10 Tips for Rookie Sports Bettors

04 / 14 / 2021 By Ally Mielnicki

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It takes time to become a successful sports bettor. Over the years, I’ve seen many rookies make the same mistakes over and over again until they become so frustrated they quit betting all together.

Successful bettors have an average winning percentage anywhere from 53-55 percent, and to the casual/new bettor, that seems pretty doable. Just win every other bet, right? Wrong.

The truth is, sports betting is harder than most beginners may think. A lock or an easy money bet is never a sure thing. In fact, it’s usually the unpopular pick that will hit more times than not, and rookie bettors fall into the same trap of betting the favorite, stocking up on parlays and chasing their bets. In the end, they wind up losing more than they win.

Are you new to the sports betting world and want to know how to avoid these common rookie mistakes? Here are 10 tips on how to steer clear of frequent betting traps as a rookie bettor:

You’re only as good as your last bet. This is something I emphasize to all new bettors, but 9 times out of 10, they don’t listen. We’ve all heard of “beginner’s luck,” and winning your first sports bet is no different. Maybe you hit the heavy favorite on a double-digit spread or called the moneyline upset, so now you’re feeling like the number one prognosticator. Not so fast. Just because you won your first bet doesn’t mean you should keep betting and betting until your money runs out. For every bet that you hit, there are several you will miss. Don’t get overconfident and bet on meaningless games just to bet. 

Bet with your head, not with your heart. We all have our favorite and least-favorite teams. Don’t let your feelings about a certain team affect how you bet. You already have enough emotions invested if your favorite team will win or lose, so there’s no sense risking money too. 

Never chase your bet. There are many times starts to panic after losing multiple bets in a row. Out of desperation, they bet whatever the next game is on the slate, doubling up on what they lost to try to win it back. More times than not, they lose the bet. 

Never make a desperation bet. If you’re on a cold streak, stop betting and save it for another day. Take time to study the trends and analytics of a game before wagering anything. It’s always better to be down $50 than $100.

Easy on the parlays. Everyone loves low-risk, high-reward wagers. After all, why not risk $10 to win $100 on a five-team parlay instead of risking $50 to win $45.55 on one singular bet? Parlays can be an oddsmaker or sportsbook’s best friend. They’re fun to bet on and account for about 90 percent of my personal bets, but there’s a reason why professional sports bettors often go easy on parlays and instead will dedicate their time to studying one game.

If you’re going to bet a parlay, keep it small to a two-team. Even a three-team parlay drives up the odds of hitting it even higher. And don’t get carried away throwing in more and more games just to drive up the payout.

Avoid BWIs. Betting while intoxicated. This is a no-brainer. Alcohol impairs your judgment, and the last thing you want is to wake up the next day and realize you bet $500 on a moneyline when you meant to bet $50. If you and your friends are drinking, wait until the next day to bet. Also also causes people to chase bets, so try to only bet when sober so that you don’t regret anything the next morning. 

Don’t fall victim to betting the favorite and the over on big, nationally televised events. Everyone wants a high-scoring Super Bowl or NBA Finals Game 7 since sports fans love loads of scoring and nonstop action. Often, you’ll see the line of a championship game not move all week, and this is most likely because the public is pounding the favorite. 

As an example of this, just look at when the Chiefs were -3 this past year, yet still lost by double-digits. The public’s bias against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers drove them to bet the Chiefs, and while the majority of the bets placed were on Kansas City, the line remained unmoved. This is because sharp money was on the Bucs. Same with the total – the public bet heavily on the over while the sharps sided with the under. There’s a reason why sharks are professional gamblers. They know if the public is pounding one side, then it’s probably smarter to wager the other.

Always line shop to find the best value. Once sharps decide to make a bet, they don’t run to the first and most convenient sportsbook or betting site and wager immediately. Often, odds lines may vary by certain sportsbooks. 

For instance, you may go on Betting Site A and see the Cowboys -3 (-110) while Betting Site B has the line posted at Cowboys -3 (-120). Clearly the -110 odds line at Site A is more valuable than the -120 line at Site B. At -110, you’ll get a larger payout if you hit the bet than at -120. Always try to get the most value for your money when choosing a sportsbook.

Stick to your budget. This goes along with the point at the top about not chasing your bets. If you plan on betting, set aside a dollar amount that you feel comfortable losing if you have to. If you want to walk away from an afternoon of betting Sunday football with a net loss of no more than $50, stay within that budget. Simply cut your losses and move on to the next day.

Think the spread is too high or too low? It most likely isn’t. The key to sports betting is knowing how to read lines. Let’s say the Lakers are playing the Clippers and the two teams have identical records, but the spread is Lakers -10. Seems too high, right? The Clippers +10 must be easy money. 

Oddsmakers have a plethora of more insight and analytics than the betting public. They create odds that would appeal to the casual bettor looking to cash on the popular pick. If you see a line that you feel is ridiculously high or low, take a moment to do some research. Maybe a star player is injured and his minutes will be limited, or maybe one team is coming off back-to-back road games and the other is well-rested. 

Don’t make a bet just to make a bet. Every now and then it’s fun to place a random bet where you don’t know much about either team or sport, but in general, you should stay away from wagering on a game just to be invested in it. 

Narrow your sights on games or contests where you are familiar with both rosters and the dynamics of the team. You may not win every bet that you research, but at least you’ll have a better shot at winning by spending time to analyze each matchup.

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