10 steps to becoming a better sports bettor
05-19-2012, 10:38 AM
10 steps to becoming a better sports bettor
There's quite a bit here - 8,634 words, to be exact - but figured I'd post it in the forum in case some of you never stumbled on it when it first ran several months ago on the home page.
It's basically what the thread title suggests, "10 steps to becoming a better sports bettor."
* * *
Long before placing your first wager, you need to decide what you hope to accomplish by betting on sports. This is an absolutely critical first step and one that is too often ignored by recreational bettors who hope to turn this hobby into a profit-making endeavor but have no idea how to make that happen.
Without establishing goals, you can't develop a plan. Without a plan, you can't win. Too often, sports bettors just randomly bet games — paying no attention to their bets or their bet sizes.
It's the equivalent of walking up to a roulette wheel with a handful of chips and scattering them all over the board, oblivious to the payouts or the odds or how the game even works. Most people merely hope that the dealer will pay them out more chips than they placed on the board. But then, the next spin comes. And then another.
Did this player sit down at the table with a goal? If so, what is it and how will that goal be accomplished? Or, was the player's goal to simply have fun playing a table game with a substantial house edge? Whatever the case might be, having a desired "end outcome" is important.
Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.
WHY DO YOU BET?
All sports bettors need to ask themselves the following two questions:
Primarily, people bet on sports for entertainment or profit. Those who bet for profit are likely to take a professional approach. Their goal is to develop a proven long-term strategy — one with a positive expectancy — and then to be ruthless in their pursuit of meeting certain thresholds.
Bettors with a professional approach are generally disciplined and emotionless. One game, or one shot, isn't going to make or break them. Each game is part of the larger process, one that will inevitably have ups and downs.
A person who bets purely for entertainment value is likely a short-term thinker with no long-term plan. The excitement or thrill of watching a nationally televised game is enough to satisfy their hunger for action. If a bet wins, great. If it doesn't, well, that's OK too.
WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVATION LEVEL?
Setting goals is one thing, but having the motivation necessary to achieve them is another. Early on, you need to gauge your level of commitment to sports betting and figure out what motivates you. Then, you must find a way to sustain that motivation over long periods of time.
Effort is good, but consistent effort is better.
If your goal is to make $X by the end of 2012, then you need to figure out what it will take to achieve that goal. It might require diligent preparation and record keeping; hours upon hours of modeling; extensive research; and so on. But whatever it is, you need to do it. And if you can't, then perhaps you need to temper your expectations and come up with more realistic goals.
The best sports bettors in the world are passionate about what they do. To them, analyzing data and handicapping games is a necessarily evil, a part of the larger process that helps them arrive at their goals.
These people are self driven and hungry to make more money today than they did yesterday, all in pursuit of the ultimate prize. You might not have the same drive, but you'll never know unless you think about it.
* * *
The worst businessmen are those who make money but don't evaluate how they're making it. All they care about is the end result — profit — and they don't spend the time necessary to analyze where the money is coming from, where the business is inefficient and, most importantly, how the business can be improved.
Instead, they follow the same beaten path "because it's working" and never make any adjustments. Problem is, nothing around them is constant — not their customer base, not the economy, not the costs involved, etc. While it is possible that a businessman can be making a good living, it's also true that he could be making a better living if weaknesses were identified and if he did a better job of learning from past performance.
Not to mention, it's possible that the businessman is benefiting from good fortune and that over time the profit margins he is currently enjoying aren't sustainable. If that is the case, then the businessman should be attempting to adjust his approach to maximize future gains, taking all relevant factors into account.
The best way to evaluate a business is to keep written or computerized records. Being able to pinpoint where money is coming and going, and being able to do so with incredible precision, is imperative to success. Many businessmen, of course, don't keep records. They don't understand the importance of doing so.
Sports bettors are the same way.
KEEPING YOUR OWN SCORE
If I were to poll the BTB audience "Family Feud" style and ask 100 sports bettors if they keep a written record of their results, how many would say that they do? I bet the number would be 15. No, maybe it'd be less than that. It might be 10 people?
Is it possible that only five out of 100 sports bettors keep a written record of their results? If that's the case, and I suspect the number is fairly accurate, then that means 95 percent of sports bettors aren't learning from their results and have no tangible way of measuring their success.
Of all the sports bettors I've ever met, the overwhelming majority of them refer to themselves as a "small winner." They usually say something to the effect of, "Since I started betting on sports, I'd say that I'm up over time. Not a lot of money. You know, I've had my ups and downs. But yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm up."
This is the type of response given by losing sports bettors.
