22 Sports Betting Mistakes You Should Avoid
You love pro sports and have watched religiously since you were knee high to a grasshopper. Even though Virginia has long been the biggest state without a major pro sports franchise, it has always been your thing.
Perhaps you’ve been a fan of the closest thing to a Virginia NFL team, the nearby Washington Football Team, since it had a more offensive name and a dominant offensive line everyone called The Hogs. Maybe you were a fan of the Washington Wizards since before former Wizards owner Abe Pollin decided “Bullets” was no longer an appropriate name for a sports team.
You might have even rooted for the Montreal Expos before they moved to Washington and became the Nationals. Or you’ve been behind the Washington Capitals since before they picked Alexander Ovechkin first overall and finally started competing after more than 25 years of futility.
Regardless, we know that you know more about your favorite sports and local teams than most. But we also know that doesn’t necessarily make betting on sports any easier. That’s because no one is above making a few mistakes when betting on sports. Here’s a list of the most common mistakes sports bettors make, in no particular order:
1. Thinking like a fan
Think like a fan and you’ll bet with your heart instead of your head. Your love of the Washington Football Team might lead to you betting on that bloated Washington moneyline against the Buffalo Bills, even though Washington hasn’t beaten Buffalo since 1992.
You can avoid this mistake by letting statistics and data inform your bets instead of your undying devotion to the local football team.
2. Betting too much on a single game
You’ll soon regret putting all your betting dollars in one basket. Particularly when you bet everything you’ve got on a sure thing like the Washington Wizards facing an injury-riddled Chicago Bulls team and you’re taught the invaluable lesson that there is no such thing as a sure thing when the Chicago reserves play inspired basketball in a win.
You can avoid this common sports betting mistake by following proper bankroll management principles. How much should you bet on a single game? It depends on your overall budget, but a standing rule for most sports bettors is never bet more than 10% of your bankroll on any one game.
3. Betting parlays with too many legs
It’s easy to get drawn in by the allure of the big payday most multi-game parlays provide. But just because there are 13 games on the Sunday NFL schedule doesn’t mean you have to include them all in the same parlay.
Look for a few teams offering some value and combine them together in a parlay bet instead. Smaller parlays might not offer the same size payday, but they have a much better shot at coming through.
4. Failing to hedge
Parlay bets that include a game at a later date or time may offer you the chance to hedge your bet. That means betting against yourself to lock up some guaranteed winnings. It’s like taking out insurance against a last-minute loss.
Failing to hedge can leave you with nothing at all. Since locking up a smaller profit is a lot better than walking away with nothing, learning to hedge can help you succeed in sports betting.
5. Not claiming free bets/bonuses
Claim them all and you might be able to build a sports betting bankroll without risking your own money. Plus, even if you aren’t successful in doing that, it’ll give you the chance to see what Virginia sportsbooks have to offer for free.
6. Relying too much on “against the spread” stats
Look around the internet and you’ll find all kinds “against the spread” stats. They’ll tell you how a team has done against the spread historically, recently and in comparison to the rest of the league.
What these “against the spread” stats won’t tell you is how that team will fare against the spread this week. They also fail to mention that oddsmakers are constantly adjusting the spreads they set based on these statistics.
The truth is that “against the spread” stats are really more about oddsmakers’ success in setting the spread than predictors. It’s probably a spread betting mistake to rely on these stats too much when making your picks.
7. Betting the over on teams with high scoring averages
It’s probably a mistake to base over/under bets on the scoring average of the teams involved. Scoring averages don’t really tell the truth about how many points a team is capable of scoring against a specific opponent. Instead, you need to look at the results as a whole against similar opponents.
Two NFL teams might each have 25-point scoring averages. But, if one scored 13 points in Week 1 and 12 in Week 2 against opponents with similar defenses, then 50 in Week 3 against a weaker defense, does betting the over if the line is 45 really make sense?
Avoid this betting mistake by looking at how much each team has scored against opponents with similar defenses, instead of just scoring averages.
8. Chasing losses live
When you’re holding on to several pregame bet slips filled with what look like obvious losses, in the middle of a game, you might want to try to make up for these mistakes with a series of live bets against your original bets.
Just be careful chasing losses with live betting. The odds will rarely be in your favor, and you’ll have to bet what could be a disastrous amount of money just to try to break even. Sometimes it’s worth it just to chalk up a loss and move on to the next game.
9. Betting too much live
Betting on live odds with a Virginia online sportsbook or app as you watch a game is about as fun as the combination of sports betting and game watching gets.
Live betting happens pretty fast, and it’s easy to get caught up in it. Just don’t make the mistake of throwing all your betting limits and proper bankroll management principles out the window. Not betting within limits you can afford and blowing more than 10% of your bankroll on a single live bet is a fast way to go broke.
10. Not looking for mistakes
If you make mistakes, you can bet oddsmakers do as well. Assuming sportsbooks are infallible and the lines the oddsmakers set are never wrong is a mistake in and of itself.
If you do enough of your own research into the sports you bet on, and have a good understanding of probability, you’re bound to find lines that stick out and look like a good bet.
Washington Football Team starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins averaged close to 200 yards passing in his first two NFL starts. He still hadn’t thrown an interception in two games and even booked his first NFL win. Facing the Browns and their injured-depleted secondary in Week 3 might make oddsmakers think Haskins is about to have a big week.
However, good research will tell you that the Browns secondary is holding up well despite the injuries and Haskins is a rookie who has probably played above his head. Look to see how high they set the lines on his stats and take the under where they are too big.
Oddsmakers get swayed by all kinds of things. Look around, find where and take advantage of the mistakes they make, because you can bet they’re taking advantage of the mistakes you make.
