6 Signs of a Losing Sports Gambler

Man With Head in Hands With a Sports Betting Board Behind Him

Sports betting is everywhere these days now that the federal ban has been squashed by the Supreme Court. Thanks to that decisive landmark ruling, states are now free to set their own sports betting policies as they see fit.

Only a few years into this grand experiment, legal sports betting in both the brick and mortar sportsbooks and on online sports betting sites are flourishing across more than half of America.

Naturally, plenty of folks out there are intent on grinding their way to the top of this modern day gold rush. But while ambitions to consistently beat the books are certainly admirable, aspiring sports bettors should pay careful attention along the way.

When any of these six warning signs show up, it’s time to buckle down and refocus on your craft.

1 – You’re Placing Bets Without Keeping a Proper Record of Your Progress

If you’re really serious about making it as a sports bettor, it’s imperative to diligently record and study every bet you place. By keeping a running log of all vital information—dates, leagues, sides, bet size, payout odds, outcome, etc.—you’ll eventually build a database which reveals what works and what doesn’t.

For example, my own decades-long sports betting diary tells me that betting on early-season NFL games never quite pays the dividends found during the playoff push. Until a few games are in the books, and I’m able to see which teams are built to cover spreads for myself, Weeks 1-4 of the NFL year tend to be a minefield.

Other nuggets of note found in my betting log show that two-team MLB parlays can often be profitable , provided you’re linking two bona fide aces together in the bet. Conversely, I’ve consistently found almost every other form of parlay bets to be unproductive over the long run.

Keeping thorough notes on your betting activity—preferably in a spreadsheet via Excel or Google Docs—allows you to learn from your own makes and misses. Over time, as you add hundreds of tickets to the database, you’ll begin to discover certain patterns and trends attached to your personal betting style.

From there, it’s as simple as identifying which markets and plays are working out best over the long run. Once you’ve spotted the entries which provide the most profit, focusing on these bets will push forward on the path to sustained profitability.

2 – You’re Relying on Internet Touts and Vlog Personalities for “Winning” Picks

In my own recordkeeping, I have a designated column to differentiate between picks I made on my own and picks I’ve backed on the advice of others.

From the sports betting media industry’s perspective, providing an audience with self-styled experts is essential. These personalities vary wildly across the board, but all of them specialize in studying a particular betting market and making their picks available to the public.

Mind you, I’m not talking about those annoying “touts” who sell their picks to suckers. You should never pay for a sports betting play, as the combination of this expense with the house’s built-in “vigorish” turns wagering into a long-term losing proposition.

With that said, sites like VSIN and Covers offer an abundance of knowledgeable sports betting figures who provide picks free of charge.

Sports Reporter Scott Van Pelt

Personally, I like the challenge of finding positive expectation plays without any assistance. But when a betting blogger I like comes up with a cool angle on a play, I’m happy to tail them with a ticket of my own.

And wouldn’t you know it? Those records of mine clearly demonstrate that these tailed picks are just short of a breakeven deal.

I’m willing to wager that’ll be the case with you too, simply because the betting bloggers out there don’t have the same incentives as you and I do. Remember, they get paid just for making picks in the first place, so actually winning on a long-term basis is their secondary concern.

We don’t have that luxury, which is why thinking independently and shying away from tailed picks, always beats betting how the bloggers do. You should do your own research into finding sources to consult or ones to avoid for your sports betting advice.

3 – You’re Betting Too Much Money on Sports That Are New to You

During the many sporting event cancellations of 2020, bettors were left starved for options on which to enjoy a little action.

This led to a slew of zany offerings from similarly desperate sportsbooks, many of which began posting odds on professional table tennis and marble racing. Fortunately, pro sports are back and better than ever in 2021. But many bettors are still dabbling in the industry’s more minor markets.

