Picking Selections the Right Way
Is the key to successful sports betting really just about picking as many winners as possible? Many bettors, particularly beginners, certainly think this way. However, it's not quite that simple, as there's a lot more strategy involved in sports betting than most people realize. It is fair to say that picking winners is a fundamental requirement if you're going to make money from betting on sports, but we'll take a look into other factors that also are huge contributors to your success.
Picking the right selections is certainly something that's hard to do consistently, due to all the outside factors that can affect the outcome of sporting events from a good player's injury to bad weather. Even the most knowledgeable sports experts find it difficult to regularly make accurate predictions about what's going to happen.
That isn't to say that it's impossible though. You're never going to pick a winning selection on every single wager you make, but you don't have to. All that matters is picking enough winners to make an overall profit, and that's definitely possible to do with the right approach.
Although the title of this article is "picking selections the right way," there's actually not a single right way to pick your selections. Sports betting would be easy if there was. What there is, however, is a set of basic principles that you should try to follow. We've explained these principles in more detail below.
Be Rational, Not Emotional
One of the biggest mistakes that sports bettors make is choosing to follow their heart rather than their head. They bet on what they want to happen, rather than what they believe will actually happen. This is most often a subconscious decision due to the fact that their thought process is being driven by their emotions.
Many people who bet on sports, perhaps even the majority of them, are sports fans first and sports bettors second. They bet on sports that they follow, because it makes watching them more exhilarating plus they have confidence in their knowledge of the sport which is needed to make those informed judgments. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this when betting for entertainment purposes, but if you're betting specifically to try to make money, then you need to have a different approach.
If you're taking your sports betting seriously, then you need to make sure that all your decisions are rational ones. Betting on your favorite team to win a football match just because you really want them to win is not a rational decision, it's an emotional one. It's that kind of decision that will almost certainly cost you money in the long run.
This doesn't mean that you should never bet on sports that you have any sort of an emotional attachment too, as these are likely to be the sports you understand the best. It just means that you have to try to take the emotion out of it. That's not necessarily easy to do, but if you try to always have a valid reason for any selection you make, then you'll be on the right track.
There are all kinds of valid reasons for making selections. You could make your selections based on trends you identify, for example, or by analyzing a range of relevant statistics. To some extent, it doesn't matter what your actual approach is, providing it's based on methods of logic and reasoning. If you genuinely apply rational thought every time you are making a selection, you will improve your chances of picking winners.
Seek Profit, Not High Hit Rates
There's a huge misconception in betting that a high hit rate should be your ultimate goal. This isn't actually the case at all. A high hit rate is good, for sure, but it's not the most important thing to aim for. We'll use a simple experiment to explain why. Take a look at the following table, which shows the hit rates for three hypothetical bettors.
# of Wagers Placed
# of Wagers Won
Let's assume that each of these bettors is staking $100 per wager. Which one is making the most money? It might seem logical to assume that it's Richard, because he has the highest hit rate. However, it's actually impossible to tell solely from this information alone, because the hit rate only tells us how many wagers have been won compared to how many wagers have been made. It overlooks how much money is actually being won, which we can all agree is the true measure of success in sports betting.
After adding a little more information about the above three bettors, we might view their outcomes differently. Richard bets on tennis matches and generally picks selections that are crowd favorites. This explains his high hit rate, because favorites do tend to win more often than not. The odds are quite low though, and his average winning wager returns $150 which includes his initial $100 stake.
His 65 winning wagers have returned him a total of $9,750 (65 x $150), but he has staked a total of $10,000 on his 100 wagers (100 x $100). This leaves him with a net loss of $250, despite his high hit rate.
Matthew bets on basketball totals, and gets marginally more right than wrong. His bets are all at odds of 1.9091 (-110 in moneyline format, 10/11 in fractional format), so his return on wins is $190.91 including his initial $100 stake. His 40 winning wagers have returned him a total of $7,636.40 (40 x $190.91). He has staked a total of $7,500 on his 75 wagers (75 x $100). This leaves him with a small profit of $136.40.
John bets on golf tournaments, and he tends to look for unfavored players that he believes have a better chance of winning than their odds might suggest. He doesn't win often, but when he does it's at very high odds. His average return on a winning wager is $1,100 which includes his initial stake. His 6 winning wagers have therefore returned him a total of $6,600 (6 x $1,100), having staked only a total of $4,000 on his 40 wagers (40 x $100). Overall, he's made a substantial profit of $2,600.
While these examples are entirely hypothetical, they do serve to highlight the main point. The point is simply that a high hit rate is, by itself, meaningless. Successful sports betting isn't just about trying to pick as many winners as possible, but it's about finding value.
A selection offers value when the odds are greater than they should be, based on the probability of that selection winning. You will, theoretically at least, always make a profit in the long run if you only ever pick selections that offer value. This is putting things very simply, but the principle is entirely correct. We cover probability and value in more detail in our beginner's guide.
The difficulty, of course, is in determining whether value is present. Value is essentially subjective, as the true probability of a selection winning cannot be scientifically calculated when it comes to sports betting. It all comes down to using your best judgment in an attempt to make accurate assessments of any possible value.
Choose Quality, Not Quantity
The final principle to mention is an incredibly straightforward one; don't bet too often. The quality of your selections is far more important than the quantity of them. You don't have to place wagers every day, or even every week. If you want to bet on an upcoming match but cannot produce a plausible prediction of the winner, then there's no point in placing that wager.
Patience is a valuable attribute in betting, and you should always be prepared to wait for the right opportunities. You'll make much better judgments if you do, and therefore improve your chances of actually making a profit.
Nothing in this article directly tells you how to pick your selections. This is because, as we stated at the start, there's no single right way to pick them. It ultimately comes down to finding or developing strategies that work for you. This is what the most successful bettors do well, and it's exactly why they are so profitable.
The point of this article was more to guide you in the right direction by helping to make sure you pick your selections for the right reasons. We believe that you can accomplish that if you follow the advice we've offered here. If you take emotion out of your thought process, always look for value, and are patient enough to wait for the right opportunities, then you stand a great chance of becoming a successful bettor.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: March 2015
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