4 Things to Know Before You Start Betting on Sports Online

By in Sports & Betting on
6 Minute Read

So, you’ve decided to start betting on sports. The money has been set aside (a reasonable amount, I hope), an article or two has been read, and it’s finally time to see what you’re made of at the sportsbook.

Before you place your first wager, there are a few things you should know about gambling on sports online or in person. Typically, these are lessons learned along the way, but knowing them beforehand can save you some trouble and save you some money.

In this article, I’ll explain what I wish I knew before I started betting on sports.

1 – Luck Is Still Really Important

Everyone likes bragging to their friends when they have a good day of betting. I guess it’s natural to be proud that you were able to pick winners. I mean, it’s not easy, but nonetheless, you should recognize that good ol’ fashioned luck has a lot to do with it.

If it makes you feel better to think you know the game better than everyone else, I won’t take that away from you. Just remember that when the team you bet on scores on a pick 6 to cover the -11 spread in the final 20 seconds of a game, that wasn’t part of your wager. Luck is part of everything that happens in life, and this is especially true when it comes to real money sports betting.

Now, if you want to make the argument that there’s more skill and knowledge needed to be successful in sports betting when compared to traditional casino betting, you might be able to state a decent case.

With that being said, remember that there is not “right” or “wrong” play in a sports bet speaking in terms of probability. On the other hand, a casino gambler can make the statistically-correct play in a game like blackjack and still lose. The only thing that makes a sports bet the right or the wrong play is the end result.

All of this isn’t to say that you should go in, close your eyes, see what bets happen, and leave the results up to chance. It’s simply a reminder that you shouldn’t get too high when you win or too low when you lose, much of it is out of your control anyway.

But you can win in the long run because the luck eventually evens out. In other words, the times you get lucky and unlucky will end up about the same over time.

2 – Don’t Rely on Someone Else’s Picks

To understand my point in this section, you need to understand the margin between being an overall winner (coming out ahead) and overall loser (coming out behind) in sports betting is razor thin. Because of the juice, you need to win about 55% of the time to make money, which is extremely challenging in and of itself.

I say all of that to point out that nobody should be trusted with your money or betting decisions. It doesn’t matter if someone whose blog you stumble upon boasts a 60% all-time win rate. Even if that was true (which it often isn’t) that would mean in order to achieve the same success, you’d have to make the exact same bets as them every time.


Similarly, I’ve come across a number of different websites that will tell you they’ve used a statistical model to help make successful picks. I often see this as it pertains to betting on MLB, for example. The only problem here is that their model has effectively “gambled” on every single game for the past 5 years – meaning thousands and thousands. Sure, maybe the computer has figured out how to be successful if that’s the strategy, but nobody is betting on that many games.

Finally, any website that asks you for money in exchange for picks should never be trusted. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a professional sharp or an average Joe at the sportsbook. Even the smartest bettor’s advice isn’t helpful unless you make the exact same picks as they do every single time.

3 – It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Everyone loves feeling like a high-roller after a big win. Nothing is more exciting than watching a big-time game with a significant amount of money riding on the outcome. Unfortunately, sports bettors who take this approach will always suffer greatly when the tides turn (and trust me, they will).

If you’re new to sports betting, you might not be familiar with the concept of a bankroll. If that’s the case, let this be your first (but certainly not last) reminder that it’s the single-most important thing in your quest to be profitable.

Imagine trying to run a business without an overall budget. It just wouldn’t work. The same can be said about sports betting.

Though I won’t go into all the intricacies of what makes an effective bankroll, here’s a brief rundown. Your bankroll is the pool of money which you’ve set aside for the sole purpose of sports betting. It should be an amount of money that you feel totally comfortable losing, even though you obviously hope it doesn’t come to that.

Once you’ve set aside this money, the next step is to determine a percentage range between which you’ll bet. For example, if you have a $1,000 bankroll, you may decide you’ll only bet between 2% and 5% on any one play. That means no bets are less than $20, but none are more than $50. This will help you stay alive longer and ultimately keep you from making reckless betting decisions.

Keep in mind that I’m not necessarily referring to the person who likes to throw down a bet every once in a while, but rather, I’m speaking to the person who wants to take it a little more seriously. Not that it should be a matter of life or death, but many bettors simply enjoy the challenge of seeing if they can buck the odds and actually make a small profit.

Some gamblers want to focus on the big win. But in my opinion, the risk isn’t worth it.

4 – You’re Going to Have Ups and Downs

Remember the idea of the bankroll percentage range? It’s in place to help you deal with the tumultuous nature of sports gambling.

Just about everyone who bets on sports has experienced a hot streak when it feels like you just can’t lose. Similarly, everyone has gone 1-8 on an NFL Sunday and felt like maybe betting just isn’t for them. Because these swings are pretty much inevitable, it’s important to keep a long-term mindset and not try to win back all your losses through one big bet. Being able to survive the rollercoaster is what separates the winners and losers.

Betting Bankroll

Perhaps this won’t apply to everyone reading this article, but I like betting on sports because it makes the games more entertaining. I don’t do it to make any serious money (though don’t get me wrong, I want to win money, and hate to lose it), but rather to increase my overall enjoyment of watching sports.

If you feel like the above paragraph applies to your situation, remember this golden rule of sports gambling: Don’t chase losses. When you’re down money, the best strategy to win it back is to slowly string together wins, not try to get it all back at once. If you do, you’re putting yourself in serious jeopardy of having to reload your bankroll, which is something nobody wants to do.

The bottom line here is that you should maintain a long-term approach to sports betting. As far as I know, there’s no start or finish to gambling season.


When done responsibly, gambling can add tremendous enjoyment to watching the sports you love. It’s not for the faint of heart, and you’ll have times when it seems the stress is overwhelming. The best way to avoid this is to keep your wagers to a reasonable amount.

In the end, very few people come out ahead. But isn’t that the appeal of it all?

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. ...

View all posts by Michael Stevens
Email the author at: [email protected]