Just like any other skill in the world, when it comes to betting on sports, some have proven to be better than others. In fact, a select (and lucky) few have been able to ditch their day jobs entirely and ride the waves as a professional bettor.
Now, before you start thinking that these people just have superior luck, it’s important to consider the other factors that contribute to their success. Trust me, it’s more than just continual good fortune.
In this article, I’ll lay out 4 tips from professional sports bettors that you can apply to your strategy today.
1 – Check the Odds Early
One of the things that sports bettors consider when evaluating their potential options is how the odds change leading up to an event.
As sportsbooks get new information coming in, some of which may or may not be available to the public, the betting market shifts in one direction or the other. Pro gamblers know that the movement tells a story, and it’s important to be able to follow along as things unfold.
The only way to adequately track the activity of the betting lines is to take note of what the odds opened at when the bet was first made available to the public. From there, determining what the movement indicates is the next step.
Generally speaking, it’s best to be wary about betting on the same side as the general public. As the saying goes, there’s a reason those casinos look so nice, and it’s not because the majority of people are winning.
What line movement can indicate is that public money is coming in heavily on one side or the other, and the sportsbook is moving the numbers in order to get the money evened out. If this doesn’t make sense, I’ll explain.
The goal of a sportsbook is to get even money on each side of a bet, and then take the “juice” or “vig” as the profits. For example, if 50% of people bet on Team A at -110, and 50% of people bet on Team B at -110, the losing side will cover the winning side, and there will be 10% left over for a guaranteed house profit.
Now how does this apply to line movement? Let’s say Team A in the example above opened up as a favorite at -6 on the point spread. Over the next 48 hours they’re now a favorite as -7.5. What does this mean?
It would mean that the public was betting heavily on the favorite, meaning the sportsbook had to increase the number of points the underdog is receiving in order to encourage people to bet on the other side.
This is simply one example of using line movement to help you make a decision, but it’s a much more in-depth topic that requires a great deal of attention. If you’re serious about sports betting, learning how to track it is a great place to take your strategy to the next level.
2 – Think Long-Term and High-Value
I won’t get too deep into the subject, but one philosophy that I believe is crucial both in business and in gambling is high risk-tolerance. I’m not suggesting that it’s a good idea to blindly throw money at everything, but without risk, there is no real reward.
This applies to sports betting in the sense that sometimes taking bigger risks is necessary for success in the long run. Recognize that the goal of sports betting, just like playing the stock market, is not about how many “wins” you get, but how big those wins actually are for your bottom line.
If you’re one of those people who think that they’ve cracked the code of sports betting and only pick huge moneyline favorites (you know, those “sure thing” bets), you’ve likely realized that it isn’t the winning strategy you probably hoped to see.
The moneyline favorite strategy is very common among the amateur sports betting public.
What you don’t often hear about is the person who consistently takes underdogs (after adequate research), and wins 40% of the time but still ends up with a nice profit. Strive to be the type of gambler who chases value over easy wins.
Nobody likes losing, but if you can tolerate more losing for a higher payout in the end, you aren’t sacrificing anything. It’s a tough mental hurdle to overcome, but making the decision that it’s okay to stomach a few additional losses will help you out in the long run.
3 – Know Where You Stand Financially
If there’s a theme to the way professional sports bettors approach their craft, it’s that you need to be treating betting as a business. Obviously, one quality of a well-run business is continual awareness of the bottom line.
Creating a bankroll is absolutely necessary to both your short and long-term success, and it acts as protection against completely falling off a financial cliff.
If you aren’t familiar with the term, your bankroll is the pool of money from which you bet. Note that you should only be using money from this pool, or else you defeat the purpose of having one entirely.
When putting together your bankroll, there are a few things to consider that will help you land on the right amount. First, it should be an amount of money that you can afford to lose. Nobody likes thinking of it this way, but when you’re setting up your bankroll, imagine all that money will be gone tomorrow. Rather, consider it a purchase (just so you realize you are getting something out of it…potentially).
Once you have your total number determined, the next step is to choose a percentage range which will help you determine your betting size. Most experts recommend betting between 3% and 5% of your total bankroll on any one play, but these numbers can be decided based on your individual situation and goals.
Above all, just make sure you aren’t losing track of your financial status. I’ve witnessed many bettors who always seem eager to record each win, but sometimes fail to report their own performance after a bad weekend.
Don’t make excuses for why you aren’t tracking your money. It takes no luck, no skill, and very little time to do. Not to mention, it’s arguably the most important aspect of your whole operation.
4 – Line Shop
Not every store has the same exact cost for a certain product. The pair of shoes you found for $150 on one website might be selling for $135 on a competing site. Where there is competition for a market, there will be variance in price.
If you’ve ever wondered the reasons why it’s important to get familiar with a few different sportsbooks, line shopping is at the top of the list. Seemingly small differences can add up and make a significant impact on your bankroll over time.
Beginner sports gamblers might look at the difference of taking a bet at -110 and -120 and not think it’s that significant, but if you have this approach you’ll be paying 10% more to the house. Over the course of 1,000 bets, that’s some serious cash wasted by not looking around for better odds.
Granted, the differences will often be small and sometimes it can feel unimportant to look around for just a small improvement in value. However, all professional sports gamblers will attest to the fact that betting is a volume business, and when you consistently find the best deals, you’re saving yourself quite a bit of money on the games you use.
So the question is, how many sportsbooks should you look over before placing a bet? Unfortunately, there isn’t a definite answer, but I would recommend at least a half dozen.
Perhaps this article should have started, rather than ended with this advice, but before you go all-in on betting, remember that it’s extremely difficult to make a living through gambling. Professional sports bettors are proof that it can be done, but it’s a wild, often unpredictable ride that isn’t for everyone.
The tips above probably aren’t going to make you ready to start gambling professionally tomorrow, but if you do ever take the leap, be sure to keep them in mind.