Welcome to the life of a sports gambler. What was once a taboo in America has become more and more normalized, as nearly half the states have legalized some level of sports betting and the remaining 25 seem primed to follow. There’s a lot of fun to be had and money to be made but only if you approach it the right way. Sure, a certain amount of success in sports betting is based on luck, but a larger part is about strategy and limiting mistakes.
Here are the biggest mistakes to avoid for rookie sports gamblers.
The Biggest Mistakes Rookie Sports Gamblers Make
1. No Bankroll Management Strategy
Betting is a long game. Unless you’re a psychic or Marty McFly, it’s impossible to win every single wager. Even if you’re a professional gambler and devote your life to research and finding gaps in the market, you’re still only going to hit on 55-60% of your wagers. Which means one thing – losses are inevitable. And if you don’t have a solid bankroll management strategy, those losses can wipe out your bank account faster than an OnlyFans addiction.
The basic concept of bankroll management is to ensure you’re consistently betting the same (or similar) amounts of money on each wager in order to weather short-term losses. There are two main methods to this:
A unit is a strict financial value put on each bet, generally 1-3% of your current bankroll. So, if you’re just starting out, put in $500, and are betting at 1% of your bankroll, your unit will be $5 for each bet. Depending on your confidence in your bet, you can wager more or less than your standard $5, but having a clear unit amount simplifies the betting process, helps you determine your overall risk profile, and reduces your chances of wiping out your entire account with one dumb bet.
However, keeping the same $5 unit will eventually limit your overall return if you start winning. This is where the bankroll percentage strategy comes into play. This approach is simple – rather than betting $5 for the rest of your life, you up your unit size based on your increased bankroll. So, if you’re on a hot streak and now have $1,000 in your account, your unit size has increased to $10 instead of $5. Obviously, you’ll be more susceptible to losing money, but then guess what? You can change your unit size back again based on your new bankroll.
Having a strong bankroll management plan is the best way to simplify your betting, make sure you don’t blow all your money on one “can’t-miss bet,” and avoid chasing losses.
2. Too Many Parlays
If you’re really new to betting, go check out our guide on parlays. If you’re too lazy to click a link, just know this – a parlay is a combination bet with multiple different wagers that all must be correct for you to win. Since you’re combining multiple bets into one, the risk is much higher, but the payouts are way bigger, which can be tantalizing.
If you’ve been on the Internet even once in your life, it’s impossible to avoid the temptations of a big parlay. It seems like every day that ESPN, Bleacher Report, or DraftKings is tweeting out a video or betting ticket of a normal person who took $5 and turned it into $50,000 on one parlay bet. In some cases, like Parlay Patz, bettors have turned parlays into a lucrative career and made almost $1 million in a few months (before being arrested for threatening athletes, but that’s a story for another time).
I get it – the lure of the parlay is very seductive. I would love to make $25k in one afternoon and finally pay off all my credit cards. However, generally speaking, parlays are the worst kind of bet you can make, especially the kind of 10,000-to-1 payouts you’ll see online. These kinds of bets require 10-15 leg bets with crazy odds on each individual leg of the parlay. There’s a reason that books promote parlays so heavily – they’re a cash cow for them. So this is definitely one of those mistakes that a lot of rookie sports gamblers fall into.
I’m not going to tell you to stop betting parlays because they’re fun as hell and I’d also be a hypocrite. However, here are two things to keep in mind to bet parlays responsibly.
Minimize the Legs: Keep it to 2-3 legs (4 at the max) and avoid the insane 10-team teasers.
Bet on Heavy Favorites: The odds won’t be great for each individual bet, but once you put 3-4 together, you’ll find yourself in a position to make a lot of cash on bets that are pretty likely to happen.
3. Betting on Sports They Know Nothing About
Look, I get it. There’s a big soccer game or UFC fight tonight and you want to put a little action on it. Maybe you got a little taste of success, and you think you’re invincible. Or you keep losing bets and figure you might as well try a sport you’ve never even followed before. Maybe your problem was you were doing too much research?
Please, please don’t do this. There are a million things you can bet on these days. Cricket, women’s tennis, rugby, or even water polo. It might seem like fun or a good change of pace to bet on a sport you’ve never watched once. But you’re just throwing your money away. Sure, it’s okay to do it from time to time, but you really should do research before placing your bets. (Check out our top free sports data websites to help you out.) At the very least, bet on sports games that you actually watch or at least follow from time to time. It’s your money – you should be at least marginally informed before you invest it in sports gambling.
4. Betting While Drinking
This is a mistake that every single gambler alive still makes, including me. Sadly, this is a mistake we’re all going to keep making, and that’s okay. No one’s perfect. I’ll keep losing hundreds of dollars a night after drunkenly deciding the Jets look really good in warmups and I should hammer the moneyline. I’ve made peace with that and so should you.