In the wake of a Super Bowl which saw Americans place more than $6 billion in wagers on a single game – according to the American Gaming Association (AGA) anyhow – sports betting is all the rage in these U.S.
Thanks to a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last May, individual states are now free to set their own sports betting laws and regulations just like Nevada. So far, seven have done just that, with Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. And with dozens of bills currently under consideration by state legislatures from coast to coast, that list could easily double by year’s end.
The major professional sports leagues that once opposed sports betting are now striking multimillion-dollar deals with heavy hitter sportsbook operators such as MGM Resorts.
And out in New Jersey – where the sports betting industry is thriving thanks to Atlantic City casinos and online integration – bettors even managed to beat the books out of millions when the Patriots suffocated the Rams in a 13-3 snoozer on Super Bowl Sunday.
All things considered, the state of sports betting in this country has never been stronger.
Millions of people who previously sat on the sidelines due to a lack of access to Las Vegas now have fully legal sportsbooks in their state or nearby. Online bookmakers like Bovada and Pinnacle also provide top-notch service to countless bettors who prefer instant access to mobile action.
A little while ago, I had the pleasure of writing a post titled “Use These 7 Jedi Mind Tricks to Help Explode Your Poker Profits” , exploring my love of the Star Wars film series and No Limit Texas Hold’em in tandem. You can catch up on my reasoning for that rhetorical approach in that page’s introduction, but sufficed to say, I’m an avid Star Wars fanatic who takes the series’ lore and “Light Side balancing the Dark Side” philosophy seriously.
And as a professional gambler, I’ve always tried to spot opportunities to apply Jedi teachings to my trade.
After sorting through seven ways to use mind tricks as a poker player, a trip to Sin City for a Super Bowl betting spree inspired me to take a second crack at things.
On that note, strap in for a jump to hyperspace as we explore five Jedi mind tricks every sports bettor can use to achieve sustained success:
“The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.” – Yoda (Revenge of the Sith)
Spend enough time in the sportsbook, and you’ll inevitably hear a familiar refrain when a random game goes final.
“I had that game nailed cold, could’ve won a bundle if I had only bet it…” says some would-be bettor who failed to fire a wager that wound up winning.
Most of the time, these phantom bets are based on underdogs who scored a major upset, which makes the absence of an actual winning ticket even tougher to swallow. Recreational sports bettors are notorious for making picks in spirit, only to back out when it comes time to pay the piper.
In the underdog scenario described above, it’s usually the long odds against or vaunted opponents on the other end which scare casual bettors away in droves. They might have a great grasp on the game from a research standpoint – believing the underdog has a genuine chance to cover or win outright based on statistical trends and injury situations – but seeing that big (+600) moneyline shining brightly from the betting board above gives them pause.
These bettors hem and haw, standing near the ticket windows while wondering what they should do until the game mercifully starts. Then, they sit down and watch every second of action on the big screen, hoping to see their underdog pick crash and burn to provide validation of their hesitance.
Bemoaning your fate after a bet gone wrong is bad enough (more on this in the section to come), but hearing somebody cry and complain about a game they didn’t risk a penny on is galling, to say the least.
Like the wise Jedi master, Yoda told Anakin Skywalker when the latter began doubting the Light Side, fear of loss has no place in the sports betting game. I’m not saying to boldly or blindly bet big sums just for the sake of it, nothing of the sort. What I am saying though is that a sharp sports bettor must always be prepared to back up their instinct, research, and knowledge with a wager.
The most oft-quoted statistic in sports betting is 53 percent, which reflects the long-term win rate you’ll need just to attain profitability. Remember, the bookmakers charge a standard “vig” of 10 percent, which is why you need to risk $110 to win $100 on a (-110) ticket. And when that vig – also known as the “juice” – is factored into the equation, bettors who win only half of their bets don’t even break even.
On the flip side of the coin, the wise guys out there who are capable of hitting on 53 percent of more of their bets seldom escape the 55 percent plateau. In other words, the very best handicappers on the planet will consistently lose 45 percent of all wagers they ever make.
Knowing this immutable fact, follow Yoda’s lead and banish all fears of loss from your brain going forward. Bet responsibly mind you, practicing sound bankroll management and discipline, but never let the 45 percent chance you face of losing scare you off a play offering positive expectation.
“Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” – Kylo Ren (The Last Jedi)
The best way to distance yourself from the fear of loss is to detach yourself from the outcome altogether.
