Sports Betting 101: Stay in Control, Seek Help for Gambling Addiction

April 4, 2020 11:56 AM

Read the first three parts of Bankroll Management and the rest of the Sports Betting 101 series.

The next step to bankroll management is understanding a simple but important truth: you don't have to bet every single game. 

Wayne Gretzky, famously said "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." But the same logic cannot be applied to sports betting. If a hockey player misses a shot, there is no penalty or consequence. But if a bettor misses their shot, meaning they place a bet and it loses, he loses his hard-earned money. While it may be extremely frustrating to not bet on a game and then watch the side you would have bet on win, always remember: you can never lose a bet you don't make.

Being disciplined with your bets, specifically the number of bets you place each day, is something almost all new bettors struggle with. There is no denying it: Betting a game and then watching that game and rooting for your bet to win is exhilarating. This is popularly referred to as having "action" on a game or "sweating" a game. The adrenaline rush is unparalleled. There is absolutely nothing like it, especially when you end up cashing at the end. When you win a bet, it makes you want to bet more. You can find yourself betting on more and more games in the hopes of recapturing that winning adrenaline rush. 

However, this can become a slippery slope. The more bets you make, the most risk you assume. As a result, you should do everything in your power to limit your number of bets. If you are betting 10 or more games per night, you are opening yourself up to massive fluctuations in your bankroll. While one great night could result in huge profits, one bad night could give back all of your hard earned gains in the blink of an eye. 

Having too many bets, also known as having too many "plays," can cut into your win percentages and allow the juice to chip away at your bankroll. Betting too many games is the quickest way to go bankrupt and arguably the biggest mistake new bettors can make.

Think of it this way: there is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine each night with dinner. But if you're having 10 glasses of wine every night, you have a problem. Everything is better in moderation, especially your number of bets.

Another commandment of bankroll management is that you should never bet on a game just for the sake of having action. Just because the Steelers are playing the Ravens in a big Monday Night Football game and you have nothing else to do doesn't mean you have to bet on it. Never bet on a game simply for entertainment, or because you're bored or because it's on TV, or because betting on it will make watching the game more fun. 

Instead, only bet on your most confident games. The ones you spent time and effort researching, studying and identifying an advantage, also known as identifying an "edge." Think of yourself as a lawyer building a case. If you've compiled substantial evidence and a robust list of reasons why you should bet a game, so much so that it would convince a jury in court room, then go ahead and pull the trigger and bet the game. But if you aren't totally confident in a bet, always lay off. Flip the page to tomorrow and start researching the next set of games. 

This brings us to our next question: How many games should you bet each day?

While the number of bets made per day can vary based on the season, the schedule, the number of sports in session and how many games you believe present value, a good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to 5 or less bets per day. If you find yourself betting more than that each night, you are approaching dangerous territory. Many professional bettors only make one or two bets per night, or none at all if they can't identify an edge. A good mantra to live by is "less is more" when it comes to the number of bets you are placing.

Picks your spots. Always make sure that you are controlling the schedule of games that night, also known as "the board" and the board isn't controlling you. Remember, just as in life, patience is a virtue when. There will always be more opportunities and more games to bet on. Never lose sight of the fact that you are playing a long game. 

Also keep in mind that practice makes perfect when it comes to betting. If you go through the day's games and can't find any worth betting, you can still watch the games even if you didn't bet on them. As you watch the game, keep a pen and notebook by your side. Take notes during the game. Consider this your practice for betting. Think of yourself as a scout.

You'll be surprised to discover how much watching games helps you become a better bettor. It allows you to keep your finger more closely on the pulse of a sport or league. You will also learn the teams, players, coaching styles, stadiums, referees and rules of the game much better. By practicing and watching games you didn't bet on, you will be more prepared to place your next bet on game day.

In many ways, gambling is a drug just like coffee, alcohol or any other activity that you become reliant upon and can't stop doing. 

In the case of sports betting, you can become addicted to the thrill of betting on games. Once you're hooked, your body craves more and more of it. This can lead to gambling addiction. 

Signs of gambling addiction include losing vast amounts of money but continuing to bet, betting on more and more games, being restless, irritable, or going through withdrawal when you're not betting, lying about your gambling habits, missing important life events because you are busy betting, jeopardizing your job or career, and destroying your relationships with friends, family or a loved one.

If you ever find yourself spiraling out of control and on the very of addiction, seek out Gambler's Anonymous (also known as GA). It is a free service where bettors can meet with each other, discuss their problems, receive counseling and begin a 12-step program to recovery.  

For more information, go to www.gamblersanonymous.org 

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