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10 Commandments of Sports Betting
If you are on this site and have accessed this content, you already know the right and wrong way to bet with your hard-earned money. Most sites will preach about the importance of betting only money you can afford to lose. We respect your intelligence and know that you know that. Hence, we will not spend valuable time addressing the morals of sports betting. Moreover, if you are a degenerate, you already know what you should and should not be doing and no amount of moralizing will change that. We’re all adults here…
1. LOOK FOR A REASON TO BET THE DOG
Most people bet favorites against the spread (ATS). They start out betting favorites and continue betting favorites. Afterall, how could this great team (favorite) lose to this lousy team (underdog)?!?!
Oddsmakers utilize quite a lot of psychology when developing and opening a betting line. They know what you know – they know most bettors bet favorites – and will shade the line against the favorite. Thus, this practice tends to offer more betting VALUE on the underdog.
A couple other things to note about betting favorites and underdogs – For your bet on a favorite to get paid, two conditions must always be met:
- The favorite MUST win the game;
- The favorite MUST cover the point spread.
Bets on underdogs get paid when only one of these conditions is met:
- The underdog covers the point spread;
- The underdog wins the contest straight up.
Betting on underdogs gives you two ways to win your bet. Betting favorites only gives you one way to win your bet and both conditions, as expressed above, MUST be satisfied. Certainly, there are times to bet the favorite. But if you are looking at five plays, at least three of them should be underdogs. If not, you have probably done something wrong.
Some people will only bet favorites. This strategy is wrong. That’s just science.
2. GOOD TEAMS WIN GREAT TEAMS COVER
Most people bet sports Against the Spread (ATS). The only way to make money at this is when the team you bet covers the spread, no matter if the team is the favorite or the underdog. You cannot make money if your team usually wins the game, but rarely covers the spread. Or, you cannot make money if your team loses, and rarely covers the spread. This Commandment is really a functional Law of Sports Betting. Some teams are better at covering than other teams. This has a lot to do with the player personnel and the coaching. When handicapping and betting ATS, always consider how a team has performed ATS.
3. COACHING MATTERS
In all sports and in all walks of life, coaching matters. We often think of professional athletes being the best on the team or the best at a position. We rarely consider how they got to be the “best.” These players have been coached their entire careers. Some coaches rule with an iron fist, others have no control over the locker room. Some coaches are excellent time and clock managers, others are awful at time management.
In college, coaches move around all the time. A college program might fire their head coach and hire a close friend of the Athletic Director, who might not be a very good coach. Or, the school may go out and hire an impressive coach who has been working his way up through the “lesser” conferences. Pay attention to this. Often, in the college ranks, a school makes a great hire and will play under the radar of the oddsmakers for quite a while – sometimes an entire season! When you identify this, you will make great bets on these coaches and their squads, before the oddsmakers and public catch on and catch up.
4. TRENDS MAY LOSE BUT THE TREND MAY STILL BE IN EFFECT
You will hear trends quoted all the time! Do not allow the trend that is in effect to control your handicapping. You must still do the work. Perhaps, for this game, the trend is meaningful. Perhaps it is not. But either way, do not blindly follow and bet trends. You will hear the talking heads spewing trends and your friends and the sportsbook patrons will parrot the same language. Do your own work!
Another thing about trends, let’s say whatever trend it is has gone 9 wins and 1 loss over the last 10 games. That does not mean it will happen today. If the trend loses today, making it 9 wins and 2 losses over the last 11 games, the trend is still in effect. The point is this: if your handicapping tells you the trend is meaningless for this game then you will have won, while everyone who blindly bet because of the trend will have lost.
5. DO WHAT THE LINE IS TELLING YOU TO DO
This is counter-intuitive. Lines move for a lot of reasons and you should always consider “why” when you see a line move. Usually, lines move because of information. That information may involve an injury to a key player, the weather, or perception – be it sharp or square. The point is the line moved for some reason. Sometimes the wisdom of the crowd is correct on line movement. Often, lines move because respected bettors have bet one side more than the other and oddsmakers adjust the line to compensate. THINK about this. THINK about why the line moved. Often, especially when betting on underdogs, Reverse Line Movement will key you in to the correct side to bet, which may be counter-intuitive. There are, I promise you, very intelligent people with deep bankrolls moving lines…pay close attention to this and – Do what the line is telling you to do.
