11 Sports Betting Strategies for Beginners

Newbie Tactics for Betting on Sports - Laptop, Smart Phone, Betting and Card

When you look for sports betting information online, you find a bunch of articles about the basics, like how to read lines and where to bet. You also find a few pages about advance betting techniques and systems. But few pages are available that help you advance from the beginning to the point where you can use advanced techniques.

This page is designed to fill this gap. You’re going to learn 11 simple sports betting strategies that anyone can use. Each of these is an important step in building your overall system that can eventually produce profitable results.

1 – Start with Small Bets

It takes a long time to learn how to beat the sportsbooks. Of course, some gamblers pick up winning strategies faster than others, but there’s a learning curve for even the best sports bettors. You only have a limited amount of money you can use to bet on sports, so don’t make the mistake of betting too much per contest when you’re learning how to win.

I started my sports betting career making bets of $22 and less. Many bets were only $5 to $11. I still make some bets as low as $11 today. It took me around 20 years of mixed results while betting part time to get to the point where I’m pretty good at it.

I used many different strategies over the years to make it easier to break even, but even with them I didn’t make any money. I just reduced how much it cost me to make bets. The main thing I did was place most of my wagers with individuals instead of bookies and sportsbooks.

This eliminated the cost of the vig, and this is a good strategy to use as long as you’re making small bets. When you don’t have to pay vig you only have to win half the time to break even. As you start making bigger bets this strategy becomes harder, because you can’t find individuals that are willing to take larger action.

When you start betting on sports, decide how much you have for a bankroll. Set this aside and don’t use it for anything other than sports betting. Divide this amount by 100, and make bets no bigger than this amount as you learn how to improve your results.

If you have $1,000, don’t make any bets for more than $10. If you’re betting with a bookie or sportsbook you can make $11 to win $10 bets, but keep your bet size low.

You’re going to make mistakes, and by only using a small percentage of your bankroll they won’t cost you too much. This strategy also makes sure that you can make plenty of bets before you run out of money. The longer you can stay in the game, the better your odds are of coming up with a winning system.

2 – Focus on a Small Area

Most sports bettors get started by betting on their favorite teams and betting on big games, like the super bowl or NCAA basketball tournament. I cover betting on your favorite teams in another section, but the mistake beginning sports bettors make when they bet on big games is they usually bet on something they don’t know a great deal about.

Instead of betting on everything and anything, you have a better chance of picking winners when you focus on one thing. Instead of betting on the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NCAA games, focus on just one sport to start.

An even better idea:

Is to focus on one smaller part of one sport when you start betting on sports. Instead of betting on NCAA football, focus on one conference. Instead of betting on the NFL, just bet on games in the AFC East.

By focusing on one small area you have the opportunity to build a base of knowledge that helps you pick winners. In order to be a winning sports bettor you need to build as much knowledge about the teams and players that you bet on. When you can gather and analyze more data than the people setting the lines you’ve reached a point where you can make a consistent profit.

The way to get started is to specialize. I understand that part of the reason you want to bet on sports is because it makes the games more interesting, but you need to decide if you’re willing to pay I the form of losing wagers to make a game more interesting or if you want to improve your chances to win.

3 – Make Moneyline Wagers

Most sporting events have at least two different lines. One of the lines is an against the spread bet. An against the spread bet has a point spread, where one team gets points and the other team gives points.

The other common type of betting line is a moneyline. With a moneyline wager, you just have to pick the team that wins the game to win the bet. On moneyline wagers, the amount you have to bet to win is usually different than in against the spread wagers.

Against the spread bets usually, cost 11 to 10 or 110 to 100 when you bet on either side of the game. A moneyline wager is a little different. The extra money you have to bet above what you can win on an against the spread bet is called vig, and that’s how the sportsbooks make a profit.

Moneyline wagers also have a vig, but it’s harder to see because the lines are presented in a different way. Here’s an example of a moneyline wager, and how it works.

NEBRASKA
+150
PENN STATE
-170

In this game, Nebraska is playing at Penn State. The team with a plus sign, in this case Nebraska, is the underdog. The +150 means that if you bet $100 on Nebraska and they win the game you get back your $100 and win $150.

The favorite, in this case, Penn State has a minus number. This number means you have to bet that much to win $100. So you have to bet $170 for the chance to win $100 on Penn State.

When you start betting on sports it can be difficult to pick winner against the spread. The sportsbooks are good at setting lines that end up close to the final score, so it’s challenging to figure out which team is going to win with the spread.

