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Sports Betting

Sportsbetting 101

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01. Realistically, can a person expect to win at sportsbetting? If so, what are some of the main factors that separate the winners from the losers?

Turkoman1963:
You can be a successful with online sports betting if you follow these simple four sports betting rules (and believe me, it is not easy to follow them):
1) Betting more when you are winning and less when you are losing;
2) Always shop for the best price on the sports betting sports game you are playing;
3) Never sports gambling on a game because it is on TV and you have nothing to do, unless you have a strong opinion on the game;
4) More sports betting online on the games you love and less on the games you like. This is important because often I hear about someone sports betting on a meaningless Wednesday hockey game and losing a bundle and then winning a tiny amount on the NFL game he/she talked about all week long.

Patton:
The key operative word in this question is "can." Everyone agrees beating -110 is extremely hard to do in the long run. The key to success in any endeavor is discipline and that is doubly true here. If a person follows the rules Turkoman outlined above, he will certainly maximize his chance of success, for they help impose that discipline.

My only quibble would be with "betting more when winning and less when losing." To be sure, I feel the sports betting line size should be in proportion to starting bankroll, and if you win or lose a lot, you should adjust the betting size or unit. That would take care of situations where betting a lot on a silly flier but too little on a game you truly liked. If you really don't like the game, don't bet it. But to adjust your sport betting size during a winning or losing streak is asking for trouble, because eventually all sports gambling streaks end. Either way you lose money--by losing more at the end of a winning streak or by failing to win more at the end of a losing streak.

Buckeye:
While I agree with most of Turk's list, I would characterize his "rules" as mostly money management tips rather than ways to win. We'll get to money management in more detail in the next question, so I'll comment on that later. I do think money management discipline is 75% of successful sports betting, but let's look at the other parts a little. I will exclude middlers and scalpers, as they are practicing more of a form of arbitrage than pure sports gambling. They are exploiting weaknesses in the market for profit. Nothing wrong with that, but I'll address my present remarks instead to those trying to win games.

I like to compare one's chances of long term success in online sports betting to playing blackjack successfully in a gambling casino. Very few reach the level of professional in either gambling endeavor. Some casino blackjack gambling players are able to reach the level of competent card counter, but it takes a great deal of practice and reading and skill development to get there. In most cases, it likely takes years of all three.

A second group, and probably the largest one, is the wannabes who often are just "hunch" players who think they know how to beat the gambling odds and won't admit their lack of dedication or skill or success. Their failure to keep records or track their sessions makes it easier for them to fool themselves into believing they are successful at sports gambling or at least they think they could be if they ever got "lucky."

A third group is those who just play blackjack for the fun, with no delusions of riches, and no thought of ever "turning pro." This might include some skillful online gambling players, say "strict" basic strategy proponents like moi, but this group is differentiated by their setting of realistic goals and expectations in playing a game they know they can't beat long term.

I believe the same is true for sportsbetting. There are the select few sport betting pros who have the discipline, and are willing and able to commit the time and effort to do this "black art" successfully. There are the many squares who prefer betting recreationally in order to have some fun, and who hope to get lucky here and there, but they have no illusions that they are sports betting in such a way as to make them likely long term winners.

Then in between these two-and in the most dangerous position of all-are the masses of people who are convinced they've got this online sports betting thing beat, or would if not for the inordinate number of bad beats and fixes and such they are plagued with, when in truth, they haven't put the work in, haven't developed the necessary discipline, knowledge, and skills to be winners.

Another stark truth is that sports gambling for years doesn't necessarily make one sharper. The fact that some touts claim "40 years in the business" shouldn't impress you too much. Skill and experience aren't always synonymous. That is true about a lot in life but particularly important to keep in mind in sports betting contexts. Otherwise all those grizzled homeless types hanging around Vegas sports books would be millionaires.

It takes a great deal of work and skills in money management, handicapping, and online betting strategies to become successful. Most of us need improvement in one or all of those areas.

The Philosopher:
This is something I feel strongly about, and I think in some respects what I have to say will be different from what you're used to hearing.