Unless you’ve put in the time and work to watch stuff like English Premier League (EPL) soccer or UFC fighting, it’ll be tough to beat the books with any consistency. I like to think of betting on lesser-known leagues and sports as throwing darts—which, coincidentally, I have placed a few bets on over the years—while wearing a blindfold.

You might get lucky and hit the bullseye once in a while, but you’ll miss the board altogether more often than not.

If you’re developing an interest in a betting market that is new to you, I recommend spending at least one full season devouring as much data as you can. Watch the games, read the recaps, follow the beat reporters, and most importantly, make a series of “phantom” picks with no money on the line.

When you start seeing your phantom sports betting bankroll booming, you can feel free to take things to the next level.

4 – You’re Chasing Previous Losses and Bad Beats With Bad Bets

As a sports bettor, you should be fully prepared to suffer through the swings of random short-term variance.

Referees will make inexplicable calls to decide games that don’t go in your favor. Coaches will make mental mistakes to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Injuries will see the stars you need to shine replaced by scrubs.

When these scenarios occur, even the most well-planned wagers can go up in smoke. Even worse, the scourge of bad beats can be compounded by sports betting’s fundamental “win some, lose some” dynamics.

Remember, even the most successful bettors on the planet only hit a 54 percent win rate over the long run. That’s enough to pay the bills to be sure, but it also means top professional sports bettors still lose nearly half of the bets they make.

View of a Sports Betting Board

You’re not a pro, not yet anyhow, so you have to be capable of coping with rough runs of luck and extended losing streaks. That means developing the discipline needed to avoid chasing losses with dumb bets placed out of desperation.

In my own career, I made a point of sleeping on it whenever a particularly cruel loss left me crushed. No further bets could be placed until I had an evening (or an afternoon back in those days) to reflect and recharge.

Do whatever works for you, just make sure you find a way to stop chasing losses. It only creates a vicious cycle, as one good bet which doesn’t win leads to several bad bets which can’t win.

5 – You’re Taking out Sports Betting Frustration on Friends or Family

Speaking of bad beats, there’s one reaction worse than chasing losses—taking out your anger on other people.

Those closest to a sports bettor are often forced to ride the rollercoaster of emotions right there along with them. When times are good and tickets are getting cashed like clockwork, it’s all about celebrating and toasting to continued success.

But when those inevitable dry spells occur, losing bettors can become irritable, distanced, or outright mean to the ones they love most.

Let’s face facts—losing sucks. This is the life you chose though, so keep that 54/46 win rate ratio in mind at all times. You’re supposed to lose nearly half the bets you make, so there’s just no good reason to throw temper tantrums when a ticket hits the trashcan.

6 – You’re Constantly Reloading Your Account after Wagering Your Way to $0.00

Losing 46% of your plays would make you one of the best bettors in the world.

Unfortunately, most mere mortals manage to lose much more often than that. Sports betting is one of the most difficult forms of gambling to beat with any consistency. The bookmaker’s built-in vig puts every play behind the proverbial eight-ball, while increasingly effective oddsmakers are always on the prowl for the slightest of edges.

If you’re constantly burning through a bankroll and starting from scratch, it could be best to consider another form of entertainment. Unless the losses are entirely affordable, exclusively using expendable income, there’s no shame whatsoever in throwing in the towel.

Rivers Casino Sportsbook

You can always take some time on the bench to objectively analyze what went wrong. If you do that and make the necessary course corrections, the next time you deposit might just be the last. Our tips to get out of a slump might just help you get back in the game.

Our Conclusions About These Warning Signs

The sports betting boom has birthed a new generation of gamblers who pride themselves on beating the books at their own game. Everyone wants to enjoy the thrill of making a smart pick, watching your side deliver, and cashing in for a tidy profit.

Doing so on the occasional lark to one of the luxurious sportsbooks in Las Vegas is one thing, but trying to become a sustained success as a sports bettor is exceedingly difficult. By all means, give it the old college try. Just be sure to watch out for the warning signs above to stay on track.