The Madness of Moneyball: Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes When Betting on Sports

Talk about a story for the ages.

James Adducci had never placed a sports bet in his life. But on a sunny day in April, the 39-year old Wisconsin man traveled to Las Vegas and risked $85,000 on Tiger Woods winning the Masters. Tiger won his fifth green jacket by one stroke, and Mr. Adducci suddenly found himself $1.2 million dollars richer.

But sports bets don’t usually turn out like that – the stars don’t always align.

Usually, your hapless brother-in-law and his buddies go to the Kentucky Derby, make ridiculous and ill-advised bets after too many mint juleps, and leave with empty wallets, bruised egos, and three-day hangovers. Other times, you bet on your favorite sports team – say, the Boston Red Sox before 2004, or the Chicago Cubs prior to 2016 – and they find new and cursedly inventive ways to let you down, breaking your heart along with your piggy-bank.

The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” And the best way to prepare yourself for successful sports betting is knowing how to avoid these common mistakes.

Boozing and Betting is a Toxically Bad Mix

There’s a reason why casinos hand out complimentary drinks to gamblers dropping money into machines or playing table games. Booze inhibits good decision-making. Too many free cocktails and you become reckless and compulsive, tossing money at bets like a blinged-out rapper in a hip-hop video. A free drink can entice you, one quarter at a time, to stay on the slot floor longer. And the next thing you know, those cheerfully beeping machines have slowly drained your bankroll – and you’re heading to the nearest ATM for more cash. The takeaway? Don’t place a sports bet when you’re under the influence.

Don’t Bet on Your Favorite Team

Sports betting is based on math and calculation – it uses statistics to make predictions. It’s cold, analytical, and left brained. Sports betting has nothing do to with matters of the heart, which is what being a sports fan is all about. While it’s fun to bet on your favorite basketball or football team, that doesn’t always translate into a better chance at winning. Being unbiased and placing an objective bet will greatly increase your odds.

Know the Difference Between Handicappers and “Scamdicappers”

Sports betting is big business. But until May 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the nationwide ban on sports betting was unconstitutional, you couldn’t talk about it. It was a hazy but widespread denominator of U.S. sports culture. And that unregulated betting landscape gave rise to the “scamdicapper”.

Sports handicapping is part of the industry, and the world’s best handicappers can offer quality tips. Similar to a stock analyst, a sports handicapper is an expert on sports and betting; he or she creates moneylines, point spreads, and over-unders that are extremely accurate. A “scamdicapper”, on the other hand, tricks you into believing he or she is an expert but simply wants to scam you out of your money. They’re the Wolf of Wall Street-types. A “scamdicapper” typically offers winning percentages that are too good to be true. It’s easy for beginners to be duped by “get rich quick bets” and “guaranteed winners.”

Don’t Try to Win Back Your Losses with Too Many Plays

Slow and steady wins the race. Or as Ernest Hemingway liked to say, it’s all about having “grace under pressure.” If you’ve lost a bet, don’t panic or do anything rash. And whatever you do, don’t try to win back your losses with too many plays. Betting on 10 or 15 games to try to recoup a loss is only going to lead to 10 or 15 more losses. A good punter knows that in order to weather the storm the best thing to do is stay calm. The tide will turn.

Avoid Trendy Betting Systems

Most of us aren’t MIT grads with complex betting schemes that can bring down the house. While every sports bettor will tell you he has a system, risk analysis indicates that overly complex techniques don’t work. From the Martingale strategy to betting against the public, there are all sorts of trendy betting systems out there. Do they work? Sure, maybe 50 percent of the time. But there’s no such thing as a set-in-stone system. Sports aren’t an algorithm that can be cracked.

Sports betting can be a fun and profitable pastime, as long as you have the proper knowledge and preparation. By understanding the mistakes that typically make things go south, you can become a smarter bettor – and maybe even a winning one.

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