I've been betting on sports for decades. I have had access to some of the best handicappers in the world since working at Doc's Sports since the early 2000s. I have interviewed some of the top minds in the sports betting industry over the course of the last 20 years and have learned some of their secrets. I have written countless articles detailing the ins and outs of successful sports betting. I consider myself a strong handicapper.
But I still manage to make dumb bets from time to time.
Money management and discipline in sports betting are probably the most important factors in one becoming a winning bettor. There are millions of sports fanatics out there that know the games inside out, and guys that can recite stats off the top of their head about events that happened years ago are abundant. However, about 1 percent of sports bettors are successful over the long run. There's a reason for that. If all that it took to be a winning bettor was in-depth sports knowledge then there would probably be no sports betting industry at all. It's because those 99 percent of losing sports bettors don't have the discipline and money management skills to win over the long term that the bookies are so successful.
Winning sports bettors treat their wagers like investments, much like they do with the stock market. Savvy stock traders don't fall into the same traps that losing sports bettors do. They track their investments carefully. They don't go on tilt after a night of drinking and make rash decisions. They don't try to make up for their losses from bad choices with even worse ones. But most bettors don't treat their sports wagers the same as their stock investments. That's one of the main reasons the sportsbooks make so much darned money.
Sports are filled with emotion, both from the players on the field or court and the fans in the stands and in front of the TV. That emotion can be the worst enemy of a sports bettor. The bettors that can take that emotion out of their wagering endeavors stand the best chance at success in the long run. It's easier said than done. Like I stated earlier, I have been doing this for a long time and still make the occasional mistake. Smart betting goes against basic human nature, and that's why the casinos in Las Vegas are so big.
The following is some advice I have learned from my experience over the years that can help you avoid the same pitfalls I have fallen into over the years.
Never Chase Your Bets
This one is probably the hardest aspect of sports betting as it's in a gambler's nature to try and get his or her money back quickly after a losing day. It's easier than ever to chase your bets these days as you can place thousands of dollars worth of bets right from your smart phone. Over the years this one has been my Achilles heel in becoming a long-term winning bettor. Too many times I have had a bad day then I double down on the late game that was not even on my card to begin with. The sportsbooks now offer halftime lines and even quarter lines and in-game betting, so there are many temptations after a lousy day. The best advice I can give to those that have had a bad run is to take a deep breath and just look forward to doing some extra handicapping for the next day or next slate of games. Chasing almost never works. I probably hit around 55 percent of my wagers, but when I chase that winning percentage drops down to about 20 percent on those bad bets. I now have a lot of bad experience to draw on to help me avoid chasing, and I try and take that deep breath and tell myself I will do an even better job for the next slate of games and take the rest of the day off.
Never Bet a Game Just for "Action"
There's a reason that the sportsbooks have huge handle for TV games. Bettors love to have action on a game they are going to watch. It makes the game more exciting and gets the adrenaline pumping. It can make a Tuesday night Mid-American Conference football game seem like the friggin' Super Bowl. If this is a game that you have found a handicapping edge for then it's no problem. If you are betting the game just because it's on TV, however, you are probably just flipping a coin, and the sportsbooks have the sharpest lines on the games with the largest betting handle, namely the TV contests. There are likely better games on the betting board to wager on that are not on TV, and the best handicappers are always looking for those off-the-radar opportunities.
I have wagered on the Super Bowl almost every year since I started betting. But in the last decade or so since I have become a sharper bettor I am more likely to lay off the big game if I don't find an edge in the line. And I am proud to tell my friends that I have no action on the game because I couldn't find that edge even though 99 percent of people that like to wager on sports will have to lay something down on the big game. To me it's just another game.
Learn About Proper Money Management
When I moved to Las Vegas to attend UNLV, I was introduced to legal sports betting, which opened up a whole new world for me. It was a good and bad thing at first. Even though I gained the valuable experience that made me into the bettor I am today, it isn't called "Sin City" for nothing. There are sportsbooks on The Strip that take wagers 24 hours a day during football season, and I found I was making some uninformed wagers at the now-defunct Barbary Coast after a long night of enjoying the Las Vegas nightlife. Maybe I would bet $100 per game when my average bet size was normally $30, or I would bet on my favorite team on a whim when I didn't originally like the line for its game. My bets made no sense while I was intoxicated, and I definitely was not using any form of proper money management. I found my most successful bets were made during the day and sober when I would go to The Strip to make my football wagers for the week.
Practicing proper money management is key to a successful sports betting career. I learned a lot about this once I started working for Doc's and became familiar with its Unit Betting System and saw the fine work from the Advisory Board of handicappers on www.docsports.com. To summarize what I learned, the sharpest bettors separate a bankroll that is strictly for sports betting. They find a unit size that works for their bankroll, whether that be $10 per unit or $1,000, and they stick to it. Doc's Unit System is a great example as it rates selections on a scale of 1-8 units depending on strength of the bet. A unit should be about .05 percent of your bankroll, so you should never bet more than 4 percent of your bankroll on any one game. Of course, if you are winning over the long term you can always raise your standard unit bet or lower it when losing, but bettors who stick to their set unit amount have the best chance at long-term success. Even the best handicappers in the world go through long losing streaks from time to time, and those that don't practice proper money management can have their entire bankrolls wiped out during one brutal cold slide.
Track Your Wagers
You can make a spreadsheet, use a word processing document or even use the notepad app on your smart phone. But all successful handicappers track their wagers. This can be extremely useful in helping to figure out what you are good at and what you can improve on. When things are tracked in this format this also helps to avoid many of the mistakes written above. When you chase bets often and document them it makes it easier to take that deep breath and put down the smart phone the next time you want to chase because you will have the evidence right in front of you that it rarely works. My results have improved dramatically since I started a spreadsheet to track my bets.
Winning at sports betting is no easy thing. If it was then everybody would do it. It sometimes takes a lifetime to learn how to successfully wager on sports. And after doing this for a very long time I'm still learning every day. But treating your wagers just like an investment will put you ahead of most sports bettors out there and will give you the best chance at long-term success.
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