1. There's an important sense in which it isn't difficult at all to win at sportsbetting. We sometimes talk about how hard it is to overcome the bookie's built-in 11 to 10 edge, but as more than one Major Wager poster has said in the past-only half-facetiously-"Who the hell bets 11 to 10 any more?" When you put up 11 to the bookie's 10, you have to hit about 52.4% of your plays to break even, but offshore you will find countless books where baseball betting at 10.5 to 10, and sports betting football and basketball and sometimes other sports at 10.7 to 10, 10.5 to 10, 10.2 to 10, and even 10 to 10.

OK, with all but the last one, you still have to hit some miniscule amount over 50% to break even or win at online sports betting, but we're just getting started. Don't forget that you also can shop betting lines, typically getting an extra half point or point-and once in awhile more-compared to if you put all your gambling bets in at one place. Right there you've just turned a few sport betting losses into pushes and pushes into wins, and once in a blue moon turned a loss into a win. That 52.4% break even point that had already dwindled due to vig discounts is pretty much gone now.

But there's more. You're also routinely getting bonuses of several types just for posting up offshore. So let's add all that free money into the pot.

Furthermore, books offer you various additional options in arranging your sports betting system, such as teasers, buying points, money lines, etc. Now if every single one of those options are sucker plays and there are never any circumstances where you are better off using them than just sport gambling straight, (an assumption that's flat out false, in my opinion), then all those extra options don't hurt you. You just ignore them as if they weren't there. But if any of them even occasionally are advantageous to the player, then we've just pushed things yet another increment in the direction of the player.

Note that I haven't said a word about sports handicapping yet. Let's say it's a myth that we can really predict the outcome of any sports event at a greater than chance rate. Let's say that the bookies have some god-like ability to set the number such that there's always an equal chance of the game landing on either side, and that therefore players might as well be flipping coins in making their selections. Given what I've said in the preceding paragraphs, I contend that you should be able to break even or better, in the long run as a sport better even if you are such a coin flipper.

So whereas a lot of people envision the bookie as having this huge head start, and worry about what extraordinary thing they can do through their sport handicapping to overcome it, I say you're starting even or better, and that if you lose, it's because you blew it.

Sport Betting with confidence. This is beatable. A chimp flipping coins can beat this half the time or more. So should you.

You don't lose because you're struggling uphill against daunting sport betting odds. You lose because you're undisciplined. You lose because you let yourself be stupid. You lose because-as in the sport gambling cliché--you beat yourself. You lose because, whatever you think, winning is not your first priority, which leads to:

2. Perhaps the single most important sports betting advice you need to do when beginning online gambling has to do with your attitude and goal. You have to decide, why are you sports betting in the first place? What is your goal?

"I want to win money" is, of course, the obvious answer. But it also happens to be a false answer for the majority of online sports gambling fans. That's why they lose. It's not the 11 to 10. The 11 to 10 evaporates in no time flat, as I described above. It's because winning is not, in fact, their highest priority. If you truly wanted to win, then you'd be doing so.

Almost everyone has other, competing goals when gambling. They'd like to win, but gambling is also a social activity they can do and talk about with their friends, because it makes it more entertaining to watch a televised sporting event, because it enables them to show a form of loyalty to their school by betting on it, and so on.

Perhaps most important is just the emotional "rush" of gambling in sports. Many people like the feeling of "action," and the desire for this feeling motivates their sport gambling far more than does any goal of winning.

It's like a person who tells you he buys drugs in order to resell them at a profit, or in order to use just enough to keep him awake and alert to cram for finals so that he can graduate and enter his high-paying career of choice. A financial motive may well be a part of it as he claims, but we all know that for an overwhelming majority of people who buy drugs, they enjoy and crave the sensation of using them. It's not (just) about the money.

Similarly, many people enjoy and crave the internet gambling rush quite independent of any expectation of financial benefit. It's not about winning; it's about that subjective sensation they experience when sports gambling online.

Now, mostly what I've been talking about here are factors that are largely neutral. I mean, if you can flip coins and still end up even or a little above in sports betting, as I have maintained, then really it shouldn't matter if your choices are influenced by home town loyalty or your desire to enjoy a televised game with your buddies.

But sometimes a gambler's other goals or motivations aren't just irrelevant to winning, but actually counter-productive. Some of what's commonly said about internet sport gambling addicts strikes me as pop psychology blather, but there is probably some truth to the notion that many people who have a problem with compulsive gambling "want to lose" on some subconscious level, or are "punishing themselves" by gambling and losing.

