Can You Be a Sports Fan and a Winning Sports Bettor?

Soccer Sports Fans Cheering, Soccer Field Stadium
It’s been said that emotion is the enemy of rational thinking. Therein lies the great dilemma for those who gamble on sports: Avid sports bettors are often (not always, but often) fervent sports fans with allegiances and rooting interests across the board.

Good advice for any bettor would be to stay away from games featuring their favorite teams or athletes and stick to the ones where the only outcome they care about is one they chose in their bet. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy.

Betting on your favorite US sports team only because they’re your favorite is known as using home team bias in sports betting. There are pros and cons to using this betting strategy, so read more into it before choosing your favorite team to bet on.

Beware the “Heart-Bet”

Note: If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a “heart-bet” is a wager placed on a team when, despite your instincts, you can’t pick against them due to your fandom. It’s not an official term, but that’s what I grew up calling it, and I think it conveys the point.

I spent countless Sundays in the living room with my best friend’s father, who would gamble on all the NFL games each weekend. I can count the times he bet against our beloved Bengals on two hands.

Besides a few times when Cincinnati was a double-digit favorite and could win while still allowing the opponent to cover the spread, I don’t think he ever went against the hometown team. I don’t have the numbers on-hand, but suffice it to say I don’t think he’d want to know how much he lost betting on the Bengals.

“I took them in a heart-bet.” This phrase (substitute heart-bet for another term with the same meaning) continues to get gamblers in trouble.

So why does it continue to happen? Is there anything you can do about it? Let’s dive into both of those questions.

It stands to reason that you’ll likely be watching your favorite teams play, and as a gambler, you like to play the games you watch. As a fan, emotions cloud judgment, and even when you feel like your team is going to lose, it’s still hard to log on any of the best US gambling sites to bet against them.

How do you make a smart bet without feeling like you’re letting the team down? As a Cincinnati sports fan (read: as a fan of some of the saddest teams in the last 20 years), I’ve found myself in this predicament more times than I’d wish on anyone. The good news is I’ve come up with a few solutions.

Forget the Score

When attempting to separate yourself as a fan and a gambler, always remember that the final score isn’t the only way to get some action in on your team’s game. I’ve never understood the theory of betting against your favorite team and justifying it by saying, “Well, if we win, I’m happy. If we lose, I win money.” Some people might call that a win-win, I’d call it a lose-lose.

Basketball Game Scoreboard

One of the best methods for avoiding the conflict of interest is choosing a type of bet that won’t force you to root for the other team or cause you to make an emotionally-charged (wrong) decision. Betting the over/under is a simple play that allows you to pull for your team, but not necessarily need them to win the game or cover the spread for you to win your bet.

If that’s not your thing, give prop bets a try. Don’t think your team is going to cover? Maybe you’d be more comfortable betting real money that your quarterback will throw for a touchdown in the first half.

If prop bets don’t seem to be your thing, be sure to explore the betting options you may not know about. Familiarize yourself with the different wager types and go from there.

Bet the Sportsbook (Or Against the Public)

Fan, which, in case you haven’t listened to Colin Cowherd in the past decade, is short for fanatic. Fanatic inherently implies making decisions based on feelings, wishes, and hopes. As a sports fan, I can struggle to recognize my biases and frequently must question my motivations for a particular bet.

Do I really think the Rockets are going to cover, or am I just sick of seeing the Warriors win? The remedy to these thoughts and feelings can be found in the most unemotional of all words in the English language: math.

To be clear, you should be utilizing some strategy in all your bets. Just choosing based on your sports knowledge alone isn’t going to get you the long-term results you want.

There are complicated formulas and drawn out concepts that can help you make more informed decisions, but there are some basics to stick to that you can rely on when your heart and your head disagree.

One strategy I’ve found particularly useful isn’t necessarily focused on math itself, but still takes numbers into account. Pay attention to the lines leading up to a game. As the book adjusts the spread or over/under, recognize what they’re trying to say. When in doubt, the most important number might be the public sentiment.

“Fading the public,” or betting against the public’s money, is a betting gambling strategy that holds up surprisingly well throughout a season. If you’re having trouble choosing a game and your affinity to a team or player is getting in the way, betting against the public is an excellent way to take the decision-making process out of your hands.

Sit It Out

Nobody wants to hear this, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least bring it up: Sometimes it is best just to sit out a game when your favorite team is playing. Ultimately, sports fandom should be about cheering for your team, and real money sports betting should be making money. Mixing the two is when things get dicey. As they say, don’t mix business with pleasure.

Guy Holding Remote Watching Sports on TV

There are endless games to bet on in a given year, and there can be real benefits to letting a few go when you don’t feel your judgment is impartial and unemotional. After all, if you’re a fan of a team and you’re betting on them cover the spread every single game without thinking about it, that’s about as irrational as it gets.


It may be true that sports competitions are games, and gambling on sports is a game, but the same approach can’t be taken for both. You can be a sports fan and a successful bettor, but it takes a little more discipline than one might anticipate. Remember that your heart and your head are going to tell you different things – the key is recognizing when your judgment is being clouded by the jersey on your back and the posters on your wall.

The next time you place a bet on a team simply because you want your betting interest and your fandom to align, accept the consequences, and acknowledge that it was ultimately an emotional decision. But to answer the question, “Can you be a sports fan and a winning sports bettor?” I’d say… of course you can. In fact, it’s the only way.