4 of the Worst Bets You Can Make Gambling on Sports

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As sports betting continues to grow as an industry, gamblers have more options than ever when it comes to the types of wagers they can make. Each sportsbook has slightly different offerings than the next, and all have some value if you’re willing to put in the time to find it.

Even though you might have more options than ever before, it should be noted that not all options are good ones. In this article, I’ll get into a few of the worst bets you can make as a sports gambler.

1 – Betting on Your Team

I struggled to add this to the list, but it’s just too important not to mention. Betting on your favorite team, in my opinion, is always going to be one of the worst bets you can make. The reason? Simply, emotion and biases.

“Fan,” as they say, is short for “fanatic.”

By its very definition, it’s implied that few people can actually maintain a rational point of view when trying to evaluate which side they should take in a given bet. When reason is replaced, or even simply influenced by emotion, things can get messy.

I believe the majority of people who bet on sports games do so as a way to make the games, that they otherwise wouldn’t care about, far more interesting. I mean, who else outside of New York is tuning in for a Jets vs. Bills game except those who have some financial stake in the outcome?

When it comes to your favorite team, you’re already invested in the game emotionally; you don’t need to be risking money in order to feel excited about watching. Enjoy the game without feeling like a loss could not only result in hurting your team’s playoff chances, but also hurting your chances of winning money for the week.

Finally, it’s best to avoid betting on your favorite team because it’s unlikely you’re going to bet against them. The bias that you have is antithetical to making good betting decisions.

At the end of the day, you have enough riding on the outcome of your team’s game without throwing any money into the equation.

2 – Quarter Bets (Depending on the Odds)

Some people just can’t wait three hours to know the outcome of a game they bet on. For those individuals, betting on quarters is the solution. Unfortunately, this can mean four times more chances to lose than if the bet was simply on the game as a whole.

Many people would disagree with my assessment of betting on quarters, but hear me out. For one, there are many unforeseen variables that contribute to what happens on a quarter-to-quarter basis. An example would be an NBA player that sits out the final few minutes of a quarter to rest up for the following quarter.

In football, the relatively few possessions involved make it even more difficult to accurately predict what will happen. If a team has one or two bad drives, or a turnover that results in points for the other team, it’s going to impact your bet in an unforeseen way (good or bad). This lack of reliability is what deters me from making these plays.

At the end of the day, betting on individual quarters is still going to be a popular option for the more impatient gamblers out there, but I’d say that the risk is rarely worth it. One final reason I would advise skipping out on these plays is because of the odds and the lack of value.

Most bettors are accustomed to seeing the somewhat-standard -110 odds on most bets. While this isn’t great (and I would highly recommend trying to offset it with some plus-money plays), it’s generally accepted as the standard house “vig” for a bet.

When it comes to betting on quarters individually, it’s not uncommon to see -115 or worse. Now, that might not seem all that significant, but when you consider there are multiple quarters in a game it’s easy to see how the house has tipped things in their favor.

Even if you go 2-2 after betting each of the four quarters, you still going to be down double what you would be if you just bet on the game outright.

If you have something specific that tips you off on how you think a quarter is going to play out, I suppose it can be okay to take advantage. However, I would highly recommend avoiding quarters as a bet that you make on a consistent basis.

3 – A Live Bet Against Your Original Pick

This one seems so obvious, yet I’ve seen it happen firsthand time and time again. Making a live bet that contradicts an original bet you made is something that is rarely successful, and it has the potential to be disastrous.

If you’re not familiar with the scenario I’m referring to, here’s an example: You bet on the Patriots at -8 before the game against the Dolphins. As the game progresses, it’s looking like the Dolphins are easily going to cover the spread and you’re going to lose your bet.

Then, in an effort to avoid losing this bet, you decide to make a live bet on the game and put your money on the Dolphins to cover. Perhaps you put $50 on the Patriots at the start of the game, and then you decide to put $75 on the Dolphins as your live bet so that you’ll cover your loss and still make a little money.

  • First of all, you’re taking a huge risk due to the possibility of losing both bets if things turn around in the game. In all likelihood you made your original pick for a reason, and changing it on the fly could be an indication that you’re falling victim to recency bias. Just because the team you bet on originally had a bad first quarter or half does not mean you should abandon them altogether.
  • Second, this is a first-degree violation of the important advice of “don’t chase your losses.” Simply put, if you made a bet on a certain team at the beginning of the game, just let it play out.

4 – Big Moneyline Favorites

Everyone likes a sure thing. The only problem is that when it comes to real money sports betting, sure things are few and far between.

Many inexperienced bettors see a big favorite and decide to bet a significant percentage of their bankroll on the moneyline thinking that there’s no way they can lose. Unfortunately, this strategy is rarely effective.

The reason why huge moneyline favorites are bad bets is because of the low value that they provide. If you have to risk $100 to win $20, as would be the case when making a bet on a team at -500, it’s just not worth it.

Consider This:

If you lose the above bet one out of five times, which is a very high win-rate, you’re still going to be down financially. Any time you’re in a situation where you can win 80% of the time and still come out behind, it’s probably best to avoid the bet altogether.

Sports are highly unpredictable and a single injury, bad call, or other unforeseen event that happens in-game can take a sure thing and make it much less certain.

Don’t take the chance of being the victim of an upset. Instead, look for moneyline underdogs that have value and use your money towards those plays instead.


It takes discipline to be an effective sports bettor who wins on a consistent basis. Much of that discipline revolves around staying the course, establishing a long-term sustainable strategy, and avoiding the temptation of chasing quick, easy wins.

If you’ve been struggling as a result of making the above bets regularly, consider shifting your game plan to one that focuses more on value.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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