Millions of Americans love betting on sports. The sad reality is that the vast majority of them will lose money over their gambling career.
Understanding why so many people end up in the red is a complex proposition.
With that being said, there are a few main reasons why even the most knowledgeable sports fans end up losing in the end.
In this article, I’ll lay out some of the most common reasons why only a small percentage of gamblers end up being profitable over the long run. Keep these reasons in mind and maybe you can avoid the pitfalls that have kept so many bettors from consistently winning money.
1 – Lack of a Bankroll
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a bankroll, it’s no surprise that you haven’t been able to establish a profitable betting strategy.
Your bankroll is the single-most important thing to monitor because it helps you understand the money coming in and the money going out.
If you aren’t diligently keeping track, you can find yourself down a lot of money, quickly.
Your bankroll is the pool of money from which you bet. To create one, simply set aside a pool of money that you’re comfortable losing.
Once you have that set aside, decide how much of that pool (as a percentage) you’re willing to bet on any one play. Most pros recommend between 2% and 5%, but you can make this determination for yourself based on the size of your bankroll.
While simply having a bankroll isn’t going to turn you into a money-making machine, it will make you aware of the financial aspect. It will also help you treat sports gambling more like a business and less like a hobby. When you’re aware of the numbers, you’re more thoughtful in your plays.
2 – You Chase Losses
Chasing losses is the practice of trying to win back your losses by doubling down on your next bet.
This is obviously a big, yet common, mistake.
Chasing your losses doesn’t just often result in massive financial loss, but it ignores a key principle of sports gambling—the long-term mindset.
The way to become one of the few who end up profiting from sports betting is to remember that sticking around is important. Assuming that you’re going to keep on betting regardless of your outcomes, you need to minimize your losses to give yourself a chance to win in the end.
Do everything in your power to avoid having to “reload” your bankroll after you’ve lost it all and you’ll realize the importance of making small bets.
3 – You Bet Without a Reason
I understand that betting on sports is a form of gambling like roulette or blackjack. However, unlike those games, sports betting isn’t necessarily a game of chance.
If you’re betting on sports simply by choosing a team and letting the chips fall where they may, you’re losing the very real advantages that can be gained by doing research.
Before placing a bet, ask yourself why you’re making a certain play.
Take into account all the information available to you.
Sportsbooks depend on an uninformed public to make their money. They rely on bettors to make their plays based on feelings and hunches rather than real data. Think critically about why you’re making a play and you can avoid falling into this trap.
While it’s true that two informed bettors can end up taking different sides on a play, that doesn’t mean gathering information isn’t important. Before you make your next bet, make sure you have a concrete set of reasons for why you chose the team you’re betting on.
4 – You Always Choose Favorites
Generally speaking, the public has a major bias towards choosing favorites. It’s not hard to see why the favorite will usually win the game outright, and it’s a mental trick to realize that winning, in no way, equals covering. Simply put, people don’t like betting on teams that are probably going to lose, regardless of the spread.
This presents a tremendous opportunity for bettors to take advantage of underdogs.
Because the public bets so heavily on the favorite and the sportsbooks want to even up the money, often times, that will cause the spread to grow. The underdog will get more points than they “should.”
I don’t want to make the blanket statement of saying the underdog is always the better play. Just be sure that you’re betting underdogs at the same rate as you’re playing favorites.
5 – You Bet to Win the Game and Forget Value
Everyone likes to win their bets, but winning more than half your bets does not equal winning money.
Betting for value is a simple concept that’s hard in practice. Value betting means not risking significantly more money than you stand to win on any given play.
Sure, you’re going to win most of them, but the money you’ll win doesn’t outweigh the risk. Taking huge favorites on the moneyline means that one loss can derail your entire bankroll.
On the flip side, betting the moneyline on underdogs can mean you might lose more than half your bets, but still win money in the end.
This isn’t to say that it’s wise to bet moneyline underdogs at +500, but if you’re able to find some matchups where the underdog is around +150 to +200, consider mixing it in.
Additionally, if you take the time to actually track your winnings, you’ll recognize that you can overcome losses if you consistently bet for value.
Much like the public’s tendency to have a bias towards betting favorites because they’re more likely to win, the public also has a bias towards winning bets over winning money.
Next time you sit down and lay out your plays for NFL Sunday, remember that if you’re risking way more than you stand to gain, it might not be worth it to make the play.
6 – You Only Use One Sportsbook
With today’s increasingly accepting laws regarding sports gambling, there’s no shortage of sportsbooks to use for your plays. Take advantage of all the offerings by line shopping.
Line shopping is simple.
When you have a play in mind, visit different betting sites to find out which one has the best odds for your play.
Because sportsbooks work to even up the money, it’s likely that different books will have different odds based on the action they’ve received for a particular game. This is especially true of the moneyline, which typically varies more significantly across sportsbooks.
While the spread is usually a little more set-in-stone across different sites, there’s still a chance you might be able to steal half a point or even a full point if you look around. At the end of the day, you have nothing to lose by looking for better odds somewhere else. In the end, even small advantages pay off over time.
If you’ve been having a rough year betting on sports, it’s likely that you’ve been committing some of these betting faux pas along the way. These weaknesses in the general public’s betting strategy can be turned into opportunities if you’re willing to put in the time necessary to be successful.