Common Mistakes by Novice Sports Bettors

Jason Awad
Jason Awad
  • Updated

Typically in this space we focus on historically profitable betting systems, various prop betting opportunities and other tools for making sharper bets, but we still see many bettors repeating the same mistakes. Even bettors who can win at the 52.38% ATS rate needed to overcome the -110 juice at most sportsbooks often see their bankrolls dwindle due to a variety of mistakes.

It’s not enough to make smart bets — you also have to have solid money management principles. So without further ado, I present the most common mistakes made by sports bettors.

1) Changing Unit Size

Money management may be the most important discipline needed to be a successful sports bettor, yet it’s amazing how many bettors make irresponsible decisions with their bankroll. Perhaps the most prevalent issue involves overreacting to a winning or losing streak.

We encourage all of our subscribers to employ a flat-betting system in which they wager between 2-5% of their total bankroll on each game, depending on how much risk that bettor is comfortable with. However, many bettors will grow overconfident when they go on a hot streak or win several bets in a row and begin to increase their unit size.

Likewise, some bettors will experience a brief cold streak and begin to either increase their unit size in an attempt to get back to their original bankroll or get frustrated and stop betting entirely. When you increase your unit size significantly, it only takes a short losing streak before your bankroll runs dry. That’s why we strongly advocate patience and having a long-term outlook.

Risking too much in a single bet and radically deviating from your typical unit size is one of the main reasons inexperienced bettors will go broke.

2) Overreacting to Recent Trends

We have spoken in the past about the key characteristics for a winning betting system, and one of the most important is a large sample size. Large sample sizes allow you to more accurately observe advantages that you may hold over the sportsbooks, yet it never ceases to amaze how much stock bettors will place in the performance of a team over the past five games.

For example, a team may have won their past five games and an inexperienced bettor will assume that means they are on a hot-streak that will continue indefinitely. The truth is, by analyzing our historical data in Bet Labs we have discovered that teams are actually undervalued coming off a loss. That is why we frequently encourage our customers to buy on bad news and sell on good.

Bettors will also very frequently use trends and statistics that do not apply to the sports betting world. For example, this season the Indiana Pacers were one of the NBA’s most pleasant surprises and finished with a 56-26 record — the best mark in the Eastern Conference. However, Indiana was just 38-43-1 against the spread (ATS); meaning Pacers bettors would have seen their bankroll take a significant hit despite the team’s success.

3) Too Many Plays

Our Sportsbook Insider Pro customers have access to vast quantities of information including our steam movesreverse line movementcontrarian plays and best bets. Although we only advocate playing our Best Bets, some customers will actually take every system that is triggered. This can result in bettors who place 10-15 bets every single night. By not focusing on the top rated plays, you will likely see your winning percentage wane which makes it more likely that the juice/vig will slowly chip away at your bankroll.

Monitoring line moves and bet signals is definitely important but understanding why lines are moving is far more important. Sometimes major line moves will occur based on public money or a key injury, and those are not the type of plays you should be chasing.

4) Shop for the Best Line

Our live-odds subscribers have access to over 40 different sportsbooks, but we realize that no bettor has accounts open at even a fraction of that number. Still, bettors severely limit themselves by having access to just one sportsbook. That’s why we recommend setting up accounts at three different types of sportsbooks:

a) Square books (e.g. Bovada, Sports Interaction, typically offer the best underdog lines.
b) Sharp books (e.g. CRIS, Greek) typically offer the best lines on favorites.
c) Reduced juice books (e.g. 5Dimes, Pinnacle) are great for everyday betting because with -105 juice on most games bettors only need to win at a 51.22% clip to break even.

By having access at three different sportsbooks, bettors will frequently get lines that are at least 0.5-point better than the market average. Simply adding that additional half point can increase your long-term winning percentage by 2%.

5. Betting Against the Public

Betting against the public is one of the cornerstones of our sports betting philosophy and the application is quite simple: the team receiving the minority of bets might provide more value. It’s human nature to root for winners and scoring, which is why we typically see the public pounding favorites and overs. Similarly, we have seen bettors chronically overvalue home field advantage which has created tremendous value on visitors (in every sport except baseball).

It does not matter how many novice bettors are on a certain side of a game. What matters is how much money is on a certain side of a game. That’s one of the reasons we consider reverse line movement to be an excellent indicator of sharp money. If 80% of the public is on Team A -8 but they move to -7.5 or -7, we know that a large bet was placed on Team B which moved the line against the public.

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