3 Mar

10 Rules of Strategic Sports Betting

Ten Logical Steps to a Profitable Sports Betting Strategy

Ten Logical Steps to a Profitable Sports Betting StrategyIt’s not easy to make money betting on sports. In fact, it’s been estimated that up to 90% of sports bettors are losing money or, at best, breaking even, over the long term. It makes sense that the percentage of winners would be so small. Las Vegas would have gone bankrupt long ago if winning were so easy.

Like any gambling-related activity, there will always be ups and downs; a reality the pros call “variance”. Even the sharpest veterans can’t predict winners every time. But there are some key points that can help you keep the variance to a minimum, sustaining a respectably above-average win rate (e.g. a profitable experience).

10 Rules of Profitable Sports Betting Strategy

Every gambling amusement in the world can be approached from a strategic angle – even slot machines, if you can believe that. When it comes to betting on sports, there are so many things to be considered. As a novice, you need to be paying more attention to what you’re doing, rather than what athletes and teams are doing on the field, court, pitch, etc. Once you learn to maintain strict discipline in your betting habits, restricting yourself to good decisions, you should begin to notice a reasonably steady swell in your bankroll.

The following is a list of ten basic rules you can follow to help you achieve that goal. Click on any goal for a detailed explanation, or scroll down to view them all in turn.

  1. Only Bet on Sports You Follow
  2. Bet With Your Head, Not Your Heart
  3. Win/Loss Streaks are Meaningless, Trust Stats Over Trends
  4. Place All Bets in Equal Units
  5. Only Bet on the Matches You’re Most Confident In
  6. Be Aware of (but Never Succumb to) the “Gambler’s Fallacy”
  7. Keep Your Expectations in Realistic Focus
  8. Arbitrage is Real – Shop the Lines!
  9. Pay Attention to Sharp Money Line Moves
  10. Don’t Pay Handicappers (Research Them Heavily if You Do)
1. Only Bet on Sports You Follow

You wouldn’t apply for a job as a welder if you have no education or experience in welding. The same goes for sports betting. You should never place bets on a sporting event you aren’t familiar with. Stick to the sports you follow, or start following more sports. The more you know, the greater your chances of making smart, responsible decisions.

2. Bet With Your Head, Not Your Heart

Every genuine sports fan has a favorite team. Perhaps you’re a “Cheese-Head”, or a die-hard Heat fan. Maybe you’ve been following a pugilist since his earliest days on the boxing circuit. Just because you love a particular athlete or sports team doesn’t mean they’re as good as you want them to be.

Never let your heart cloud your judgment. Bet the side that is statistically more likely to win. If you find you have a hard time separating your favorite from the stats’ favorite, maybe you should avoid betting on any matches in which your favorites are involved.

3. Win/Loss Streaks are Meaningless, Trust Stats Over Trends

This is one of the main reasons why so many sports bettors fall on the negative side of the money spectrum. Win/Loss streaks and overpowered performances happen all the time in sports. One of the worst teams in a league could have a great run and demolish an opponent no one gave them a chance to beat. Or an average-performing team could have a clutch 3-game win streak.

Unless there was some significant, identifiable factor that lead to this accelerated performance level, such as the recruitment of a new all-star player, it doesn’t mean the team should be valued much higher than in previous games. Overall stats are far more reliable than recent trends.

It should be noted that sportsbooks prey on the over-reaction of “trend bettors”. When predicting that many bettors will over-value one side, they often post lines that reflect the way they think people will bet. They make a lot of money doing it, too. Don’t fall for it. Trust in the stats.

4. Place All Bets in Equal Units Based on Bankroll Size

Before you start betting, take stock of your financial situation. How much money can you responsibly put in your betting bankroll (i.e. how much can you afford to lose?) Next, take the size of your bankroll and divide it by 50. This will give you the maximum stake you should be wagering, equal to 2% of your total bankroll. That 2% should be your “bet unit”. You can even drop it to 1% if you feel more comfortable. From there, every bet you make should be equal to 1 bet unit. (The only exception to this rule is detailed below in Rule #8, Arbitrage Betting.)

I’ll explain with a brief example. Let’s say you have $1,000 in your bankroll.

1000 / 50 = 20

By this formula, we can put your responsible bet unit at $20. Now, let’s assume it’s NFL Sunday, and you want to bet on 5 games. Each bet you place is going to be $20, for a total of $100 wagered. This is a reasonable, responsible amount, and one that doesn’t put too much risk on your overall budget. Which brings me to our next topic…

5. Only Bet on the Matches You’re Most Confident In

Keep the number of bets you place to a minimum. In the above example, there were five bets placed. This is probably the maximum number you should make on any given day, because – as I said – it doesn’t put too much strain on your total bankroll. If you’re placing 10-15 bets a day, you could easily run out of money before the week is out.

What you should be doing is placing bets only on the matches you feel the most confident about. If there are eight games happening, and you’re only confident in the outcomes of two of them, then only bet those two. If you feel confident in picking all eight, think again. Make a list of all these games, putting them in order of the ones you believe are most likely to win. Then only bet the top 4 or 5 on the list. You may want to consider parlay system bets to reduce the risk.

