10 Tips for Getting Started in Football Betting in 2015

This post assumes you have some familiarity with football betting in 2015, but you're looking for some getting started tips for the upcoming season. In other words, you're a beginner, but you're not a complete neophyte. I assume you already understand the basics, like what point spreads and lines are.

1 – Shop, Shop, Shop!

You can find books which offer various specials. You should shop around and find the best deals. If you can find a book with discounted vig, where you only have to wager $105 to win $100, you should take it. The winning percentage you need to break even is smaller with such a book, and your return on investment grows dramatically as a result.

You'll also find books who want $115 to win $100 or $120 to win $100.

When betting on football, it pays to shop around.

2 – Keep It Simple

Beginning football bettors should stick with the simple bets. That means bets against the point spread and over/under bets. More complicated bets, like parlays, look like a good deal because they offer a larger win. But they're way harder to win than other bets.

Master winning a high percentage of plain vanilla bets before moving on to the more exotic bets. You'll be glad you did—and so will your bankroll.

3 – Socialize

You'll find no shortage of message boards and chat rooms devoted to betting on football. You can also connect with other football bettors via Facebook and/or Twitter. In fact, you can gain valuable insights about what's going on in the sport via these channels.

Being mindful is a key to success, and is just a matter of paying attention. It's also a way to force yourself to be mindful and talk about, write about, and think about your hobby.

Just keep in mind that 90% of the people you discuss football betting with online are full of it. The best and smartest football bettors aren't sharing their secrets on the Internet.

4 – Manage Your Bankroll

If you're new to sports betting, it might not have even occurred to you to set aside a bankroll specifically for betting purposes. But that's exactly what you should do. This money, your bankroll, is sacred. You can't spend it on rent, car payments, utilities, or food. In fact, if you need your football betting bankroll for any of those purposes, you shouldn't be betting on football.

Once you have a bankroll, divide it by 100. For example, if you have a $1000 bankroll, 1/100 of it is $10. That's your standard bet size.

You can range your football bets based on how confident in them you are. If you think a bet is a really good thing, you can bet $20 or $30 on it. Never more than $30, though.

If you're a winning football bettor, your bankroll will grow. As it does, the size of your bets will grow, too. But you'll always want to keep your bet size between 1% and 3% of your total bankroll.

If you're a losing football bettor, your bankroll will shrink. You'll eventually go broke. But you'll stay in action longer, and you might have a chance at turning things around.

But broke football bettors can't place bets. The goal of managing your bankroll is to avoid going broke because of bad luck.

The football bettors who get into trouble are the ones who are smart but can't manage their bankrolls.

5 – Set Goals

Your initial goal should be to break even. You don't want to lose money, even though that's probably exactly what you'll do at first. But you need something to shoot for.

In order to break even when facing a standard vig, where you bet $110 to win $100, you need to win 52.4% of the time. If you win less often than that, you'll eventually go broke. That extra $10 you're risking is like a tax you get hit with over and over again.

Once you've achieved your goal of being a break-even football bettor, you can start setting goals for what percentage of bets you're going to win and what kind of return on investment you'll achieve. Start small. Someone who wins 53% of the time is a profitable sports bettor, and that's a worthy goal. No one is winning 65% of their bets. Even a winning percentage of 60% is too aggressive a goal for a beginning football bettor.

6 – Keep Records

I used to play poker. In fact, I was one of those poker players who claimed that he was "breaking even". Let me tell you something about poker—players who claim they're breaking even are almost always losing players who don't keep records.

The same is true of sports bettors, no matter the sport. My last tip was to set goals. It's good advice, but it's useless unless you keep written records that demonstrate whether or not you're achieving those goals.

How you keep these records is up to you. A spiral bound notebook works for some people. Others might use a ledger. Nowadays, most people probably prefer a spreadsheet program like Excel.

If you keep records consistently, you'll be more successful betting on football. This is true for multiple reasons, not the least of which is this:

Performance measured is performance improved.

7 – Analyze Situations

Looking at a team's situation can help you make decisions about profitable bets. For example, you're looking at a team which played on the road last week and got crushed. They have a home game this week. Teams in this situation generally do well.

Some bettors might think that a team that got destroyed on the road the previous week is discouraged. But others might realize that since they're now playing at home, they're motivated in multiple ways. One, they want to make up for the previous week. Two, they don't want to disappoint their home crowd.

Another situation you can look at is jet lag. One team might be a huge favorite over the home team, but they're facing a 3 hour time difference. This might not be reflected in the betting lines. If that's the case, you might have found a profitable situation.

8 – Favor Underdogs

At one time, you were able to restrict your betting to home underdogs and make a profit. But sports betting is a market place, and over time, the market corrects itself. The simple strategies that worked yesterday aren't likely to work today. The simple strategies that work today aren't likely to work tomorrow, either.

But that doesn't mean you should ignore underdogs, which a lot of beginning football bettors do. Everyone loves high-scoring teams. Everyone loves winners.

Bet against that tendency. Underdogs are often profitable betting opportunities. Remember, they don't have to win in order for your bet to win.

They just have to beat the point spread.

9 – Watch for Line Movements

Football bettors refer to 3 and 7 as "key numbers". Those are the most common differences in scores between teams, for obvious reasons. If you see a line move 3 to 2.5, or from 7 to 7.5, there's a reason for it.

Your goal is to figure out what that reason is in case it presents a profitable betting opportunity for you. A book might move a line because there's too much money on one side or the other. But it could be something else, too.

Your job is to be aware of it and analyze the situation accordingly.

10 – Don't Pay for Picks from Tout Services

You'll be tempted, especially when you've hit a streak of bad luck, to pay a service to help you pick winners. Don't give in to this temptation. It's a losing proposition in multiple ways.

For one thing, a successful handicapper is either working for the books or working as a professional football bettor. Both careers are hugely profitable. Neither career rewards people who give advice to other bettors.

For another thing, paying for picks is a cost that has to be factored into your profit and loss analysis. Suppose you're a $100 per game bettor. You find a tout service who will sell you picks for $5 a game.

You're putting $110 on the line with the sportsbook, but you're also losing $5 right off the top, win or lose. So instead of putting down $110 to win $100, you're effectively putting down $110 to win $95.

That changes the percentage of winning picks you need dramatically. There might be a tout service out there that's worth the money, but I haven't found one yet.

In fact, a lot of tout services are notorious for dividing their customer base into 2 groups. They advise group 1 to take the underdog in an NFL game. They also advise group 2 to take the favorite in the same game.

50% of their customers are thrilled because they got a winning pick from the tout service. They're predisposed to buying another pick.

The tout service then reaches out to the 50% who lost, and they offer them a free pick on Monday night's game. They can split that group into 2, also—advising half of them to take one side and half of them to take the other.

Rinse and repeat. Tout services make a lot of money this way.


Betting on football is a lot of fun, even for beginners. Avoid the simple mistakes, do your homework, and manage your bankroll. You could be participating in this hobby for decades. You might even get good enough at it to make it your profession.