Winning sports bettors not only know exactly what they're up or down, but they can tell you what they've won and how they've won it. Their results — daily, weekly, monthly and yearly — are all written and recorded. These results are broken down by sport. They're broken down by favorite or underdog; point spread and money line; side or total; and so on.
Being able to identify "leaks" is hugely important to growing your bankroll.
HIDING FROM RESULTS
There are two main reasons why sports bettors don't record their results.
Personally, I think record-keeping is a necessary evil. A few years ago, I can remember spotting an unsettling trend by reviewing my bet history: I whiffed on eight straight Indiana basketball games. Not only that, but I was often getting the worst of the number and the majority of the time I wasn't even close.
This was just one of a handful of discoveries that I made, and depending on how detailed you are willing to get, there's no telling what you might find. For instance:
Try to commit to recording all of your results. You can use pen and paper or a spreadsheet, whichever you prefer. Then, a year from now, if someone asks you if you're a winning sports bettor, you can give them a straight answer, no longer needing to rely on nuance or your best guess.
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Back when I used to play competitive golf, I was a complete headcase. Not in a club-throwing, divot-taking, curse-everyone-in-front-of-me kind of way, but in terms of expecting good results every time I swung the club. The best way to play golf, the way most professionals play golf, is to aim at a target, shoot for that target, and then block out all the distractions.
If there is a bunker or a pond or an out of bounds line up ahead, good golfers block those things out.
Bad golfers let these hazards consume them and dominate their thoughts. I can remember coming down the back nine of a tournament once, and on the tee I saw water to the left and an out of bounds marker to the right. Of course, there was a fairway right in front of me, but I doubt I even noticed.
While standing on the tee, I thought to myself: "You know, if I hit the ball out of bounds, I'll have to re-tee and hit 3. That will ruin my round. But if I knock it in the water, at least I can drop all the way up there and still have a chance to save par."
Predictably, I took the right side completely out of play, unwilling to flirt with the possibility of hitting the ball out of bounds.
Then I promptly hit the ball out of bounds, anyway.
LOSING IS INEVITABLE
In golf, one bad shot or one unlucky bounce or one gust of wind can completely alter your round. Golf is all about precision and perfection, and those things always made me uncomfortable. I couldn't accept falling short of a desired score.
But in sports betting, losing is inevitable. For most of us, you probably won't win that much more frequently than you lose. The majority of winning gamblers hit anywhere between 53 and 56 percent over time. That means they are losing anywhere between 44 and 47 percent of their bets.
The major difference between golf and sports betting, I think, is the level of control that you have over your results. In golf, you are the sole swinger of the club, and therefore you accept 100 percent of the blame when things go poorly. In sports betting, you are trying to determine how someone else will swing the club, and that certainly restricts the level of control that you have.
Losing sports bettors are unable to comprehend this. They look at results over process when their focus should be on the process, first and foremost. The process that goes into placing a wager is the only thing you have control of. The game that you're watching, either in person or on TV or on ESPN gamecast, is completely out of your control.
Yet, too often, sports bettors let these outcomes control them.
You can handicap a game and use logic that is sound and lose. The opposite is also true: You can have flawed logic and a poor read on a game but ultimately win, either because of a freak play, a blown call or a backdoor cover. Over time, these things will correct themselves, and those with the best process are likely to hit more than those who rely on good breaks.
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
Every bet you make is a learning opportunity.
You can learn more from a loss than a win if you're willing to analyze what went wrong. Unfortunately, many bettors are unable and unwilling to look back at their own thoughts and the process that went into placing a losing wager, and therefore, they continue to make the same mistakes again and again.
Your "post cap," as I'll call it, is just as important as your pregame handicapping.
I joke all the time on Twitter about kicking the dog, grabbing a bottle of Jack Daniels and then going to bed after a losing wager. I also suggest to followers that if they place a wager that is particularly bad, that they smack themselves in the face with a shoe. One day, I thought to myself: "I wonder how many people actually take their shoe off and smack themselves in the face with it?"
These visuals, as funny as they might be, are counterproductive to your mental psyche and your confidence. Negative energy and outbursts of anger will do nothing but shake the foundation that you're trying so hard to build. Not to mention, your anger is likely misdirected, since again, there are numerous variables — variables outside of your control — that could have led to the undesirable outcome.
While your focus should be on making good bets and winning money, you also need to ensure that you're improving in all the areas that will help you achieve your desired goals. Those with a winning mentality don't waste their time wallowing in self pity and consuming themselves with every loss. Instead, they are trying to improve on all the little things that add up to a lot.
