Betting on sports is hard. Unpredictability, inherent biases we all have, and last-second plays can all crush your bankroll, through no fault of your own. Even when you think you’ve bet on a sure thing, it can all come crashing down.
Because it’s not based on mathematical probabilities like when you bet on casino games, gambling on sports means there’s rarely a “right” or “wrong” play. With that being said, there are undoubtedly a few mistakes that can really make it difficult to win money over time.
In this article, I’ll outline five things to avoid when betting on sports.
1 – Looking to Simply Win Bets over Betting For Value
Without “sure things” there would never be major upsets. Keep that in mind next time you think that betting on the -500 favorite is the right play.
Sports betting is all about finding value in your plays. In a perfect world, you would only take bets that pay out more than you have to risk. When you take heavy favorites, and are forced to bet a lot to win a little, you put yourself in extreme jeopardy of suffering a crushing loss.
Consider this: if you bet on a team that is a -600 favorite, it means you’re risking $600 to win $100. You might win five out of six bets, but even then you’d still be down $100 overall with $500 in winnings and $600 in losses. The wild and unpredictable nature of sports means that you’re taking a huge risk by putting that much on the line.
If you believe that you can slowly grow your bankroll through small wins by taking heavy favorites, you’re not the first to think of that idea. You also wouldn’t be the first to realize it just isn’t a sustainable strategy.
Instead of looking to find the easiest wins at the sportsbook, look to find the underdogs that you think can pull of an upset. You can take several losses if you’re able to hit only a handful of high-value underdogs.
The bottom line is that betting on sports isn’t about getting the most wins, it’s about considering the cash flow. If you’re betting strategy relies heavily on taking big favorites, it’s time to reconsider your plan.
2 – Trying to Chase Losses with Bigger Bets
Double or nothing might be the right move on the pickup basketball court, but when it comes to gambling, it rarely pays off. After a losing bet, no matter how tough it might be, you should never try to win all your money back on the next play.
The reality of sports gambling, and really all gambling for that matter, is that you’ll win some and you’ll lose a few more than that. The probability that you’ll go on losing and winning streaks at various times is very high as well.
The important thing to remember is that a solid long term strategy works out in your favor over time. I understand that if you’re planning on betting on two games, if you lose the first, you don’t just want to get back to even. However, if you lose $100 on game one then bet $200 on game two, the risk of coming out down $300 just isn’t worth it.
A long-term approach is the only way to be successful in sports gambling. Don’t make bets out of frustration, and always make sure that you’re staying within your bankroll limits. It’s the only way you’ll avoid crushing weeks and months that can put you in a really tough financial situation.
3 – Making a Habit of Multiple Leg Parlays
Look, I get that half the fun of gambling is the excitement factor. For some, that might be even more than half of the appeal. Although I understand taking big risks in hopes of hitting a big win is entertaining, it’s also not part of a sustainable gambling strategy.
Aside from the fact that it’s extremely difficult to hit a multiple-leg parlay, you’re also getting shorted on the odds, unless you get up to 5+ plays. This means that if you’re playing a 2, 3, or even sometimes a 4-leg parlay, the house technically adjusts the math so that the odds are even more in their favor.
My advice for those who love the thrill of going for the big win is to simply keep it to a small amount of money. If, by some miracle, you do hit a huge parlay, you may be kicking yourself wishing you put just a little more money in. However, when you consider the amount of times you’ll probably lose before that big win; it’s still very much in your best interest to resist the urge to put real money behind these plays.
If you must take a flyer on a massive parlay, keep it to $5 or $10. If you win, it’s still a massive payoff. If you lose, you’ll be mostly unaffected and your bankroll can live to fight another day.
4 – Buying Points
Simply put, buying points is one of the worst decisions you can make as a sports bettor. No matter how much better you feel about a particular play at +10 than you do at +9.5, it just isn’t worth the extra money.
While it might seem like you’re constantly hearing about that last-second cover that made someone lose by half of a point, they don’t happen as much as you think. The majority of bets are won or lost by at least a couple points. If you buy points and win you’re just giving away your winnings, if you buy points and lose, you’re just…giving away more money all the same.
If you’re looking to make a bet and you truly think that buying a point and changing your odds from -110 to -150 is going to be the difference between a win and a loss, you’re probably better off just sitting out. Betting, after all, is about taking on risk – which is why looking for value is so important. If you’re looking to nickel and dime your way out of taking on risk, it’s going to have a bad outcome more often than not.
Oddsmakers set lines in order to make it hard to decide one way or another. Accept that there isn’t an easy fix, and stop trying to make it happen. You’ll be much more successful in the long-run if you aren’t sacrificing winnings and exacerbating losses for a measly half-point here and there.
5 – Falling in Love with Your Favorite Team
If I suggested you should never bet on your favorite team, that’s just bad advice. It’s not so much that I would be wrong, but there’s no way you’re going to watch your team play all season long and not place a bet. A more realistic approach is to suggest that you should make your favorite team’s game your smallest bets.
Many sports bettors gamble to make the games more entertaining. Having a dog in the fight always makes sports more enjoyable, and when money is on the line, it raises the overall excitement of any matchup. When you’re watching your favorite team, you don’t need to bet much in order to still feel engaged in the action.
Finally, emotion clouds rational judgement, and most sports fans are highly emotional about their own teams. If you’re in a situation that makes it hard for you to make an emotional decision, it’s best to keep the stakes as low as possible.
One of the best ways to be considered a “successful” sports gambler is to simply avoid making the mistakes that plague the general betting public. If you’re able to get out of your own way and make rational, high-value plays, you might be surprised at how profitable it can be!