Common Sports Betting Mistakes to Avoid
Sportsbooks operate on fairly thin profit margins. Because they offer lines on both sides of every event, they are vulnerable to taking big losses when extremely popular sides win and cover the spread. But there’s a reason that sports betting is a multi-billion dollar industry and why online sportsbooks were excited about entering the Tennessee sports betting market. And that reason is that the majority of sports bettors lose money due to extremely common betting mistakes.
Some of these common sports betting mistakes are only made by recreational players, while others even sometimes affect the professionals. No one is immune to making sports betting mistakes, but hopefully being aware of these mistakes will put you in a position to catch yourself and limit your losses before you find yourself heading to the deposit page after going broke.
Bad bankroll management
Bad bankroll management is the king of the common betting mistakes. Winning streaks and losing streaks are a part of the game regardless of how strong of a handicapper you are. How you handle your bankroll will make all the difference between overcoming those inevitable losing streaks and getting crushed by them.
Take two hypothetical basketball bettors, Brian and Steve. Both of these players make a deposit at an online sportsbook in Tennessee for $1,000 with the intention of making straight wagers on NBA and NCAA games.
Brian decides to set a unit size of $20 a play, so he will bet $22 to win $20 on the sides and totals that he likes. Steve will be a lot more aggressive and bet $110 to win $100 a game.
Now it’s true that Steve stands to make a lot more money on a hot streak than Brian will. If Steve is betting $110 to win $100 on games and wins five straight, he’ll make $500 in profit while Brian would only make $100 in profit if he wins five straight games betting $22 to win $20.
But on the flip side, let’s say that over a tough opening weekend of action, each of these players goes an uncharacteristic 2-11. Brian will have lost $202 ($40 for his two wins minus $242 for his 11 losses = -$202). He still has $798 and more than enough time to rebuild his bankroll with some better weeks ahead. Steve, on the other hand, has gone completely broke with $1,210 in losses vs. only $200 in wins. His aggressive betting style left him vulnerable to a single tough run wiping him out.
And even if a player like Steve who doesn’t bother with bankroll management starts off on a hot streak, he’s also likely to up his bet size or get even more aggressive with exotic bets like parlays and teasers. When an inevitable cold streak hits, it will decimate his account regardless of how much he has run it up.
You don’t have to be as conservative with your bet sizing as Brian in this hypothetical to enjoy success as a sports bettor. But the common betting mistake lesson remains. Consistently putting too much of your bankroll at risk will almost always lead to ruin.
Betting without a clear head
There are a variety of ways in which sports bettors make the common betting mistake of not making wagering decisions with a clear head. These are just a few examples, but the concept is the same regardless of what’s causing you to bet without thinking it through first.
Trying to chase losses
Nobody likes ending the day as a loser. It is especially hard when you take a bad beat that causes a big bankroll swing. Perhaps you were heading to a 2-3 day on your five wagers of $110 to win $100. That would have left you only $130 in the hole, but a late touchdown in garbage time flipped your record to 1-4 and has you down $340 on the day.
Suddenly, you have a strong desire to get back to even. Earlier in the week you had thrown out the Sunday night game between the New England Patriots and the Tennessee Titans because you thought Tennessee might have trouble in the cold. But now, you bet $330 to win $300 on it in hopes of erasing your losses for the day.
With just one decision, you have placed a bet of three times your normal bet size on a game that you didn’t even think was worth a play earlier in the week. This is not a good long-term strategy.
Making decisions while emotional
Having a losing day is only one of many different things that can upset you. Perhaps you had a bad day at work, an argument with your wife, or your favorite team lost a close game. Some bettors look to sports betting as a way to distract themselves and will bet on anything just to have some action to root on. These sorts of knee-jerk bets are fine for recreational players, but they are not part of a winning strategy.
And emotions go both ways. Another common sports betting mistake is to bet when on the high of a victory, perhaps letting a huge parlay win ride on another game or betting a huge amount on your favorite team in a playoff game. Any bet super-charged with emotions, good or bad, hasn’t been assessed like your normal bets are.
Betting while inebriated
This betting mistake is perhaps the most obvious one. Betting when under the influence of drugs or alcohol isn’t likely to follow much rhyme, reason or restraint. If you are planning on enjoying a night of drinking, place your bets beforehand.