11. Not sticking to what works
When you find success with a particular type of bet, it’s always a good idea to stick to it. If you’re betting moneylines and spreads throughout the NFL regular season, suddenly diving into the props betting market when the playoffs start is probably a mistake.
It’s always a good idea to diversify and move your money around into different betting markets where you have a proven track record of success. Just avoid moving out of your comfort zone, moving away from proven betting strategies and trying to fix what clearly ain’t broken.
12. Not fading the public
Oddsmakers often set quite accurate lines. When they move because the public likes one side more than the other, not taking advantage is a mistake.
Oddsmakers are going to be right the first time more often than not. Betting that an oddsmaker’s original prediction will be right, and the only reason a line moved was because of heavy betting on one side, can be a good idea. It’s called fading the public, and it’s a successful sports betting strategy even beginners can use.
13. Failing to do your homework
The most successful betting strategies involve a lot of research. You have to look at the game, the stats, the players and more. Not doing your homework is a big mistake. There’s really no excuse for guessing instead of letting solid research guide your betting.
This is the information age, and there’s just so much out there that there’s no reason not to look at it. Unless, of course, you like losing.
14. Chasing losses
You’re going to be tempted to increase your betting — and interest in betting on sports you’ve never even seen before — if and when betting losses start to pile up. Chasing losses like this is a costly mistake.
Managing a betting bankroll effectively requires that you bet within limits you are comfortable losing, create a bet-size range up to a maximum of 10% of your betting bankroll for the bets you are most confident in, and only bet on markets you know and understand well. Deviations from this are just a quick way to go broke.
15. Betting home favorites exclusively
Home favorites win more often than not, but you have to lay a lot to win very little most of the time. Betting on home favorites exclusively is a mistake because the big risk is often not worth the small reward.
Mixing in a few road underdog bets can provide the big boost to your bankroll that home favorites never will.
16. Betting every game in every sport
Nobody is an expert on everything, and just like most other pursuits, the jack of all trades in sports betting is really the master of none. That means trying to beat the sportsbooks on every game in every sport is probably a mistake.
In other words, find a sport where you can become a betting master and stick to it. Then, be selective in the games you bet on in that sport. Just because there are dozens of games every week doesn’t mean you have to bet on them all. Do your research and seek out bets that look like there may be some value. Those bets where a team’s chances of winning are close to the odds a winning bet will pay are best.
17. Not diversifying your futures bets
It’s probably a mistake to bet on a team to win a championship but not its division, conference or a certain number of regular-season games.
The odds on most championship futures are big because any and every team is a longshot to win it all when the season starts. That means you stand to win a lot of money on these kinds of bets. However, it also means they’re hard bets to win.
This is why betting futures on a team to win its division, conference or a certain number of games at the same time as championship futures is such a good idea.
Teams that have a realistic chance to win it all are bound to accomplish some of these things along the way, and if you bet on them to do so, you’ll get paid even if they fall just short of that championship goal.
18. Trusting touts and paying for “can’t-miss” picks
There are hundreds of so-called experts all over the internet selling what they claim are can’t-miss picks for almost every game in every sport. Paying these touts for their picks is a huge mistake.
Think of it this way, if you had a sure-fire sports betting system, would you be selling picks or just betting the picks yourself? You’d be profitable enough you wouldn’t need the money you’d make selling picks, so why would you?
The truth is, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. Even the touts hawking picks on the internet know that. The promises and guarantees they make aren’t real. Plus, there’s no sense in paying for something sportswriters and broadcasters who produce gambling-related content are giving away for free.
Instead, do your own research and develop your own picks.
19. Giving sports talk radio too much credit
Sports talk radio can be a good research tool. It can get you thinking about a game from a variety of different angles. But unless there are expert handicappers on the show giving away free betting advice, you don’t want to put too much credence in the opinions expressed there.
For the most part, sports talk radio is a forum for fans to express themselves. The hosts say outlandish things to get the fan base riled up, and the arguments that ensue make for some entertaining content.
Basing your betting strategy on entertainment is probably a mistake. Sports talk radio can be a good research aid; just make sure it’s not the only one you’re leaning on.
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20. Trying to bet sports for a living
For most, sports betting should be considered a fun pursuit you engage in with money you can afford to lose. Because there’s a lot of losing involved. In fact, even the best sports bettors in the world only win a little over half of the bets they make. They eke out a living on the smallest of edges.
The sportsbooks make it that tough, which is why, for most, trying to bet on sports for a living is probably a mistake. You need to be able to manage your bankroll and personal finances perfectly, identify value without fail, handle the swings and endure long losing streaks. Most people can’t, which is why sports betting is something you should do for fun with disposable income instead.
21. Falling in love with longshots
Longshots promise big paydays, but they rarely pay off. In fact, getting drawn in by the allure of a longshot’s long odds leads to mistakes. If you’re betting on longshots exclusively, you have to make sure you’re picking enough winners to pay for all those losses. But the truth is always betting on longshots because they pay better is as big a mistake as always going with favorites.
Instead, look for a mix of longshots and favorites you can bet on at prices that provide some value. Meaning (again), the true odds of that team actually winning are close to the odds you’ll get paid.
22. Betting while impaired
Having a few adult beverages while watching your favorite team play might just be America’s favorite pastime. Depending on how many adult beverages you consume during the game, mixing in a bet or two might be a mistake.
Alcohol impairs your judgment, and sports betting should be about using your judgment to identify value and bet on it. While there’s nothing wrong with watching and betting on a game while you have a few drinks, drinking to the point of impairment and opening up a Virginia sports betting app on your phone to start firing away is probably a mistake.