Dos and Don’ts of Sports Betting

No matter if you’re talking about relationships, your career, or sports betting, there should be a list of “dos” and “don’ts” that help guide you when your emotions start to take over. When it comes to gambling on sports, you have a potentially dangerous combination when you consider the high emotions and wagering of your hard-earned cash.

The trick to sports gambling is to understand that if you’re trying to make money, you have to take a long-term approach. Both hot and cold streaks are inevitable for all gamblers, but what separates the winners from the losers is how they handle the peaks and valleys.

This list explains basic tenets to live by as a sports bettor and which pitfalls to avoid in your quest to make money.

Do: Create a Bankroll

Creating a bankroll is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure that you won’t avoid financial issues down the road. It’s the thing that keeps those $10-$20 losses from snowballing into hundreds down the drain.

Your bankroll is an amount of money you set aside for the sole purpose of gambling.

Make sure (and I cannot stress this enough) you only put in an amount of money you can afford to lose. If you’re setting aside $200, consider it like a $200 purchase of a product — the money is gone.

Obviously, the hope is that you won’t actually lose all the money, but it helps you set aside your betting budget from your normal-life budget. Also, if you do run out of money, you’ll know exactly how much you lost without having to keep track of each bet individually.

Don’t: Chase Losses

This is one of the most basic pieces of advice any rational person would give about gambling. With that being said, gambling is often done in an irrational way. How do you think those sportsbooks keep taking everyone’s money?

You’re going to go through some rough stretches where your bankroll is going to be running low after a bad week of losses.

The worst thing you can do is try to make up for all your losses in one bet. For example, if you lose three straight $20 bets, don’t try to make your fourth bet a $60 wager in the hope that you’ll get back to even just like that.

The reason chasing losses is so dangerous is because it becomes a slippery slope real quick.

Say you lose that $60 bet I mentioned in the previous paragraph — now you’re down $120. What’s next, a $120 bet to make up for it? (If you’ve lost four in a row, you’re bound to win, right…? More on this later.)

The best way to get back to even, or back in the green, is by slowly making up ground one bet at a time. Nobody likes to end the day in the hole, but being down $50 is a lot better than $200.

Don’t: Bet Without (Some) Reasoning

Sportsbooks don’t set lines based on what they think the outcome of a game will be; they set lines on what the public thinks the outcome of the game will be.

If you take the time to find out where the difference lies, you can capitalize.

I’m not saying that each time you want to place a bet, you need to have a book’s worth of research, but try to avoid blindly throwing money down.

Before you place a bet, ask yourself:

  • “Why am I choosing to bet this way instead of the other way?”

If you can’t answer that question, don’t bet the game.

Do: Shop Around for Sportsbooks

Sportsbooks are businesses just like any other, and they’re more than happy to compete for your business. Whether it’s a sign-on bonus, a cash-match, or free credits to use in their offerings, online sportsbooks are always trying to win you over.

Not only is it a good idea to take advantage of a particular sportsbook’s offers, but it’s a great idea to take advantage of all of them! You’ll find out that the “free” money is usually reserved for new customers, so it’s in your best interest to utilize different sportsbooks until you run out of options.

You might think that these offers are gimmicks and will hurt you in the long run (even if you’re not sure how), but rest assured that they really are just trying to win your loyalty. After all, few among us ever just bet games every once in a while.

You do need to be aware of their rollover requirements and terms and conditions before signing up, but many sportsbooks offer deals worth taking.

Some books offer serious incentives if you look hard enough. Before you go placing your bet with the first site, you come across, see where you can find the best deal.

Don’t: Assume Lines/Odds/Spreads Are the Same Everywhere

If you’re going to bet on the Packers as a favorite at -5, wouldn’t you rather bet on them at -4.5? As a bettor, you’re leaving points on the board if you aren’t trying to find the most favorable lines for the plays you want to make.

Books adjust their lines based on the bets they’re receiving.

It makes sense that not every sportsbook would have the same numbers.

Once you’ve decided on the play you want to make, see if you can find something more favorable elsewhere.

A half-point here and there might not seem like much, but there’s really no excuse for not going with the number that gives you the best chance to win.

The fact that the difference between a profitable sports bettor and someone who loses money is only a 2-3% difference, these little advantages add up over time.

Do: Take a Long-Term Approach

It’s tempting to add up your winnings (or losses) on a near-daily or weekly basis but focus on developing a sports betting strategy that allows you to be profitable in the long-term.

As I previously mentioned, you’re going to go through losing streaks that make you feel like you’re giving money away.

Interestingly enough, these stick out to us more than the winning streaks. This is where having a bankroll is crucial to the whole operation as it gives you a realistic look into where you’re standing financially.

Bonus points if you’re able to keep a record of your bets over a long period of time. This can help provide some insight as to what bets you have success with and which you should stay away from in the future.

Don’t: Bet With Your Heart

Nobody likes betting against their favorite team or their favorite player. In fact, sometimes we subconsciously bet with our heart even when we don’t think about it.

In all cases, do everything you can to remove emotion or rooting interest from the wagers you make.

Emotional, or “heart-bets,” have taken down even the most level-headed gamblers among us. I’m not so naïve as to suggest that you should occasionally bet against your favorite team, but maybe it’s a fair compromise to say that if you can’t get your heart out of it, keep your money out of it.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to turn your weekend hobby into somewhat of a side-hustle, these tips should put you in the position to turn a profit. While these may seem like basic concepts, they’re fundamentals that nearly every sports bettor would agree on.

Sticking to this set of rules won’t guarantee huge wins, but they will keep you from getting too deep in the hole. Remember that sportsbooks rely on uninformed bettors to make their money.

Find which sports you have success in, stick to your bankroll, do your research, and when in doubt, bet against the public.

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.