People-and there are a lot of them--with these emotional issues are going to semi-intentionally do things like sports betting irresponsible high amounts where they cannot ride out losing streaks. Or they're going to have mental blocks about seeking reduced vig opportunities or shopping lines, because a rational cost-benefit approach like that takes all or most of the "rush" out of gambling for them. And it's the "rush" they're addicted to. They need to be sports gambling on the edge, they need to be taking unwise gambling risks, or the activity would lose its appeal.

Again, why are you internet gambling on sports? If you want to win, you'll calmly and rationally and intelligently assess every online betting decision you make in light of that goal and that goal alone. Should you be betting lines on this game at all, which side should you be betting on, how should you be betting it, how much should you be betting on it, where should you be betting it, etc. These are all things you need to decide when online sports gambling. If your answer to each is justified by "because this choice is better for my long term expected return" than you're on the right track. If other factors are creeping in, then don't be surprised when you lose.

When sports gambling, you'll want to jettison all these motivations that can detract from your profits. But at the very least, you should try to become as aware of them as you can. You might make a conscious decision that winning isn't everything to you, and that's fine. Maybe you'll decide that you like the betting odds of the home team even when it's slightly the worse play objectively, because you choose to value that feeling of having your money staked on the same side as your loyalties, in addition to valuing winning. No problem. But at least make that decision with eyes open, and do what you can to mitigate the financial damage caused by such decisions.

3. In my opinion, if you are budding in online sports betting another key rule is to be very wary of folk wisdom and superstition (which can often amount to the same thing).

It's very important in sportsbetting (and this happens to be true of life in general, come to think of it) to bear in mind several key facts:

A. People are stupid.

B. Most of the things people believe, they have absorbed over time just from hearing the people in their social circle assert them.

C. Insofar as they could be said to learn anything from their own direct experience instead, most people are overly influenced by vivid anecdotal evidence, which furthermore tends to be strongly colored by their preconceptions anyway.

You will hear a lot of confident assertions-including from us in this piece--from well-meaning people trying to further your online sports gambling education, such as "Never betting parlays or teasers; they're sucker bets," "Always betting the same amount on any wager you make," "Always betting on home underdogs," "Never betting more than 2% of your bankroll on any single bet," "Always football gambling against the team that's coming off a Monday Night Football win," "Always go with your first instincts; never talk yourself into backing off or switching to the other side," "Never increase your sport gambling bet when you're on a winning streak, since you're due for a loss," "Bet favorites early in the week and underdogs late," etc. But, alas, some of these are sound, some are unsound, and some are indeterminate.

Why would a typical person believe that home underdogs tend to beat the spread at a greater than chance rate? He believes it, whether he realizes it or not, because when he was young, the guy down at the sports bar who spoke the loudest and most confidently when he had had a few beers, belittled someone for betting against a home underdog and announced that "everybody knows" that you should never do that. He believes it, because once someone put that idea in his head, he noticed several occasions where home underdogs comfortably covered in TV games he was watching (and didn't notice the occasions when they failed to). And ever since then, he's just kind of taken it for granted.

Sometimes such folk wisdom is true, but when it is, it's largely a matter of coincidence. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, as they say.

Before you believe any of these things, investigate it yourself and make sure you fully understand the evidence and how it allegedly supports this conclusion. For example, instead of being like this typical person, sit down with an NBA almanac of some kind and records of betting lines, check all the games where the road team was favored, and see how often the home underdog has beaten the spread. If you find that, say, the home underdog has won over 50% of the time in nine of the last ten years, and that the cumulative percentage over that period is about 54%, then it looks like you have indeed found decent evidence in at least one sport for this alleged phenomenon.

Again, look not only at the evidence, but whether it truly supports the conclusion. Let's say you are looking into whether 6 point teasers are profitable in the NFL. You crunch numbers from several seasons and discover that 75% of the time, the teaser points didn't matter-you would have lost even with them, or you would have won even without them. Only 25% of the time did the game land in that teaser range where getting the extra points made the difference between winning and losing. From this, you conclude that teasers are a bad bet. "3 out of 4 times, getting the extra points doesn't even help you," you tell people, "You'd be better off just betting them as straight bets or parlays."

