10 Steps to Profit in Sports Betting

Lewis Watson

We ALL want to beat the bookies at their own game. Whether it’s reeling in a big underdog or heavily backing a firm favourite, there are always going to be different approaches to getting one over on the odds compilers. The betting industry is thriving at the moment, but as punters, this works to OUR advantage. With new bookmakers opening on a weekly basis and a plethora of new and dynamic markets to explore, tactical betting can prove profitable. It’s never without risk; however, following these simple ten steps can set you on your way to a betting profit!

1. Understand the Markets and the Bet you’re Placing

We’ve all been there. We have money sat in our account and fancied a bet, but the action is limited, and there’s just not a lot going on. Patience in these moments is without a doubt an advantage. The first player to score, Asian handicaps, game lines, each way betting… there are so many variants of bets that can confuse and rush you into placing wagers you aren’t that confident in; do your research and make sure you fully understand what you are backing! Think of this as a purchase – you wouldn’t rush into buying something that you knew nothing about after all.

2. Know your sport

Knowledge is power as they say. Understanding the sport that you are placing your bet on is crucial for you to understand the VALUE of the odds. When you have in-depth knowledge of your sport, real value is easy to find; it is the type of information that odds compilers and algorithms can’t readily build into there prediction models. For example, Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor set all kinds of records last year in the boxing mismatch that it was. On the face of it, you had a boxing legend with a 49-0 record inside the squared circle vs a novice who was making his professional debut in the sport. Yes, McGregor has achieved greatness in mixed martial arts, but the bout was taking place in a boxing ring – somewhere that the Irishman had never competed professionally. MMA fans saw the price of McGregor (at one point as high as 8/1) as easy money; Mayweather fans saw the temptation of a Mayweather win (finishing at 1/4) as even better money. The amount of money that was wagered and lost by McGregor fans that night is a reminder to always understand the sport in question before placing a bet, which leads us nicely to our next tip.

3. Bet with your head, not your heart

Us sports fans are an emotional bunch. No matter what the odds are, we support teams and athletes through thick and thin to experience a fraction of the glory associated with our heroes. However, when it comes to betting, it’s important to distinguish between the two. Our hearts will always favour our sides and disregard the teams we despise; finding the right balance is crucial. Wanting your team to win so badly will result in you convincing yourself that they will, regardless of the price or the likelihood of the event. Take a step back and look at it from a neutral point of view. Often, meaningful games with a lot of build up fail to live up to the expectation of the fans; backing a 0-0 draw in the top table clashes in football often allow you to cash out for a profit before the game well and truly kicks into gear.

Bookies rake in millions when the fans back their teams to achieve the unachievable, so try and avoid placing a bet on your beloved and just enjoy the event. Since Leicester won the Premier League title back in 2016, many fans have followed suit in backing their sides to achieve the impossible at the start of the season. Prices of 100/1, 150/1 and sometimes 500/1 are too big to ignore for diehard fans. However, this is effectively free money for the bookmakers. 

4. Shop around

When it comes to betting, every company is effectively selling the same product. What sets each bookmaker apart is the prices they set and the markets they offer. If you become tied to one particular bookmaker, you may be missing out on a whole spectrum of betting opportunities, some which could cater to your betting strategy perfectly. Prices change dramatically between sport for each bookmaker, with some companies focusing on particular sports and events to make their highest profit margins. Tools like oddschecker.com are fantastic in signalling the price difference for specific bets for you to leverage as much value out of your selection as possible.

5. Avoid backing a heavy favourite

There are no dead certs in sport – as much as you may want to believe. The reason we love watching football, basketball, tennis, even darts is due to the unpredictable nature of these types of games; this factor should be taken into account when we are looking to make a profit. Upsets can and do happen, more often than you would think. To try and make some quick cash on a 1/8 shot, consider the possibilities of the different outcomes. Will there be squad rotation? Is their crucial player out? Is the underdog on a role? Are the favourites in form? All of these potential scenarios are reason enough to avoid lumping on the heavy favourite for a quick win.

Never forget the story of the student who lost £4400 when he bet on Angola winning in-play. Angola was leading Mali 4-0 in the African Cup of Nations, and the punter decided to lump £4400 on Angola to win the match at 1/100. If it came in, this bet would have landed the student a miserly £44, but the unthinkable happened! Mali came back to draw the match 4-4 in the last twenty minutes, leaving the student bankrupt. An extreme example, maybe, but it’s always worth weighing up risk vs reward when you are considering heavily backing a favourite. After all, if the sports were predictable – we wouldn’t love it.