In the most recent Star Wars flick, angst-ridden aspiring Sith lord and Darth Vader cosplayer Kylo Ren offers the advice above to conflicted heroine Rey. The quote doubled as an aside to fans who cried foul over “The Last Jedi” seemingly severing its connection to the original trilogy, but it also speaks volumes to aspiring sports bettors.
They live and die with every play, cheering their side on and rooting for the opponent to fail miserably.
And of course, given the 55 / 45 ratio, the best bettors out there struggle to attain, sweating action in such an emotional manner is a recipe for stress and dissatisfaction. You’re going to lose roughly half the time anyhow, so why should you fixate on the outcome of every single wager?
The top sharps in the industry often proudly proclaim that they don’t even watch the games after betting. Nope, these grizzled veterans simply lay their money down on what they think is the right side, head home, and check the box scores in the morning to see how they fared.
As they’ll quickly remind doubters, physically viewing the contest has absolutely no affect on the eventual outcome, so there’s really no reason to waste valuable research time on a three-hour sporting event.
Personally speaking, I wouldn’t go that far, as I believe in relying on the old “eyeball test” as part of a well-rounded handicapping strategy. I’m also just a sports fan through and through, so I enjoy watching the best athletes in the world display their abilities on the big stage.
Whether you take a hardline approach based on not watching at all, or decide to take in a ballgame while waiting to learn the winner, is all up to you.
But whatever path you choose, remember Kylo Ren’s mantra and let the past die the moment a game goes final. Don’t bother bitching about bad officiating, wondering why a star player had an off night, or badgering yourself about a “bad” bet that only deserves that status in hindsight.
Instead, kill the past off after a day of sports betting by focusing entirely on the wagers to come. I’ll dive into the need for deep study and thorough research a little later in the page, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize every minute wasted focusing on the past is a minute lost in your pursuit of future gains.
“Be careful not to choke on your aspirations director.” – Darth Vader (Rogue One)
The half-man, half-machine who defeated Obi-Wan Kenobi in a lightsaber duel to the death is not known for his sense of humor, but even Darth Vader couldn’t resist making the Dad joke above.
In “Rogue One,” when a groveling Director Krennic asked Vader if he might put in a good word with the Emperor, the man in black used his infamous Force choke to force him into silence. Then, he turned back and told his ambitious underlying to mind his place within the Empire’s rigid hierarchy.
Thanks to James Earl Jones’ delicious delivery of the line, this moment provided the otherwise gloomy “Rogue One” with a brief moment of levity. But as always, when Darth Vader speaks, anyone with common sense knows to listen – and listen well.
As a sports bettor trying to build their bankroll, you might find yourself riding a sweet win streak from time to time. The randomized role of natural variance ensures these streaks, in one direction or the other will naturally crop up from time to time. And as bad as the losing jags can feel, winning a string of successive wagers has a way of putting people on Cloud 9.
The streak-riding bettor starts to believe that they’re outsmarting the books, beating them several times in a row not because of random chance, but thanks to their own insights and intelligence. Naturally, under the impression that they can’t lose, these bettors boost their wager sizing up to take full advantage of the streak.
Whereas before they might stick to a sensible “unit” system to counter variance, the short-term winner will fire off huge chunks of their bankroll on a handful of contests looking for the big score.
Then, when variance inevitably returns as it always will, all it takes is a single reversal of fortune to erase all of the previous gains – and then some. Due to the larger bet sizes, somebody who squeezed out a nice profit on a series of wins can lose double or triple the amount as soon as the streak ends.
Aspirations aren’t a bad thing in and of themselves, mind you. As a serious sports bettor, you should always be searching for ways to improve, developing new techniques to stick it to the books, and setting goals for your bankroll growth.
And yet, when the winning seems easy, and tickets are being cashed like clockwork, it’s only human to confuse aspiration with reckless abandon.
Bettors who get in over their head always, without fail, find that the gravy trend must end at some point. Statistical probabilities are ironclad over the long term, so when you experience a short-term windfall, do your best to maintain the discipline of a Jedi master and stick to the proverbial game plan.
“Who’s the more foolish: the fool, or the fool who follows him?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi (A New Hope)
As the only Jedi master to take both Anakin Skywalker and his son Luke as apprentices, Obi-Wan Kenobi knows of what he speaks when it comes to wisdom.
