Although profitable sports betting is hard, it IS possible. Better than that, it’s possible for ANYONE. There’s a lot to learn, but you don’t need to be some kind of genius to learn it. In fact, there are really just three things you need.
The first is an understanding of the sports you bet on. This should go without saying. If you’re interested in sports betting, then you probably already follow a couple different sports. Don’t worry if you don’t, though, as it’s easy to get started. It doesn’t take long to become a knowledgeable sports fan, especially with all the coverage these days.
Secondly, you need to learn how to manage a bankroll effectively. This can only be accomplished through discipline and self-control. You’ll need to set some rules for how much to stake on each wager, and then stick to those rules.
The third and final requirement is the most difficult to come by, as it involves the ability to make good selections on a consistent basis. This isn’t something we are going to be able to teach you in a single article, because there’s not a perfect blueprint to follow. There’s a lot to learn, which is why our whole sports betting guide is so comprehensive. Our desire is to provide you with ALL the information and advice that’s needed to develop an effective approach.
This article is NOT going to instantly turn you into a successful bettor, but it is designed to help you get there. It features four useful tips for improving your selection process. Follow our advice here, and you’ll stand a MUCH better chance of regularly making good selections.
Master the Art of Rational Thinking
When we make decisions – any decisions – our brains tend to work in one of two ways. We either think rationally, or we think intuitively. Rational thinking is based on logic and analysis, while intuitive thinking is based on instinct and existing knowledge.
There are times when it’s right to rely on your instinct and make decisions intuitively. As a general rule, however, your sports betting decisions should be the result of rational thinking. Following “hunches” rarely works out in the long run. That’s why it’s vital for you to learn to ignore your instincts, and focus on making selections for rational and objective reasons.
This is harder than it sounds.
Most human beings are perfectly capable of rational thought. However, we often believe we’re thinking rationally when we’re actually not. This is because of the way our brains work. We use mental shortcuts, known as heuristics, to simplify our decision-making processes. These heuristics regularly influence us without us even knowing, especially in the way we interpret information. They can easily lead to IRRATIONAL decisions, even when we think we’re applying logic and reasoning.
Now, we don’t want to turn this into a lesson in psychology. But understanding a little more about how your mind works can be surprisingly helpful when betting on sports. So please stay with us as we go a little more in depth. We’ll start with this quote from Daniel Kahneman.
“We think, each of us, that we’re much more rational than we are. And we think that we make our decisions because we have good reasons to make them. Even when it’s the other way around. We believe in the reasons, because we’ve already made the decision.”
In the quote above, he’s basically explaining how our minds work backwards sometimes. Instead of using data to reach a conclusion, we often reach a conclusion first and THEN look for reasons that support that conclusion. This usually happens sub-consciously, so we don’t even know we’re doing it.
How does this relate to sports betting? Well, imagine you’re looking to bet on the winner of a football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Carolina Panthers. The “correct” way to make your selection would be to first gather all the relevant information regarding the two teams. Then you’d have to analyze that information, and come to an objective conclusion about the likely outcome.
This seems straightforward enough, but don’t be surprised to find that your conclusion isn’t objective. There’s a strong possibility that all your analysis will be influenced by any initial bias you may have. Your brain will automatically make an instinctive judgement about which team is likely to win the game, and you’ll sub-consciously look for ways to support that judgement in your analysis. So you’ll end up effectively betting based on a hunch, despite trying to do everything right.
How do you overcome this?By “forcing” yourself to make rational decisions
There’s no easy way to do this, but it’s something you’ll get better at over time if you work at it. So you do need to try.
A good place to start is to make sure you review your thought process for each selection you make. Take a step back, and be honest about any conclusions you’ve made. Ask yourself whether you might have been influenced by any bias, preconceptions, or assumptions.
Understanding more about how the mind works will help too. You can start by watching the video we provided below. Kahneman talks in detail about the way in which we make decisions, and we found it fascinating. It’s a half hour long, but we guarantee it will be worth your time. You’ll gain some really useful insight that might just help you to become a better sports bettor.
We also suggest reading the following article. It takes a more in-depth look at the psychology involved in sports betting, and the various heuristics that affect us. It includes some useful advice for overcoming some of the mental challenges we face too.
Before we move on to the next tip, we should point out that our ability to think rationally can also be affected by our emotional state. Betting on sports can create a whirlwind of emotions, and those emotions can easily impair our judgement. In order to stay rational, we have to be able to keep our emotions under control.
The following article explains more about the different emotions that sports betting can cause, with some advice on how to handle them.
You’re unlikely to master the art of rational thinking overnight. It’s worth putting in the effort though. The more rational and objective you can be, the better your chances will be of making good betting decisions.
This tip is much more straightforward than the last one. It’s a lot easier to follow too. In fact, it’s arguably the EASIEST way to improve your betting results. Simply putting in more time and effort can have a very positive impact.
What should you spend the extra time on?More research and more analysis.
The quality of our betting selections is closely linked to the quality of our research and analysis. And the quality of our research and analysis is closely linked to how much time we dedicate to it. Most sports bettors spend nowhere near enough time on this aspect of their betting, which is one of the reasons why so many of them lose.
