Navigating the Sportsbook

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Growing up in Reno, I was always around gambling. I never really looked into it personally until I moved into the dorms at UNR and had a roommate who filled out parlay cards for the NFL. He let me fill out a couple, and I have bet on NFL games almost every week since. But how do you know who to bet on? I generally try to follow a certain criteria, which I have laid out below. By following these three little tips, I have been able to win at the sportsbook.

Criteria #1: Don’t just gamble to gamble.

This tip is the hardest for me to follow, as I try to gamble as much as possible. But early on, I found I was losing a lot more than winning. Then I realized why; I was gambling just to gamble. A couple years ago, I put a $20 bet on the Los Angeles Lakers (-0.5) over the Atlanta Hawks. I lost this bet (the Lakers lost), and realized there was no reason I bet on the game in the first place. I wasn’t knowledgeable in the game at all and I had no reason to believe the Lakers would win, but I bet all the same. After this realization, I decided I wouldn’t bet anymore unless I was confident in the bet, and had reason to believe the team I chose would win/cover the spread. This led to my second criteria…

Criteria #2: Do your research

After I stopped betting just to bet, I knew I needed to put in some research in order to justify my bets. There are a plethora of websites with statistics that can help bettors, and I began looking for some key statistics. First, I never bet on any game of any sport without looking for injuries. An injury to a key player from one team can make a huge difference on the outcome of a game, and you don’t want to be on the wrong side of that bet. If a key player for a team is injured I almost always try to avoid betting on that game, because it is hard to guess how a team will play. The sportbook will know before anyone if a player is going to miss a game, and will adjust their spread to make up for the injury, making it even harder to predict how a team will fair against this inflated/deflated spread. Second, I look at a team’s recent record. If a team has lost a couple games in a row, that team is generally undervalued. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I generally pick against teams on winning streaks, and pick teams on losing streaks. Finally, I look at a team’s record against the spread. It is easy to find a teams ATS (against the spread) record for a number of categories, including at Home, Away, as Favorites, as Underdogs, and any combination of these. Again, it may seem counter-intuitive, but I prefer to bet against what the past results say, as these past results also influence the spread. For example, if a team has a 7-1 record ATS as a home underdog, and they are underdogs at home in their next game, it would make sense to bet on them However, the sportsbook is aware of this stat as well, and will generally give them a couple extra points on the spread.

Criteria #3: Bet with your gut

As I mentioned above, the sportsbook is smart. They have infinite information, and know how to use it to accurately predict games. Knowing this fact, it is very difficult to outsmart them, so why try? If you have a good feeling about a certain team, don’t hesitate to make the bet! But, make sure you still do your research on your bet, to avoid a simple mistake.

When betting on sports, it is crucial to understand that the book is smarter than you, and will try to anticipate bets. It is important to find those few value bets you find and capitalize on them. Finally, I have two more parting words of wisdom; have fun, and understand you could lose. If you aren’t having fun betting, why do it? Sure, some people have been able to make a living betting, but they generally run very complicated models, have inside information, or a combination of the two. For the casual bettor, you aren’t supporting yourself/your family through gambling, so have a good time with it. And secondly, NEVER EVER make a bet you can’t afford to lose. The sportsbook has the advantage, so it is more likely than not you will not win each bet. I make sure I am always content with losing a bet, and if I do win, it’s a bonus!

If you follow the goals I listed above, and succeed at each, you have a much higher chance of winning your sports bets than randomly throwing around money! Following each step will help your achieve your ultimate goal, and earn that money!

If you liked this article, check out one of my other posts, outlining the little victories you can achieve that will help you train your puppy. And as always, please subscribe to my blog (click the menu tab in the upper right corner), and follow me on twitter at @zacharypwalsh. Good luck with your betting!


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