Betting Mistakes – Sports Betting Mistakes to Avoid

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ne of the best ways to become a profitable bettor is to limit mistakes. Common mistakes are avoidable actions and we’re going to show you what you need to stop doing. In following our advice, you not only reduce losses, but also increase profits. In this guide, we highlight the most common betting mistakes that bettors regularly make that, at the end of the day, kill their bottom line.

What Are Betting Mistakes?

Common sports betting mistakes aren’t just things that bettors do, but also what they don’t do. Sport can be extremely volatile and unpredictable, which makes it hard to consistently make money from sports betting. These mistakes aren’t necessarily down to losing bets but more the process of how bets are formed, and the lack of accountability when things go wrong.

As in all walks of life, mistakes happen and it’s how you learn and adapt from these trials that skills are honed. When we link this to betting, we look at areas such as the process of picking bets, the stake amount, and analysis for winning and losing bets.

Even if you’re a complete novice to the world of sports betting rules, by avoiding the betting mistakes that we’ve outlined in this guide, you can be profitable and enjoy long-term success.

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22 Betting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The main section of our guide is going to walk you through the betting mistakes that we’ve all made at some point. We not only want to show you what they are, but more importantly, how to avoid them and thus become one of the sharp bettors of tomorrow.

This guide won’t tell you what bets to make on online sportsbooks and how much you need to wager, but instead, have a general overview of the mistakes that professional, successful, and profitable bettors avoid for 99.99% of their bets.

1. Not Finding the Best Lines

Every single one of the best online sportsbooks and sports betting sites create their own betting lines. It’s up to the bettor to shop around to find the best price possible for the bet they want to make.

One of the biggest mistakes we see is people using a single sportsbook to place their bets. Even if you’re using a highly reputable brand, it’s not a given that they’ll offer the best price for every bet in every sport.

To highlight this, let’s examine a Premier League soccer game market between Manchester City and Fulham, on two different sportsbooks. A typical match result betting show and this is a three-way market where you’ve got a home win, away win, and tie.

 

Let’s say we want to bet on Fulham to win, which is an away win. Granted, they’re the betting underdogs for the game, but the difference in quite noticeable.

It’s easier to understand a two-way market though. Let’s say the Chicago Bears are playing the the Minnesota Vikings. Different sportsbooks favor them, but offer different betting odds as follows:

  • BetUS – Chicago to win @ +143
  • BetOnline – Chicago to win @ +135

If we were to place a $100 bet on Chicago by betting at BetUS, we’d get $8 more on our returns for our $100 bet.

Now, we’re being realistic here and saying you don’t need an account with every sportsbook to ensure you get the best price. But you need to have at least three, ideally five or more, funded and ready to go. All it takes is a little time at the start, and you could be making 20% increases on your bottom line from the off.

2. Believing in Gambler’s Fallacy

Gambler’s fallacy is where bettors think that because something hasn’t happened for a while, the result is “due.” One of the easiest ways to explain it is by using the casino game roulette.

If you approached a table and saw that the last ten spins had all landed on red, according to the gambler’s fallacy, as it’s been so long since it landed on black, it’s “due” to hit black next.

That’s absolutely wrong. The roulette odds probability on the next spin of the wheel, for red or black, revert to the same every time. The odds it’ll be black or red for the next spin never change, regardless of what’s happened before that.

We need to translate this into sports, and one of the areas we can do this is using form. You might look at a betting on an NFL game and see the Dolphins have lost their last four games and are now due a win for no other reason than “the streak has to end.”

What we’re getting across here is that you need to research every game on merit. Sure, form comes into play, but don’t assume that a team has the right to win (or lose) a game solely based on this.

3. Ignoring the Terms of a Promotion

Promotions and bonuses play a big role in the online betting industry. Most sportsbooks will have a welcome offer for new accounts, and promotions that existing players can claim, such as reload bonuses or bet boosts.

Every promotion you see on the best offshore sportsbooks comes with terms and conditions attached. You must know how they work so you can claim, clear, and withdraw/gamble the bonus money easily.

