You may have heard that sports betting cannot be profitable over the long term. However, while relatively rare, there are professional bettors out there who would prove that wrong.
What does it take to become a profitable sports bettor? What are some of the tactics the experienced sharps use to keep themselves on the profitable side of the equation? What can you do to help yourself become more successful at sports betting?
While sports betting is not yet legal in Massachusetts, we’re going to take a look at all of those questions so you can be ready if that changes.
Do profitable sports bettors exist?
Yes, but keep in mind that if it were easy to turn a profit by betting on sports, everyone would do it. Being profitable generally comes down to creating a well-crafted betting strategy that includes thorough research and disciplined bankroll management.
Professional bettors, known as sharps, use these tools and more to keep themselves profitable. But even those who make their living as sports bettors will tell you that you’re unlikely to see a lofty winning percentage.
In fact, many professionals who maintain profitability do so with winning percentages of around 53%, 54% or 55%. That means they are still losing 45% to 47% of the time.
And while professional sports bettors exist, it’s unlikely that you’re going to become one. Is it possible? Of course. The amount of work you’d need to put into your picks, research, bet tracking, bankroll management, betting strategy and more, however, involves a lot of time and money.
The math behind sports betting profitability
When calculating your profits, keep in mind that payouts on winning bets are going to include your initial wager. So, if you bet $100 on the Boston Celtics to win at odds of -110, your payout would be $191.91 — your $100 original bet plus $91.91 in profit.
Now, what about the wagers you lose? For instance, while you may have won $91.91 with your Celtics bet, you might also have a $50 bet on the Boston Bruins. And if the Bruins lose, that means now you’re looking at a profit of $41.91 between those two wagers.
In order to track your profitability, you’ll need to deduct any losses as well as expenditures for things like analytics or professional picking services, if you use those things.
The importance of discipline in betting
For bettors who are looking to become profitable over the long term, one of the most important aspects to focus on is bankroll management. Many bettors use a system that allows them to break their bankroll into units, and they then set a number of units they’ll use for each wager and for each day, week and month.
A common betting unit is 1% of your bankroll total. If, for example, you have a bankroll of $1,000, your betting unit would be $10. A bankroll of $100 would have units of $1.
Some bettors may use just one unit per bet, working on the slow game until they can grow their bankroll and, thus, increase how much they bet, as well. Others limit themselves to two or three units per wager.
How you decide to manage your bankroll is ultimately up to you, but once you’ve determined how much you can afford to put into your fund, how much you can afford to lose and how quickly you are trying to grow your total, you need to stick with it.
It can be tempting to chase losses with more wagers, or even go after a “sure bet” despite the fact that you’ve already used your bankroll for the week. Chasing bets is a recipe for a quick trip to a zero balance, however, and there is no such thing as a sure bet.
Track your wins and losses
Tracking your wagers is an important part of any betting strategy. With a good sports betting system, you can keep notes on your past performances, which will help you create a better understanding of your wins and losses.
You can keep information such as which sportsbook you bet with, the sport, the time, the type of bet and your selection for each wager. You can also track your stakes, your odds and the outcome. Such tracking also helps you keep an accounting of your profits and losses as well as how much you could lose or gain with your various wagers.
You can find a slew of templates to use — almost always free — on the internet. Additionally, there are even some sportsbook apps that will help you with your bet tracking.
Don’t stray from your strategy
We mentioned this above, but it’s important to reiterate that you need to create a plan and stick to it. Don’t go chasing losses, don’t go raising bets just because you’re winning, and don’t try wagering on “sure things” that arise.
The entire reason behind having a strategy is to avoid betting pitfalls such as those. Yes, they are tempting, and we understand why you might have a fleeting thought about stepping out of bounds.
Use the strategy you’ve created to keep yourself focused, keep your betting in line with what your goals are and keep yourself from destroying your bankroll and essentially knocking you out of the hobby all together.
Take advantage of online bonuses
If you’re new to online sportsbooks, you might find all the choices intimidating. Truth be told, there are a lot of really good options out there. From the DraftKings Sportsbook app to FanDuel Online Sportsbook and the BetMGM Sportsbook app and more, there are a number of quality online sportsbooks in Massachusetts that could launch if the state legalizes them.
