5 Tips for Betting on Sports You Don’t Really Know

Silhouette of Confused Man With Sportsbook and Money Background

Bad losing streaks, frustration, over-analyzation – there are plenty of reasons that might have you thinking twice about betting on your favorite sports. It seems counterintuitive, but sometimes you can be too close to a sport to look at it objectively.

Other times, you just want a change of pace! It’s completely normal to get burnt out if you’ve been betting on the same handful of leagues for months. Luckily, there are plenty of options out there to explore.

In this article, I’ll lay out the tips you need to know for betting on sports that you might not be familiar with in the past.

1 – Research with a Purpose

If I just say that research is an important part of the process, that’s not very good advice. Nearly endless information is available on any sport, so it’s important to spend your time wisely and only seek out the numbers and trends you need to know.

The fact that you’re deciding to bet on a sport you don’t know probably means that you’re mostly in it for the money – whether that’s quick money now, or developing a long-term strategy for the future. Now that you’ve established the goal (making money through betting), you can research the things you need to know.

It’s always nice to have an idea about how the sport functions, but learning the rules, techniques, and strategies isn’t going to help you develop a good betting strategy. My suggestion would be to focus your research solely on the gambling side of the game, and see what the experts are saying.

Bettors who gamble on the top sports in the U.S. likely know that taking favorites in the majority of their bets isn’t a smart thing to do.

However, people still do it anyway because they “know” the teams, and thus (falsely) believe they have a better chance to predict the outcome.

Essentially, people bet against the information they know to be true, because they rely on their hunches rather than the data. If for no other reason, this makes betting on sports you don’t know very appealing. You don’t know the game, teams, or players, so you aren’t going to mistakenly think you do.

Obviously betting on sports is more complicated than just following what the data says, but it’s a great place to start. If you’re up for the challenge, ignore researching the game itself, and learn how the betting side works beforehand.

2 – Find a Good Sportsbook

Once you step outside the realm of major sports, finding a good online sportsbook can be somewhat of a challenge. With that being said, it’s also one of the most important components of an effective gambling strategy.

The reason why this factor is magnified in lesser-known sports is because the odds on the games or events aren’t going to be as consistent as with, say, the NFL or NBA. Bets that receive less action tend to vary widely, and it’s important to find the best odds for your specific play.

Overhead View of a Crowded Sportsbook

For example, if you want to choose an underdog on a certain bet, they might be listed at +150 on one site, and +165 on another. It might not seem like a huge difference, but if you could buy something for $20 or $17, you’re going to take the better deal every time.

Another reason it’s important to keep your options open in terms of sportsbook selection is so you can take advantage of offers and bonuses. Most betting sites offer incentives to keep you betting on their platform. These can be presented as deposit matches, free entry into tournaments, and in some cases, you’ll even receive house money to use towards your bets.

It’s important to utilize these offers because they can help ease the burden of few tough losses while you’re still trying to get your strategy down. Don’t worry if they seem too good to be true – they’re really just there to keep you coming back!

3 – Stick to the Betting Basics

Regardless of what you’re betting on, there are a few betting fundamentals that you should always stick to, no matter what. While I could go on about all of them in great detail, here are the ones which are most important to remember:

Bankroll Management

Keeping track of your money is the key to a good long-term plan. Managing your bankroll means never betting more than 2% to 10% on any single play. Once you have your bankroll determined, it’s crucial that you make it last as long as possible. If you do find yourself up quite a bit, keep some of the money for yourself like cashing out returns on a stock.

Don’t Chase Losses

This one is the most obvious, but chasing losses has led to more financial issues for gamblers than any other single mistake.

You’re going to lose bets, regardless of whether you’re gambling on the NFL or a foreign billiards match.

The worst thing you can do is double, triple, and quadruple down on your next plays in hopes that you can win it all back.

More often than not, you’re going to find yourself in a deep hole that you might have trouble returning from.

Quit While You’re Ahead

When I say “quit” I don’t mean stop betting overall, but rather for a short period of time like a day or week. If you’re lucky enough to have a stretch where you’re winning a high percentage of bets and taking in a lot of money, don’t get greedy.

Remember, small wins add up over time. It’s not worth it to risk all of your daily or weekly winnings in hopes of hitting it big. Be happy that you’ve made some money, and stash it away for when you really need it.

4 – Try Fake Plays before Jumping In

You don’t often think of the term “betting practice” in the realm of sports gambling, but that’s exactly what I’m suggesting here. When you start betting on a sport you don’t know, you might want to consider trying a paper betting strategy before putting in your real money.

Choose a sportsbook you feel comfortable with and fill out the bet slip, but don’t submit it. Follow along with the event, and see if you would have won with the play you had on the bet slip. After doing this a handful of times, you’ll have a much better grasp on how the process works when it comes to betting on that particular sport.

Sportsbook Screens and Betting Stations

I understand that it can be challenging to win bets that you didn’t actually play, and think about what could have been. However, it’s nice to know that if you lose due to inexperience, you won’t be kicking yourself for betting on something you’re entirely unfamiliar with.

Once you feel confident with how the games and associated betting processes function, you’re ready to start betting real money.

5 – Don’t Over Think It

Sports bettors are notorious for trying to, for lack of a better word, get “cute” with their plays. Cross-sport parlays, huge favorite moneyline bets, and all sorts of strange prop bets are just something that happen when you start getting really comfortable with gambling.

While the advice of “stick to simple bets” is a good tip even when talking about something you know, it’s even more important to follow that advice when you don’t know much about a sport.

Perhaps down the road you’ll learn some special tricks that can help make your strategy more profitable, but when you first start betting on a game, go with the easiest possible plays you can make. Trust me, your bankroll will thank you.


Some sports bettors scoff at the idea of betting on a sport they don’t know anything about, but if you try it, you’d be surprised at how successful you can be with limited knowledge. At the very least, you’ll avoid the ‘paralysis by analysis’ that has plagued sports bettors since the beginning of time.