I've often said that the difference between good and great can be found between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Eighty-five percent of people in the United States are asleep during these hours, and those that aren't are probably working the graveyard shift at gas stations or hotels. While you don't have to be up during these hours, the larger point is that the harder you work, the more effort you put in, the better off you'll be.
Winners are addicted to winning. They are equally addicted to not losing.
Sports betting can be fun if you approach it with enthusiasm and a positive energy and a willingness to learn and improve and get better, not just today, but tomorrow, and not just tomorrow, but the day after, and then the week after, and then the month after, and so on. If you look at the chart above, you'll see progress being made over time in a number of different categories. Steady progress.
Focus on improving your skill set day after day, expect to win — and then win.
* * *
There's an old saying that's been repeated dozens of times in locker rooms across the country, and it's a saying that has particular relevance for sports bettors: "Don't let one game beat you twice."
In a sport like football, the saying essentially tells players to regroup and refocus after a loss and to put the bad outcome behind them. Fretting over "what could have been" or what "should have been" is not going to help you prepare for your next game, which should be the most important game on the schedule.
The same is true of sports betting. If you are in kick-the-dog mode after a loss, and if you are punching walls, then you are letting emotion get the best of you. In all likelihood, you will place another bet during your fit of rage, and that isn't good, either.
Coping with defeat is the most important skill you can learn in sports betting.
UNDERSTANDING HOW OUR MIND WORKS
Our minds are trained to chase losses and to take a chance when we're put in a position of owing money. I have no idea why this is the case, but it's true. To illustrate, let's say I offer you the following proposition, which we'll call Proposition A:
Now, let's take a look at another proposition, which we'll call Proposition B:
If you are a sports bettor, then you have likely been faced with the two propositions above on several occasions, especially if you bet through a bookie that requires you to pay up on Tuesdays.
How many times have you decided to sit out Monday Night Football to ensure a winning week? On the flip side, how many times have you chased your losses to avoid having to pay up on a losing week? The reality is, we generally handle success far better than we handle defeat.
Most sports bettors are competent enough to manage their money when things are going well. If you go on a heater and hit 75 percent of your games over a 30-game sample, it's nearly impossible to screw that up. It's similar to blackjack: No matter how bad you are, if the dealer is giving you two face cards every hand, it's going to be hard for you to walk away from the table a loser.
But how do you respond to adversity? That's the toughest test that all sports bettors face, and it's my belief that most bettors don't handle it well for a few reasons:
Lack of planning
Those who are constantly reacting to the outcome of games suffer from a lack of planning. Either that, or a lack of a bank roll. Ask yourself this: How often does the outcome of a 7 p.m. college basketball game influence your ensuing bet, say, on a 9 p.m. hoops game? In other words, if the 7 p.m. game hits, will you take your money and run, or will you plan on betting a 9 p.m. game anyway? Or, if the 7 p.m. game loses — let's say the team you bet is getting drilled at halftime and has no chance at coming back — will you bet the 9 p.m. game?
If you will, was it a planned bet? Or are you chasing? Also: Will you bet half the amount of your first bet, the same amount, or double the amount? Or will you parlay it with something?
These are questions you need to be able to answer but likely can't. You can't because you often enter each day's games without a plan. Your night consists of a series of reactions, and most of them are knee-jerk reactions or overreactions, I'm sure. These are not attributes of a long-term winner.
I have written about dozens of "bad beats" on this site, and if I wanted to write about all of them, I could probably fill up 10 posts per day. Bad beats are funny to read about if you didn't personally bet on the game, but if you did, they can throw you into a fit of rage.
A half-court buzzer beater ... a late-game touchdown in a 55-14 blowout ... A walk-off, three-run home run in extra innings when you bet the road team on the run line ... a third-period empty netter that sends the game 'over' the total ... a botched call ... and so on. These are all outcomes that can screw with the mind of undisciplined bettors.If one of the above examples occurs during a game that ends at 8:58 p.m. ET, and you lose, how likely are you to rush to your offshore sportsbook account and place a bet on a 9 p.m. game? (Also, will you do it before or after you've chewed a hole through your couch?) Obviously, betting a game you know nothing about following a horrible loss that resulted in you throwing a bowling ball through your television set is not +EV.
HOW TO RESPOND TO LOSSES
This will sound overly simplistic, but you need to have some sort of 'coping' mechanism to help you get over a tough loss. Think of it like a cool-down session. You can either go for a walk or take a drive or simply shut the television off and move to another room.
Or, better yet, try to avoid watching the games that you bet on altogether. It's much easier to handle a loss if you read a score on the ticker than if you watch the agony unfold in front of you. The other thing you can do is evaluate the game and learn from it. This is a great way to turn a negative into a positive.