The good news? You don’t have to find just one to fit your needs. There are no restrictions on how many sportsbooks you can have accounts with, which means you can sign up for as many as you like.
Every sportsbook has a promo for new account holders. Smart bettors use these sportsbook promos to their advantage, potentially giving you a head start on your bankroll or getting you some free sports bets if you don’t choose correctly for your first wager.
You don’t have to sign up for all of them right away, either. Pick one you like, get used to the mechanics and interface, and then add another sportsbook once you’re comfortable with how it all works.
Do your homework before placing your bets
The best sports bettors in the business don’t just go around guessing when they place a bet. Instead, they do intense research using multiple sources in an attempt to make a solid prediction.
Even if you’re just a casual bettor who places the occasional wager, you still need to do your homework. It is your money on the line, so you want to make the most informed betting decisions possible if you want to have a chance at winning.
From statistics to recent performance to weather conditions and more, research is key. The oddsmakers will be doing the same. They use a variety of sources and formulas to create their predictions and, in turn, choose a favorite and assign odds. First and foremost? Get to know the standard betting options:
You can find more about most of these options here on this site. Be sure to take the time to educate yourself on each so you’re well aware of what you’re wagering on.
Strategies professional sports bettors use
Some bettors, especially very experienced ones, will sometimes use a tactic called “fading the public,” which means they keep tabs on which way the public money and volume of wagers is going for a particular bet. They will then wager against the popular side, following their own research, because the general idea is that the public money is often wrong.
Another tactic is “chasing steam,” which follows nearly the opposite approach as the above. In this strategy, bettors will watch the sports lines and the professional betting trends and look for shifts due to large wagers. They then follow those bets with their own, given that very large wagers often come from professional sharps or betting syndicates.
Other bettors choose to “hedge their bets,” by placing a larger wager on the side of the bet they believe is going to win, and then placing a smaller wager on the other side of the bet. The idea behind their bet-hedging strategy is that they will, at the very least, reduce their losses by guaranteeing one win.
Finally, something that really should just be a part of everyone’s betting plan is line shopping. By comparing multiple sportsbooks’ lines on a specific bet, you can find the odds that are best for the wager you want to place. Why make a wager at worse odds at one sportsbook when you can make the same wager with more earning potential at another?
There are many other tips and tricks out there. It comes down to personal preference and your own betting strategy to determine if any of these approaches will work for you.
How long until I am profitable?
There is no reason to sugarcoat this: You aren’t going to be profitable on a consistent basis. That’s just the truth of sports betting. It’s also why there aren’t more professional sports bettors out there.
No matter how much research you do, how experienced you are or how much you think you know, you’re going to suffer losses. Some will be upsets, others will come from calculated risks and even more from what will feel like bad luck.
In order to become a profitable bettor, you have to stay dedicated, focused, disciplined and determined. Don’t take losses personally. You need to stay the course and follow your betting strategy while protecting your bankroll.
Be smart with your bets, be smart with your money and keep in mind that this hobby does not lend itself to overnight success. It can be a grueling process that often feels as if you are going about it the wrong way. Just remember that there are always going to be bumps on the road. It’s up to you how much you’re going to let those bumps derail you.
Paying for sports betting picks
You may have come across websites that claim they will help you become a profitable bettor just by paying for their services and following their picks and advice.
These are almost exclusively targeted at new bettors. While there are definitely some sites out there with legitimate services that are willing to share their overall track records to ensure transparency, many of the sites are trying to make a quick buck with less-than-expert advice.
Buying picks isn’t going to make you rich. In most cases, it’s not even going to make you profitable. You have to deduct the cost for any such service from your total winnings, which will impact your profit margin or erase it entirely.
Make sure to do your homework on any service that you’re considering. Look on sports betting forums, find out what other bettors think of a particular service and even go as far as to check Better Business Bureau ratings and complaints.
And if your picks aren’t working out, don’t be drawn in by the promises of guaranteed wins by sports betting scamdicappers.