What are the Biggest Sports Betting Mistakes Made by Sports Bettors?

by Big Al Staff

The excitement of watching sports greatly changed when the United States Supreme Court overturned PASPA and legalized sports betting throughout the country in 2018.  All of a sudden, there became an extra dynamic to the game, and bettors could legally put money on their opinions.  In a blink of an eye, the sports betting industry saw its value increase billions of dollars.  However, with wagering becoming more common, there’s also a whole new slew of bettors walking up to the window.

Before you knew it, you had a large group of bettors doing nothing else than flushing their money down the drain.  They didn’t have a well-founded betting strategy, and their bets were based on nothing but a gut feeling.  When analyzing these bettors, you can learn a thing or two.  We spoke to several hundred sports bettors across the globe to categorize their mistakes.  We found out that many people run into the same problems and make the same erros.  Whether you’re a novice bettor or a seasoned pro, you might recognize yourself in these mistakes. Let's be honest, you're never too old to learn, right?

In this betting guide, we'll take you through the most common mistakes in sports betting.  That means we'll zoom in on the most common sports that people bet on, like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and the NHL.  Besides that, we'll dive into sportsbooks, bookmakers, money management, and many other aspects to get you on your way to a successful sports betting career.

The most common mistakes by novice sports bettors

When you're just starting as a rookie bettor, you're bound to make mistakes.  There's not a single person who has a clean track record.  However, if you want to take sports betting seriously, and not just as something done for entertainment purposes, then carefully review this guide to avoid the biggest mistakes most sports bettors make.

Betting too many games

One rookie mistake is going in and just betting any moneyline, point spread, parlay or teaser out there, regardless of whether or not the bet offers value.  You'll sign up with your offshore book and start to place bets here and there.  Before you know it, you're on a losing streak, and you feel dreadful.  In short, you're not betting for the long haul, and you're only focused on having action.  It's an illusion to think that you can win every single bet -- especially when your wagers don’t have value.

You should understand that professional bettors don't bet on games without an edge.  They pick their battles carefully and don’t put money down on a game just because it’s on television.  They're not chasing winning bets by the bushes.  Instead, they’re focused on value and numbers.  So, keep a close eye on what kind of bets you're making.  Don't bet to have action.  Instead, bet smartly.  Always ask yourself if you have an edge on the game, or if you're just betting for another payout.

Bad bankroll management

It doesn't matter how much experience you have, it’s always critical to manage your bankroll.  The worst thing you could do is deposit new funds straightaway when you're on a losing streak, and double up on your bets.  Of course, to be successful at sports betting, you need a plan, and the discipline to stick to it.  You need to set some boundaries for yourself, and create some rules to keep yourself in control.  The holy rule here is:  never risk more than you're comfortable losing.

Think about setting cap limits:  First, establish your gambling bankroll.  Then, consider whether you want to have a maximum amount you'll wager on any day.  Then pick your unit size:  the amount of money representing your standard wager.  Usually, this is a percentage of your bankroll (generally about 1% to 3%).  After creating a plan, you’ll have much more self-control and a greater ability to stick to your system.  All of us can well understand being under the influence of adrenaline after a couple of winning bets.  Everyone has felt the urge to wager a bit more than usual.  And everyone has experienced losing when they’ve done so (and felt stupid).  However, when you stick to your money management system, you’ll have your winning days and losing days for sure, but you’ll never be out of control or feel stupid.


There's one type of wager which brings the most rookie sports bettors into the industry:  the parlay bet.  Everyone has read stories of a lucky bettor who managed to hit a multi-legged parlay bet to turn a $25 stake into a payout of $62,525.  All the bettor had to do was correctly predict 12 games.  It's catching lightning in a bottle, for sure.  But just the fact that it's possible will convince enough people to try their luck.  On any given day, millions of dollars flow through online sportsbooks through parlay bets.  Of these bets, only a minority will end up with a winning bet and take home a payout.

We're all fortune seekers in some way or another, but don't let greed get the better of you.  You're usually better off making straight bets than parlay bets.  Especially in the long haul, you'll always be better off betting straight bets since a bookmaker’s hold is much less.  After some analysis, some Las Vegas sportsbooks’ hold on certain parlays was up to 30% compared to just 5% on straight bets.  That shows the risk of losing a parlay bet outweighs the reward.

