Newcomers to sports betting are often intimidated by jargon and tradition. Sports bettors are loners, slow to open up to others, suspicious of people they don’t already know. That’s just the lay of the land.
If you’re just cracking into a sports betting hobby, consider this page a launching point for strategy and tips related to betting more successfully. This page will share some basic sports betting strategy tips for beginner bettors, or for those who are a little familiar with the industry but want a refresher on best practices.
Basic Sports Betting Strategy Tips
The five tips below represent the basics, the things newcomers to sports betting need to learn to do instinctually. Following these five pieces of advice won’t instantly make you more successful, but over time, combined with gained experience, they’ll make you less likely to lose your bankroll before the season ends.
Tip #1 – Learn to manage your money.
Managing money perfectly is a long-term goal for lots of bettors. You don’t have to do this perfectly in order to reap the benefits.
Start by creating what’s known in the industry as a unit bet. This is a standard bet amount that represents the amount you want to wager on every individual game in a season. Not only will this help you bet consistently, but it will also protect your gambling budget. Creating and maintaining a unit bet will actually help you with every other tip on this list, including help with betting on emotions.
To come up with an ideal unit bet size, first divide your total budget for a season of play by your ideal number of wagers over the course of that season. Here’s an example just for the sake of explanation:
Let’s say my budget for an entire NBA season is $1,000. At $10 per wager, I’ve got 100 games I can bet on between October and April. At $20 per wager, my number of bets is cut in half, to 50 games. Maybe I’m satisfied with 50 bets during the season and choose a $20 unit bet – or maybe even 100 bets are too few, and I look into setting a $5 unit bet.
As a newcomer to sports betting strategy, don’t worry about increasing your bet size in value situations. That’s advanced strategy that you should look into after a full season as a newbie.
Tip #2 – Control your drinking and your emotions.
We’re not being moralists here. In your non-gambling free time, you’re free to safely consume whatever substances make you happy.
But when you’re betting on sports (or casino games or poker or really anything else), it’s best to avoid any level or form of intoxication. We don’t need to get too deeply into the science of intoxication here. Every adult with alcohol or drug experience knows that these substances affect us, sometimes in ways we aren’t aware of.
In the sportsbook, or playing online slot machines or whatever, being a little drunk is just as bad as being a lot stupid.
Not only do booze and drugs influence your reactions times, but they also enhance or alter the experience of our emotions and can make us place bad bets that are far outside of our usual well-research bankroll-informed sports betting strategies.
Maybe this is a surprise to some bettors, but bets placed under the weight of extreme emotions are probably just as bad as bets placed after a bottle or two of wine. This is especially true for people with little or no experience placing bets, or bettors who are particularly affected by things like fear, guilt, shame, anticipation, excitement, and anxiety.
Enjoying a beer at the end of a day of sports makes sense. Unwinding in your chosen way when you get home after a big win – that’s easy to understand. Leave the emotional antics and intoxicants for celebration time. Betting drunk, high, or out of your mind on your feelings is a good way to lose a bunch of money.
Tip #3 – Bet on very (very) few games.
You wouldn’t eat a pizza all at once – why would you try to bet on every game that catches your eye?
You eat pizza one slice at a time. As a newcomer to sports bets, you should probably wager on one contest at a time. Different sports lend itself to this style in different ways – the slow and regular pace of NFL games is a good fit, while the frenetic MLB schedule may make it tougher to be a slow-paced bettor.
But you should really really (really) consider wagering on as few games as possible, especially during your first season of bets.
The first reason to wager on very few games – this allows you to condense your research into a very narrow space. The college football season is a prime example – each week there’s 60 NCAA football games, and you could drive yourself insane trying to handicap everything on the board. Once you strip away the teams you know nothing about and have no intuition about whatsoever, you’ve probably got a more manageable list to trim down. The goal is to get to one or two games that you have a real passion about and can focus on in the days leading up to kickoff.
Oddsmakers want to win, even if they do it by overwhelming bettors with options. New sports bettors should seriously consider playing a tiny list of bets.
Tip #4 – Shop for the best odds.
Lines move. Don’t let anybody tell you that the days of odds-shopping are over. That’s bad advice.
Okay, so the margins are smaller than before, and arbitrage bets (an advanced way to guarantee profit by leveraging far apart odds) are basically extinct. It’s harder to gain an edge using line shopping. But it’s still possible.
Oddsmakers set numbers for a contest in such a way that they have a balanced book, meaning they have the same amount of money on both outcomes and are guaranteed to make money regardless of how the game plays. Bettors have figured out how to take advantage of this movement in the lines.
It’s never clear why a line makes a big move – some oddsmakers may change numbers based on a few massive bets or based on changes in the actual odds due to roster shifts or injuries.
How can bettors use these changes in lines to improve their bet strategy? If a bettor wants to back an underdog, it may make sense to wait until right before a contest starts to place a bet – the odds for dogs are often the most advantageous immediately before a game. By the same token, a book may move the odds for a heavy favorite the closer it gets to game time as a last ditch means of balancing the book.
Over time, you will gain confidence in things like line shopping and bet timing. For now, just know that the practice exists, and be on the lookout for changes in odds you’re considering.
Tip #5 – Look for value opportunities.
If you follow all the tips on this list, you’ll be sober as a judge, placing a very small number of well-researched bets restricted by hardcore bankroll limits, paying attention to line movement across several sportsbooks. While you’re at it, you may as well learn what betting on value means in the sports betting marketplace.
Value betting literally means betting only in advantageous situations. How can you find an edge in sports betting? By comparing the actual likelihood of an outcome to the odds offered by a sportsbook. Yes, this requires research and a little bit of mathematics, but every minute spent in pursuit of a value bet is worth an hour of reading gambling strategy advice.
Value betting also means identifying situations where a set of odds are too long to ignore or too short to spend time and money on. Some bettors look to identify value in propositions, particularly in the MVP race or other player award competitions. A player with longshot odds of winning the MPV (+10,000) may suddenly become a front-runner thanks to an injury on another team or a brilliant set of in-game performances. A $10 wager on a +10,000 longshot can be a value opportunity if research indicates that the book is offering way too much.
Every tip above is likely to have an exception. Honestly, the best sports betting strategy is the one you use that gives you the most value for your bankroll.
Think of betting on sports like going to the movies.
Some people buy reduced-price tickets at off-peak times, watching a six-weed old blockbuster with pockets full of outside snacks, sitting in an empty cinema at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning. For these people, the cost of the experience is more important than anything else.
Other movie fans will spend extra money to see a new release before anyone else, loading up on overpriced goodies in the lobby beforehand. For these movie fans, the experience itself is more important than the cost.
Figure out what kind of sports bettor you are, then tailor your strategy to support that way of betting.