Don’t assume that because two promotions on two different sportsbooks are the same in terms of the offer that the terms are the same. Each site and promo has nuances that differ. Below we’ve listed key areas that you need to familiarize yourself with before you claim a promotion.

  • Eligibility – This states who can claim the promotion, which is usually based on the bettor’s location.
  • Bonus amount – How much you can claim. If it’s a deposit match, this will state the money that will be matched and up to what amount.
  • Promotion period – The duration for which the promotion is running, including when it expires.
  • Minimum deposit – The least amount of money you can deposit to claim the promotion.
  • Wager requirements – The amount of money you need to wager to clear the bonus. This is usually a multiple of the bonus.
  • Promo code – A unique code that’ll be needed to trigger the offer.
  • Qualifying bet – The bets and markets you can use to trigger the offer or need to be used to clear the offer as part of the wagering requirements.
  • Minimum odds – The lowest odds you can wager in order to qualify claiming or clearing the bonus
  • Expiry date – When the bonus needs to be cleared. In case the full bonus isn’t cleared by this date, it’ll expire, and you’ll lose it.

Most promotions these days have very clear terms and conditions that you can find within the sportsbook. Taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the terms, before claiming an offer, will save a lot of time, and potentially money, later down the line.

4. Leaving Bonuses/Offers at the Wayside

Given the sheer volume and accessibility of bonuses, not having one linked to an account leaves free money in the sportsbook’s hands. Even if you’ve already claimed and cleared a welcome bonus, you should be looking to find offers for existing players, such as reload bonuses.

The caveat to this is that you should only claim a bonus you know you can clear. If it’s not one that fits the types of sports you want to bet on, it’s worthless. Like finding the best odds, shop around and see what works for you, but always try and have a bonus or offer on the go.

5. Poor/No Bankroll Management

The process of Bankroll management involves controlling bet sizing based on the amount of money you have available. This has nothing to do with income, and all to do with how much money you’ve set aside to enjoy betting on sports.

The concept is that sizing bets in relation to a bankroll allows for  longevity and for bettors to ride the inevitable swings in variance. It also covers losing streaks, an unavoidable part of sports betting.

Bankroll Management

Whatever the set bankroll, this determines the amount you place on each bet. It’s going to range based on several factors, including how easily the bankroll can be topped up when it gets low, and if the bettor wants to draw money from the bankroll (professional bettors, for example).

Generally, we recommend starting anywhere between 1-5% per bet. So, if you had a $1,000 bankroll, this would be $10-$50 per bet.

By not following the correct bankroll management protocols, the bettor risks losing money in a shorter period of time. If they were to have the same $1,000 bankroll and bet $100+ per wager, the likelihood of quickly going broke would drastically increase.

The bankroll is there to extend staying power. Those who fail to have a strict strategy that protects their ‘roll will go broke sooner rather than later.

6. Having Unrealistic Expectations

Managing expectations is another key to being successful when betting online. You need to know that you won’t win every bet because losing is part of the game. Sporting results can be temperamental, but with the right approach, it can still be very profitable.

One of the easiest ways to manage expectations is to remind yourself most professional bettors’ win rate is just 55%. This means that they lose 45% of the bets they place. The margins are incredibly small and if you think, as a weekend bettor you’re going to make a lot of money in a short amount of time, you’re wrong.

In fact, one of the best ways to manage expectations is to not worry about the result at all. If you’ve done all the research you can, think you’ve found some value betting, and are happy with your bet, the result doesn’t matter. This may sound odd, as we’re all trying to win, but you can only do so much before the unpredictability of sport starts to kick in.

7. Betting for the Sake of Betting

One of the biggest leaks that we see in a betting strategy is placing bets for the sake of having a bet. These are often not researched, ill-timed, and will be long-term losers for sure.

We’ve all been there. A Wednesday night in the middle of winter with not much sport happening, and we randomly bet on a volleyball game taking place in the Middle East. We’ve no prior expertise on the game, done little to no research, and are betting for the sake of betting.

To avoid this you need to be strict on the sports and markets you’re most familiar with. Discipline comes from within, and by betting on things you’ve no clue about, you’ll lose money and deplete your bankroll.