The best way, though, is to not let emotions play a role. This might seem impossible to do, but if you take a long-term approach to sports betting — or sports investing, if you prefer — then you won't have to worry about results on a game-by-game basis. Today's game is just one game in the next 100, and if you're honest with yourself, you'll be fully aware that it's a mere percentage point. Ups and downs and ebbs and flows are inevitable in sports betting. Be mindful of that on all occasions.
Most people respond negatively to losses because they are betting more than they can afford. Practice proper money management, take a long-term approach, strip yourself of emotion, be calculated, and if you have a bad day, do better tomorrow.
* * *
It happens every day.
Someone will ask me for my opinion on a game, a game that I know nothing about and haven't even looked at yet, and will then expect me to respond with a pick. On rare occasions, I will oblige and respond with a pick. Often times, though, I don't provide one.
There are a few main reasons why I do this:
"Hey, have you seen @So_Money_Sports?" a person might tweet to his friend.
"Sure have," the friend replies back. "I've been killing it by following his picks."
To be fair, I myself am part of the problem. I have promoted certain (free) handicappers that I respect, and So Money is certainly one that I have recommended to numerous people on numerous occasions. But if you look at So Money's Twitter bio, you'll see his description, a description that too many people aren't reading.
Sports investor helping others supplement their income.
The key word in that one-sentence description, you'll notice, is "supplement."
DEPENDING ON OTHERS
Most sports bettors start off the same way. They deposit money into an offshore sportsbook, then research games, then lose their money. Then, they re-deposit, spend even more time researching games, then lose their money again.
This process continues to repeat itself over and over until the bettor finally starts to force himself to learn more about handicapping. The bettor might order a few sports betting-related books, or he might listen to a few podcasts, or he might read message boards or trade magazines. Whatever it is that the bettor decides to do, the focus is on making improvement — constant improvement — while getting better and better each day, each week, each month and each year.
"Eventually," the bettor says to himself, "I am going to earn a nice living doing this."
But then, the bettor hits what he perceives to be his ceiling. He starts to doubt his skills and becomes increasingly frustrated by his bankroll, which either hovers around the break-even mark for a prolonged period of time or actually goes down. Over time, the bettor begins to look for outside help.
If the outside help is good, then the bettor becomes more reliant on it.
If the outside help is really good, then the bettor becomes dependent on it.
Here's the problem: The Golden Goose might not be around forever. So, let's say you decide to tail a certain handicapper and rely entirely on that handicapper to generate consistent, long-term profits for you. In the process, your learning process comes to a halt, as you no longer bother to handicap your own games.
Suddenly, the handicapper you've depended on decides to no longer post his plays. Or, perhaps the free handicapper you followed decided to go tout, and now you must buy his plays for hundreds or thousands of dollars?
LEARN ON THE FLY
You shouldn't take any shame in following handicappers that you trust. All of us at one point or another have used information that others provide to help us make a play or to at least steer us in the direction of a play.
But if you stop the learning process, and if you aren't developing your own skills, then what will you do when the Golden Goose is gone?
Your focus should be on improving each day and doing all the things that I've outlined in the first four parts of this series. You should work on developing a winning mindset, you should learn to handle defeat, you should set goals and try to reach them, and you should record your results so that you can continue your development into the future.
When you make mistakes, you are able to learn from them.
If a handicapper you follow makes a mistake, you learn nothing.
* * *
Whether it's the size of an acorn or a grapefruit, most beginning bettors, I assure you, fail to and forget to use their brain.
One of the terrible things about Twitter is that it enables people to write what they are thinking in real-time. For most people, there is no filter. What you read is exactly what is going on inside their mind, and man, let me tell you, they leave themselves very exposed.
I was on Twitter the other day and watched as a very successful handicapper was forced to absorb negative tweet after negative tweet from low-life scoundrels who were giving him hell for losing his third or fourth straight game. One guy wrote, "Man, time to take a break."
Time to take a break? What for? The guy had been killing it all month and over his previous 60 days was hitting at a rate of more than 62 percent. Sports betting, for better or for worse, is essentially a flip of the coin. Advantage bettors do what they can to earn a four to five percent edge by identifying situational spots or angles that might swing the odds slightly in their favor, but for most, it's roughly a 50-50 proposition.
Those without an edge who routinely get the worst of the number might be closer to 45 percent.
What does that mean? It means that there will be natural ebbs and flows; it means that losing streaks are inevitable; it means that one stretch of games, particularly a stretch that consists of a measly four-game sample, is not indicative of anything of relevance.
People who try to draw conclusions from four-game samples do not have brains or don't know how to use them.
