How not to bet on sports like a square

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

December 29, 2018 01:22 PM

Many of you don’t think of yourself as square. But even if you are a knowledgeable fan that follows your favorite sport closely, you probably have some square tendencies that are repeatedly hurting your bankroll. Your local sportsbook is a worthy foe that tries to stack the deck against you, not a charity handing out free money.

Stop betting so many favorites. If you’re like most of the public, you see huge blowouts around every corner, with visions of the superior team crushing an outmanned opponent. That does happen, but not as much as the public anticipates. Plus, sports books often shade a half-point or more against favorites to defend against one-sidedness. If all of your picks are favorites, you’re laying more points than you should…rooting for something that won’t happen as often as you expect.

Stop betting so many parlays. The dream of hitting a big score appeals to everyone. Sports books know that. They structure parlays to NOT pay off at true odds. You’re paying a hidden vigorish whenever you bet a parlay. And, if you’re doing that with favorites…you’re getting the worst of it multiple ways. (For the smaller percentage of you who are betting teasers, “stop betting so many teasers” is probably good advice as well. Hidden vigorish there too because you have to sweep all of your options.) 

Stop assuming a winning streak is because of your brilliance, but a losing streak is because of bad luck. Hey, you might be brilliant! But, “brilliant” in sports betting terms means hitting around 54-55% of your picks over the long haul. You don’t have a magic unicorn in your gut capable of hitting 70% or recognizing “sure things” on command. And, if you’re on a losing streak, it may be due to misreads or overconfidence.

Stop blaming coaches, quarterbacks, or referees for your mistakes. Sure, they make mistakes. But, it’s not like you don’t already know who the mistake-prone head coaches and quarterbacks are. You think a stubborn veteran coach is suddenly going to go for fourth downs when he’s supposed to because you bet him? That inconsistent quarterback is going to play spotless football when you need him to? Don’t bet with wishful thinking, then absolve yourself of blame when your team tanks. 

Respect the market rather than assuming point spreads are a reflection of “the dumb public” or “so-called sharps.” Sure, there are vulnerabilities that can be exploited. But markets do a good job of capturing informed sentiment representing “the wisdom of the crowds” and turning it into an accurate price.

Bet what you can afford to lose, rather than what you want to win. Bad bettors eventually find a way to bust, even if they have skills in a particular sport or a knack for certain propositions. If you guard against “risk of ruin,” you have a much better chance of developing into a sharp down the road. 


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