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Sports Betting Tutorial
by Spencer Patton - 12/02/2008

Sports betting has evolved a long way since the days of shady bars, smoky casino rooms, and broken kneecaps. Sports betting is easy, relatively straight forward, and useful as much for personal knowledge (being able to tell your friends what the spreads are on games they are watching) as it is for personal investment, if you know what you are doing.

I will provide a brief sports betting tutorial on how to get your start.

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Step 1: Decide where to wager. This choice is far more important than beginning sports bettors realize. First things first, read reviews. A good place to start is on this very Web site (left column), for a few paragraphs on which sports books cater to which customers. No matter what, do some Google searching and make sure to do your homework on your funds being A) accepted (some books no longer accept U.S. customers) and B) safe (there are sports book review Web sites out there to be found with very little Google searching).

The other aspect to consider is your size of wager/bonus expectations. For the beginning bettor, there are many places that will offer over 100 percent deposit bonuses (up to $250 or $500) for new accounts, that you would be silly not to take advantage of. If you are depositing a significant amount ($10,000+), it's a good idea to look for books that have higher limits, more deposit options (bank wire, bank check), and cater specifically to higher rollers. Giving the sports book a call and talking to the manager is a good idea as well… just like a casino they can change the bonus rules, commission structures, etc. to attract your bets.

Step 2: Survey the available sports. These days, most reputable sports book have lines on just about every game in every sport. There are some books that specialize on more nuanced sports, but for 99 percent of you, you are going to find the game you are looking for. The key aspect here is: strike a balance. Don't feel like you have to expand your knowledge into every game of every sport, but at the same time, sometimes the best lines can be found on teams that are not your hometown favorite. In short, the more you know, the more you can take advantage of the linesmakers having to puts lines up for all the games--yet you don't have to wager on anything you don't like.

Step 3: Money management. There isn't anything more important than taking emotions out of betting and using discipline when placing wagers. My favorite rule of thumb is always start off with 100 times your normal unit bet. So, if you plan on 1 unit being $10, you need to really be depositing $1,000 into your sports book account. If 1 unit is $100, you really need $10,000 in the account. This gives you the lasting ability to go through some losing streaks and survive until your next winning streak. The handicappers at Doc's here will give you picks 1-8 units, and sometimes up to 20-40 units per day on the larger selection days… so you need to have enough to ride out any storms that will assuredly come.

Step 4: The Lines. For additional information here, please see my other article about Understanding Sports Odds to learn more. Every sport is different when it comes to betting the spread. For some sports (like football) its very traditional to bet a certain team plus or minus a certain amount of points. However, with other sports (like Hockey or Soccer), it's more traditional to bet a money line (straight up who will win the game). But remember: just because it's customary doesn't mean it's the right strategy. Look for other articles written by my colleagues and myself for more specific strategies for each specific sport.

Step 5: Straight bets. Especially if you are a new bettor, don't fall into the trap of the sports books. They want you to bet all kinds of exotic wagers that don't pay you off what they really should if it were a fair world. Something about risking a toothpick to win a haystack is very appealing to the human mind… but remember, Vegas has the bigger parking lot, so don't play their game. Straight bets mean just that: 1 pick… your selection wins, the bet wins. You push, the bet pushes. You lose, your best loses. Nothing makes the sports books happier than if they can get you to go two-for-three on a parlay (where you have to win all bets for the bet to pay out), yet you lose 100 percent of the wager on what should have been a winning day. Do your mental sanity and your bankroll a favor and just bet straight bets.

Hopefully you picked up a few things in this sports betting tutorial article… but above all welcome to this thrilling and fascinating hobby… and best of luck!!!