Sports betting can be lots of fun and potentially profitable to boot. It’s a popular pastime that has seen an incredible spike in interest in the growing legal and regulated environment, and that’s only going to continue.
However, there’s a downside to be aware of that many folks either don’t consider or shy away from completely. The elephant lurking in the corner is problem gambling, a serious issue that can quickly spiral out of control for those who head down that path.
This is an affliction that knows no boundaries and can creep up at any time, even for the most well intentioned among us. As with all pitfalls in life, there are things you can watch out for to avoid falling into the trap.
The purpose of this article is to point out some tips that can help to keep you on the right track, as well as what to watch out for. We’ll begin with one of the biggest points to keep in mind.
To begin, it’s important to internalize the following two points:
Those two points alone are why it’s imperative to remember to always bet with your head and to resist the urge to wager over your comfort level.
No one wins all of the time with sports betting. Those who claim abnormal winning percentages are likely not being completely transparent, and the same holds true for services that tout things such as ‘guaranteed locks of the century.’
The break-even point for volume sports bettors at odds in the range of -110 is around 52.5%. Bettors that win at a clip of 55% are deemed to be at the head of the class and turning a profit for their efforts. Allow those two facts to sink in.
Betting on sports is not the equivalent of having an ATM at your disposal for personal use. There will be ups and downs along the way, especially for those new to the game. The ultimate goal is to win more than you lose while beating the vig, or juice, charged by the books, and it takes some doing to get to that point.
On the ‘sure thing’ front, you simply have to remember this: no matter how sound a handicapping strategy may be, there is simply no way to predict exactly what will happen once athletes step on their chosen field of play.
There will be bad calls and plays, injuries to contend with, funny bounces of the ball, and plenty of other circumstances that can directly impact the results. Quite simply, there’s no way to predict when or if that will happen with 100 percent certainty.
These two points are not being brought to your attention to discourage you from sports betting, but rather to demonstrate the importance of having reasonable goals and expectations.
It takes time to become proficient with sports betting and to turn a consistent profit. Some will get there, while others won’t. As you go through the learning curve, be sure to only be betting with amounts that you are comfortable with.
It can be very exciting to have a little skin in the game. It’s exciting to have the chance to earn a profit off something you enjoy doing.
However, that initial excitement can quickly turn into feelings of regret when things don’t go your way. That’s especially true if you make the mistake of betting over your head.
When starting out, it can be helpful to think of the amount you spend on sports betting as an entertainment expense. For most folks, there’s a certain level of money they are comfortable using for fun things on a monthly or weekly basis.
You can take a portion of that amount and use it as your beginning point for sports betting. If you have success, that’s fantastic. You can work toward building up a bank roll or whatever your specific goals may be.
If you lose, then it won’t be as much of a downer if the amount you spend is equal to what you would have used for another form of entertainment.
The importance of having a strict budget and sticking to it no matter what cannot be overstated, for both new and experienced sports bettors alike.
The sports betting industry isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s only going to get bigger as additional states climb on board the legalization train.
In other words, there will be plenty of time for you to scale up your play as your skills permit. There is simply no valid reason for wagering anything more than you can afford to lose or are comfortable with.
Doing so is a recipe for disaster, and it’s a big red flag to watch out for. If you find yourself betting more than your budget allows for, it’s a good time to take a pause and reassess things in a brutally honest fashion.
One of the great things about sports betting is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone. There are recreational bettors, professional handicappers, and all points in between.
It’s important to know where you stand on that scale. Naturally, the overall approach you take will vary based on the category you fall into.
For the recreational type, it may be as simple as just a wager here and there on a nationally broadcast game or event. Some in the middle may have a specific sport they follow closely and wager a decent amount of volume on it.
At the professional end of the spectrum, there are plenty who specialize and others who wager whenever and wherever they feel they have an edge.
Regardless of which category you fall into, recognize where you are, create a plan, and stick to it. For the casual bettor, that means staying in your lane with what you are most comfortable with and sticking to your budget.
