Seven Common Mistakes Sports Bettors Make and How to Avoid Them
I’ve been betting on sports for over 20 years. During that span I’ve learned a lot from both the good and bad advice of others and through my own experiences. The most common mistake I see from rookie sports bettors is making the experience unnecessarily complex. We’ve all heard the phrase, “keep it simple, stupid.” Adhering to it, especially early in your sports betting career, can make the difference between winning and getting yours brains beat it. Below are some of the most common sports betting mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Betting bad numbers – Not everyone has access to multiple “outs.” The average sports bettor typically has one online account or nearby sportsbook. When you first get started, this is all you really need — so long as you have enough discipline to NOT bet a bad number. Click on this link and bookmark it immediately. Now you’re able to view both the offshore and Las Vegas markets. The Chicago Bears ARE the play this weekend but for whatever reason, your sportsbook isn’t offering the -3 you see scattered across the screen. Instead, you’re staring at -3.5 which puts you in the rather easy spot of waiting for -3 or not betting the game. Sure, you could take the “screw it, it’s only a hook” approach. And sure, the Bears could win by two touchdowns. But you just developed a bad habit that over time will result in more losses than wins.
2. Parlays and Teasers – Go ahead and log on to your online sportsbook. On the main page you’ll likely see the following categories: Straight, Parlay, Teaser, Round Robin, Win Reverse, Action Reverse, and If Win Only. If you click on anything but “straight”, you’ve immediately just become your bookie’s best friend. It’s hard enough to beat -110 sides and totals these days so why make it more difficult? You’re probably aware that in order to break even as a sports bettor you need to hit just over 52%. So why are you concocting 5-team monelyline parlays? Sorry, but the glory of cashing one doesn’t outweigh the fact that unless you are a really sharp sports bettor, you have little chance to win long term with that approach. The only non-straight bets I make are NFL 6-point teasers and correlated side and total parlays. Your goal early on is to win so at some point you can bet more and thus win more. The easiest path to that is to attack single game sides and totals.
3. Chasing Losses – Bankroll management is one of the most common and important topics in sports betting. It’s very likely that over the course of a calendar year you will at some point lose 10 bets in a row. Before you even think of setting aside a bankroll and designating a single bet unit size, try to visualize what your life will be like after a 10-game losing streak? If the answer is lying in bed in the fetal position wondering how you’re going to pay this month’s cell phone bill then you probably need to make smaller bets or not bet at all. If the answer is losing 10 in a row will sting but you’re just going to make some adjustments to your handicapping and keep plugging away then congratulations, you’ve officially passed Bankroll Management 101! But the key to recovering from a down turn is not to panic. The worst thing you can do is bet more in order to quickly offset a losing streak. Notice the word, “quickly.” Let’s say Bobby Sports Bettor loses 10 in a row betting $100 a game. Bobby’s now down $1,110 but feels confident he’s due for a turnaround and decides to start betting $200 a game. Bobby snaps the losing streak with three straight wins but follows that up by going 4-11. Bobby is now down $2,120 which is nearly half of his original bankroll of $5,000 despite making only 28 bets. Now, after panic mode really sets in, Bobby starts betting only $50 a game because with three months left in the football season, he can ill-afford to go bust. Bobby does in fact turn things around and proceeds to go on a 20-9 run. The only problem is, Bobby is still down $1,615. Had he mechanically played his original unit size of $100, his deficit would be a far more manageable -$600. Being in the red stinks for any bettor, but how you handle it determines just how long it’ll take before you reach the black.
4. A Loss is Just a Loss – Remember that under bet you lost last week because of a reversed call in the waning seconds that helped force overtime? Go check your account and you’ll notice a -$110 in the ledger. The lone saving grace about getting kicked in the nuts on a bad beat is that they don’t count double. No, it was just another loss; the same as the two touchdown favorite you had that fell behind 21-0 early and lost 35-7. Bettors have an incredible ability to ALWAYS remember the bets they lost where everything that could go wrong did but forget the ones where the opposing team’s all-conference quarterback went down in the first quarter and in came the true frosh who proceed to throw back-to-back pick 6’s. If you want to get involved in sports betting, embrace the concept that things have a strong tendency to balance out over time.
5. Bad Timing – The postseason can be an exciting time but bettors often get too excited and end up paying a price that could be easily avoided. Remember that unit size you coached yourself into sticking to no matter what? Don’t let “big” games steer you away from it. And if you find yourself betting more football games in late December compared to September, buyer beware. Similarly, betting early vs. late is a big key. Ask any bettor who consistently beats college football and they’ll tell you that a majority of their wagering is conducted prior to Wednesday. The exception being market movement — a key number becoming available — or waiting on word of a key injury. If you are trying to beat football betting the day of the game, you might as well be playing penny slots.
6. Hedging and Middling for the Sake of Hedging and Middling – We’ve covered this before: Winning is hard! You’ve heard the concept, “good bettors consistently beat the closing line”, right? So why then do you want to mess with that +400 futures ticket when the team you bet is -210 in the championship? Same with middling. If you bet under 220 in an NBA game and the halftime score is 40-37, it’s not guaranteed (hello, overtime!) but you’re winning that bet at a very high clip. But when the second half total comes 103, bettors LOVE to bet the over for no reason other than to say they “middled” a game. If the situation dictates it, then by all means, hedge, or middle. But make sure there is a logical reason. Too many bettors have a win literally handed to them and still find a way to screw it up.
7. Learn How to Not Lose Before You Learn How to Win – All of the things I just discussed; poor bankroll management, chasing losses, silly 10-point teasers, betting into tight lines, poorly time hedges…I’m guilty of every infraction. It was only when I developed the ability to say, “no” that things started to click. I essentially trimmed the fat. Take a look at my pending wagers on a Wednesday in October and you’ll see nothing but college football and NFL first half and game bets. Is this the only formula for success? Absolutely not. I know guys that win doing everything I basically told you to avoid. But those guys are also ultra-talented and have been betting on sports professionally for years. So unless you fit that description, remember to keep it simple and not bet stupid!