THE MISTAKES WE MAKE
The first time I ever shot a basketball, I had horrible form. I mean, rotten form. I jumped to the left and heaved the ball from the right side of my body, like I was attempting to throw shot put. I was almost always off balance and, oh, shoot, did I mention that I placed both hands on the outside of the ball?
Forrest Gump could have shot a basketball better than I did.
The reason for my poor mechanics was because I never took the time to learn basic fundamentals. I fell in love with the 3-point line and started heaving shot after shot from long range. When you are a seven-year-old kid trying to shoot from that far away, it feels like you are trying to shoot a bowling ball. In retrospect, I would have been much better served by shooting five-foot shots directly in front of the basket and then working my way out as I felt more comfortable.
Beginning sports bettors, I think, have a similar mechanics problem. Instead of betting for small amounts by picking a side or a total, they bet more than they can afford and mix in parlays and teasers. Their focus isn't on picking winners, it's about making money. If you can remember back to the first few bets you made, my guess is that each game felt like life or death. You were pacing in front of the television and cursing negative plays and overreacting to every swing of momentum, both good and bad.
If you hit three or four in a row, you were a genius on the fast-track to making a second living. If you missed three straight, you were always one more loss away from giving up sports betting altogether.
It's this type of mindset, short-term thinking and bad habits that most sports bettors are never able to rid themselves of, even after several years of handicapping. These habits, coupled with the desire for immediate results and an easy score, then begin taking over in other areas.
* * *
Relying on trends
Every beginning bettor loves trends. They will dig up trends and then bet them blindly, hoping and expecting that history will repeat itself. Here is the problem: Most trends are a product of complete and utter randomness. For instance, there are 342 teams in college basketball. As we head into January, a handful of teams still have unblemished against the spread records.
Does this mean that these teams are far exceeding expectations and are great value bets going forward if the lines remain consistent? Well, it might. But some of these teams might be perfect ATS due to luck or circumstance. If one out of 342 teams is 8-0 ATS, that shouldn't be particularly surprising. If you were to flip a coin eight times and hope it came up heads each time, the odds of that happening are 1 in 256. So, it's not inconceivable that something like this might occur.
Beginners also love trends that fit particular "systems." Unfortunately, these trends are often a product of extremely small samples and are not predictive in nature. Again, with so many stats and splits and numbers and statistical categories, you'll always find something that "fits." But until a particular angle has been backtested and put into practice — and until it is proven to be profitable over a large, representative sample over time — odds are it won't be useful.
Trends are useful as a starting point for further exploration. They are also useful if they come about naturally as a result of a particular theory you have. However, if you're merely mining for data randomly, with no idea what you're looking for, then the results likely don't carry much weight.
Overreacting to outcomes
Ever have one of "those days," where you oversleep your alarm clock, put soap in your hair, get pulled over on the way to work and then spill coffee all over yourself as you rush in the door? Of course you have. We all have.
There are 365 days in a year, and you might be at your best in 95 percent of them. But even if that's the case, that still means you have roughly 20 or 25 "off" days per year. If working professionals (lawyers, dentists, etc.) can have them, then so can professional athletes. So, too, can college athletes.
Why, then, do we rush to judgment every time a team has a bad outing? Earlier this year, the Chiefs lost three straight games to open the season and looked like the worst team in football. Then, they rattled off four straight victories. Later in the year, they lost five of six before defeating the undefeated Packers.
The truth is, the Chiefs aren't as bad as they've looked and they aren't as good as they've looked. They're somewhere in the middle and are probably a below average team. I thought that earlier in the year, when they lost by a combined 89-10 margin in their first two games, and I felt that way later in the year, after they knocked off the Packers in the biggest upset of the season.
Does a loss to the Chiefs influence peoples' perception of the Packers? In the minds of some, it absolutely does. I've heard plenty of people suggest that the Packers are "vulnerable" and that they "aren't as good as we thought," so on and so forth.
I'm not telling you what to think, but I find it hard to believe that a team can go from being one of the best teams of all-time to possibly the second-best in its own conference in the span of 10 days.
Searching for confirming evidence
Here's something you've probably experienced before. You are sitting at a bar with a group of friends, and somebody brings up a game. Let's say it's the Giants-Cowboys game. One of your friends kicks off the conversation by saying, "Man, the Giants are going to kill 'em this week. A 3-point favorite? Heck, they'll win by at least 10."
Another friend offers up the following: "Yep, Romo is a bum, and he's injured."
Everyone else nods in agreement while nobody attempts to explain why the line is what it is.
"It's a lock," you say.
Then the Cowboys proceed to pull off the upset, and you and your buddies are sitting around scratching your heads, wondering how the perfect bet went wrong and why 70 percent of the betting public went down with you.