Betting on too many games
Being selective with which games to bet on takes a lot of practice and patience. Most sports bettors have a fear of missing out on wins. Both recreational bettors and serious ones alike can tell you a bunch of times in recent weeks that they had a strong lean on a game but decided not to bet on it for some reason, and the team that they liked went on to win easily.
It is a gambler’s fallacy to only remember events that push a certain narrative in our favor. All sports bettors remember in perfect detail their biggest losses, especially the ones in which they suffered a terrible bounce in the closing stages of the game. But those same bettors might have trouble recollecting all of the times that a lucky bounce bailed them out and gave them a win that they may not have deserved. It’s easier to complain about being unlucky than to admit that in most cases, the bounces both ways even themselves out in the long run.
The same is true when it comes to missing out on winners. It’s impossible to look at a game on the card and not have some kind of natural opinion on it. And in true form of the fallacy mentioned above, you’ll probably have a much easier time remembering the games that you didn’t bet on that went on to win and not all of the games that you threw out that went on to lose. Falling into this mental trap can lead to the common betting mistake of not wanting to miss out, so in turn starting to bet on just about everything.
The biggest advantage that sports bettors in Tennessee have over the sportsbook is that they can pick and choose exactly which games they want to bet on. There will always be a fresh set of games to bet on. In sports like basketball, hockey and baseball, you’ll have a new betting card to handicap every day. In football, you’ll have a new betting card every week. Why place a bunch of bets on games that you are only mildly interested in when you can instead wager on games you feel strongly about?
Overreacting to recent events
Considering recent form when handicapping a game is part of a smart handicapping strategy. But placing too much emphasis on a single game or two can turn into a serious betting mistake. And it’s a difficult one to avoid as it feels so logical as it is happening.
Imagine an example in which the New Orleans Saints are coming off a 48-3 win over the Atlanta Falcons, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off a 31-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. This week, the Saints are hosting the Jaguars.
What’s not to love about New Orleans in this spot? The Saints looked unbeatable last week and the Jaguars looked like a doormat. Now that doormat is facing a clearly superior team in its home building. This game has another New Orleans blowout written all over it.
And when the game takes place, maybe New Orleans will crush Jacksonville. But there are a few factors to consider before making a big wager on the Saints in this hypothetical spot. For one, the sportsbooks have factored last week’s action and the impact it is going to have on the betting public into their line. If they crunched the numbers and positional breakdowns and determined that the true line on the game should be New Orleans -10, they’ll probably still open the line with the Saints going off at -13 or -14. Sportsbooks would know that the majority of bettors are going to bet on the Saints in this situation, so they’ll adjust the line accordingly.
Also, consider the emotional side of this matchup. Teams preach being prepared for every game and taking every game seriously. But would it really be surprising if the Saints practiced a little lighter this week and took their foot off the gas a bit knowing that an easy win was on the horizon? Even if this change in attitude was only subconscious, it could lead to a flat start and a tougher game than the betting public is anticipating.
Similarly, no one likes to be embarrassed. After getting whooped last week and hearing all week long how badly they are going to lose to the Saints, the Jaguars just might get fired up to deliver an upset. And even if they don’t have the talent to win outright, they might be able to make it a tough game and cover the spread.
This isn’t to say that you should never bet on the favorite in spots like these. Just remember that you are paying a premium to be on a public-heavy side, and there is often more to a game than just what happened last week.
Not shopping for lines
One of the great things about being a sports bettor in Tennessee is that you have plenty of sportsbooks to choose from. Bonuses and promotions offer incentives to try out multiple online sportsbooks, but the best reason to do so is that you will have the ability to line shop.
Say that one sportsbook is offering the Memphis Grizzlies as a 4-point favorite at home against the San Antonio Spurs while another sportsbook is offering them as a 3.5-point favorite. This may seem like only a subtle difference, but it could be what makes the difference between a push and a win. A $550 to win $500 wager on Memphis -4 will be a push if the Grizzlies win 110-106. But had you placed that same $550 to win $500 on the Grizzlies at -3.5, you’d have won $500.
Line shopping also matters when it comes to moneyline payouts. The Nashville Predators might be +130 underdogs on the road against the Dallas Stars at one book and +135 underdogs at another book. Again, this difference is subtle, but it’s a difference of $5 on a $100 bet. If you find a $5 difference 20 times, you’ll have earned yourself a full $100 bet in the money you saved on losses or the extra money you won on wins. And sometimes, the line difference will be even larger.