A friend of mine once said that there are two types of gamblers in the world. Those who lose at sports gambling and those who lie that they don’t.
Now, there are some who absolutely win a lot more than they lose. But sports gambling is not easy. The sportsbooks are wagering less than you are with the juice, and predicting what athletes will do from week-to-week is extremely difficult. If you know that, the folks who claim ridiculous results like winning 85% of their wagers are easily seen for the snake oil salesmen that they are.
Some weeks, you can handicap games perfectly and still lose. Unfortunately, the games can play out exactly as you thought they would but then a kicker misses an extra point or a flag isn’t thrown where it should be and it blows your bet.
The ups and downs of betting
On Monday Night Football, you could have bet the Packers -3.5 at home against the Lions and felt good about cashing as Aaron Rodgers’ offense was driving inside to 20-yard line down 2 with less than two minutes to go. However, there was no way to predict a running back deciding to sit down at the 3-yard line when he could have scored easily, thus you don’t cover your wager. If you were pacing your house after that play, you weren’t alone. The majority of the money and tickets were on Green Bay.
When I started covering the sports gambling industry five years ago, I found the twitter account of Todd Fuhrman of CBS and Fox Sports 1 to be really entertaining. Todd often talks about the grind of the football season and how frustrating it can be to bet on football. He recently tweeted that sports gambling isn’t about picking winners but rather things like discipline, money management, hard work and others positive mental habits. It’s a great way to approach the pastime and how to handle the ups and downs of being a gambler.
I want to take a second to talk about one of those things listed by Todd.
The importance of bankroll management
When I first moved to Las Vegas, I was fortunate enough to meet several smart people in the gambling community who had been successful gamblers for several years. One of the practices that a few of them preached was flat wagering, the act of placing the same amount on every play regardless if you were up big or down big. The point of this strategy is to protect your bankroll from the inevitable disastrous stretch that everyone goes through. It’s better to be slow and steady to build your bankroll than it is to swing for the fences. Those who are able to be constant in this line of wagering seem to more likely to survive when a tsunami of losses hits their shores.
Flat wagering saved me this weekend as I went 0 for 5 in my plays in the NFL. As a contrarian bettor, I got away from my normal fading of the public because I thought that teams with their backs against a wall would rise up and win at home. I really thought that the Rams, Browns, and Chiefs would all bounce back after losses to score big victories. All three lost outright. I thought that the Chargers against a 3rd string QB would not lose back-to-back home games but the Steelers dominated LA for four quarters on Sunday Night Football.
As you can see, it was a really bad week for me and I need to get back to work with my own handicapping but I’m able to do so because of flat wagering. The money I had won up to this point in the season is gone now but at least I’m still in the fight.
That’s what Todd meant when he said that sports gambling is not about picking winners but more about the mental side of the activity. If you are able to stay focused each week and stay disciplined with your wagering, you will be able to handle the punishment to your bankroll when things go completely wrong.