The most common mistakes by experienced sports bettors

You should not forget that anyone makes mistakes.  Let us repeat that phrase.  Everyone makes mistakes, even experienced bettors.  One thing to understand is that sports handicapping always evolves, so there's always new stuff to learn (and always new mistakes to be made).  We've found two mistakes that are still very common among experienced bettors today.  When you master these mistakes, the sky is the limit.

Setting unrealistic expectations

When you're in the sports industry, you know that adrenaline plays a giant part of the game.  Besides that, the betting industry involves money.  When you're a professional, this usually involves a whole lot of money.  That means adrenaline and the rush of seeing money in front of your eyes collide into an exclusive feeling that's sometimes uncontrollable. Any sports bettor who has been winning bets for an extended period of time knows that feeling.  It takes over, and it brings you into a different state of mind.  You feel like the king of the world, and you feel that there's not a single bet that you can lose.

That's when you should exercise caution.  Just because you’ve won 36 of 48 bets doesn’t mean your hot streak will continue.  Experienced gamblers should understand this, and have realistic expectations.  But sometimes they forget, and either put too much money on a game or lower their standards, and make wagers that don’t offer great value.  Thus, we recommend to always stick to your plan.  We assume you devised your betting strategy carefully, especially when you're a professional.  So, stick to the plan even when your feeling says otherwise!

Picking the wrong sportsbooks

The importance of picking the right sportsbooks is massively underestimated.  Sports bettors pay a fee to bookies to use their services, which means their win percentage needs to be higher than 50%.  But just because all bookmakers charge a fee doesn’t mean they charge an equal fee.  Indeed, some sportsbooks -- like our #7-rated sportsbook WagerWeb -- give cash back on volume.  The effect of WagerWeb's cash back offer is that their customers are laying -108 rather than -110.  So, instead of needing 52.38 percent to break even at football, a sports bettor only needs to hit 51.9% to break even at WagerWeb.  And it gets even better at our #1-rated Sportsbook, BetAnySports, which gives its customers -105 odds, rather than -110, so the breakeven point gets lowered to 51.19%.  This bookmaking fee is where the real value is and where the differences between bookmakers become evident.  

Another important factor is whether your sportsbook has unique numbers.  Now, if you only have one sportsbook, this wouldn’t matter.  Of course, as any serious sports gambler knows, you need to have three to five sportsbooks to shop for the best numbers.  But it doesn’t do you much good to have three sportsbooks if those three always have the same numbers on the NFL games!  The key is to choose sportsbooks with unique numbers.  That is, sportsbooks that originate their own odds, and don’t just copy the numbers of other sportsbooks.  Our top five sportsbooks all have unique numbers.  Those are BetAnySports, BetNow, Bovada, BetOnline and BookMaker.  When you’re choosing your sportsbooks, these are the best of the best.  As you can see, the sportsbook plays a very important role in being successful as a bettor.  It might not matter for just one bet, but it's very important to always have access to the best odds in the long run.

When you're considering which sportsbook to join, you might get a bit overwhelmed.  To help you with your choice, we have researched more than 60 online sportsbooks and have written reviews on the upper tier.  Here are a few factors that we use to judge whether a sportsbook is top-shelf:

  • User experience
  • Bonuses and promotions
  • Banking methods
  • Availability of games

However, the most important factor of all, as discussed above, are the competitive odds and the unique numbers.  Especially when making point spread bets, you want to have access to the best lines.  When you register at multiple sportsbooks, you can always shop around and place your bet with the book which brings the best returns.  In the end, these small differences in lines are what matter, and distinguish the real bettors from the rookies.

Having too much pride

Anyone who has made a substantial amount of money in his profession feels enormous pride in some way.  You are confident because you know that you probably have more knowledge about your profession than many others, and you're better at it.  It's probably true, but it also doesn't mean that you should succumb to it.  Unfortunately, successful bettors often fall prey to this when they’re on a losing streak.  Sometimes, the best thing to do is to step back, and take stock of why you’ve hit a rough patch.  But experienced gamblers who have had a lot of success often try to repeat what they’ve always done, instead of recognizing that maybe things have changed.  The worst thing you could do is continue on the same path. Instead, you have to make adjustments to turn a losing streak into a winning streak.

To conclude this article, we want to wish you all the best in your sports betting career.  Whether you have just started or have been around for multiple years, have fun while you're at it.  The sports betting industry is an exciting playing field that can generate a lot of cash for you, but you have to approach it the right way.  Besides this article, we have other great info about any topic related to sports betting!  Enjoy yourself and, as we always say, happy betting!

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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