If you can avoid mistakes as a sports bettor, you’re already doing better than most. Almost all bettors make regular mistakes, so it is useful to know the biggest sports betting mistakes so that you can optimize your chance of winning long term.
We have looked into the main culprits, and here are the top 10 things you should avoid when betting.
Betting too much
Don’t bet too much of your bankroll at once.
Many hobby punters are in way over the heads. It’s not unusual for players to deposit $1000 and then making $100 bets. This is not a viable strategy for very long, since you will easily lose your entire deposit once you get some bad luck.
We recommend betting between 1-2% of your bankroll per bet. It may sound boring, but anything more than that, and you are really risking it.
Imagine you are betting 5% of your bankroll per bet. It won’t take more than 10 lost bets (which will happen to everyone, eventually, because of negative variance) for half your bankroll to be gone! Or imagine if you lose 5 of your last 25, which is also very possible in a bad run, despite doing everything else right. It is simply too risky, so bet 2% or less per bet.
A solid rule is to use the Kelly Criterion at 30% with a cap at 2% of your bankroll. This will ensure that you increase your bankroll rapidly as long as you pick value bets, and it will also ensure that you won’t be out of the game when a bad streak hits.
Picking who you think will win
Another common mistake is when bettors place their money on who they think will win a game, with no further thoughts into the probabilities of the game.
If there is an NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars, it is easy to think that the Chiefs will win it and place the money there.
But the bookmakers have obviously already accounted for the strength difference between the two teams, and they have priced their odds accordingly.
In order to win in betting, you must think and act like the bookmaker.
Calculate the estimated probabilities and try to spot value instead. Yes, the Chiefs might have an 80% chance of winning the game in that example, but what if you get odds 6.00 for the Jaguars? At a 20% chance, it’s a clear value bet.
So in other words – make your bets based on value, not based on simple guesses as to who you think will win. Always factor in the price/odds!
Not doing proper research
If you want to spot value, you must be able to establish some decent probabilities. And the only way to do that is by having knowledge.
You get your knowledge from research.
So every time you place a bet, try to get your research done. Look into all factors – if it is a football game, then look into the strength of each team, injuries, motivation, home-field advantage, scheduling, weather, form, everything.
There are so many factors, and we guarantee you that the pro bettors are taking everything into account. If you want to win, you also have to do proper research.
You can make a model that takes care of the statistical parts as long as you insert the data. And then you simply have to make a few manual adjustments yourself, which is something you will learn fast, once you know what things to look into.
Only using one bookmaker
A huge mistake is using one bookmaker only.
The reason is that if you only use one bookie, you have to accept their odds, whatever they are. You can’t shop for better. You limit yourself. That is a disadvantage, and you should do the opposite – giving yourself as many advantages as possible.
If you have accounts with 5 different bookies, you can always pick the best odds. Furthermore, if you have any problems with one of your bookmakers, you have others where you can place your bets.
Most successful bettors have several sportsbooks or exchanges where they are able to place bets. The best of them use bet brokers – these are platforms where you get access to several bookies/exchanges from one account.
Sportmarket is a broker that is open to the public, so you can easily sign up here, as long as players from your country are accepted (you’ll have to check on that yourself).
Alternatives to Sportmarket are Asianodds and BetInAsia, two other brokers that work in a very similar way.
Not choosing the top odds on the market
As mentioned before, you’ll need access to several bookmakers or exchanges if you want to succeed.
Many players want their bets to be done quickly and easily, so they pick the first odds they find, and that is a mistake. You have to shop for better, and you always need to compare the odds for the best price.
If you’re not using a bet broker directly, try using an odds comparison site where you can quickly get an overview of the market. If some odds stand out, bet it.
Don’t bet the first odds you see – it is a rookie mistake! The odds is the most important factor in sports betting, so don’t make any mistakes here. Always get the best one available to you.
Following incompetent tipsters
Another huge mistake in sports betting is following tipsters who don’t know what they are doing.
There are many free tipsters around, and they share their picks. This is very common in forums, on Twitter, on Reddit and on various betting sites. While some tipsters are good, there are also many inept tipsters out there.
Don’t follow anyone blindly – at the very least, look into the records of the tipster you intend to follow. See if they have a profit after several hundred bets. Try to see if they are beating the closing line odds. If they provide write-ups, then consider their arguments before tailing. Only follow tipsters that you trust – the ones that have proven they can beat the market.
Don’t follow any nonsense systems. Martingale is a common one that many bettors try out at some point. Then there is the Fibonacci system. And we can’t forget about the multipliers and other strategies like that…
It’s generally a bad idea. There is no system that works in beating the bookmakers and the market long-term. The only things that work are general principles like value betting and bankroll management. You have to take advantage of the system that the bookies are using and spot their mistakes – try to find value in mispriced odds and bet for amounts that allow you to grow your bankroll when you win, but not go bankrupt when you lose a few in a row.
Bet on value, and that’s it. That’s what the pro sharps are doing. Don’t follow any easy systems, it can go very wrong. Be a pro from the get-go.
Not keeping track of your bets
It is a giant mistake to not keep track of your bets. Yes, it can take a while to write everything down in a spreadsheet, and yes, it can be complicated to set it all up.
But it’s absolutely worth it.
There are several reasons why you should keep track of your bets. It allows you to see how you are doing, it allows you to spot mistakes and bad trends in your betting, and it allows you to keep track of the growth of your bankroll. It makes everything easier.
Use a spreadsheet to start tracking your performance in sports betting.
Not analyzing your performance
The bettors who are not keeping track of their bets are not analyzing their performance either. Which is another huge mistake in sports betting…
Every player should look at his own results regularly. Keep track of the results, and keep track of the closing odds – you should be beating them.
We recommend analyzing your performance at the end of every month. Look into the good bets you make, and the bad ones as well. Find out if you learned anything new. Find out if there was any particular bookie that stood out with many odds. Find out if you are doing better in some sports/leagues than in others. There’s a lot to learn from analyzing your performance. The most important trait a person can have in his/her professional life is the ability to look inside and try to improve regularly.
Not adjusting your stakes
If you are always betting the same stakes, you are never moving forward.
Some bettors place the same amount of money each time they bet. It can be $10, or it can be $100. The point is that it is a bad idea.
Your staking size should be fluid. You should adjust it frequently. That way, if you have a great month, you can start betting more, and if you keep finding value, you will experience compound growth. If you have a bad month, you should adjust your stakes down a bit.
A simple strategy is to always bet the same percentage of your bankroll. We recommend between 1-2%. At the beginning of every month, note down what your bankroll is, then proceed to bet 2% of that number on each bet during the next month, and revisit the numbers when the month is over.
The effect of compound growth can be massive, so you absolutely need to adjust your staking size if you are already winning. You also need to do it if you are losing – that will allow you to keep the losses smaller, and it will allow you to never lose your entire bankroll.
That was our list of the top 10 sports betting mistakes. Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the section below!