In sports, it’s all about one thing: winning. However when it comes to sports betting, another word becomes the definition of success: value.
When gamblers focus more on trying to win a bet than on finding a bet with adequate value, it puts the long-term health of their bankroll in jeopardy.
While winning is undoubtedly important, if you’re risking too much for a small return, you’re using an unsustainable strategy that will fall apart over time. Sports are unpredictable, and paying a high amount to secure a “sure thing” isn’t worth it.
In this article, I’ll lay out explanations of some low-value sports bets that you should avoid.
1 – The Heavy Favorite Moneyline
Many beginner sports bettors think they’ve found the easiest way to be a successful sports gambler – just bet heavy favorites on the moneyline! When you have a team with a line of -500 the chances that they lose are slim, and even if you have to risk $50 to win $10, it feels like you’re just getting free money.
Unfortunately, if this strategy actually worked out, there would be a lot more successful sports bettors and not as many successful sportsbooks.
Sports are one of the most unpredictable things to bet on, and there are no probability models (that are reliable) that would suggest these high-risk, low-reward bets are a good idea.
Think of it this way: if you’re betting on a team at -600, risking $600 to win $100, if you lose one time out of six you’re going to be down money. Veteran sports bettors know all too well that upsets happen at a much higher rate than the general public believes.
One way that I’ve thought about bets that seem like a sure thing is: if it seems too good to be true, the oddsmakers are probably trying to trap me into making a poor decision. Make no mistake about it, sportsbooks play on our inherent biases both as sports fans and as gamblers. Any time you think you’re pulling one over on them, it’s usually the opposite that’s taking place.
The bottom line is that although it might feel nice to get a few easy wins (and you will win more often than not when betting on huge moneyline favorites), it’s just not a sustainable strategy. Instead, consider doing the opposite.
Betting on moneyline underdogs feels risky, just as betting on the moneyline favorite feels certain. But, that’s what oddsmakers are expecting you to think. Taking a moneyline underdog has a type of “fade the public” appeal to it that I’ve found to be profitable in the long term.
If you want to become a long-term successful bettor, don’t try to get “cute” and take a few bucks here and there with heavy moneyline favorites. One loss can derail your bankroll, and the payoff simply is not worth that risk.
2 – Parlays Most of the Time
This one hurts to write. I do love the excitement of a good parlay bet, but the unfortunate reality is that most of the time the odds are slightly stacked against you.
For starters, it’s important to note that although winning two bets seems like it should be fairly easy, it’s simply not. Consider the fact that most gamblers win only around 45% (or less) of their bets, and then you’ll see why needing to win two of these bets is a challenge.
I get it. It’s easy to get seduced by the numbers on the bet slip when you see the payouts for a small risk. When you see how far your money could go if you just added another game, it’s almost understandable to see why parlays are as popular as they are among sports betting enthusiasts.
To get into the numbers, aside from the low probability that you’ll win both your bets, oddsmakers tip the scales in their favor when it comes to parlay payouts.
Now, all hope is not lost when it comes to keeping parlays as part of your overall betting strategy.
If you only wager low amounts of money, and have at least 4 legs in your parlay, you can be successful. With that being said, it’s crucial to note that this should not be a huge component of how you bet, but I would argue that it has its place.
The next time you’re thinking about taking your two plays and putting them together as a parlay to get that bonus payout, think about this: if you parlay them and lose at least one game (likely), you’re going to lose your whole wager. If you play both of them separately and lose one game (again, likely), you’re only going to be down whatever the juice is on the game. To complete the example, if you win both games, even betting separately, you’re still going to get a nice payday.
Parlays are certainly an entertaining type of bet, but one that the house loves to see. If you’re looking to be successful in the long-term, frequently playing parlays is going to drain your bankroll slowly but surely.
If you want to bet on two games, just do it separately. At the least, your wins will just about cover your losses and you can live to bet another day.
3 – Buying Points
Whether it’s a sportsbook or a casino, the “house” is notorious for providing options to bettors that seem like a good deal, but really work against the gambler. Buying points is certainly an example of this phenomenon.
Buying points is one of the easiest ways to drive down the value of a win that you were probably going to get anyway. Don’t get me wrong, there are games where you’ll lose by a point, or even a half-point, but how often does that really happen if you think about it?
The reality is that most games don’t come down to a point or two on the spread either way. The majority of your wins will easily cover, and the majority of your losses won’t come close.
Even if you look at a game and feel like you’d be a lot more comfortable if you had an extra point-and-a-half, keep in mind that lowering the value of the bet is not the way to go. If you don’t like the spread that the sportsbook is offering, simply don’t bet on the game.
Buying even a half-point can drive down your potential winnings (or drive up your overall risk), and the data shows that it probably isn’t going to have any impact at all on whether or not you win your bet.
Don’t fall for this ploy by the oddsmakers. Similar to insurance in blackjack, it might work out for you every so often, but it doesn’t come into play enough to justify doing it.
Sports betting is complicated when you consider that it’s not necessarily about winning at the end of the day. If you’re taking a long-term approach, you can suffer through some losses if you’re consistently making high-value plays. Over time, things will start to turn in your favor.
The most important takeaway is to remember that sportsbooks know how most people think. They look for easy wins (heavy favorite moneyline), get greedy and want big payouts (parlays), and hate to think that they might lose by a small margin (buying points).
In nearly all cases, when the house wants you to do one thing, it’s best to do the opposite. Avoid making these sports betting mistakes and you’ll start to realize that even if you win less, your bankroll will thank you.