6. DON’T LISTEN TO ESPN MOST OF THE TIME
Do you know what the “E” in ESPN stands for? That’s okay, most people don’t. It stands for Entertainment. It does not – nor has it ever – stood for “Education.” I’m not picking solely on ESPN in this Commandment. All media outlets are guilty of trying to only entertain you. If you are entertained, you will watch or listen more, and they will sell more advertising and commercials. The talking heads are the generators of useless facts. Occasionally you will get some actionable information from the talking heads. But always check the information to determine if it is factual and, most important, meaningful. Conversely, ESPN (to throw them a bone) currently has a segment on College Football Gameday called “Superdogs.” You should pay attention to this!
7. DON’T BET JUST TO HAVE ACTION ON A GAME
I hear it all the time: “I’m going to watch that game, so I bet it just to have a little action.” We bet because we have handicapped the contest and have found a reason to bet on a side or total. We never bet because we are going to watch the game. It is okay to just be a fan and watch without a ticket in your pocket!
8. PROTECT YOUR BANKROLL
You must have a betting bankroll that you keep separate from all your other funds. You do not pay bills out of your bankroll, unless you are THAT good at handicapping, betting and money management. You always want to have funds available when a great Value opportunity comes along! If you had a big win at the sportsbook and want to go out and splurge on strippers and blow that is your business. But if you do, pay for it out of your discretionary funds – never pay for it out of your winnings. Winnings you reinvest so you can make bigger wagers as you get better at this.
I make the majority of my wagers in Las Vegas, NV. The sole purpose of this town is to extract as much of your money from your pocket as Vegas can, while leaving you with a vague recollection, when the hangover subsides, that you had a good time. If this is how you roll – and we don’t care because we are not moralizing – that is just fine. But pay for all that extra stuff out of your other funds – not out of your bankroll!
9. ONLY BET THE BEST NUMBERS
As you get better at handicapping, you should always set your own line for an upcoming contest, in your mind or write in down on paper. There is a lot of individual judgment and intuition that go into handicapping. You should think to yourself, “When they open the line on the Super Bowl, I think they set it at 3.5.” When they actually do open the line, compare it to what you thought. As you get good at this, you will nail it within a half point most of the time. If you don’t, you’re missing something. If you have missed something, you must go back through your handicapping and figure out what you missed. After doing all this, maybe you haven’t missed anything. Maybe, your line is right on. If so – bet it without hesitation.
Another concept to this is waiting out the line you want. Again, as you get better at this, let’s say you capped the game and the side you want is currently +6.0. Your handicapping tells you that number is right on the mark. But, since you are only betting the best numbers, you wait it out with one eye on the line movement. You see the line tick up to +6.5 and you immediately hit it. The point is this – if you are not getting the number you need, then do not bet it. Wait for your number. There will be plenty of action later in the day or tomorrow or later in the week. Bet only the best numbers!
10. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Handicapping sports is a time-consuming job. It is mentally taxing. If you have a family and work a regular job and handicap sports in your spare time or as a hobby, then you are pretty dang busy most days of the betting season. Get plenty of rest and exercise. Eat well. Be positive. Handicap and wager only when your mind is calm and you can concentrate. If you like to enjoy a cocktail, or whatever you might be into, by all means do so, but only after you have done your work and made your plays.
We all go on streaks, winning and losing. You will have to get used to this and be able to ride the ups and downs. If you have a few bad games or a few bad days, take a break. Go back through your handicapping approach and see what, if anything, has changed. If you are missing key information, include it next time. If your approach is still solid, then by all means keep going with it. The worst thing you can do is go “On Tilt” and chase losing plays with even worse plays. Take a deep breath, think positively, and only bet the premium numbers. The rest will take care of itself.