How Bad at Sports Betting are You?

Whenever I ask someone if they're bad at sports betting, I usually get one of two reactions. The first involves some defiant chest puffing, usually followed by a list of the person's biggest gambling wins. The second often results in the person hanging their head slightly before admitting that they have no idea what they're doing.

The person in both examples is probably a bad sports bettor, but one is more willing to admit it than the other. I tend to have more hope for the latter, because at least they're not trying to cover up their lack of experience with macho bluster.

If you're uncertain of whether or not you stink at sports betting, ask yourself the following questions. The more times you answer "yes," the longer the road towards improvement.

Don't give up hope, though. Even the lowliest gambler can get better with patience and practice.

Do you ever take the first line that you come across?

If you answered "yes" to this question, then you've taken a major step towards being a bad bettor. Not all lines are created equal, and it's absolute insanity to jump on the first one you come across. In the world of sports betting, convenience does not equal success.

The smart bettor should have a number of accounts with different sportsbooks. I suggest getting one each (at least) at a sharp book, a square book, and a book offered reduced juice.

This combination should give you a decent sampling to choose from, and you can often get up to a 0.5 advantage over those who take the first line available to them. This might not sound like much to a novice, but it can increase your overall margin of success by a couple of percentage points over the long haul.

Do you wager on lots of parlays?

A parlay is a single wager that links together two or more bets. The payout increases with each successful pick, although all selections must be correct in order to receive any money. A standard two-pick Vegas parlay pays at 13/5 odds, while an eight-team pick offers 150/1.

While these odds sound tempting, keep in mind that the volatility of professional sports makes it difficult to string together multiple winners. A patient bettor can make parlays work for them on occasion, but anyone who expects to strike it rich on a 15-team parlay is likely throwing money away.

Have you ever opened an account with a sportsbook without doing research?

There are certain times in life when it's best to jump in with both feet and not ask too many questions. Selecting a sportsbook isn't one of those times.

Before you open an online betting account and deposit money, it's imperative that you do your research. Otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for a lot of grief.

The most important factor to consider is the reliability of the book. Do they have a reputation for paying out in a reasonable amount of time? Are customer concerns and complaints resolved in an efficient and satisfactory manner?

There are numerous watchdog sites on the web that can provide you with this information. Be careful about random gambling sites that offer reviews of sportsbooks, as many of these have affiliate relationships, which means they get money for sending you to a specific book. In these cases, there's often a definite conflict of interest.

Do you keep making wagers once your bankroll is depleted?

Building a bankroll has two purposes. Not only does it provide you with money to gamble with, but it also serves as a natural stopping point once you've lost your funds. The latter is especially important, as sticking to your bankroll prevents you from risking money that's needed for necessities such as rent and food.

The best strategy is to stop making wagers when your bankroll is gone. If this occurs, you can always start up again once you've rebuilt it. In the meantime, you can still follow the games, hone your strategy, and make hypothetical wagers to measure your progress as a bettor.

If you keep making bets once your bankroll is gone, you've broken one of the cardinal rules of gambling.

Do you routinely fall for trap lines?

Think of a trap line like a rabbit snare. It doesn't seem dangerous to the rabbit, and it may even seem downright inviting. But once he's stuck in the snare, he'd give anything to be able to reconsider.

A trap line seems to give the player an obvious advantage over the book, but in reality there's something more going on under the surface. Perhaps the weather has taken a nasty turn for the worse, or perhaps an athlete has just suffered the loss of a close family member.

Before you jump all over a promising line, do your research and make sure that it's not a trap. At the end of the day, you want to be gloating over how you beat the book instead of sulking about another avoidable loss.

Do you wager on as many sporting events as possible?

I've known gamblers who've placed as many as 20 bets in one day with a sportsbook. If you fall into this category, you're a madman who's setting himself up for disaster.

As I stated earlier, not all lines are created equal. As a bettor, your ultimate goal should be to locate the lines that give you an edge over the book. This is the most effective way of turning a profit, and I can guarantee you that successful long-term punters aren't throwing money at every betting opportunity.

You should also consider the burnout factor. I like cheesecake, but I couldn't eat it every day. If I did, I'd get tired of it in a hurry. The same applies to sports betting, as anyone placing a high volume of daily wagers is sure to hit a wall and likely give up on the hobby. The other option is to become a gambling addict, and that's something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Do you often deviate from your average unit size?

In sports betting, a unit indicates the size of the bettor's average wager. For one punter, betting a single unit might equal $100, while another bettor's unit might be $1000. This is an amount that you can afford to risk on a regular basis, and you should never wager more than 5% of your bankroll on any single bet (no matter how certain it seems).

Some gamblers, however, tend to overreact to hot and cold streaks. Not only can this play havoc with their bankroll, but it can also interfere with their concentration and further undermine their chances of winning.

If you experience a sudden rash of wins or losses, don't increase your unit size in an attempt to capitalize or catch up. Streaks come and go, and it's important to keep the big picture in mind.

Do you follow trends with a slavish devotion?

Trends should be studied and accounted for, but there's no reason to follow them blindly. Just because a team is on a hot streak doesn't mean that they're going to win until the end of time. Nothing is guaranteed in the world of professional sports, and assuming otherwise is setting you up for a rude awakening.

The same concept applies to a team's overall win/loss record. Just because a team is doing well statistically doesn't mean that they're consistently beating the line. Each wager should be considered on its own merit, and you'll often find the most value on squads coming off one or more losses.

Do you avoid betting on certain teams because you dislike them?

We all have sports teams that we hate, but you should never let these emotions get in the way of a potentially profitable wager. I know one gambler who never bets on the Yankees because he despises the franchise, while another avoids the Lakers because they once cost him a lot of money…back in 1987.

If you're going to have any chance of becoming a competent gambler, you have to keep your emotions in check. Think of sports gambling as a business and conduct your affairs accordingly. Would you turn down a profitable client just because you didn't like them personally? Assuming the answer is "no," you should apply the same logic when it comes time to place a bet.


Sports betting can be murder if you engage in the hobby on a consistent basis. From tricky lines to last-minute upsets, i's like walking through a minefield designed to decimate your wallet instead of your body. Fortunately, there's always room for improvement.

By taking the tips provided in this article and applying them to your sports betting regimen, you should begin to notice an overall advancement over time. As your momentum and confidence begin to grow, so should your bankroll.

Just keep in mind that everyone has bad days when going against the book. Even hardened professionals usually max out at around a 58% winning percentage, so don't get discouraged when the losses come in bunches. Eventually, the wins should do the same.