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Top 10 Mistakes that Sports Bettors Should Avoid

by September 25, 2018

If you’re new to the science and the art of sports betting, and you have come across this article, then you’re off to a good start. Whether you’ve never placed a wager before or you’ve been casually making wagers and are now looking to step things up a bit, getting a grasp on some of the basics is a must. Inexperienced sports bettors tend to do things that reduce their overall ROI and learning from these mistakes can help keep you out of the red. Even the most experienced sports bettors can fall victim to these from time to time, so commit them to memory, stay disciplined, and you’ll improve your chances of success.

Having Unrealistic Expectations
Let’s start by talking about expectations. Sportsbooks make a ton of money. That’s because most games are not a value, yet money is put on all sides of wagers for every game. Because of this, it’s time for a reality check that the vast majority of people will lose more money than they make with sports betting. Yet so many people go into this believing they’ll be the one to break the book. This is not the case though. Keep in mind that for even the most experienced of sports bettors are only looking to win about 55% of their picks against the spread and feel really good about that. So if you’re planning on spending more time on sports betting, then keep your personal hype in check and you’ll have a clearer mind to make better decisions.

Betting Too Much
This ties into having those unrealistic expectations. If you try to use sports betting as a get rich quick scheme, you’re overwhelmingly more likely to find yourself losing everything quickly. With that said, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, put more money into your bankroll than you are both willing and financially comfortable losing. If you need the money in your bankroll to pay bills, then this is a good indication that you shouldn’t be gambling this money. Remember that sports betting is still a gamble and if you risk more than you should and lose, then you can really hurt yourself in the real world. Sports betting is a long-term investment, if you’re diligent and disciplined you can indeed make some money with your wagers, but it’s not something that happens overnight.

Chasing Losses
There’s the old adage that after a poor stretch a guy can “be due” for something positive. This is a mindset of superstition as opposed to reality. Chasing losses will likely happen to anyone at some point in their sports betting history, but avoiding it as much as possible will save you plenty of heartaches. Everyone is going to go through a bad stretch, I know I’ve had some of my own, and it’s a scary place to be. You see the bankroll slowly shrinking and it can make you nervous. Many people think something along the lines of “yeah no duh, I wouldn’t chase my losses”, yet once people get into the actual thick of it, they start creating these justifications for why their situation is different and that if they double down on today’s picks they’ll definitely make their money back. Sure, for a handful of people that day will indeed be the day they turn it around, yet for so many others it just ends up being another off day, but now they’ve lost money twice as fast. I’ll reiterate that sports betting is a long-term investment in terms of profitability, you have to be willing to learn from the losing streaks to get back to the awesome winning streaks.

Neglecting Bankroll Management
This could very well be one of the most important things to avoid. Even the best of sports prognosticators can end up losing money because they have no rhyme or reason to how much they’re wagering from one bet to another. I won’t go over the various bankroll management systems here, as there are some other great articles that cover it in more detail. Regardless of which system you choose to follow, the important thing is that you remain disciplined. This discipline limits some of the variables that can affect your ROI and keeps you from draining your bankroll and keeps you in the game.

Blaming Luck
Of course, luck has its role in sports betting. It’s just a part of sports in general, every now and then, something extremely unlikely is going to happen that may cause you to win or lose a wager. With that said, it is part of our natural bias to explain away responsibility for negative results. This is a dangerous game though when your own cold hard cash is on the line. Blaming luck for your losing picks and taking full credit for your winning picks, creates a feedback loop that prevents evolving as a sports bettor. It’s important to really look at your losing bets and figure out what went wrong and if there was something you missed when analyzing that particular game. Additionally, by tracking your wins and losses you can go back and see if there are any particular negative trends you can correct. Are you overvaluing specific types of players, are you undervaluing a defensive scheme, or are you forgetting to fully take into account injuries? There are endless variables that go into analyzing a game, but it’s important to learn from your mistakes, so don’t chalk everything up to bad luck.

Betting Every Game
Some people may get the idea of betting on every game to reduce variance. They may believe that they’re good enough to win 55% of picks against the spread and by doing so they’ll make plenty of profit. However, this is just not the case. Value is king in sports betting and if you’re betting every game then you’re overlooking which plays are going to be a value. In most games, the line is set to a point where there’s no value on either side. Sure it’s possible to have a really good season and make money doing this, but realistically this is not true skill, but a whole lot of luck. The other side of this is that one bad week can absolutely destroy your bankroll, so instead of making 16 bets per week, find the two or three that are the most valuable and stick with those. In the long run, this discipline will keep your bankroll intact.

Betting Winners over Values
The best sports bettors are finding games that offer the most value and aren’t afraid to bet on a team they think will probably lose. This is a difficult line of thinking to get over. People like to be on the side of the winning team, which is why the public tends to bet the favorites against the spread. But this error comes into play so much more when you’re betting the money line. Why would you bet on a team you think is going to lose? Because it’s all about value. For example, you can pick the team that should win handily and lay the heavy odds of -250, yet to break-even, you’d have to win 71.43% of the time. To reiterate, that’s only to break-even, so even if you hit at those odds closer to 73% of the time, you’re still making little in terms of profit. Yet on the flip side, you could bet on a team you think only wins 40% of the time, but if your odds are +170 you’ll still make a decent return, despite picking the team you believe will lose the game.

Being Short-Sighted
It’s easy to get caught in the old adage “what have you done for me lately.” This is a dangerous thought process to hold with sports betting though, especially in football. Good teams have off weeks, so don’t be scared off by a team who has an off week or two, especially if they’ve already proven they are a competitive team for the current year.

Not Shopping Lines/Odds
If you’re not looking through at least a few sportsbooks before placing a wager, then you are literally leaving money at the table. While generally speaking, most sportsbooks will have very similar odds and lines, they do tend to vary. I’ve seen some sportsbooks push the premium on moneyline favorites, yet when this happens there’s also some extra value on the underdogs. So if you like the underdog at +120 at your primary sportsbook, but you can get +130 somewhere else, then it’s time to put that wager in at the other place, otherwise you’re just throwing money away. You’ll also run into scenarios where you may have landed on taking the Ravens +3.5 against the Steelers, yet at another sportsbook, you may be able to get a +4 line. If the Ravens lost 28-24, then you could have got your wager back as opposed to losing it. Have at least a few sportsbooks at your disposal and place your wages wherever you can get the best odds or the best line.

BUI “Betting Under the Influence”
When I first set out on my own sports betting adventure, I read plenty of do’s and don’t of sports betting articles, just like this one. The first time I saw it I laughed to myself thinking “well obviously.” But I kept reading and this same piece of advice kept popping up. Finally, I just had to concede that this is an issue for a lot of beginners. I mean it makes sense, why do you think casinos give out free booze at the slots and card tables, they know you’ll make poor decisions with some alcohol in you, and they’ll make way more from you on those bad decisions than they would having you pay for those drinks. With that said, do all of your analysis, decision making, and bet placing while sober. Partake in the mind-altering substances after placing your winning bets!

In Conclusion
You can follow all of these tips and still not be a profitable sports bettor. There’s just so much that goes into beating the sportsbook that you still need to be great at analysis and prognostication. With that said, if you fall victim to any of these on any type of regular basis, then you’re all but guaranteed to be a losing sports bettor, regardless of how good your other skills are.

Kyle Kontos is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive.