to act like a responsible leader. We’re all the generals of our own betting. And everything starts at the top.
It basically comes down to not blowing it. That could mean putting our entire bankroll on one game after a losing weekend to try to get back in the black. It could mean letting our powers of selectivity drop in an effort to chase losses. It could mean playing online blackjack to atone for a demoralizing loss. We need to stay level-headed at all times. In sports betting, all it takes is a momentary lapse of reason to mess up a good thing.
Losing is Losing: Are there going to be some losses that stick with you for a while? Sure. Are there going to be bets where it took all the stars in the galaxy to line up perfectly for us to to lose? Of course. But we knew that before we even signed up to bet on sports, didn’t we? Whatever you can imagine in terms of being snake-bitten by fate can and will happen. And it can be absolutely brutal when it happens. You can’t lose your cool in the face of even the worst conditions--when you lose a bet that should have won because of something totally bizarre.
This is a bottom-line kind of business. A win is a win and a loss is a loss. End of story. It doesn’t matter if your bet was off by miles or if it should have won. At the end of the day, they’re all losses and should be perceived the same way. You will be doing yourself a service by looking at things this way. It just won’t be all that easy. You can really be thrown off-center when it happens. Some bettors may even think “what’s the point?” after it happens a few times. Why painstakingly handicap games if at the end, there’s just going to be some crazy little quirk that decide the bet?
Look at those unfortunate twists as part of doing business in sports betting. And theoretically, you should be the beneficiary of some of those things from time-to-time, as well. Of course, the ones we lose stand out more, so we may not remember when some craziness resulted in us winning bets we should have lost. It goes both ways, but the key is to respect the bottom line. There’s nothing wrong with being upset when it happens. We just need to get over it quickly so it doesn’t poison future wagers.
Respect the Money: It can be strange how gamblers look at money, especially the money they have earmarked for betting. In a way, a healthy amount of disrespect for money is required to bet on sports. Or at least you can’t be afraid of losing and fret over every lost dollar. That doesn’t mean you should be willy-nilly with your money just because you’re gambling.
Truly acknowledging money and remembering how hard is was for you to get your hands on it should give way to a high level of selectivity in your betting. You won’t bet on every whim, but only when you have a true edge.
It’s just that there is some mental separation that occurs with a lot of bettors. They see an account balance on their online account and they don’t quite internalize that it is fully their money. But just because you can’t see or touch the money doesn’t mean it’s not yours. That money you see in your account is yours. Just because it’s offshore doesn’t make it Monopoly money. So when you put $200 on a Zimbabwean cricket match, that should be looked at the same way as reaching into your pocket and pulling out two crisp $100 bills.
Leave Ego at the Door: Sports betting is something we take more personally and it can give way to an inflated ego--both in the areas of sports knowledge and betting ability. We need to realize that knowledge of sports doesn’t always equate to wagering prowess. In fact, it seldom does. You could be John Wooden and that doesn’t mean you will be successful betting on college hoops. You could be more knowledgeable than any of the talking heads on ESPN and that doesn’t mean you know what it takes to make a good bettor. When you do well in sports betting, don’t get a big head and think that means you know more than everyone else. And conversely, when you lose, don’t hang your head thinking it’s an assault on your knowledge of sports.
There is also no room for a big head when it comes to the betting of sports. In other words, don’t let either winning or losing dictate what your headspace is in regards to sports and betting. It’s OK to get a little upset when stinking it up at the betting windows, just as it is to take some satisfaction in winning. But bettors who fly off the handle are soon to be on the pine not playing. Don’t feel like a loser when losing and don’t feel like a winner when winning. Dance with whom you came to the ball. Stay sharp and grounded. Getting down in the dumps or having your head in the clowns are both poison on bets.
When Reputation Exceeds Merit: For betting purposes, it’s good to have a keen eye for when a player or team has reached a point where their public standing is based on what happened in the past and the present is less-rosy. People are hesitant to fully acknowledge the passage of time. They’ll be thinking a quarterback is 29 and he’s really 36. You’ll be watching a basketball game and find out a player you thought just came into the league is in his 8th season. If a baseball team wins the World Series, it’ll take 3-4 years for that image to fade. high levels of success create an image that is hard to shake.
In sports, everything sweet eventually sours and as a bettor, you need to be on the cutting edge of recognizing when that happens. The oddsmakers and betting public will still be operating under an expired pretense, and good value can be found on the opposite side. Keep your eyes peeled for when a team or athlete are still being viewed in terms of their former glory, when they have reached a point when they are no longer capable of providing the level of performance that their reputation suggests.
Don’t Avoid Bad Teams: This isn’t an office pool and we’re not trying to decide who we would like to draft us. It’s sports betting. It uses odds and point-spreads. That means we can’t think in simple terms of who we think “will win the game.” The better way to put it is that we’re on the lookout for bets where the odds are better than what we feel reality would suggest. And that means betting on teams that are not considered to be very good or may even have a shabby record.