6. Only bet what you can afford to lose!

A simple but crucial point when it comes to gambling. Many punters follow the tendency to ‘chase their losses’ in the hope that their fortune will turn around. A dangerous tactic that often leaves gamblers in financial trouble or even debt. If you are fully aware of your financial situation and have an allowance to bet with, there is no reason why gambling sensibly can’t be enjoyed. Remember, the bookies are after your money, so don’t make it easier for them than it already is. Some days your luck just won’t be there.

7. Don't over complicate your bet (accumulators)

Doubles, trebles, accumulators; they seem profitable on the face of it, but they kind of bets are promoted for a reason. Bookies lose most of their money on single bets, so try and limit your selections to one or two and avoid the fashionable accumulator tactics. With a 10-fold bet covering football matches in League 1, the Championship and the Belgian Pro League, your knowledge of these fixtures is going to be significantly limited in comparison to just a single bet placed. With odds approaching three figures for some accumulators, punters get sucked in by the notion of a ‘glory bet’. It is wise to remember that the price is placed that high for a reason!

A more sensible and profitable approach is to make single bets, continuously. Staking your winning from your previous wager on your next selection allows you to control your stakes a lot more, allowing you to be on markets and outcomes where your expertise is most effective.

8. Free bets

Many bookmakers offer ‘free bets’ for new customers. Beware of these types of offers; often they are a lot less beneficial than they seem. Most bookies match your first bet with a free bet, i.e. if you stake £10, you will also get £10 back as a free bet. However, there will always be stipulations attached to the free bet in your account. Knowing what you have to do to access the ‘free bet’ money is crucial in determining whether it is profitable to accept or reject these types of sign-up offers.

Many casino-based betting companies offer ‘free chips’ in games like Roulette and Blackjack, but to withdraw this free money, you’ll have to work hard for it! Say for example you spend your £10 on red and won, increasing your money to £20. You would then have to match the ‘wagering requirements’ to access your money which often means betting this money 50x over with odds higher than 33% (you can’t just cover black and red for 50 spins). Undoubtedly it can become frustrating for the punter and nine times out of ten results in the loss of the losing bonus within minutes of starting. These types of introductory offers can be beneficial, often allowing gamblers to place free bets and get to know the game and casino, but it is good to understand the wagering requirements before going down this path.

Sports bets are a little more friendly when offering ‘free bets’ for new customers, but often require you to place a bet on a selection that is great than evens (2.0). When this happens, it is the bookmaker essentially giving you a 50/50 chance to claim your free money; of limited risk to them as they now have you as a customer.

If you are patient and sensible with your free bets, there is no reason why you can’t reach a profit. As most betting companies offer these types of introductory offers, there is no real need sign up with companies you wouldn’t otherwise go for just because of the free bet incentive.

9. Sports involve form; casinos don’t!

There is one important distinction to make between sports betting and casino betting: athletes experience form, casino games don’t. A simple point to make, sure, but it’s important to tell yourself this when you are placing bets.

The ‘gamblers fallacy’ denotes that punters will often see some form when playing casino games such as Roulette. If there is a run of nine consecutive red numbers, a majority of the betting field will back a black number next under the assumption that a black number is ‘due’. However, without memory the Roulette wheel is incapable of form, meaning each spin is as unique as the last.

The complete opposite is true in sport, with many teams and athletes going through considerable swings in form resulting in a difference in results against different levels of opposition. A team who has lost their last five matches is significantly more like to lose their sixth than a roulette ball is likely to fall on red for the sixth time.

 10. Pick your moment to bet

Odds change dramatically based on the amount of interest in that particular market, so make sure your timing is spot on to receive the best price on your selection. The day a big fight is made is often the best time to place a bet on the winner, the first day of a horse racing meet or even the opening day of the season. You have to think of it this way: the bookies have the same knowledge as you do regarding form and likeliness of the bet prevailing, so if you have a slight advantage of expertise in any field, maximise it by placing your bet early before the bookies catch on. Rumours of a boxer getting an injury in training, reports of a player not travelling with a squad, a player suffering an illness before a big match - all of these scenarios could dramatically alter the price of an outcome – so be quick and time your bet to perfection!

After all is said and done

Albeit useful pointers, the bookmakers turn over millions and millions for a reason: the odds are always in their favour. With all this being said, through applying subtle changes to your betting tactics there is no reason why you can’t come out on top more than not and find yourself in betting profit.

Always gamble responsibly.

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