Common Mistakes by Novice Sports Bettors

Common Mistakes by Novice Sports Bettors

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 customers have access to vast quantities of information including our steam moves, reverse line movement, contrarian 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 50 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, which typically offer the best underdog lines.
b) Sharp books, which typically offer the best lines on favorites.
c) Reduced juice books, which 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.

Interested in trying Sports Insights? Sign up for a 4-day trial of Sports Insights for real-time odds, public betting trends, money percentages, bet signals, our in-house Best Bets and many other unique features.

David Solar

David was the Content Manager at Sports Insights. He has since moved on to greener pastures.

  • Frank Hamilton
    05/16/2014 at 1:20 pm

    Haven’t you guys picked up on the fact that Vegas is on to the “smart” money trying to bet against the public? The contrary plays and lines have frequently been moved intentionally for this purpose the last season or two and resulting in wrong “signals.” Any system that is widespread like the reverse line movements will only work in a relatively small sample size because once it becomes popular and is used often then the oddsmakers will pick up on it and use it to trap players. You have to change as well and be ready to adapt. Sorry but your one trick pony is backing up in the lane.

    • Ray
      05/16/2014 at 4:41 pm

      Frank I totally agree. I thought reverse line movement was the biggest think since sliced bread. I realize now that it’s nothing.

    05/16/2014 at 6:20 pm

    As a fella that’s been around this game along time it makes me wonder why someone would pay you to text or email them steam plays,What good is a steam play after all the stores have adjusted the line?? Every sport book today is computerized,Back in my day money always moved the line if a player was respected,and if the squares tossed enough money on a game most books would move the line a little ,However the big books would just sit and even take layoffs from the small stores,They knew even if the squares got hot in the end the juice would eat em up.Gone are the days when Billy Walters and his crew would move the line 3 and 4 points,I’m talking sides not totals,Forget about what they did to the horseshoe with totals in the NBA,Back then you could catch small non computerized stores with bad lines to begin with,imagine a three point move and the small store or corner bookie is off on the line a few points to begin with,I could catch some game with 6 and seven point advantages,with computers today if you can catch a half or one point advantage your lucky.Even if you know the group moving the line most of these store move the lines on air,when I say air they just watch the screen from D.B. And move the line before they even get hit,Hell even the big stores have the sharps on small limits per call. We used to see circled games that’s gone why?? Limits per call,that’s why. So texting or emailing steam plays is a joke.Took down many small books before the computer days,That my friends is long gone,If a player asked me for advise today I would tell him pick your own plays,Sports service advice is a joke ,Most guys in that business were just bad gamblers to begin with,That’s why they gamble with some guys bankroll for a percentage,They just go from one square to the next.

  • John
    05/17/2014 at 1:07 am

    I tend to agree with your guys that the whole RLM angle is not what it used to be. I don’t think the contrarian philosophy is working, at least it has not been for me the last couple football seasons.

  • T. Fairmount
    05/17/2014 at 5:17 am

    50 wins and 74 losses in MLB this year. Not sure why anyone at SI is preaching about picking winners.

    • mugsy
      10/20/2014 at 12:06 pm

      If they are consistently picking losers AND losing significantly more than the 10% vig. over time, you have found a successful system ….. just fade them and appreciate the results. It’s just as hard to consistently pick losers as winners.

  • george jackson
    11/06/2014 at 10:16 pm

    from my wagering experiences, it appears to me, that most of the time, that the betting public is heavy on one side, and the line moves 2 1/2 pts or more in football, and 3 or more in bball, load up against the public money, and you will do well.

  • John
    09/13/2017 at 2:55 am

    Haha, #3… *raises hand*. I tried some tennis, some soccer, a baseball game, some financials and I think a game of darts tonight. I know nothing about soccer odds and financials. I have, however, been using quarter unit bets(ie: 1/4 of a unit) on these just to be playing, saving my full units for reasonable bets. Haven’t lost my shirt yet.

    The hardest thing for a new bettor to get used to is that he/she is NOT trying to pick only games they are sure they can win, but games with odds sufficient enough to warrant action at all. When I started I was buying however many points it took in NFL games to have the favorite at +3.5 or +7.5… and those tiny payouts hardly covered the losses even at 71% win rate. Recognizing that at -120 you need to win 5 for every loss to break even takes a little time.

    Betting money on the “bad” team is contrary to natural instincts. My advice, do what feels weird so long as the payout is there. If you feel TOO safe, and everyone says you have a winner on the way, you need to learn that the bookies know that too and are paying accordingly.

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    10/07/2017 at 10:17 pm

    Just a heads up because I’ve seen you misuse “i.e.” in a number of your articles:

    i.e. = that is
    e.g. = for example

    Otherwise, keep up the solid insight. Cheers!

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