When placing a bet, it’s not necessarily an endorsement. It simply means that in this particular case, that bet represents good wagering value. If you tell someone off the street that you bet on the worst team in the league, he might look at you funny. And that’s because most guys you bump into don’t understand sports betting, where there can be good money in what people consider to be “poor.”
Look at it this way--when a team is really good and everyone is talking about them, the bookie isn’t going to make the odds all that tantalizing. He doesn’t need to. That bet has a built-in following of bettors, being that the general public favors what is considered to be good or great. Conversely, it’s more difficult to get bettors to put their money on bad teams. So the bookie will have to adjust and make it more appealing, resulting in better value--the guiding light of all bettors.
Narrowing Your Focus: Some of us sports fans and bettors like to consider ourselves a jack-of-all-trades. And while it may be true that we follow a lot of different sports, it’s a good idea to isolate your areas of strength. There could be a variety of reasons why you are either good or bad at betting on different sports. The sport you felt was your strongest area may not be in a betting sense. Maybe you’re too opinionated in that sport. Meanwhile, there may be a sport you didn’t think was your strong suit, but you’re winning bets left and right.
If you have an area in sports wagering that yields better success, it’s obviously detrimental to drain from that resource by spreading the money to sports with far less of a positive expectation. So when gauging your progress, look not only at your bottom-line--your bankroll or account balance. Break it down to your areas of strength and weakness and then stick to what’s making the money.
Controlling your Gamble: Is sports wagering a more contemplative form of gambling where your decisions directly impact the results? Sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s not gambling. In a lot of ways, your success with gambling on sports will come down to how good of a gambler you are. If you’re a degenerate gambler, you could pick games like a whiz and it won’t matter because you’re going to find a way to go broke.
It’s no secret that gambling doesn’t always bring the best out of people. None of us are above it, as gambling can prey on people from all walks of life with all different levels of intelligence. Before getting into sports betting on any kind of serious level, it’s important to steel yourself against the more-insidious aspects of gambling.
How to Perceive Bad Luck: Bad luck registers differently than good luck. It can lead to the often-times incorrect feeling that the sports betting gods are out to get you. And there will be times where you can’t seem to avoid it. But losing as a result of horrible luck is simply more memorable than either losing normally or winning as a result of an unlikely occurrence.
It’s important what happens immediately after losing a game as a result of bad luck. Staying on-point is key. Allowing the negativity of losing to lead you down a dangerous path is a constant lament of the sports bettor. As hard as it may seem, we need to remind ourselves that sports betting is just going to naturally lead to heartbreak from time-to-time. And even though it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, those bad breaks that curse our bets will one day help us win bets.
The Danger in Having Expectations of Teams: A lot of times, we let the carriage lead the horse when it comes to judging the quality of teams. We assume a team is either good or bad or somewhere in the middle and then bet accordingly. A lot of those perceptions are based on what happened the previous year or the last few seasons. Often times, things change on a dime and if we’re stuck in the quicksand with our previous opinions, we can be left in the dust.
It’s OK to have an overall opinion of a team, but keep it flexible. Maintain a perspective that is liquid and can change easily. And remember that while you may have an overall read on a team, that doesn’t work well when judging each individual game. Good teams lose bets and bad teams win bets. If we’re stuck on the basic framework of good/bad teams, we could miss some nice value spots.
Not Neglecting Certain Parts of Handicapping: It’s easy to fall into the habit of not paying mind to certain aspects of sports betting. A lot of football bettors may, for example, disregard weather. Or a baseball bettor won’t really analyze the bullpen or which relievers are ready to go in the game he is betting. Or a basketball bettor fails to analyze the bench, assuming it’s going to basically be a wash, so why bother?
There are a ton of variables that can potentially change the results of sporting events. All bettors need to at least know what all those things are. Then you can decide how heavily to incorporate those elements into your handicapping model. Especially if you’re not getting the results you want, there could some major oversights you’re making.
Not Doing What the Bookie Wants You to Do:It’s good to check yourself every now and then to make sure you’re not falling into the bookie’s hands. It could be the kinds of bets you’re making, how much you bet, or any number of things. Look at it like a bookie. What would you want? You’d want guys to be making bets where the payout isn’t all that good of a representation of the true odds of that bet winning. You’d want someone who is making bets where they’re asking for too many things to go their way. You’d want someone who when they win, they start betting big, meaning it’s only a matter of time before you get that money back.
Now think about what you wouldn’t want if you were a bookie. You wouldn’t want a calculating bettor who only fired on wagers when he really liked the bet. You wouldn’t want bettors who asked for one thing to go their way by making straight bets where the bookie-juice is negligible. You wouldn’t want a guy who never goes on tilt, whether winning or losing. You would want an impulsive bettor who was guided by dreams of the big payday. The last thing you would want is the thoughtful sniper who knows what he’s doing.
Do what the bookie doesn’t want. Be selective--a bettor who looks for an edge, not a head rush. No one is saying to make straight bets constantly, but that should be a major staple of your betting diet. Don’t act out-of-school and start firing big bets after winning a bunch or in an effort to recoup losses. Be in-control of yourself and your bets. Then the bookie will know you just might be one of a rare breed of people who can succeed at this.