But it’s much easier to pick the team that’s going to win the game outright. As you can see in the example, it costs more to pick the favorite, but it’s still easier to pick the winner.

You can also look for underdogs that have a decent chance to win. When you can win more than you risk you don’t have to pick as many winners to make a profit.

4 – Understand Home Team Bias

In sports of all kinds, the home team wins more than the visiting team. The exact percentages vary from sport to sport and from season to season, but you can see it across all sports. Most people know this from watching games, but few understand how this biases the sports betting public. You need to understand what home team bias is and how it can hurt your sports betting results.

Because home teams win more often than road teams, many sports bettors give the home team too much credit when they try to determine the best bet. This is called home team bias. While you must account for the added chance to win for the home team when you’re trying to determine the best team to bet on, you can’t count the fact that they’re at home for too much.

The general betting public defiantly has a home team bias, and the sportsbooks have learned about this over the years. When they set their lines they account for general home team bias, and this is why betting on home underdogs isn’t as profitable as it used to be.

Please Note:

When the sportsbooks realized that home underdogs were covering the spread too often they started adjusting the lines against them.

Of course, you need to be careful that you don’t go too far the other way. Some sports bettors give road teams too much credit when they try to eliminate home team bias in their betting. It’s just as costly to bet on too many road teams as it is to bet on too many home teams.

5 – Line Shopping Is Profitable

When you only have one choice when you want to bet on a sporting event you have decide which side of the bet is most likely to win. But when you have multiple choices of where to bet you can compare the lines offered at different places.

Today you can place bets with local bookies, with sportsbooks in many cities, and with hundreds of sportsbooks online. You can use this to help you make more money over time.

You evaluate games the same way, but when you figure out which team should win you can look at several different sportsbooks to get the best line. This is true for both against the spread bets and moneyline wagers.

If you take a few minutes to find the best lines every time you want to place a bet you increase your chances to win. If you can use line shopping to win just a few extra bets every season it improves your profit.

You don’t have to have any skill to shop for lines. It doesn’t have anything to do with your ability to handicap games, so it’s one of the things that every sports bettor should do, whether you’re a beginner or a veteran.

6 – Don’t Bet on Your Favorite Team

The odds are good that the first bet you placed on a sporting event involved your favorite team. Many sports bettors continue betting on their favorite team because they root for the team and want to enjoy winning some money when their team wins.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s not the way to be a winning sports bettor. If you want to make money betting on sports you have to be able to look at games and teams in an unbiased way.

The problem with betting on games with your favorite team playing is that it’s hard to be unbiased. When you watch and follow a team you want them to win. This makes many people view everything about their favorite team in a better light than what is actually the truth.

Instead of trying to view my favorite teams without bias, I simply stopped betting on their games. I still watch them and root for them, but I don’t even try to handicap their games.

You can bet on your favorite teams if you want to, but I recommend using a separate bankroll to do it. It’s difficult for a fan to look at their favorite team and players without bias, and this bias costs you money in the long run.

7 – Understand the Sports Betting Profit Model

In order to make the best decisions when you bet on sports you need to understand how the sportsbooks make money. Once you understand how they make a profit, you can use this information to help you in your quest for profit.

I mentioned the vig in an earlier section, and it forms the basis of all profit for the sportsbooks. When you have to bet $110 for the chance to win $100 it creates a gap of profit. When you win you get back your wager, so the book doesn’t make any profit on your win.

But when you lose, the sportsbook gets the amount they risked paying out as well as the extra amount you had to risk. If they take a bet on each side of a game they lock in a profit.

Here’s an example:

The sportsbook takes a bet of $110 to win $100 on team A and also takes a bet of $110 to win $100 on the opponent, team B. When team A wins the sportsbook wins $110 from one bettor and only has to pay out $100. This locks in a profit of $10 on the game.

The perfect situation for a sportsbook is to have the exact same amount wagered on each side of every game. This is hard to accomplish in the real world, but if they set good lines it averages out over time.

This also means that the sportsbooks set lines based on trying to create the same amount of betting action on each side of each game. They don’t set the lines based on the predicted final score. While these two things often end up close together, it still gives a smart sports bettor the chance to find profitable lines.

When you can predict the final score spread of games accurately, you can compare your predictions to the available lines. Often these two things are close, but sometimes you can find a game where the line the sportsbook sets is different than your prediction because the book is more interested in creating equal action than predicting final scores.

