Complete Paper Betting Strategy for Sports Betting Beginners

Closeup of Hand Writing With Sportsbook Background

Becoming a winning handicapper is a challenge that many sports bettors never conquer. Some gamblers simply don’t have the required skills, but most can build the skills they need with enough practice.

Practice can become expensive if you’re practicing by making real money bets. But there’s a simple solution to this that gives you all of the benefits of placing real money bets while not risking real money.

You can use a paper betting system as you work on your handicapping skills. A paper betting system shows you exactly how you’re performing and gives you the freedom to try new betting techniques to see if they can be profitable. After time you may learn why sports betting can be better than other types of gambling.

Here’s how a paper betting system works.

The Paper Betting System

The way the paper betting system works is you handicap games and place bets just like other sports bettors, but you place all of your bets on paper instead of with a sportsbook or bookie. You use the same lines that are available at the sportsbook, but you work with an imaginary bankroll.

Handicap games looking for value and then write down every bet you want to make. When the game is over, record your result and update your bankroll. Stick with it until you build a history of profitable results.

The paper betting concept is basically the same as a training method stock traders use. They buy and sell stocks on paper to learn how to improve their skills.

Starting Balance

Start with a balance of $1,000. You can bet a minimum of $10 on any game you decide to bet on, and a maximum of $33 on any game.

You’re going to be tempted to bet more than the maximum amount on some games, but this is a bad idea.

The minimum and maximum bet level serves two very important purposes. The first thing it does is mirror the way you should handle your bankroll when you start betting real money.

Your normal wager should be around 1% of your total bankroll, and your max wager should be no more than 3% of your bankroll. I suggest an even tighter range, using 2% as the top bet until you have a long track record of success, but handicappers that can win in the long run can use 3% without too much danger.

Using this system you place bets sized at 1% of your bankroll on most games. The only times you bet 2 or 3% are when you handicap games and find higher value than normal. Don’t give into the temptation to make all of your bets at 2 and 3% to speed up the process. Stick with 1% on most games and only use a higher wager on games where you truly have better value.

Avoiding Danger

If you don’t know why you need to make such small wagers in comparison to your total bankroll, it’s ok. As you use the paper betting system you’re going to learn why this is so important. But I’m going to explain it here so you can know what you’re looking for.

The most common way to bet on sporting events is a spread bet. You bet 11 to win 10 and either get points or give points. If your pick covers the spread you win, and if they don’t you lose. In order to make a long term profit you have to win close to 53% of the games you bet on.

This might not sound like something that’s too hard to do, but the fact is that only a small percentage of handicappers can do it long term.

The best handicappers only win around 55% of their spread bets over time, and anyone claiming better numbers is probably trying to sell you something.

Your goal should be to reach the 54 to 55% win rate on spread bets. The paper betting system is a great way to learn how to do this and to see how close you are. It’s also going to show you that even if you win over 50% of your bets, you’re going to have losing streaks along the way.

Over any series of 100 bets, even if you win 55 of them, you’re going to have some losing streaks. A losing streak of five games is common, and it’s even possible to lose eight or nine games in a row and still show an overall profit.

This is important to know because if you’re risking too much of your total bankroll on individual games a losing streak can put you in a bad position.

If you’re betting 10% of your bankroll on each game, a losing streak of five games cuts your bankroll in half. A losing streak of eight or nine games basically wipes your bankroll out.

People in Front of Sportsbook Screens

At a 1% base bet, a losing streak of five games only takes 5% of your bankroll, and a losing streak of nine games only takes 9%. You need to learn how to protect your bankroll as you’re learning how to handicap games, so when you start betting for real money you already understand proper bankroll management.

Of course, spread bets aren’t the only way to bet on sports. But the concept is the same as far as how much you risk on any single bet. Moneyline bets and run line or puck line bets all need to stay within the same betting limits to protect your bankroll.

Put in the Time

The purpose of a paper betting strategy is to come as close to real sports betting without risking any real money. It’s the best way I know of to help you see where your current skills are and what you need to work on. But you need to understand that this is a slow process.

It might take a year or more of paper betting and learning about sports betting before you’re ready to start placing real money bets. You’re going to want to start betting before you’re ready, and if you do it’s going to cost you money. It can also ruin your chances of learning how to be a long term winner.

Using the strict betting guidelines outlined above, I recommend working on your handicapping skills and avoid making real money bets until you double your paper bankroll. And even when you double your bankroll, there’s no need to stop using your paper system.

You can start placing real money bets only on the games that show the most value while continuing to bet lower value games on paper. This is one way to safely continue working on improvements.

The reason why placing larger bets can ruin your chances of becoming a long term winner is because if you hit a lucky streak early and start believing that you’re better than you really are, you’re going to start losing and quickly lose your bankroll.

On the other hand, if you hit a losing streak you might start pressing and chasing your losses while ignoring good handicapping principles.

No Cheating

You need to use this system exactly the same as if it’s for real money. You only hurt yourself if you cheat. Handicap games and make all of your bets on paper before the games start. You either commit to a bet or you don’t make it.

You’re going to look at many games and decide not to make a bet and see that you would’ve won if you’d made the wager. It’s going to be tempting to go back and count these games, but you have to avoid this.

Sportsbook TV Screens

As humans, we want to be right, and we look for evidence that we made a good decision. The truth is that there are also going to be a lot of games that you didn’t bet that you would’ve lost, but it’s easy to forget about these games and only think about the ones you’d have won.

Remember that the purpose of the paper betting system is to help you learn how to make money in the long run. The only way to do this is to treat the system just like you’re using real money.


Using a paper betting system for handicapping is the best way to find out if you’re a winning handicapper or still need some work. I bet real money on a lot of games and have for years, but I still use a paper betting system when I’m trying out new betting models and systems.

The main danger is the urge to start making real money wagers too early. Bet on paper for as long as you need to. Don’t switch to real money bets until you can produce profits on paper over a long period of time.