Posted in: General
I have a lot of experience gambling and writing about gambling topics, but most of my background relates to poker and casino games.
But lately, I’ve become more interested in sports betting. I’ve read that it’s the best way to make money as a professional gambler, in fact. (This nugget of wisdom comes from How to Make $100,000 a Year Gambling for a Living by David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth.)
I’ve learned that one of the best ways to learn about something is to try to teach it to someone else, so I thought I’d write a series of blog posts about sports betting. I’m good at research, and I’m also good at explaining complicated concepts in a simple, understandable way.
In this post, I’ve listed the top 10 sports betting questions I had. I’ve thoroughly researched the answers to each of these. I’m confident that you won’t find a clearer explanation of any of these concepts anywhere on the web.
On the other hand, I’m human and sometimes make mistakes. If you disagree with any of my answers to these sports betting questions, be sure to leave a message in the comments section.
The best sports book for me might be different from the best sportsbook for you. I might like to bet on different sports than you do, for example. Or I might be from a different country using a different currency. You might have access to deposit methods that don’t work for me, and vice versa.
My suggestion is that you shouldn’t focus so much on finding a single “best” sports book, and instead focus on finding 3 or 4 books that you feel are trustworthy and legitimate. Your bankroll might or might not allow this, but if you’re serious about betting on sports, you’re going to want to shop for the best lines. You can’t do that if all your money is tied up in a single book.
Also, if you’re from the United States (as I am), you also need to consider the risk involved when dealing with an offshore company. US books don’t operate on the internet because of the legal issues involved. I’m convinced that betting on sports as an individual bettor is almost completely risk-free from a legal standpoint, but I’m not a lawyer.
That being said, offshore companies accepting US bettors don’t have the same kind of regulation and oversight that you’d see with a company in Las Vegas.
One way to look for the best sportsbook to suit your needs is to find a reputable site that reviews and ranks these companies. The site you’re reading this post on offers recommendations for where you might want to be. The editors have thoroughly vetted the companies suggested here.
Not all sportsbook review sites are on the up and up, either. Many of them are motivated by advertising dollars from the books. I like to think the managers of this site have a lot of integrity when it comes to recommending books, but keep in mind the profit motive when you’re doing your research.
If you’re close to making a decision about a book, try searching Bing for the name of the book along with words like:
You might find forum posts where bettors are complaining about a book. If that’s the case, take the complaint with a grain of salt, too. It’s an overall pattern that you want to look for. If you screened out every book that ever had a complaint, you’d never place a bet anywhere.
Something else to consider when signing up for a book is how much vig they charge. It’s standard for a book to have you bet $110 to win $100, but you’ll find books that want you to risk $120 to win $100. You’ll also find books that only ask you to wager $105 to win $100.
Look for the better deals. The lower the vig, the lower your win percentage has to be to turn a profit. (I’ll address vig and how it works later in this post.)
Betting limits matter, too. Some books are only appropriate for low rollers, while others might be less appropriate for low rollers. You’ll want to think about how much of your bankroll you want to risk on a bet before signing up. I’ll address that topic on this page, too.
Depositing money from the United States into any kind of online gambling site can be a trial. They don’t generally accept PayPal, after all. And most credit card companies decline gambling transactions as a matter of course.
That being said, the easiest way to deposit money at an online sportsbook is still to use MasterCard or Visa. These don’t work 100% of the time, and acceptance rates can vary from book to book. Some of this has to do with which payment processors the companies are dealing with. It also depends on how they’re categorizing their transactions.
I suggest using an odd amount when making your deposit instead of an even amount. Try to deposit $541 or $491 instead of depositing a round number like $500. Such transactions are more likely to clear.
Other options for making deposits at a sports book are money transfer services like Moneygram or Western Union. The fees for these kinds of money transfers are high. They only make sense to use if you’re depositing large amounts of money. Otherwise, the fees eat up so much of your bankroll that your win rate has to become unrealistically large to profit.
Some companies also accept deposits via wire transfer or electronic check. You can even send money orders via courier to a lot of sportsbooks.
If you’re having trouble making a deposit, contact the customer service team at the book. They have a lot of experience helping customers get money to them.