Instead of doing everything you can to confirm your selection, make an attempt to argue the opposite side. It's possible that you might not find anything to get you off your original play, and it's possible that nothing you dig up will even rattle your confidence. But make an attempt. In my experience, if a game looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Playing Devil's Advocate, even when I am absolutely sure of myself, has saved me many bets that would have gone horribly wrong.
THE TAKE-HOME MESSAGE
Try to be smarter. Try to think. Be intuitive. Question yourself. Ask questions. Look at results and then explore them further to verify their validity. Don't rely on small samples. Don't mine for data. Don't overreact to the here and now when there's weeks or months or years of data that might suggest something completely to the contrary. Challenge your thoughts. Re-think your thoughts. Read. Inform yourself. Try to get better. Try to learn from others. Come up with theories and then test them.
Basically, don't be a dummy. Use your brain.
* * *
Social media is all about what you put into it. It is very much an input -> output system in that those who put into it are likely to get something back in return; something useful and informative and potentially even life-changing.
Plenty of folks sign up for a Twitter account and then follow all the relevant people in a particular industry. Those interested in sports betting, for instance, might follow the Twitter accounts of Chad Millman and Steve Fezzik and CoversSports, etc. (Of course, they also might stumble upon some guy named @beyondthebets and realize that there's really no reason to follow anybody else.)
The problem is, most of these people don't look beyond the familiar faces and are unwilling to build any additional networks. Instead of following, say, an aspiring handicapper who specializes in NHL hockey, they continue to add more and more familiar names to their follow list — names that are unwilling to interact with them on a personal level and ignore every inquiry that comes across their feed.
But these people try anyway, tweeting the 'pros' relentlessly while hoping they'll give them even a sliver of attention. Unfortunately, the response never comes.
WHAT DO YOU CONTRIBUTE?
Here's a question that everybody on Twitter should ask themselves: "What do I contribute?" This is especially the case if you are a sports bettor or handicapper looking to build your social network. It's a very simple question that should have a very simple answer.
Are you more likely to inform your followers of what you had for lunch, or are you more likely to provide them with situational ATS stats from bowl games ranging from 1985-2011? Or independent research that you've conducted? Or theories you've come up with and then backtested? Or studies that you've read? Or bad lines that you've spotted? Or a sleeper team that you've identified?
It often seems like we have an overload of information, to the point where Twitter gets polluted and contaminated with ATS stats and trends and injury reports. Some people, I'm sure, do not want ALL of this information. "It's too much," they'll say. "I can't keep it all straight."
But personally, I want all of it. ALL of it. Which is why I'm so consistently disappointed when hundreds of thousands of people rely exclusively on a dozen or so people to provide all the information. Many of the questions I receive — in fact, 95 percent of them — are questions that could easily be looked up and researched in the matter of minutes or even seconds. But people are too lazy; they want everything fed to them.
It becomes a me-first relationship, with one side distributing the information and the other side hoarding it. Then, the other side (the information gatherer) wonders why nobody talks to them and why nobody wants to provide them with the "inside scoop." It doesn't take me long to identify the takers. Over time, I phase them out because they never — ever — bring anything to the table.
What's the old saying? "A little bit adds up to a lot?" Of course it does. If every one of my Twitter followers produced just one solid, informative tweet per day — about a team, about a trend, about an injury, about a stat, about an article, about a line or about a hunch, could you imagine what that would add up to?
Twitter is an unbelievable tool for sports bettors. If used properly, it could be an army of people — each with their own individualized specialties and skill sets — that could work together to provide the best information found anywhere.
Unfortunately, it has turned into the following: "Hey, what's tonight's lock!?"
"Follow me!" the tweet will say.
"Why?" I respond.
"Because I'm an incredible handicapper and will make you money."
"Hmm. Well, that sounds good," I say to myself. Then I click on the person's timeline and see nothing but tweets about Barack Obama, the crazy bitch driving down the wrong side of the highway, the crappy day job, the even crappier night job, Verizon sucks, my stomach hurts, it's cold outside and ice cream sandwiches are terrible.
Outside of the ice cream sandwich tweet, which I happen to agree with, this person clearly wasn't bringing anything to the table. They just wanted me to follow them. And not just me, but everybody.
As a general rule, I'll follow and/or interact with anybody who seems to have an interest in sports betting. I can't tell you how many people I've encountered who have decided to start a blog, or who decided to join the BTB Forum, all in an effort to share their knowledge and wisdom with a larger audience.
