Becoming a Sharp Sports Bettor

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Eighth & Last in a series on betting football written for Bettorsworld by Shawn

When you buy a book on betting, it often starts out by talking about the Philosophy of Betting, or probabilities of dice rolls, or something abstract like that. This series tried to start with something more practical–what is a line, really? What are the bets available? We moved on to money management and middling and touched on other issues the smart football bettor needs to consider. Now, as parting words, I’d like to offer some thoughts on betting football, and betting it to win. (Almost all of this is transferable to other sports.)

1) Some people claim that betting on sports is just like playing the lottery or roulette. For the smart bettor, this is not true. Lotteries and roulette offer payouts based on luck, and the payouts are only a fraction of the true odds. Given enough Daily Numbers draws or coups of the roulette wheel, you will lose all your money. Guaranteed.

And it’s true that in laying 110 to win 100 on the Seminoles -9.5 points you’re only getting back about 91% of your “rightful” profit should the Seminoles cover. But whether or not they do does not depend on dumb luck (well, most weeks anyway). There’s no such thing as a “good” Daily Numbers player, but a smart bettor can overcome a bookie’s premium.

2) Overcoming the bookie’s edge is the responsibility of every individual bettor. It takes discipline, practice, and the ability to learn from mistakes. Some people never learn. The people who never learn are Contributors. These generous souls put the rooves over the bookies’ heads and cash into the sharp players’ pockets. If you don’t bet smart the odds are overwhelming that when all is said and done you’ll be a Contributor. Everyone has losing weeks, months, even seasons–it can’t be avoided that every now and then you’ll have a six week spell where two out of every three bets go in the toilet. The key is to keep your head in the Game continuously to try to ensure that your hot streaks are frequent and your losing streaks are rare. If you don’t bet smart, in my opinion, that’s when you’re playing roulette and seeing your money ground away. There’s no magic formula, but that doesn’t mean you can’t win.

3) So with that in mind, TRY HARD. Whether you bet $10 a week or $10,000 a Game, unless you just want to throw your money to cruel fate (and sharp bookies) do your best to get it right. Take the time to make informed decisions. Don’t phone a bet in just because you found out the Game will be on TV in a few minutes. Don’t chase your losses when the inevitable losing streaks show up. Don’t think you’re invincible because your record last Saturday was better than Nebraska’s was last year. After a few months you may discover you really have a knack for this. You may instead discover you’re hitting exactly 49% against the spread and that won’t cut it. But whatever you find out, know that whatever effort you gave you gave all you could, so you’ll know if you should keep at it.

4) There should be no stigma in being a smart sports bettor. In the introduction to the Betting Guide that Bowmans mails new clients, an old saying is quoted: “If you bet on a horse, that’s gambling. If you make three spades, that’s entertainment. If you bet cotton will go up three points, that’s business.” Is there that much difference in the three endeavors? I doubt it. (And by the way, you can play Rubber Bridge for money at least six days a week in any major city in North America.) So don’t let anyone tell you you’re a degenerate or a loser. Like a banker, a grocer, a tailor or businessman, you’re trying to use your skills to make money, using margins to grab a few dollars every week. Some weeks are better than others.

So while governments have forced most sports betting off-shore or underground, don’t be ashamed if you’re a smart bettor. Betting can be a healthy pastime, and if you’re good at it you can make money besides. What’s the difference if you’re betting on Microsoft, the company Paul Allen helped found, or on the Seahawks, the team he currently owns?

LASTLY, I promised an article on Teasers. That hasn’t been written yet but I hope to include it in a future series of articles on handicapping technique if the lads at Bettorsworld will have me back in future. What we’ve discussed in the last two months only scratches the surface.

THANKS to B-World for giving me the space and I’d like to express particular appreciation to everyone who gave me feedback on the articles

Finally, thank you for reading. Now do the right thing and make Christmas at your bookies’ houses a lean one this year. There will be plenty of Contributors to ensure the bookies’ children get presents; do your part to make sure the kiddies aren’t spoiled rotten.

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