If you’ve never made a deposit at any kind of online gambling site, you might not know how signup bonuses work. A signup bonus is an incentive to sign up and deposit real money at an online gambling site. It’s a percentage of your first deposit that the site credits your account.
The most common signup bonuses are good for 50% to 100% of your first deposit. They also generally have a maximum amount, like 50% bonus on your first deposit, up to $100, or 100% on your first deposit up to $200.
In the case of that first example, you deposit $200, and the book adds another $100 to your account as a signup bonus. In the case of the second example, you deposit $200, and you get a bonus of $200 (100% of your deposit.)
If this seems too good to be true, it’s because there’s more to it than that. All online gambling sites include wagering requirements with their signup bonuses. This is the number of times you’re required to bet the amount of your deposit plus the bonus before you can cash out.
These wagering requirements are instituted to prevent advantage gamblers from ensuring that they’re going to win money. Without wagering requirement, you might deposit $200, get a $200 deposit, bet $5 on a football game, and then cash out $395.
Another name for this wagering requirement is “rollover.” For example, a bonus might require a rollover of 10X your deposit plus bonus. If the deposit plus bonus were $400, for example, you’d need to place $4000 in wagers before being able to cash out.
If you’re totally unsophisticated, you might not understand how you could place $4000 in wagers on a $400 bankroll. You need to keep in mind that you’re going to win some of these bets, and you can wager that money you won again. That additional bet counts toward your rollover, too.
Here’s an example:
You deposit $200, and you get a 100% matching deposit bonus of $200, so you have $400 in your account.
You bet $33 on 10 different football games. You win 5 of those bets, for winnings of $150. You lose 5 of those bets, for losses of $165. Your net loss on that action is $15, but you wagered $330. You still have $385 in your account to place more with.
If you bet $33 on 10 more football games, you’d be putting another $330 in action. You’ve now made wagers in the amount of $660.
Sign up bonuses are a good thing, but rollover requirements make them hard to guarantee a profit from.
The best sports to bet on are the ones you enjoy watching but don’t have an emotional stake in.
If you’re a huge fan of the Texas Rangers, you might make questionable bets on that team based on you emotional stake in the team’s success. If the smart money is on the Ranger’s opponents, you’re stuck in an awkward position:
You can bet on the Rangers, which is a negative expectation play, but you can enjoy rooting for the team you love.
Or you can bet on their opponents, which is a positive expectation play. But now you’re stuck rooting against the team you care about.
You could also bet on a sport you enjoy watching and just avoid betting on games in which your favorite team is playing.
But never forget this:
One of the biggest mistakes in sports betting is to make irrational decisions about what you want to bet based on being a fan of the team in question.
Remember my earlier example about betting $33 to win $30?
That extra $3 in the amount you’re staking is the “vig,” short for “vigorish.” This is also often called “the juice.”
A bookmaker often tries to get roughly equal amounts of money on either side of a game. That way half their customers cover the other half’s bets. By having you risk $33 to win $30, the book guarantees itself a profit.
Here’s an example:
Suppose a book has 20 customers betting on a football game. 10 of them take one side, and 10 take the other side. All of them put up $33.
The book has collected 20 customers’ bets of $33 each, or $660.
When they pay off the winners, they have to pay back the $33 that each of the winners bet, along with $30 in winnings for each of them. That’s $330 + $300, or $630.
$660 – $630, or $30 in profit.
The other effect of the vig is to make it harder for you to break even or make a profit. If you win 50% of your bets, you’ll steadily lose money until you’re eventually broke.
The same math applies. You make 20 bets at $33 each, for $660 in action. If you win 10 of those bets, you’ve won $630, for a net loss of $30.
If you won 55% of those bets, you’d do better. You’d have 11 winning bets at $30 each, and 9 losing bets of $30 each. That’s $270 in losses and $330 in winnings, for a net profit of $60.
Of course, the books establish point spreads on most games to give you a roughly 50% chance of winning any bet. The only way to beat those point spreads is to do a better job of estimating the point spread than the book did.
Good luck with that.
You can use multiple advantage play techniques to win money betting on sports. Shopping lines from multiple books is one way you can get a mathematical edge when betting on sports. You can also find point spreads that are less accurate this way.
