7 Ways to Decide If Poker or Sports Betting Is More Profitable

Thinking Man Holding Money in Center with a Table of Poker Cards on Left and a Sportsbook Screen on Right

Is it more profitable to bet on sporting events or to play poker? The answer depends on your skills, but it also depends on what you want to focus on when you’re building your skills.

Poker and sports betting can both be used to make money, but which activity is more profitable is up to you. If you focus on poker, it’s probably going to be more profitable, but if you focus on sports betting, it’s probably going to be more profitable.

Here are seven ways to help you decide if betting on sports or playing poker is going to be more profitable for you.


While smart gamblers can make a profit betting on sports or playing poker, the two things require different sets of skills. Sports gambling requires handicapping skills, and poker requires strategy skills. In this section, you will learn about the skills needed for profitable poker play, and in the next section, you will learn about profitable handicapping skills.

Profitable poker play requires the use of strategy. And it’s not a single strategy that leads to profit. Instead, you have to master a number of strategies if you want to make a profit.

Poker strategy starts before you sit down at a table and start playing. Finding the most profitable games to play in is the first step to profitable play. You also have to pick the right poker variation for your skillset.

You have to learn the best strategies before the flop, on the flop, turn, and river. Bluffing and semi-bluffing are important skills, as well as learning how to control the size of the pot depending on your strength.

All of the poker skills you need can be learned, but poker is more about doing 100 things well instead of doing one or two things well.


Handicapping games isn’t like poker strategy. You have to evaluate players and teams, and betting lines to find opportunities to make a profit.

When you play poker, you can use different strategies against different players to maximize your profits. Likewise, in sports gambling, you figure out the best way to handicap each sport, and then you use the same handicapping systems over and over to identify value.

Inside a Casino Sportsbook

It can take what seems like forever to create a sports handicapping system that makes a profit. But once you create a profitable system, you use it until it isn’t profitable. And then you create a better system. Or even better, you work on your next system while you’re using a profitable system.

Analytics and Best Guesses

The difference between poker strategy and sports handicapping comes down to using analytics and making your best guess.

When you handicap sporting events, you have to look at everything in an analytical way. The facts are the facts, and you can’t change them. You just have to identify the right facts and use them in the right way to make profitable wagers.

In poker, you use all of the information you can access and make the best guess about the most profitable way to play. Over time, you learn how to improve your guesses, and the goal is to be correct more often than you’re wrong.

Sports gamblers have to make every decision based on hard data, while poker players have to make decisions based on specific situations. But poker players and sports gamblers use all the information they can gather; they just use the information in different ways.

Financial Control

When you play poker, you risk a certain amount of money, whether you play in cash games or tournaments. You risk the money in hopes of using your skills to get a profitable return.

Of course, when you play in a cash game, you have the possibility of winning more than you risk. For example, you could sit down with $400 and leave with $1,000 or more.

Cash In Hand

When you bet on sports, you risk a set amount to win a set amount. For example, if you bet on an underdog on the moneyline, you can win more than you risk, but when you bet on a point spread, you win a little less than you risk.

One risk isn’t necessarily better than the other type of risk, but you need to consider both types of risks when deciding which gambling option can be more profitable. So in one way, you have known risk in sports betting and unknown risk in poker, but you have real risk in both areas.

Do You Want to Play or Watch?

Betting on sporting events and playing poker are both competitive, but they’re competitive in different ways.

When you’re playing poker, you’re competing against every poker player at the table. You’re matching your mind and skills directly against them, and if you play smarter and have better skills, you win.

In sports betting, you’re competing against the sportsbooks, and if you handicap games well and find the right betting lines, you make a profit.

The required skills sets for the two gambling activities have some crossover, and some unique skills are needed for each activity. And most people who can learn the skills they need to beat one thing can learn the skills required to beat the other.

So the correct choice might come down to whether you like to play in a game or watch a game. If you want to play in the game, poker is your best option. But if you prefer to watch the game, sports gambling is the better option.

Competing in poker is a grind, requiring constant focus and attention. Likewise, betting on sports requires a lot of work handicapping games, but once the games start, you can relax a little bit and enjoy watching games.

Can You Read People?

Good poker players are able to read people they play against. Of course, you’re not going to be able to get a true read on every opponent, but picking up on a read or two every time you play poker boosts your profit.

Reading other players is a skill, and some poker players never learn how to do it. But if you can read people, poker is probably your best option for profitability.

Betting on sports doesn’t require the ability to read people. And the truth is that even if you can’t read people, you can still be a profitable poker player.

View of a Sportsbook Betting Counter

Remember, the goal is maximizing your profit, so the ability to read people isn’t a major determining factor. But reading people will help you make more money playing poker than you can make if you don’t read people well.

But you still have to determine if you can make more profit at the sportsbook or the poker table.

Do You like People?

If you play poker for a living, you’re going to spend a lot of time around people. I’m not saying that spending a lot of time around people is a good or bad thing. But it’s something you need to consider before deciding if sports gambling or poker is the best thing for you.

You might ask what the best thing for you has to do with making a profit, but it plays an important part. Making a profit in poker or sports betting requires a tremendous amount of work. And anything that gets in the way of the work and grind of producing a profit is a problem.

If you don’t like people or don’t like spending time around people, poker isn’t your best choice. On the other hand, if you like people, or at least don’t mind spending time around a lot of people, either gambling option is fine.

Betting on sports can be done in isolation, or you can spend a lot of time in a big sportsbook handicapping games, placing bets, and watching games.

Of course, you can play online poker for real money, so you aren’t in the same room as the people you play against, but you miss the opportunity to read your opponents when you’re not sitting at the table live with them.

Our Final Thoughts

It’s not a question of whether or not poker or sports betting can be profitable. Both gambling activities can be profitable. The important question is which activity can you use to make the most profit?

The answer isn’t straightforward because it depends on the skills you already have and which skills you want to focus on improving. But now that you know the seven ways to determine which gambling option is better for you, the answer should be clear.

Once you decide which path is the best for you, get busy learning how to build the skills you need in that area.