Sportsbetting Tips for Winners

Having made a living betting on sports (mostly NFL football) for over a decade, as well as having been connected with the sportsbetting industry for a time in other capacities, it troubles me to see people make the same mistakes again and again, and throw away money unnecessarily.There are several things I would recommend to a beginning sportsbettor:

  1. Understand that a recreational gambler is a losing gambler.

The approach you'll need to take to turn yourself into an advantage sportsbettor who can consistently make money at this is different from-and in some ways incompatible with-treating sportsbetting as something to do "for fun."

There are many things casual gamblers do based on making the activity more fun as a hobby-betting on their favorite teams, betting on televised games, etc.-that are not justified from a bottom line standpoint. Now, that's not to say such things are "wrong." You might decide you'd rather lose long term and have fun (not every hobby has to be a way to make a profit after all), than work hard and be disciplined and always make the mathematically justified decision regardless of your emotional preferences. But if so, at least make that decision with eyes open. Understand that being "recreational" about this activity costs you money.

But to do this right means a lot of hours, a lot of research, a lot of number crunching. Never look at this as "easy money." It's a job, not an alternative to a job.

  1. Ignore the vast majority of advice commonly offered to beginning sportsbettors, because it's almost all wrong.


* "Never bet parlays and teasers."

Wrong. Winning sportsbettors use these (and other exotic bet types) to their advantage. Depending on many factors and circumstances (that you'll need to educate yourself about), they are sometimes better than straight bets, sometimes worse, and sometimes the same.

* "Always make the same size bets (called "flat betting"). Never vary the size of your bets."

Wrong. The mathematically correct bet size in any given situation is a function of the likelihood of the bet winning, the odds at which you are placing the bet, and the size of your bankroll. Because these three factors vary, the optimum bet size varies.

* "Never bet on more than x number of games per day."

Wrong. Advantage sportsbettors bet on whatever number of opportunities give them an edge. That may be zero, one, five, or a hundred in a day. There is no magic number they use as a ceiling.

* "Never risk more than x% of your bankroll on a game [or per day, per week, etc.]."

Wrong. Again, the mathematically correct bet size in any given situation is a function of the likelihood of the bet winning, the odds at which you are placing the bet, and the size of your bankroll. There is no magic percentage advantage sportsbettors use as a ceiling.

I could go on indefinitely. Why is there so much bad advice out there? Two main reasons. One, some of the people saying these things genuinely don't know any better. Generally they're just parroting whatever rules of thumb were told to them when they were beginners, things that are just "common knowledge" in their circle, and so they get perpetuated.

Two, some of the people saying these things know that they're wrong, but their position is "We have to oversimplify for the beginners. You and I know these 'rules' don't really apply to serious, advanced sportsbettors who do this for a living. But when I'm addressing beginners, that isn't who I have in mind. I'm talking to the casual, recreational gambler who just wants to make a few bets for fun, and I'm trying to get him to limit his risk so he doesn't lose his shirt."

Looked at that way, there's a sense in which not all this advice is "wrong." If it's purely a device to get non-advantage sportsbettors to bet less and therefore lose less, it may well serve that purpose.

Because really the optimum bet size for the non-advantage sportsbettor is zero. When you don't have an edge, that's what you should bet. But if we're talking about people who want to have "fun" and bet anyway, maybe the next best thing you can do is convince them to bet less. So all of the above examples could be justified in that sense, as arbitrary restrictions that are the next best thing to not betting at all. (And you could add "Never bet on more than one sport in the same day," "If you lose three days in a row, take at least one entire day off with no bets," etc. None of which, by the way, are any better or worse than "Never bet more than the IQ of your first girlfriend," "Never bet on the 5th, 15th or 25th day of any month," or anything else that results in non-advantage sportsbettors betting less.)

  1. Educate yourself.

Online you will find not only bad advice (and dishonest self-interested "advice"), but plenty of resources that can actually help you. Rather than direct you to specific sites (since you have no way of knowing if I too am trying to steer you to places I am affiliated with that are trying to separate you from your money), I'll simply suggest Googling something like "sportsbetting forums." At sites like those, you'll be able to communicate with other sportsbettors and learn from them.

You still have to be very wary of course. There's some kind of filtering or self-policing that occurs when people come together collectively like that to share ideas in a forum, but it's far from perfect. Not all bad advice, scams, etc. get shouted down, debunked, shamed into leaving. There's no shortage on those forums of people who think they know a lot and in fact don't. So you'll still need to read carefully and critically. You'll need to immerse yourself in these communities, ask questions, get a sense of who knows what they're talking about and who's a blowhard.

There's a lot of gold in the forums and elsewhere online, but you have to wade through a lot of garbage to find it. And you won't be able to distinguish the gold from the garbage on Day One. It's an educational process that you'll get better at with time and experience.

  1. Don't buy picks.

One of the absolute most disreputable, scoffed at "professions" connected with sportsbetting is the "tout." Successful touts are 99% marketing (including blatantly dishonest marketing) and 1% handicapping skill. People who have spent any appreciable amount of time in the sportsbetting industry, on either side of the counter, and achieved any significant level of success, are pretty close to unanimous on this point.

  1. Think outside the box as far as how to make money at sportsbetting.

Almost all outsiders to sportsbetting assume that making money means handicapping well and picking the winning teams. Indeed, what else could it mean?

Well, you might be surprised to learn that the majority of people who make a profit sportsbetting do not do so that way. They focus on other things more than on conventional handicapping, and indeed often to the exclusion of conventional handicapping.

You'll want, for instance, to familiarize yourself with the concepts of middling and scalping. Roughly, these refer to looking for the rare opportunities to bet both sides of the same game at different places at an advantage. (Analogous to if one broker will sell you a stock for $50 a share, and another broker will buy that stock for $52 a share, you can make money by buying and selling the same stock.)

Related to that, some advantage sportsbettors find they are better able to handicap line movement than handicap the games themselves. They bet one side of a game early because they anticipate the lines will change in a certain direction, and then after the lines move, they bet the other side, thereby creating a scalp or middle.

You will also find that, especially in the case of legal offshore sportsbooks, many places offer "loss leader" promotions to get people in the door. They know they are at a disadvantage on these promotions, but they also know (or at least hope) that the vast majority of customers will stay and bet at a disadvantage beyond the advantage the promotion gives them.

  1. Play at multiple sportsbooks and shop lines.

It's hard to overestimate the importance of this. If you want to bet on the Yankees to win $100, you may have to put up $150 at one place, $148 at another, $147 at a couple more, $145 at one, and $142 at another. Of course, you'll want to place the bet for the $142. (Meanwhile, if you prefer the Yankees' opponent, the odds would rank in the reverse order, so the first place would give you the best price.) The more places you shop, the more likely you are to get the best odds for your bets.

Anyway, I'm barely scratching the surface. I could say much more, but I hope this at least will get a beginning sportsbettor started, and give him or her a lot to think about.

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