So when the “old fossil” – as Han Solo derisively referred to him during the Death Star chase – Obi-Wan puts the smuggling scoundrel in his place with the rhetorical question quoted above.
Han may think his elder is a fool for thinking the Force can help the Millennium Falcon evade Imperial tractor beam, but he’s also diving headlong into the longshot plan – so who’s the fool now?
I could go on about “A New Hope” all day, but you’re here for the sports betting advice, so here it is:
In case you’re blissfully unaware, a tout is anybody who advertises their ability to pick winners for a price. Tout services used to rely on late-night infomercials and telephone hotlines, where they’d sell an equal amount of picks on both sides of a game. From there, one group of customers found themselves winning consistently, so they took the plunge and paid top dollar for “Stone Cold Locks of the Week” and other such nonsense under the mistaken belief that their tout was unbeatable.
Of course, these “surefire” picks still had the same 50/50’ish chance of cashing in reality, so customers inevitably found themselves in the loser’s side of the scheme at one point or another. By then, most bettors could figure out the scam and quit subscribing, but by then, it was too late. They’d been bilked out of their bankroll by modern day snake oil salesmen who knew exactly how to prey on the sports bettor’s universal desire to beat the books.
Nowadays, touts have taken the same song and dance online, using social media and websites to ensnare unsuspecting bettors. These folks have no shame either, so they’ll happily use arbitrary endpoints, goosed stat trends, and phantom lines that were never actually posted by any reputable sportsbooks to trick customers.
Reading something like “My hot tips of the week are 14-3 against the spread since January 22nd” might sound appealing at first glance. What the touts aren’t telling you though is how they went 3-14 over the same length of time before that seemingly random date.
Touts are also prone to posting picks based on non-existent odds and lines, writing about how they nailed the first half total of UNDER 26 points to perfection perhaps. The problem is, that number was spun from thin air, as every major sportsbook at the line set at 24 points, making the tout’s supposed pick much easier to hit.
When your own methods aren’t bearing fruit, it can be all too tempting to think tout services are the answer. But ask yourself one question… if these guys and gals could really beat the books at 60 or even 70 percent as many claim, why would they ever disclose their secrets to the masses?
Sportsbooks are known for adjusting to the market at all costs, which is why bettors in Nevada haven’t recorded a winning month for five years running. Thus, any tout who is actually capable of outmaneuvering them would never, under any circumstances, let the enemy know how they do it.
You’ll find a few great resources like OddsShark out there which provide analytical insights, and even picks, but these come free of charge as a way of bringing readers to the site. As a general rule of thumb, if anybody ever asks you to pay money for picks or plays, you’ll only be the bigger fool by following them.
“Remember… your focus determines your reality.” – Qui-Gon Jinn (The Phantom Menace)
Success in sports betting doesn’t stem from “can’t miss” myths, gut instinct, or throwing darts at a board.
No, in this game, beating both the bookmaker’s razor-sharp line-making AND the vig requires good old-fashioned research. Unless you’re willing to pore over box scores, devour game tape, and maybe even build a statistical algorithm to hone in on the right side, you’ll never escape that dreaded sub-53 percent mark where losing bettors languish.
Everybody has their own methods of handicapping, and that’s part of the fun, so don’t get bogged down with mimicking the style of well-known sharps.
Short-term variance will try to wreak havoc on your initial research, so stay patient and wait for an extended sample size to see where you stand. If things seem to be working, stick with your process, and continue using it to generate winners. And when they don’t, bear down and adjust your methods until you get back on track.
The internet has leveled the playing field like never before, and today’s bettors have more information at their disposal than at any point in history. It’s up to you to make the most of that invaluable resource by researching every aspect of a contest you possibly can before placing a bet.
Just like the “galaxy far, far away” that fans were greeted with in 1977, the Star Wars universe is boundless and infinite. Hundreds of characters living on dozens of planets, engaged in centuries of back and forth battle to decide the fate of billions – what’s not to love?
George Lucas’ screenwriting skills may have suffered just a tad – an understatement if I ever saw one – by the time of the second trilogy, but the Jedi philosophy he created in the original films is a true treasure. Much more than simple mind tricks, the Jedi way taught an entire generation how to approach life with proper respect for the world(s) around you.
Lucas may not have had sports betting and gambling in mind at the time, but as is always the case with classic works of art, the lessons he put onscreen resonate across time and space. If you’re a sports bettor looking to improve, you could do a whole lot worse than the Jedi-inspired teachings above.
May the force be with you.
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