But you're wrong. Even if this evidence were accurate (I'm just picking numbers out of the air by the way; don't take any of it literally), the conclusion doesn't follow, for multiple reasons. (I'll leave it to the reader to figure out why.)

So, in summary, don't go by what "they say." Figure things out for yourself. Don't believe something until you fully understand it, fully understand the reasons or evidence for and against it, and fully understand the logical connection between the two.

By the way, which of the examples I mentioned several paragraphs above are sound and which are bogus? I'll leave that up to you to figure out too. That's kind of the point.

4. Get into the habit of very detailed and accurate record-keeping. Write down everything about every online sports betting bet that even might be important for you to know later.

What if you want to know how you're doing at college basketball compared to NBA? Or you want to know if the balance the sports book operator gives you at the start of your next call is accurate? Or you want to know if your "gut" picks in hockey are hitting at higher than chance rates? Or you want to see if losing tends to adversely affect your sports handicapping and snowball against you? Or you want to see if the internet gambling picks you made specifically on the advice of Barnaby the Tout are really hitting at anything like the rate he led you to believe he was capable of when you signed up for his service?

With accurate records, you can go back and check all these things.

5. You don't have to have a doctorate in mathematics, but you'll want to have a good, solid grasp of the basics. I can add, subtract, multiply, divide, do percentages, etc., and that already puts me light years ahead of countless online sport betting gamblers. If you're comfortable with those operations and at least don't have a total math phobia when it comes to working with numbers in general, you should be OK.

Better yet, though, is to have those basics plus some further background in statistics.

Intelligent internet online gambling entails such things as understanding odds, and assessing the statistical significance of certain evidence. The better you are at math, all else being equal, the better you'll be at internet sports betting.

6. A final major factor that's largely a matter of attitude is the realization that there's always enormous room for improvement in sports betting.

You always can do a little bit more research before venturing in internet sports betting. You always could have investigated a sports book a little more carefully before posting up there. You always could do another number crunching project to slightly increase your edge in a certain sport. You always could be a little more disciplined about not letting your emotions cause you gambling more on a game than you otherwise believe you should.

Do you understand all the online gambling types and when, or even if, to use them? Do you know what factors to look for in predicting whether a sports betting line is more likely to go up or down during the week? Do you know how to factor the weather into your sport handicapping? Do you know which teams tend to try to actually win their exhibition games and which do not? Do you know which baseball totals land most often, and why?

All of these and a thousand more are things you can find more out about or get better at. Every step you take adds that tiny bit more to your online gambling edge.

Turkoman1963:
This is probably our most important topic because it started out with whether and how you can win and veered off into "why are you sports betting online" which is related.

The "rush" as The Philosopher points out, is why most of us play. Otherwise, we'd be in cow futures. We love the idea of having action, an opinion, a Franklin (or several) on a particular game and finding out if we are right.

But you cannot let this rush destroy your discipline. You have to remain in control.

Also, as The Philosopher pointed out, you should shop for the best bonuses and the lowest vig so that when you make your plays, your rate of return will go up. For instance, say I like the Magic tonight in the NBA against the Clippers. The Clippers are a two point favorite. I can take the Magic +2 and lay $110 to win $100 or I can bet the Magic on the money line and lay $100 to win $115. I'll let you figure out what are the gambling odds over the long run, but you can see that there are many options to wagering and how you fund your wagers.

I too believe in detailed record keeping. I keep a ledger of every sports gambling bet I make. I do this so I can track what kinds of wagers are the most successful for me (football parlays where I buy points) and what are the least successful (European soccer favorites and NBA home favorites).

Patton:
I think the foregoing discussion makes one thing clear to a casual reader: we think you can succeed, but it will not be easy. First, you have to acquire enough knowledge so that you understand a particular sport, or subsection thereof (a certain league, conference, team, or even a coach or player) better than the public. In order to do this you must develop the empirical evidence-record keeping--that demonstrates you have done so. Second, you must have the discipline to act only when you have an advantage and can come out ahead based on that knowledge and understanding. As mentioned, money management is a key factor in this second part. However, this is not an "overnight" process, but entails a lengthy apprenticeship that is performed mostly by oneself, making the task particularly difficult. But it can be done.

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