8 – Learn the Key Positions by Sport

In some sports certain positions are more important than others. Once you learn which positions are the most important you can spend more time evaluating players at those positions to improve your chances to win.

In baseball, the starting pitchers for each team are the most important positions. This has been true since baseball was invented, but in recent years starting pitchers have been throwing fewer innings and the bullpen has been gaining in importance.

I’ve started valuing the bullpen almost as much as the starting pitcher in games. Unless a game goes extra innings, there are only nine innings. Many managers are quickly replacing their starting pitchers after they get five innings pitched.

Five innings pitched is roughly two times through the batting order, and the more times the pitcher faces the batting order the worse his results are on average. Pitchers who go beyond six innings are becoming rarer every season.

If you work with the idea that the starting pitcher will work around six innings, then the bullpen works around three innings. This might make you think that the starting pitcher is twice as important as the bullpen, but this is a dangerous way to handicap baseball games.

In football the most important position is the quarterback. No other position comes close to the importance of the quarterback.

Basketball is one of the few sports where position isn’t overly important to sports bettors. The NBA, and for the most part the NCAA, is a star driven sport. The best players are the most important ones for handicapping purposes, no matter where they play.

Hockey and soccer is somewhat like the NBA because the best players tend to control the games, regardless of position. I always take a close look at the goalies in both hockey and soccer, but I don’t weigh their input a great deal more than other positions.

You still need to look at every position and player on each team to do a good job handicapping sporting events, but you should always start with the key positions.

9 – Bigger Games Have Tighter Lines

In the section about the sports betting profit model you learned how sports books make money. If they can get roughly even action on both sides of a game they take as much action as they can get. But they rarely get equal action on both sides of a game.

When they can’t get even action they’re at risk of losing money on a game. The most popular games create the most betting action, so if the sportsbooks make a mistake on the line they offer it can cost them money.

Remember, the sportsbook doesn’t want to predict the final score; they want to create a line that gets action on each side. In the biggest games, like the super bowl, the books take so much volume that they have to spend more energy and time setting the best lines possible. This usually results in tighter lines on big games than on less popular games.

Consider this situation:

The sportsbook has to set lines for 10 games for the day. One of the games is a big rivalry that traditionally creates half of the total action the book takes in for the day. One of the games is between two smaller market teams that traditionally have only created a couple of percent of the daily action. The other eight games fall somewhere in the middle.

Which game is the sportsbook going to concentrate on setting the best possible line for? Of course, the answer is the one that creates half their daily action.

Which games will they spend the least amount of time setting a line for? The game that only accounts for a couple of percent of their daily action is the answer.

I’m not trying to say that the least popular game is always the best betting option, but it’s easier to find lines that offer betting value on one side or the other of these games than the bigger games.

10 – Avoid Dangerous Sports

Most sports bettors never think about the possibility of a game being fixed, but it happens sometimes. Some sports are harder to fix than others, but if you aren’t aware of the possibilities it can cost you money.

Individual sports like tennis and golf are the easiest to fix. You only need one person to alter the outcomes in a way that can be profitable to the fixer. Team sports are more difficult to fix, but basketball has a history of games being fixed. An NBA fixing scandal was recently in the news. You can read more about it here.

11 – Treat Sports Betting like a Business

If you want to succeed as a sports bettor, you need to start treating it like a business instead of a hobby. Businesses have a budget, track their results, learn from their mistakes, and try to make profitable decisions in every area of the business.

These are all traits that the best sports bettors have as well. Start tracking all of your results and work with a set bankroll. You can add money to your bankroll if you need, but keeping your bankroll separate from your regular finances helps you track it better.

Conclusion

It’s hard for beginning sports bettors to make a profit, but with these 11 tips you can get a jump start. Dividing your bankroll up so you can bet on plenty of games helps keep you in action longer, and helps you track your results. Specialize in one area, shop for lines, learn about bias, and stop betting on your favorite teams.

When you learn and start using everything on this page your results will instantly improve. Once you’ve mastered what you learned here, continue learning and testing new things to keep improving. With constant improvement you can start turning a profit before you know it.

Tim Johnson / Author

Tim has been a sports fan for as long as he can remember. The Vermont native has lived in Las Vegas for the last two decades, and he uses his experience in the industry to try and give readers the best possible advice when it comes to betting on sports. Football is Tim’s primary area of expertise, but he also dabbles in other sports like horse racing and basketball. Tim uses his wealth of knowledge to try and make the reader a better bettor.