Nearly every sports bettor will claim they have discovered the key to success. But the most successful ones don’t rely on a single element to make their wagers winners. Instead, they weigh a number of factors when they put money down, and they bring real skills to the table. Here are five ways to win at sports betting.
1. Know the sport cold.
It’s easy to get caught up in betting a sport you don’t really know particularly well but seems to offer opportunities. It’s also fun to learn about a new sport, and placing wagers will engage you fully. But before you start putting hard-earned cash down on any games, make sure you have done your homework. Work at it yourself, and find reliable resources for first-rate information.
Consider tennis, for example. It seems fairly simple—one player versus another, with a player ranking system to back up your wager. But If you think you’ll be able to win placing winning bets on matches in an upcoming ATP event, even though you’ve never played a set or watched much beyond a U.S. Open final, you’ll quickly discover that it’s not as straightforward as it might seem.
Those who bet it regularly will know things like how players perform on different surfaces, their head-to-head records, and even their approach to the tennis season. Is the event a tune-up for a major? A highly ranked player may not bring the same intensity, wanting to make sure he or she has enough fuel in the tank for an upcoming Grand Slam. At the same time, a lower-ranked player might be all-in, seeing a lesser event as an opportunity to cash a check.
Remember that in individual sports like tennis, it’s about the performance of a single player. Dive in and study their history. Are they ranked lower because they’re coming off an injury? If you find out they’ve recovered well, that might be a good time to bet an underdog. Are they playing in the tournament primarily because they have a connection to a sponsor or they’re earning an appearance fee? That might indicate they’re not overly excited about winning, and more focused on fulfilling an obligation. Probably not a good bet.
Be wary of betting sports you don’t fully understand. Good sports bettors focus on removing the element of luck as much as possible and are unlikely to risk their money on something that’s entirely new to them. Even if it’s a sport you follow avidly—NFL football, Premier League, MLB—remember that you can never gather too much information. Study, review, and look for key performance indicators in past events.
2. Shop your bets.
It can be easy to get locked in with one sports betting platform. They usually offer discounts and deals to keep your business, and it’s easy to forget one of the most important factors for success: the odds they’re setting.
When you see a matchup you think is promising, navigate through different platforms to see what each bookie thinks of it. Some may overlook it, and offer very favorable odds to a bettor who comes to it with more information. As platforms take on more and more sports, it’s easy for them to focus on a few majors and leave some outliers that smart money finds.
On the other hand, big games like the Super Bowl will have no shortage of attention from the book experts. While you’ll generally find more similarity when it comes to lines on these games, it’s still valuable to do some research and see where your best chance for a major payout lies.
Once you get into more complicated bets such as props or parlays, you’ll find even more variation among the books. Dig deeper to find the best numbers, and never assume that they’ll all be about the same.
Bottom line: don’t be overly swayed by cash back offers or bonuses from the sports betting platforms. Odds matter, and winning bets are far better than losers with incentives to make additional wagers.
3. Consider smaller markets.
If you follow all the popular action in sports betting, you’ll find yourself betting nothing but the biggest, most highly publicized games. Guess what? That’s where the books are putting all their attention as well, and you are more likely to end up on the losing side.
That’s why learning some of the outside-the-norm betting lines makes so much sense. For instance, if you have some knowledge of small conference college basketball, consider prop bets like first half points totals. Individual player prop bets are also fertile territory for someone who is already engaged in fantasy football. There may be more limit with these kinds of wagers, but you can bet them across multiple books if you think you have a winner and want to boost your return.
4. Track your bets and know your closing line return.
We’ve all met a sports bettor who is convinced they have a record of success. But, as you talk, you realize a lot of the conversation seems to herald a few winners while discounting a number of losers. Good sports betting is all about being analytical, rational, and honest about each situation. So start by being honest about your own track record.
Whether you do it on a spreadsheet you create or you rely on an app that can do it for you, it’s vital to record your own wins and losses. Just like skilled bettors are looking for tendencies in the games they bet, recording your own results can reveal characteristics about yourself that will make you a more accomplished bettor.
We can all learn from our mistakes. Tracking results is the best way for anyone placing wagers to avoid repeating history and avoid rationalizing outcomes.
5. Be disciplined.
Discipline goes across all kinds of elements of sports betting.
Let’s start with the urge to quickly make back a day of losses. Just because you lost on Friday, it doesn’t mean you have to try to win it all back on Saturday. That’s letting emotion guide your approach, and emotional sports bettors don’t fare well. Stay the course even after a bad day or two, and continue to look for opportunities while not over-extending yourself because you want to get back in the green overnight.
Avoid betting with your heart. Sure, you may have grown up cheering for the Bills or the Knicks or the Red Wings, but don’t let that influence your sports betting strategy. It’s a cliché, but, “Bet with your head and cheer with your heart,” still stands. Don’t be superstitious—putting money on your favorite team does nothing to increase their likelihood of winning. In fact, it’s often best to avoid betting on your favorite teams altogether.
Don’t bet just to have action. Sure, you know you’re going to be with a bunch of buddies to watch the game on Sunday, and it might be more exciting if you have a wager on it. But don’t let that impulse make you ignore poor odds or lack of opportunities. Better to watch a game because you want to see it, and follow the results of the matchup you bet on with your iPhone.
More than anything, keep your wits about you when sports betting. Do extensive research, find some trusted sources of information, and focus on sports you understand. When you do, you’ll not only win regularly, you’ll enjoy it a lot more.