6. Beware the “Gambler’s Fallacy”

The “gambler’s fallacy” is a famous phenomenon of behavioral science. From a psychological standpoint, it is defined as:

…the belief that the odds for something with a fixed probability increase or decrease depending on recent occurrences.”

In other words, it’s the belief that something is more likely to happen simply because it hasn’t happened in a while.

Imagine flipping a coin. It has a 50% chance of landing on heads, and a 50% chance of landing on tails. If you flip the coin five times, and it lands on heads every time, what are the odds of it landing on tails the next time you flip it? If you think the probability has increased above 50%, you are succumbing to the gambler’s fallacy. Every single flip of the coin has the same 50/50 chance.

It’s incredible the propensity for betting based on past events. In sports betting, it can influence a person to bet on something they believe is more likely to happen, just because it hasn’t happened in a while; as if that particular event is “due” to occur.

This is especially dangerous in live betting. If a football game’s last three scores were passing touchdowns, it doesn’t mean the next one is more likely to be a rushing touchdown. If a field goal kicker has missed 3 in a row, it doesn’t make him more likely to hit the fourth. The likelihood a field goal will be successful is based entirely on realistic factors, like the kicker’s experience, distance of the kick, wind direction and wind speed, etc.

7. Keep Your Expectations in Realistic Focus

It’s all too common for beginners to come into the betting game with unrealistic expectations. You may think you’re a devoted fan with expert knowledge, capable of making correct picks at least 70% of the time. You’re not. No one sustains that kind of track record for any length of time. Even the best of the best average 60-65% in the long term. Most are closer to 50%, and a 50% winner is actually a loser; bleeding money thanks to the bookie’s juice.

In order to break even, you need to be winning 52.38% of your bets (relative to the standard -110 juice of sportsbooks). To reach a respectable profit margin, you should be winning 55% or your bets.

8. Arbitrage is Real – Shop the Lines!

Arbitrage betting is something every seasoned bettor looks for, because they know it’s a guaranteed profit. It’s not easy to find, and the profit margin is usually minuscule; a 1% profit is not unusual. So when you do find an opportunity, you can disregard Rule #3 above in favor of larger bet sizes. Just make sure that your calculations are correct, and that it really is a guaranteed win. If there’s any possibility you could lose, Rule #3 must remain intact.

Opportunities for arbitrage betting occur when different sportsbooks post different odds on the same event. It is extremely rare for the odds to be so far apart as to compensate for the juice, and still leave room for a guaranteed profit, but it can happen.

For example, Bookie A posts moneylines (straight bet to win) of -115 Hawks, +105 Celtics. Book B is getting a lot of action on Atlanta, resulting in a shift to -145 Hawks, +135 Celtics.

If you place a $130 bet on the -115 Hawks to win with Book A, then bet $100 on the +135 Celtics to win at Book B, you’re guaranteed to make a small profit either way (unless regulation ends in a tie, in which case both bets should be returned to you).

  • Total Bet ($130 + $100) = $230
  • Return if Hawks Win = $243.04 (profit of $13.04, or 5.37%)
  • Return if Celtics Win = $235.00 (profit of $5.00, or 2.13%)

This is only an example. It’s rare to find lines as far apart as these, but for a guaranteed profit of any size, it’s always a bet worth making. Obviously, the more you bet on these, the more you stand to make. The key (as I said above) is to double check your math. Make absolute certain it’s a profit. Then be quick about it. If the lines shift before you get both of your bets in, the opportunity will be lost.

9. Pay Attention to Sharp Money Line Moves

We already know that sharps win a respectable majority of their wagers. Thus, it would make sense for you to bet the way they bet. The easiest way to figure out where they’re betting is to watch for line movement – especially suspicious line movement.

If the majority of public bets are going in one direction, the lines will shift the other way to encourage betting on the other side. If, however, the majority of public bets are going one way, but the lines are shifting more in their favor, it’s a clear sign that the “sharp money” is being wagered on the other side.

You may not know who the sharp bettors are, but believe me, the sportsbooks do. They respect the wagers of these professionals, and will not hesitate to shift the lines contrary to popular action if they fear their bottom line is in danger.

10. Don’t Pay Handicappers (or Research Heavily if You Do)

I do not encourage buying picks, ever. There are two major problems with this practice.

First and foremost, the vast majority of pick services are scams. Their services are not regulated, therefore are not required to be honest or transparent about their propensity for success. If you’re buying picks from a “scam-dicapper”, you’re not only wasting money, but also more likely to lose the bets you place. Second, recreational bettors – even those employing an expectantly profitable sports betting strategy – rarely average a high enough profit to justify the cost of buying tips.

If you’re determined to look into handicapping services, I urge you to please read over our guide, Sports Handicappers: The Naked Truth. This document covers a multitude of reasons why you shouldn’t buy picks, but also gives critical advice on how to conduct research to pick a good sports betting handicapper, should you decide to go that route.

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