Anytime you put something out there, you increase your chances of starting a conversation. That conversation could lead to something else, and who knows, in time you might be on the receiving end of some of the best information in the industry. The people that never paid any attention to you before might now suddenly be sending you e-mails. They might be asking YOU for information. Why? Because they know you have it and because they consider you a trusted source.
They know because you've shown them and because you've put your work out there for others to see.
Since starting this site, I can't tell you how many people have reached out to me. I have met some truly incredible people both in the industry and outside of it, people who have forgotten more than I'll ever learn.
Without question, I'm better off for it.
* * *
The assumption is that newer bettors are mostly coin flippers. That is, those who are new to sports betting are far more likely to hit at or near 50 percent over a prolonged period of time than a veteran handicapper who has "been there, done that," and is trying to make a legitimate second income by hitting at 54 or 55 percent.
Amateur sports bettors spend all of their time handicapping teams and rarely spend time looking at the numbers. For instance, a newer bettor isn't likely to pay much attention to the point spread in the Stanford-Oklahoma State Fiesta Bowl matchup. They are far more likely to ask themselves, "Who do I think will win?"
A line that is Oklahoma State -3, 4, 4.5 or even 5 — which was the closing number — probably doesn't make much of a difference to a newer bettor, since they don't have a full understanding of just how valuable those points can be in a matchup projected to go down to the wire.
A more serious bettor, however, is working hard for that extra half point, checking lines for days or weeks and especially on game day, trying to scrape up the extra value if it presents itself. Ultimately, that extra effort is often the difference between a winner and a loser.
WHY IT MATTERS
Let's assume that I polled 100 new sports bettors and asked them who they liked in the Fiesta Bowl with the following point spread: Oklahoma State -3 vs. Stanford.
Maybe 65 of them say they like Oklahoma State.
Now, let's say I polled those same 100 sports bettors and asked them who they liked with a slightly different point spread: Oklahoma State -3.5 vs. Stanford.
My guess is that all 65 of them will stick with their pick on the Cowboys.
At least a dozen professional bettors, I'm sure, would change their pick. Others most certainly would not. Maybe some of them would play Oklahoma State up to -4 or even -4.5. But at 5, they might be inclined to make a play on Stanford. At 6, they might make a very large play on Stanford.
At 7 or 7.5, they might make their biggest bet of the year on Stanford.
Newer bettors struggle to comprehend this. How can a point or two become the difference between taking one team over another team? Or, more precisely, how can it become the difference between making a small play or a very large play?
The answer is found in your approach.
DON'T PLAY TEAMS, PLAY NUMBERS
That's what kills new sports bettors. They play this constant guessing game where they like one team, then the other, and then they commit themselves to betting the game despite not being sure. It can be quite the process, even though an actual process isn't followed, but nonetheless a pick is made.
Sometimes the pick is made at a good number and sometimes it isn't. "Well, who cares?" you say.
Well, you should care.
So, here's something you can try if you haven't before. Get in the habit of looking at upcoming games far in advance. You can plan a week ahead for football games and 24 hours in advance for basketball games.
Do all of your handicapping as early as possible and preferably before the lines are released. Project a point spread for each game and determine what the line would have to be for you to take either of the two teams.
There's an old saying: "I'll bet on any team ... if the price is right."
If it's a Syracuse-Georgetown game, perhaps you determine that you'd take Syracuse at anything -5 or less and you'd take Georgetown at +8 or better. If the line is a 6 or 7, you stay away. Try to follow a similar approach to each game that you handicap. Be open-minded and be willing to play either side at a particular price.
Then, once you've determined your point spread, you should chart how close or how off you were. Then, track the line movement. This is a great way to monitor your progress and will hopefully help you become a better handicapper.
* * *
You've done it and I've done it and we've all done it. You have looked at a team, a team that everybody else hates, and saw potential for greatness. If not greatness, then the potential to be very, very good.
You tell yourself that you like this team, that this team has a few players that might be better than most people expect, and as a result, you think this team has a chance to overachieve.
You look at their futures odds — it might be a win total — and you laugh. "Five wins?" you say. "I think that team might have five wins through the first five weeks." Meanwhile, everybody else looks at you like you're crazy, like you're smoking dope, like you have no idea what the heck you're talking about.
You keep poring over the roster, then the schedule, and the more you look, the more you like. And the more YOU like, the more THEY laugh — your friends, the people on Twitter, etc.
Ultimately, you talk yourself out of it. You don't make the bet.
* * *
Anybody who bets on sports has lived the above scenario. You see something that everybody else doesn't, and then you must determine whether or not you want to swim with the crowd or risk being circled by the sharks when your prognostication proves to be wrong.