Another way to get an edge when betting on sports is to find arbitrage situations. I’ll cover that later in this post, but suffice it to say, arbitrage is a way to place multiple bets and guarantee yourself at least a small profit.
The main thing to understand about winning money betting on sports is this:
You’re going to have to get good at understanding some basic math.
You’ll also need to make coldly rational decisions about how to wager your money. When trying to profit at sports betting, emotions have no place in your decision making.
You can start with any size bankroll if you want to become a serious sports bettor, but the size of your bets needs to be based on a percentage of that bankroll. You don’t want to risk blowing your stake on one upset.
And there’s at least one major upset in every major sporting event of the week.
The guidelines I see suggested most often recommend betting no more than 1% or 2% of your total bankroll on a single game. This means you need enough of a bankroll to cover the minimum bet at the book.
If a site has a minimum bet of $11, you need a bankroll of at least $1100. That might sound like a too-conservative approach, but you can’t beat the high score at Space Invaders once the “game over” symbol shows up on the screen.
And you can’t win money betting on sports when you’re out of money to bet.
If you need to win something like 52% or more of your bets to make a profit at betting on sports, maybe it would be worthwhile to find someone who’s an expert to sell you picks.
Such services exist. They’re called “touts” or “tout services.”
Most of the sites selling sports picks exaggerate their winning record, or they massage the math in ways that are misleading.
For example, some touts offer various levels of confidence on their picks. They might have picks that they rank from 1 to 5 “dimes.” (A dime in this case, is $1000. They suggest betting that many dimes on the picks in those categories, based on their confidence in that pick.)
But what most of these touts are doing is assigning their picks to 5 different arbitrary categories. Short term variance suggests that at least one of these 5 categories is going to perform better than you’d expect.
They then use this misleading short-term record to make it look like their picks are more accurate than they are.
For example, you might see a tout service bragging that their winning record for their 4 dime picks is 67%.
But they don’t mention the winning rate on the other categories.
Tout services used to run call centers where they’d have half the room pick one side of the game, while the other half took the other side. This meant that half their customers got a winning pick.
They’d then call the half of the customers with the losing pick and offer them a free pick.
You can find plenty of free, transparent places to get winning sports picks on Twitter and the internet.
But paying for picks is a bad idea. You’d have to be wagering a massive amount of money to make buying picks a positive expectation situation. After all, any money you spend on a tout service has to be subtracted from your results when determining your profitability.
The first important thing to know is that finding good lines and discounted vigs are more important than picking winners.
The next thing is to understand that not all online sportsbooks are legitimate or honest. You need to do some due diligence before putting a lot of money into action with a company.
You should understand the sport upon which you’re betting. You also need to understand how to read the lines and odds.
Finally, if you want to make a profit, you need to be right more than 50% of the time—closer to 52% of the time. The more often you’re right, the higher your return on investment becomes.
Sports betting arbitrage is when you find a situation with 2 competing sportsbooks where you can place 2 bets and guarantee yourself a profit because of the difference in lines.
Here’s an example:
Suppose you could place a bet on the Dallas Cowboys at Fred’s Sports Book and get 1.5 to 1 if you win. If you bet $100, you’d win $150 if this bet won.
They’re playing the Washington Redskins, and you can bet on the Redskins at Barney’s Sports Book and get 6 to 1 if you win. If you bet $20 on the Redskins, you’d win $120 if this bet won.
You have $100 in action–$80 on the Cowboys at Fred’s, and $20 on the Redskins at Barney’s. If the Cowboys win, you have a profit of $50. If the Redskins win, you have a profit of $20. It’s impossible to lose in this situation.
These situations happen when bookmakers have different opinions about a team’s chances of winning. They also happen when a book has lopsided action and adjusts the odds to stimulate action on the other side.
Arbitrage opportunities don’t happen often, but when they do, you can make some risk-free money from them.
I’ve answered what I think are the top 10 questions about sports betting, especially as it pertains to the hobby on the internet. I can’t imagine this has been a comprehensive post, though.
Do you have questions about sports betting I didn’t answer?
Post them in the comments, and I’ll either answer them in the comments or expand this post.