Sports Betting Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

Stop Sign With a Hand in Front of a Wide Angle Sportsbook Photo

Every sports bettor makes mistakes, but the most successful ones learn from them. Many beginning sports betting mistakes can be avoided if you know about them, but sometimes you don’t know what to look for.

Here are sports betting mistakes that I’ve made in the past. I’m including them here so you can avoid making many of the same mistakes I made.

Using a Simple System

A sports betting system is something that you plug information into that helps you become a more effective handicapper. Sometimes this is also called a betting model. A system for sports betting isn’t the same as most gambling systems, like those advertised for roulette and other games that can’t be beat.

When you develop a sports betting system or model you’re using statistics and trends to see if you can find a game or games that offer value on one side of the line or the other. Not every game offers value, but a good system or model helps you find the ones that do.

Systems range from extremely simple to overly complicated.

an example of a simple system is betting on home underdogs. A complicated system or model might have hundreds of different steps and/or formulas.

I’m a big believer is sports betting systems and models, but most handicappers that start trying to use one make a big mistake. Every sports bettor wants to find a simple model or system that cranks out profitable bets, but simple systems don’t work.

The reason why simple systems don’t work is because the sportsbooks are smart and they know about every simple system imaginable. You should work on your own system, but don’t believe that you’re going to find a simple one that works. Put in the time to develop an advanced system by testing as many variables as you can.

Throwing Darts

Most sports bettors make their betting decisions on what I call the throwing darts method. They bet on their favorite team no matter what the line is, or they get a gut feeling and place a bet because of it. They don’t even attempt to handicap games and look for value.

Closeup of Three Darts in a Dartboard

You don’t have any chance to make money in the long run picking games this way. You might as well put all of the teams playing on a dart board and throw a dart to pick a team to bet on. You’re going to win roughly 50% of the time doing this, which means you still lose money because of the vig you pay when you lose bets.

Spend some time trying to handicap games and keep working on your skills until you learn how to find value.

Ignoring Important Statistics

Once you start trying to handicap games, the place to start is by using statistics. It’s almost impossible to develop a model or system that only relies on statistics that produces a profit, but it’s still the best way to start.

But you need to avoid the mistake that most sports bettors make. They take a look at the popular statistics and try to pick winner using them. A baseball bettor looks at batting average, home runs, and ERA and makes a bet. A football bettor looks at which team has the better record and maybe which team has the better quarterback.

It’s ok to start with these things, but you need to dig deeper if you want to have a realistic chance to beat the sportsbooks. Look at every stat you can find and then see how you can use them to make better betting decisions. As you get experience handicapping games you’re going to find the important statistics and figure out which ones you can ignore.

Using the Wrong Statistics

Using the wrong statistics is just as bad as ignoring the important statistics. Each sport has a set of important statistics and a set of statistics that aren’t important. Sometimes statistics can even be misleading.

In baseball one of the statistics that’s completely worthless is wins and losses for pitchers.

Saves can also be a misleading statistic. In football, total points scored and allowed can be quite misleading. In basketball, average points scored and allowed can be misleading.

If you want to find the correct statistics you need to dig down and see why teams win and lose and how they score points or runs. You need to learn as much as you can about the sport you’re betting on so you can ignore the wrong stats and use the correct ones.

Ignoring Coaches

Coaches and managers have a big influence on their teams and players. Yet most sports bettors ignore managers and coaches and their track records and how they influence games. You should know every manager or coach in the sport you bet on and know as much about them as possible.

This includes head coaches and assistant coaches. In baseball you need to know about the managers, hitting coaches, and pitching coaches. In football you need to know about the head coaches and the offensive and defensive coordinators.

Football Assistant Coach With Arms Raised

You need to learn how each coach or manager runs the team and what tendencies they have. Does the football coach go for it often on fourth down and short or does he always play a conservative field position game? Does the manager have a quick hook or does he let his starting pitcher work through rough innings?

The coordinators on football teams have a great deal to do with the performance of their units; often more than the head coach. If you don’t know anything about the coaches and assistants of your favorite betting sports it’s time to start compiling data now.

Ignoring the Eye Test

I use statistics a great deal when I handicap games, but they’re only part of the equation. Some of the top bettors in the world might be able to use a 100% statistical model to win games, but I have to evaluate teams and players by watching them to win.

It takes a great deal of time to watch every game in a season, but if you want to be a winning handicapper you need to watch as many games as you can. I record many games and fast forward through the commercials and dead time, or I watch them online and do the same thing.

Feel free to try to develop a system or model based 100% on statistics, but you’re going to have a better chance of succeeding by combining statistical evaluation with the eye test.

Not Shopping the Lines

This is by far the biggest mistake I see sports bettors of every experience level make. The days of only being able to place bets at one place are gone. You don’t have to take the line at your favorite sportsbook because you don’t have any other options.

It depends on where you live, but many places have multiple local options for sports bettors. And you can find dozens of reputable online sportsbooks that take bets. You need to get in the habit of shopping for lines every time you want to make a wager.

Sometimes I handicap games and then look at lines, and sometimes I look at lines to see if any of them look like they might offer value and then handicap the games. It doesn’t matter which way you decide to go, because you shouldn’t make any bets that don’t show value when you compare your handicapping results with the available lines.

Here’s why shopping for lines is so important.

Over the course of a season or year the difference between showing a profit and losing money can come down to just a few games.

By shopping for the best lines you can win a few more games every season or year, even if you’re not a great handicapper.

If you’re already a winning sports bettor, shopping for lines can make you even more profitable. If you’re a losing bettor, line shopping might be able to make you a break even or profitable bettor. Start shopping for lines for every bet you make.


Don’t worry if you’re making any of the mistakes listed above. Simply stop making them now and look for other mistakes you’re making. No one starts as a profitable sports bettor. Keep working on your handicapping skills and learn from every mistake you make. This is how you become a winning long term sports bettor and handicapper.