Information is power when it comes to sports betting. The more we know about the sports we’re betting on, and the relevant teams and players, the better we’re able to assess the likely outcome of events. This SHOULD be obvious.
The only way to get all the information you need, and accurately interpret it, is to commit plenty of time to research and analysis. We’re not suggesting that you need spend to hours upon hours researching and analyzing every tiny detail that could possibly affect the outcome of every event you bet on. However, you do need to pay close attention to the factors that are likely to have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.
While the exact factors vary from one sport to the next, the ones listed below apply to virtually all sports.
Overall team/player quality
Key strengths and weaknesses
Current form of team/players
Current and recent injuries/fitness levels
That’s eight factors alone. Add in the ones specific to the sport you’re betting on, and there’s a lot to consider. More than can be properly assessed in just a few minutes, that’s for sure. You HAVE to dedicate some serious time to researching and analyzing all these factors if you want to make properly informed judgments.
If you’re not sure how to carry out all the necessary research and analysis, check out the following article for some helpful advice.
Another thing you should look to spend more time on is improving your sports betting knowledge. We mentioned in the introduction to this article that there’s a lot to learn if you want to consistently make good betting selections. And when say a lot, we do mean A LOT. The more time you dedicate to learning it all, the quicker you’ll have the knowledge you need to be successful.
How do you improve your sports betting knowledge? There’s a variety of different ways. One is to spend some time reading books on the subject. Hundreds of books have been written about sports betting, many of which are well worth reading. As long as you’re willing to sift through the less useful ones, you will be able to find some books that can teach you a lot. Check out our recommended sports betting books to find out more.
Another way is to spend more time on this very website. Our strategy section is especially useful for learning new ways to approach your betting, and our gambling blog is regularly updated with interesting and insightful articles.
Many of the mainstream sports websites feature useful sports betting information too like Fox Sports, for example, or Bleacher Report. Since they have knowledgeable writers who know what they’re talking about, it’s definitely worth looking into.
This is another straightforward tip that’s easy to follow, and you might be surprised by how much difference it can make.
Many bettors think that they should place as many wagers as they possibly can to improve their chances of winning money. They couldn’t be more wrong. You really don’t need to place a ton of wagers each week to make money.
The QUALITY of your selections is far more important than the QUANTITY.
This is common sense really. The fewer wagers you place, the more time you have to spend on each one. And, as we’ve just discussed, spending more time on your selection process is a good way to improve. So rather than betting on anything and everything, try to be more selective. Think carefully about the following points.
How many sports to bet on.
How many different leagues/competitions to bet on.
How many games/events to bet on.
How many wagers to place on a game/event.
There’s no right or wrong way to approach the following points, as it’s up to you to decide what works best for you. Just remember that it pays to focus on finding the best opportunities, and investing real time into each selection. A few well-thought out wagers are FAR more likely to yield positive results than dozens of hurried selections.
Focus on Value
Want to know one of the biggest mistakes that sports bettors make? This might surprise you, but it’s betting on what they think is the most likely outcome. Many people assume that this is the correct approach to betting, as it does make sense logically.
It’s not actually the right way to go about things though.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand why, as you are not alone. That’s why it’s essential for you to learn about value as it relates to sports betting.
Value in this context is essentially a comparison between the chances of a selection winning and the odds of that selection. When the chances of winning are higher than the odds suggest, a selection has positive value. And positive value is what you need to look for when making your selections.
Here’s a quick example to illustrate the basic concept.
Let’s say we’re about to bet on the winner of an upcoming basketball game. Portland are playing Dallas, and it’s expected to be a close game. We give Portland a small edge, and think they have around a 60% chance of winning. We visit a betting site to place our wager, and we see the following odds available.
Portland Trail Blazers vs Dallas Mavericks
A $100 wager on Portland would return just $125 (including stake) if Portland won the game. A $100 wager on Dallas, however, would return $500 if Dallas won.
Although we think that Portland winning is the most likely outcome, backing Dallas is actually the right move. Why? Because they represent far better value.
We’ve given Portland a 60% of winning. But we’ve got to risk $100 for the chance of making $25 profit. That’s only a 25% return on our money, for a wager that’s got a 40% chance of losing. There’s no value here at all.
By backing Dallas, we have a chance to make a 400% return on our money and a 60% chance of losing. Although Dallas winning isn’t the most likely outcome, the potential return makes this a far more attractive wager.
Now, betting on the most likely outcome is not ALWAYS the wrong thing to do in the same way that betting on the outcome that has the best odds isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. It’s important to compare the chances of a selection winning with the odds available and to only place wagers when there’s generally good value.
Hopefully this makes sense to you. If not, please read the following article. In fact, please read it either way. It explains value in a lot more detail, and this is a concept that you simply HAVE to understand if you’re going to make consistently good betting selections.
So there you have it. Four ways to optimize your selection process and improve your betting results. It might take you a while to master the art of rational thinking and learn how to focus on value. But you can certainly start working harder and betting less right NOW.
There’s one more thing that we would like to mention before we sent you off. Don’t ever think that you’ve “cracked it,” and perfected your selection process. There are always ways to improve, however well you’re doing. Keep educating yourself and be willing to make adjustments to improve whenever necessary. That’s what the most successful sports bettors do, and that’s why they STAY successful.