Most casual sports bettors don’t make a profit from their sports betting hobby. This includes those who are relatively sharp as well as those who could not pick a winner if their lives depended on it. That is not a horrible thing either. If every bettor won, sports books would be going bankrupt far more often than they do, and bettors would run out of places to play their Super Bowl favorite. Football betting is by far the heaviest season where everyone likes to play their favorite team and usually look for lots of “action” that will make watching the game more exciting. Many of these types of sports bettors are far more interested in TV games and they tend to bet more on the well-promoted games, like the Super Bowl, college bowls or NCAA Tournament.
Much of the industry jargon considers money management as important as picking winners, if not more so. And it certainly is. But throwing around buzzwords like ‘money management’ and describing esoteric concepts like ‘isolate a percentage of bankroll’ and ‘positive expectation bets’ really doesn’t help the fortunes of most recreational bettors. If you are placing bets at a sports book for entertainment only, then this article will be of little help or interest to you. However, if you wish to be a successful sports bettor, even as an amateur, and earn a profit from your betting over an extended period of time, here are some tips that should help you in that quest.
Five Tips for Sports Handicapping
- Don’t bet into bad numbers. Professional handicappers recognize the value of the half point. On the average college basketball Saturday, for example, at least a half dozen games are won or lost against the spread by a point or less. He’ll either get the push when others lost, or he’ll get the win when others pushed. The pro wins by a half point far more often than he loses by the hook. Making a modest 20 bets a week (1000 a year, a number that is on the low side for most professionals), it is not unusual to gain an extra 10 or 15 wins a year and another 10 or 15 pushes just by betting into good numbers. Assuming the bettor is betting a modest 2% of his bankroll on any given play, those 20 or 30 favorable decisions translates into a 40-60% swing in his return on his sports betting investment. That’s not chump change, folks, its hard-earned profit gained one-half point at a time!
- Make more straight bets and less parlays. Professionals make the vast majority of their bets as straight bets, not as parlays. Professionals are satisfied with the return on investment from a 3-2 day, or a 12-8 week. Amateurs are often lured by the big paydays that winning parlays provide, conveniently forgetting that a season largely consisting of steady 2-1 type days will be even more profitable than the big hits that parlays provide. Straight bettors never curse the 4-1 days – when they pick more winners than losers – because they make a profit every time, while parlay bettors don’t. There is a reason that every sports book in Las Vegas has their parlay cards prominently displayed
- Concentrate more on box scores and less on final scores. It’s easy to look at the final score of a game and make all kinds of false assumptions. This team got killed, that team gave ‘em all they could handle. But without reading game recaps and looking at box scores, you really have no idea of what took place, and what kind of current form the teams you are examining are in. It’s key to handicap games again, after the games are over. What happened that you expected to happen, and what was a surprise? Which things are likely to repeat themselves, and which are something of an anomaly?
- Take advantage of value. Odds makers have a good idea of which way the money is going to flow once they hang their opening numbers. And amateur bettors are a big part of this, falling in love with ‘public’ teams, betting them over and over again. In college sports, these ‘public’ teams are usually in the Top 25, from a major conference. In the pro sports, they are the hottest teams, teams at the top of their respective divisions or conferences. The professional bettor will recognize this public bias, notice that the lines are inflated for many of the best teams in the country, and either bet against many of the good teams or pass on their games entirely. The pros bet against Top 25 clubs far more often than they back ‘em – that’s where the value is, catching six points with an underdog that should only be getting four.
- Be smart when betting your streaks. It’s one of the most common mistakes that amateurs make, and it’s quite possibly the most costly. They press their losses, raising the stakes to get back to even off a losing week/streak. Pro bettors know that there will be times when you lose more than you win. Rather than raising the stakes during those times when you are having a bad run, the pro lowers his stakes, conserving bankroll while waiting for things to turn around. Conversely, the pro knows that winning streaks are the time to press your bets, not the time to pull back with a conservative approach to their recent profit. It sounds so basic – don’t chase losses, ride your winning streaks. But few amateur bettors are able to maintain an even keel during periods of higher rates than the norm of both successes and of failures.