8. Betting While Drunk or Under the Influence

Very few things should be undertaken when drunk or under the influence. The reason for this is that judgement is severely impaired. You’re not allowed to drink and drive because your cognitive faculties are compromised, and you need to have the same approach to betting.

betting under the influence

A huge problem for sports bettors is firing up a betting app after being on a night out to have a punt on some random sports from around the world at 3am. Even worse, players venture over into casino games for a quick fix where you can lose an incredible amount of money very quickly.

To overcome this, most betting sites will allow you to add a timeout to your account, which can range from a few hours, to days. It’s designed as part of the protocol for responsible gambling and is very effective if you know the end of a night out greatly inhibits your better judgement.

9. Betting on Sports/Markets You’re Not Familiar With

One of the most basic betting strategies we recommend is sticking to sports and markets you’re familiar with. If you’re new to betting and a huge Cowboys fan, it’s likely you’ve got a decent grasp of the NFL, so we’d advise you start betting on that.

For more experienced sports bettors you can start to slowly branch out from your bread and butter markets, and introduce new sports to dabble in. But this should only be done with the backing of proper research and time invested into picks.

Start with small bets and see how markets work, and how they react as the game develops. Read as much as you can about the sport and find value using betting strategies linked to it.

We aren’t saying that you have to bet on the same sports and markets forever, but it’s wise and prudent to avoid jumping in blind where you’ve no prior knowledge. Like most things, the more time and effort you put in to learning, the more knowledgeable you’ll become. Just don’t run before you can walk.

10. Betting with the Heart Instead of the Head

Sports betting can be extremely emotional. It’s one of the biggest reasons we love it, but also leads to one of the biggest betting mistakes.

These are those scenarios where all the data leans toward one bet, but your heart is saying that you’d rather go with the other bet without too much, if any, reasoning as to why.

betting with the head

In these situations, the data and your head should always rule over your heart.

There’s a better way to deal with these situations, and that’s to completely avoid the bet altogether. For example, say you’re looking at betting on a basketball game between the Heat and Celtics. The Celtics are unbeaten in their last seven, and the Heat have only won two of their last ten games.

Data would suggest the Celtics should win this game, but you’ve got a sneaky feeling that the Heat will turn up and end the streak. In this scenario, we think it’s best to avoid the game and look to find value on the NBA elsewhere. Lots would say that you need to take the Celtic every time, but there are so many games to bet on that you can find value in other markets.

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11. Always Backing Your Own Team

There are pros and cons to backing your own team, but for the most part, as with the very similar point above, we suggest it’s best to stay away.

The pros include having good knowledge about how they play, their limitations, and how they’ll line up. As a fan, you watch them week in, week out, so your understanding of how these limitations will transpire to the game is good.

betting mistakes fan

The cons are that your bets in this case will always have some bias to them. Most people think their team is better than they actually are, and it’s hard to bet against them. The key to a successful betting strategy is working when bets offer value, and for us, there’s too much emotional attachment when betting on your own team.

By not betting on games played by your team you remove any bias and doubt that may obscure your discernment. It also allows you to just enjoy (or not!) watching your team, and supporting it without financial investments in the game.

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12. Changing Unit Size

Being able to control the money side of things is one of the most important aspects of becoming a successful bettor. Changing the stakes and sizes of a unit bet too drastically is one of the biggest betting mistakes we see, and this is a surefire way to go broke quickly.

Flat betting is almost always the way to go, and this means you keep bet sizing consistent, regardless of what you bet on. This ties in with bankroll management protocols where we suggest around 1-5% of your bankroll for each bet.

One of the reasons we promote this is to prevent the urge to chase losses. Losing runs happen, and one of the most destructive things you can do is increase bet sizing to try and win back some of the losses. By not changing your unit size and staying consistent with the markets/sports you bet on, you’ll drastically reduce the chances of going broke.

That being said, if you use a percentage method, as your bankroll grows, so will your wager. For example, if you go from a $1,000 bankroll to a $5,000 bankroll and bet 1% each time, you’ve gone from $10 bets to $50 bets. The bet size might look higher but it’s relative to the bankroll, meaning you’re much safer this way.

13. Betting Without Research

This should go without saying, but all bets must be fully researched. The extent of the research will vary, and the amount of time you can invest will limit how much you can do.

