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Sports Betting 101: Approach Each Season Differently

May 3, 2020 12:27 AM

Most sports have three distinct seasons: Preseason, regular season and postseason. Bettors need to be conscious of the fact that each season brings its own set of variables. The amount of money the house accepts in bets, also known as the handle, can vary. So can motivations. As a result, bettors need to be aware of the sports betting calendar and make sure they approach each season differently. 

The preseason is a short time frame and available for professional sports but not college. Some sharp bettors completely lay off preseason betting because, in the end, it's an exhibition. The games don't matter. Wins and losses don't count. A lot of teams rest or barely play their star players. However, other wiseguys love betting on preseason because it's a unique time of year where bettors who really pay attention can capitalize on the variance and unpredictability. 

When it comes to the preseason, it's best to either go all in or all out. Riding the fence and falling somewhere in the middle, like betting every now and again, won't get you the results you're looking for. You should either lay off completely or devote serious effort in pursuit of maximizing your edge.

One thing to keep in mind in the preseason is that underdogs perform at a higher clip across the board. Why? Because in games that matter, it's a smart idea to take the team getting points or big plus-money payouts. Assessing motivation is also key. By and large, established teams that are coming off successful seasons aren't as concerned with playing well in the preseason. They are confident in who they are and know they can "turn it on" when it really counts. On the flip side, losing teams who missed the playoffs the previous season have a lot to prove and are more motivated to play well. Veteran coaches just want to get through the preseason injury free. New coaches want to establish a culture and get started on the right foot, which means they take preseason more seriously and want to win. 

It's also important to remember that contrarian value is virtually nonexistent in the preseason. Because the public largely avoids preseason, the ticket counts are much lower and there aren't enough Average Joes to bet against. 

Once you get to the regular season everything changes. The games count. The will to win now exists on both sides. As a bettor, you have to approach the regular season with a "forest amongst the trees attitude." You have to realize it's a marathon not a sprint. You don't have to bet every single game. Instead, be selective. Accept the fact that ups and downs will take place. You might have an awful first few weeks or first month, but you can't let that get you down. You have to embrace the grind and think long term.

Early in the regular season you see dogs perform well as all teams are healthy and the playing field is level. Favorites haven't hit their stride yet. Early season unders do well in football because the defense is ahead of the offense. So do cold weather unders in April in baseball. However, when it's hot (think 85 degrees or more), September overs in college football crush it because the defenses are taxed and the offenses carve them up. During the season, it's important to lean on divisional underdogs. The built in familiarity benefits the team getting points. If you're betting on an underdog in football, look for low totals. The fewer amount of points expected to be scored makes it harder for the favorite to cover. But in baseball, a high total benefits a dog because high scores lead to variance and more upset opportunities. 

Also be sure to focus on scheduling spots. Is one team rested and the other tired? Both pro and college football favorites perform well after bye weeks, especially when they're at home. Learn to buy low on bad news and sell on good. Don't be a victim of recency bias. Get in the habit of monitoring overnight lines and track line movement to see where the liability exists. Make sure you pick your spots when going contrarian. Not all games are created equally. In order to bet against the public, focus on the most popular matchups on ESPN, TNT, TBS, CBS, NBC or ABC.

The postseason is the most fun part of the year for both fans and bettors. The number of games each day diminish but their importance skyrockets. The postseason is the best time of year to go contrarian because every single game is heavily bet and nationally televised in primetime. The market is flooded with casual money that can be exploited. This is especially true for March Madness and College Football Bowl games. The playoffs also offer an opportunity to bet on series prices. They get adjusted after each game and if you can jump on a juicy number early it can really pay off by the time the series is over.

Finally, even though sports betting can be a 365-day operation, there is a fourth and final season: the offseason. This takes place typically in the mid-summer after the NBA and NHL playoffs are over and bettors are prepping for football. July and August are considered "gambler's vacation." This is when you can take a much-needed rest to recharge your batteries and enjoy some time away from betting. It's also a critical time to audit you bets. Always make sure you document your plays. During the time off, go over your records and learn about yourself as a bettor. What sports did you do well at? Which ones did you struggle with? Which bet types were your strongest? Which ones should you work on more?

Also use the time off to readjust your bankroll. See how you did the last 9 months. If you started off with $1,000 and bet 3% per game ($30 per bet) and now you're up to $1,500, you can adjust your bankroll up to $45 per game based on the same 3% breakdown. On the flip side, if you struggled and fell from $1,000 to $500, you would want to adjust your unit size down from $30 per game to $15 per game.

In the end, the moral of the story if simple: Always be conscious of the fact that different seasons have different variables. They can't all be approached the same way.

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