According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) two-thirds of all adults will place at least one bet this year and the average household spends £166 per year on online betting.
But, the vast majority of that money is waged by amateurs who lose more money than they make.
Sports betting is not based on random chance and the enormous scale of the industry means that you are no longer just competing against the bookmaker, but other sports punters around the world. Like the stock market, sports betting is now a global marketplace and there’s a growing group of people that are able to turn it into their full time job.
Stockbrokers use their skill and experience to read the market and then decide where to invest their money. Professional sports punters do much the same thing by following simple rules.
It’s not just a game. For most people, sport is just entertainment. That means that the way that sport games are talked about around you, whether in the media or down the pub, focuses on issues that aren’t as important to winning sports punters.
That ranges from personalities and rivalries to the significance of a particular game. To be a winning sports punter, you need to put that emotion aside and look at sport in a different way.
Winning punters aren’t concerned about whether a particular game will result in a title or cup victory. In fact, they are often not even concerned about which team wins the game.
How do you go from being an amateur who loses money to a professional that wins? And where’s the best place to start?
To answer those questions and help you on the road to success, we’ve put together 5 sports betting tips you can use the next time you’re thinking of placing a bet.
Let’s dive right in!
1. It’s all about the odds
When you’re watching the big game down at your local pub, you’ll often hear people casually ask: ‘Who’s your money on?’
What they are really asking is who the other person thinks will win.
Ask a professional sports punters the same question and they might have different answers between who they think will win and who they have put their money on.
This is an important distinction because winning punters are actually placing money on outcomes that they think are more likely to happen than the odds imply.
That often means betting for an individual or team that they think will lose because with the right odds this still generates long term gains. Casual sports punters make bets based on who they think will win, but the professionals always focus on the odds and look for the right deals.
Professional sports punters make money over time by keeping their eye out for outcomes that are undervalued by the bookmakers. Sometimes that means betting on the underdog and sometimes that means betting on the favorite, but only do either of these when the sports betting odds are right.
2. Bet with your head, not your heart
A large number of people are betting for emotional reasons rather than based on an objective assessment of the likely outcome. These people might be betting for their country, their home town or their favorite sports stars.
The bookmakers have to respond to this and adjust their odds accordingly. That means the odds-on favorite to win might be chosen more by popularity than what the book maker thinks is their real chance of winning.
That’s great news for professional sports punters who are looking for deals based purely on the most likely result.
So forget your favorite team and be careful about betting on any outcome where you have an emotional investment already.
3. Invest in what you know
One of the most successful stock market investors is Warren Buffet. His key advice is never to invest in a business that you don't understand.
The same remains true when it comes to sports betting advice.
You’re looking for outcomes that are more likely than the implied odds on offer so you’ll need to have a better insight into your chosen games than the bookmakers and the rest of the market. Most money is bet on high profile games, especially when they are televised, but the professional sports punters stick to more niche bets.
They tend to pick a couple of sports to focus on so they can develop an in-depth knowledge to beat the market.
They don’t always bet on the high profile sports, which have their own industry of experts and die-hard fans. They don’t even always bet on the high profile matches within their chosen sports.
Consider focusing on less obvious sports where there are still plenty of betting opportunities, but also more potential to develop your unique expertise. Look at lower leagues and other, less well known, parts of the sport.
However, there is an important caveat to using your knowledge of the game…
4. Look at the big picture
When people get serious about sports betting, they usually start researching detailed stats about the teams and individuals that they intend to place money on.
This approach is often recommended to serious sports punters, many of whom start compiling complex spreadsheets from the huge amount of data available to them online.
It sounds logical, but there’s a big difference between getting serious about sports betting and actually winning at sports betting.
In 2013, a study by the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) found that obsessing over stats can actually harm your chances of winning money!
The problem is that people often place too much importance on relatively minor factors that they find in the data.
A good example of this is the likelihood that winning and losing streaks will continue. If there are a few similar results in a row then our brains are hardwired to see that pattern and assume it will continue, but there might be bigger and more important factors that don’t support that conclusion.
The right approach is not to ignore the data, but to understand our own biases and the limits to any analysis we might be doing. Always try to see the big picture and don’t let your decision-making become skewed by smaller and often irrelevant factors.
5. Accept your losses
Finally, no matter how skilled you become at sports betting, accept that there will be plenty of games that you lose.
What separates winning sports punters is that they move on from losses without letting it distort their future judgement.
No one likes losing money, but that feeling can lead to a psychological phenomenon called the "sunk cost fallacy", which is dangerous for sports betting.
It means people are so averse to losing money that it can lead to irrational behavior that can cost them even more. They double down on their losses and throw good money after bad because they can’t bear to walk away with a feeling of failure.
Does this sound familiar?
Winning sports punters simply accept that there will be bad days and stick to the same winning formula that accumulates money over time. It’s important to remember that this same problem can work in reverse too. You might try to extend a winning streak and place too much money on a team or person who happened to win you money before.
Be consistent and only make betting decisions based on cold, hard facts. Don’t raise your stakes either as part of an attempt to ‘correct’ previous losses.
If you suspect your judgement has been compromised, then simply call it a day.
Most people think gambling is all about luck, but sport is not random and the market is dominated by people who often place bets in irrational ways. Understanding those flaws in yourself and others will help you consistently earn money from sport betting.
Like any job, to become a professional sports punter you need skill, experience and hard work, which takes time. Until then, use these 5 sports betting tips to give you the edge over the bookmakers and the rest of the market.
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How to Play Smart
- Think with your head, not with your heart.
- Invest into things you're familiar with.
- Look at the big picture.
- Cut your losses.
Find the best odds. Read our online casino tips and tricks and play smart.
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