Betting without any research at all is a fast track to going broke in record time. You can’t make picks based on an opinion of how the game might go. You need to back this up with data and research.

Professional bettors pour dozens of hours into finding one or two potential bets every day. For example, if you’re betting on horse racing, you need to check things like the horse’s form, jockey form, stable form, how it runs over the race distance, if it’s shown any improvements over the last few races, how it’ll handle the ground and much more.

Some research is always better than none, and we appreciate that most bettors have day jobs and don’t have huge amounts of time to invest. But as you get used to working through potential bets the process speed up, and you’ll get better at picking winners.

14. Not Betting for Value

The key to being successful at any type is value betting. This is where the probability of the result is higher than the odds that the bookmaker is giving you.

For example, let’s say that you think the Patriots have a 60% chance of winning a game against the Packers. A moneyline bet at 60% implied probability would be odds of -150. But a sportsbook offers odds of +100, higher than the odds you think are fair, and as a result, think they only have a 50% chance of winning.

patriots betting mistakes

For the sake of this example, given that we think the Patriots are stronger than the current betting lines from the sportsbook, this would create value.

The key to finding expected value is to work out your own implied probability. You can become your own bookmaker and work out how likely all the possible results on the market are and then create your own betting lines. You then match these to the odds on offer and see if that creates value.

When we don’t take value, we give the sportsbook a huge advantage. It means we’re taking odds that don’t reflect the potential chance of success for that bet. If you were flipping a coin with a friend, you’re not going to take -120 for your money, as this implies you win 54.5% of the time when we know it’s only 50%.

A common follow up question to this is why would sportsbooks’ odds differ?

Well, there’s a couple of reasons. First, you may have over/underestimated the value of the bet. Second, it could be that a substantial amount of money has come into that book, and the odds change to try and balance it. Some sportsbooks, especially racebooks and horse racing betting sites, will allow you to see how the odds change over time, which allows you to work out why a bet might be as it is.

15. Not Implementing a Betting Strategy

Betting for the sake of betting will make you go broke. Doing no work in regard to applying a betting strategy of any kind will make you a long-term loser. Guaranteed.

A betting strategy is not a quick fix. It’s not something you can cheat the system with, and it takes time to master a profitable process.

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When we talk about strategy, much of this has to do with research. But it can also include bankroll management, line shopping, banker bets, in-play live betting strategy, fading the public, changes in betting units, and targeting weak/moving betting lines.

As you get more advanced, you can start to implement things like arbitrage betting and hedge betting. These processes allow you to find value and lock in profits before the market has closed.

It’ll be tough to implement them all into every bet, so start slowly and work your way through them. The more you add, the sounder your betting strategy will become, and in return, the more profit you’ll make.

16. Chasing Losses

The best bettors are comfortable with losing. It’s one of the hardest traits to learn, but the quicker you do, the better off you’ll be.

Chasing losses is a common betting mistake, and this is where people continue to bet on a losing run just to try and subsidize some of their losses. It’s the quickest and most efficient way to lose all your money.

You’re going to lose bets. We’ve stated this previously, but pro bettors are winning just 55% of their overall bets, so almost half will lose. If every time you lose, you head out and bet on a game or market without the proper research in place, you’ll end up running dry pretty quickly.

The key is to think of it like this: as long as you’ve put in the time to research the bet and gotten a price you think offers value, at this point, there’s not much more you can do. Sport can be highly variable and uncertain, which makes it exciting.

Get comfortable with losing and your profits will thank you in the long run.

17. Not Tracking Bets

If you’re not tracking your bets, you need to start. Keeping a record of winning and losing bets allows you to become accountable for winners and losers.

There are multiple ways you can address this, but one of the easiest is creating a simple spreadsheet that includes the stake, betting odds, game, bet type, profit/loss, and overall results.

We recommend using multiple betting sites to get the best possible lines, which is a great way to keep track of multiple sites.

It’s not just a case of seeing if you’re in profit or loss. You can use it to find what your strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to picks. For example, if you’ve got a return on investment (ROI) of 200% on spread bets, but a negative 50% on moneyline odds, you can start to concentrate more of your time on the spread, as the strategy you’re implementing is clearly working.