Earlier this year, back when the Broncos were 1-4, I looked at their AFC West futures odds and saw that they were 50-to-1 to win the division. At the time, they were three full games behind the division-leading Chargers. These odds were released at about the exact moment that Tim Tebow was named the starting quarterback. The Broncos were also on a bye week.
The Chiefs were all but left for dead (of course, they ended up winning four straight to momentarily get back in the race), and I wasn't taking the Raiders seriously (who would?). So, that left the Chargers. The Chargers' next three games: at Jets, at Chiefs, vs. Packers. Also: I wasn't sold on San Diego's 4-1 start. They beat four teams who had started a combined 2-15.
I thought the Chargers had roughly a 66 percent chance to lose two of their next three and a 50 percent chance of losing three straight. "If that happens," I said to myself, "the Broncos might have a chance to get back into this thing.
Well, I did not know — I could not know — just how fast the Broncos would get back into the race. The Chargers promptly lost six straight, including an inexplicable loss to the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. The Broncos, of course, went on a tear — winning seven of eight to claim a multiple-game lead in the division. Not over the Chargers, who were done, but over the Raiders.
By Week 15, the Broncos were favored to win the division.
I made plenty of money during the Broncos' win streak, mostly on fourth-quarter in-game bets when they were playing from behind. But all along, I was kicking myself.
Why? Because I didn't go with my gut and play them at 50-1.
What can you do?
All successful sports bettors anticipate and calculate. They also project. Your goal is to see something that the market doesn't, to identify hidden value when it presents itself, and then act on your inclinations.
Too often, we don't do that.
I was fortunate enough during college football season to act on a hunch that I had regarding Kansas State. I was very public and very vocal about my belief that the Wildcats were much better than people expected, and week after week — despite being listed as an underdog — K-State pulled out a handful of outright victories.
People thought I was crazy, particularly when I'd take the Cats as a big dog (like when they were +13.5 at Miami; or +8.5 at Texas), but I couldn't be talked out of it. I had myself convinced and went with it.
Sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn't.
You should always utilize people you trust and the resources that are available to you. I've been talked out of plenty of bad bets that would have cost me money by people who presented an argument that seemed to contradict mine.
But at the same time, I've also ignored my own hunches on too many occasions, leaving money on the table and being forced to wonder "what if" well after the fact.
* * *
When anger replaces disappointment, when frustration replaces fun and when hobby becomes obsession, you should probably reconsider why you are betting on sports.
For all the jokes I've made on Twitter about kicking dogs, I can assure you that no animals have been harmed in the production of this website. Nor have they been harmed during, or after, a game that I have wagered on.
(Well, maybe just once: USF-Pitt night.)
In this 10-part beginner's series, I've provided you with tips that I hope will help you become a better sports bettor over the long term. In previous posts, we've discussed the importance of understanding your goals, keeping accurate records, developing a winning mentality, coping with defeat, learning on the fly, using your brain, building your network, using basic strategy and going with your gut.
If you consider all of these things and try to apply them to your day-to-day handicapping, I assure you that you'll become better over time. But even if you do, and even if you achieve some level of success, none of it will matter if you aren't having any fun.
First and foremost, you should seek enjoyment from sports betting. As I've said before, and it's worth repeating: Ninety-nine percent of people that read this will use sports betting as a form of supplemental income rather than as a viable, full-time job.
Those who think they can bet professionally but are getting taken to the cleaners regularly are doing themselves a tremendous disservice, both psychologically and monetarily.
Once, when I was young and stupid, I thought for sure I'd become a professional golfer. I had the work ethic and the short game and the desire to achieve greatness. But eventually, my development slowed, my swing broke down and my mental game wasn't even close to where it needed to be. It never was.
Also, I wasn't very good.
Luckily, I had enough self awareness to tell myself that this dream was dead and that a career on the PGA Tour was never going to happen. That took the pressure off and helped free up my mind so that I could focus on enjoying my time on the course.
On Twitter: @beyondthebets
05-23-2012, 10:38 PM (This post was last modified: 05-23-2012 10:44 PM by Beyond the Bets.)
RE: 10 steps to becoming a better sports bettor
On Twitter: @beyondthebets
05-24-2012, 02:52 PM
RE: 10 steps to becoming a better sports bettor
I think confidence means a lot.. When I go on a losing streak it makes me gunshy.
05-29-2012, 12:53 PM
RE: 10 steps to becoming a better sports bettor
I think point #1 states it all. People need to be realistic and honest with themselves with
what they are trying to accomplish betting on sports.
05-29-2012, 12:54 PM
RE: 10 steps to becoming a better sports bettor
Please tell me you didn't actually read that whole thing
On Twitter: @beyondthebets
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