If you bet more than casually, the same applies. You don’t need to bet on every game and event. Focus on what works best for you, allocate your budget accordingly, and stick to it.
It’ll be much easier to stick to the overall plan without deviating and getting in over your head by knowing what you will be doing on a weekly or monthly basis.
Of course, it’s possible that you’ll want to advance as you move along, from casual to more volume or from mid-range to experienced levels. That’s perfectly fine. Have a plan for each step along the way and benchmark goals that you want to reach before advancing.
Clear-cut game plans help you to remain focused and disciplined. If you have trouble sticking to them or find yourself betting more than you should, it may be time for one of the aforementioned breaks.
While sports betting is an enjoyable pastime, you don’t want to get to the point where it’s all-consuming.
Too much of anything is rarely a good thing. You still need to have time available for other important areas, such as family, work, friends, and other pursuits.
If sports betting begins to eat up too much of your time and takes away from other things that are big priorities for you, that’s a red alert that you need to listen to loud and clear.
It can be really easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of research, or to find yourself consuming tons of sports content.
When you find that this is happening, it’s time to start monitoring your time much more closely. One thing that can be helpful is to designate specific times when you’ll work on research and additional time for the games you really want to catch.
At the end of the day, sports betting should be an enjoyable pursuit. If it gets to the point that you’re spending way too much time on it, there’s a really good chance that it’ll stop feeling that way. That would be a great time to take a break and reassess.
The entertainment aspect of sports betting is great, but most folks approach it with a goal of making some profit as well.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of bettors who make the mistake of not truly knowing their overall bottom line. Winning more than you lose is fantastic, but are you doing it enough to beat the oddsmaker over the long haul?
Tracking your results is imperative to answer that question clearly. This can be done simply with a pen and paper, or you can get more advanced and keep a detailed spreadsheet. That part is completely up to you.
At an absolute minimum, keep notes on your deposits and withdrawals when it comes to sports betting and be mindful of the amounts in both directions. If you keep hitting the deposit button and rarely withdraw, you’re losing money.
Similar to balancing the books for a business or maintaining a personal checkbook, you’ll be amazed by how detailed tracking helps you to become more mindful of the ins and outs.
As we’ve mentioned a few times already, hitting the pause button may be in order if any red flags pop up. If you find yourself spending too much time on betting, are betting over your head, or feel the need to chase losses and bet even more, those are all times to take a time out.
It can also be helpful to take a break when you hit a wall or a losing streak. This can happen to anyone, no matter the skill set they bring to the table. There are going to be certain times when nothing seems to work and you lose a lot.
As opposed to trying to punch your way out of it or continually doubling down, take it as a sign that some time off is in order. The reason for the bad run could indicate burnout or it could simply be a poor stretch of luck.
It could also be a sign that something is broken in your handicapping approach that needs to be fixed. By taking a time-out and not worrying about betting on sports for a while, you’ll have time to reflect and figure it out.
Just like tracking your funds in detailed fashion, you’ll likely be stunned at what taking a pause and clearing the head can do for your thought process.
Sports betting isn’t going anywhere. You’ll have plenty of time to wager in the future, so taking a break isn’t going to be the end of the world.
If you feel that there’s just no way you can take a break, then that could be a sign of a problem that you’ll need to address further.
The tips we have outlined can be very helpful when followed, but the bottom line remains this: bet with only what you can afford to lose. Period.
Failing to adhere to a strict budget can be a recipe for disaster and it can also lead you down the path to betting more and more in a bid to ‘get even’.
In a perfect world, you’d be able to catch any red flags as they pop up and address them immediately.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to everyone. Problems can pop up as a result, but the first step to overcoming them is to admit that they’re there and an issue that needs to be addressed.
There are resources to lean on if that’s the case. Don’t be shy about taking advantage of them. For information on Gamblers Anonymous, you can click here. State-specific resources and other useful information can be found here.