By not tracking bets, you’re guessing where you’re winning and losing. The process takes just a few minutes and can be one of the biggest tools in your armory.

18. Not Using Betting Tools Such as Cash Out

Most sportsbooks come with a string of betting tools you can use to your advantage. Features like cash-out betting and boosted markets are two which, when used correctly, can be a great way to improve the profit line.

By not using these features, you could miss out on times when you can lock in a profit or limit a loss. For example, if you’ve got a four-game parlay bet with three teams already settled as winners, and the fourth up at halftime, you could cash out and lock in a win without having to sweat the rest of the game.

19. Listening to the Noise

Everyone has a voice and opinion when it comes to sports betting. Dozens of media outlets cover a single game across multiple sports, and each pundit will have a different view or take on how the game will go.

A lot of these savants are paid to be controversial, and so will create clickbait headlines from viewpoints they possibly don’t even buy into. You need to remove yourself from this noise as it’ll likely dull your acumen.

To be a successful sports bettor, you must make informed bets and have data/stats to back up your decisions. This may go against what others are saying, but bear in mind they might not be confident enough to be betting on the outcome and instead give an opinion with zero foundations.

It’s not to say that you can’t listen to what others are saying, but instead, question why they might be thinking like this. For example, if an authority says that the Rams will beat the Cowboys by 10+ points, look at the data for yourself to see if the claim can be backed. Have they done it in previous games? What’s their current form? Are they exceptionally strong on the offence? Why will the Rams beat the Cowboys by 10+?

20. Not Learning from Past Mistakes

We all make mistakes, and betting mistakes will happen occasionally. But if you consistently make the same mistakes over and over again, you’re going to become a losing bettor quickly.

Tracking bets, as stated above, is one of the best ways to learn from mistakes. You can expand on our discussion and include a mental scorecard for each bet.

This mental scorecard is designed to show how much effort you put into the bet. These could include the amount of research, time invested into research, and bet confidence. A higher rating is a sign you’ve put as much effort as possible into your pick. A low score shows you could improve in this section.

Also, don’t confuse losing bets as mistakes, and winning bets as the optimal approach. You can spend all the time in the world picking out a great bet that offers value, and then the team might simply fail to bring it on the day.

This is why the mental scorecard is a better approach than simply tracking winners. If you find that you’re scoring highly for bets but still losing, then it might be a case of adjusting the strategy slightly.

21. Resisting Change

Resisting change is a huge betting mistake and one that a lot of bettors make. They see short-term success and assume that they’ve got a good thing going, when actually it’s a little variance that’s stacked in their favor.

Change is a good thing, and if you’re losing or stagnating it’s time to shake things up. This could be a fresh approach to research, a new sport/market, or even a new range of betting sites to work with. Embrace change, even if it’s just small tweaks to an already successful process.

22. Not Tracking Betting Lines/Movements

Betting lines move all the time. This can include lines for the spread or odds for markets, like the moneyline.

The reason behind the line moving will vary, but more often than not, it’s based on the amount of money taken for that specific bet. The more money that comes in for one side of the line, the bigger the change.

Not recognizing when a line has moved is a massive betting mistake many recreational bettors make. Let’s look at why this might occur.

An NBA game opens with a line of eight points. After a couple of hours, a lot of money has been wagered on the +8 line and has now moved to +/-9 points.

If someone wasn’t tracking the market they wouldn’t realize the line had moved. But they’d now be on the same odds for a -9 bet as a -8 bet. This is a huge advantage to give up, even if the line still offers some value, although it likely won’t.

It’s impossible to check the line of every game, we get that. But there are tracking tools that do this for you, which you can implement into your betting armory. Knowing what the line has moved from and to is a huge advantage, and allows you to oppose massively increasing value for that bet.

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Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert
Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert

Jonathan is a freelance writer working with Techopedia. He has been working within the gambling sector for over 15 years and has been fortunate enough to work with brands that include Gambling.com, CheekyPunter.com, BasketballInsiders.com and Betfair. He specializes in US and UK-based sports and casino content for Techopedia.