An estimated $36 billion in bets will be placed on the 2017 Major League Baseball season. NFL and college football probably cracked $90 billion in the 2016 season, though it’s hard to be sure since most of the bets were made off the books. Bear in mind, that’s just for two seasons of two sports.
With all that money being thrown around it seems like there ought to be a way to get a piece of it, right?
While many amateur gamblers lose their shirts, it’s not inevitable. There are professional gamblers that make their living by placing bets on sporting events.
Even if you don’t want to become a full-time gambler, there’s no reason why you can’t develop a second income from betting on sports.
First, though, you need a basic introduction to the world of sports betting. So let’s dig in and get you up to speed.
Bookmakers and Handicappers
Odds are good that you’ll end up dealing with a bookmaker or bookie if you get serious about sports gambling. A bookmaker is a person or organization that sets odds and takes bets. Bookmakers often take and make payments on bets, but not always.
As a general rule, outside of Nevada and a few other states, sports bookmaking is a crime. Placing a sports bet, however, is not a crime. Your risk is financial rather than legal.
You can think of handicappers as the people doing the math to figure out odds and spreads. They generally have comprehensive knowledge of a sport, team and player statistics, and anything else likely to change the outcome of a game.
Think of that guy at the office who knows everything about a sports team. Now, multiply that by every team in a sport and you’ve got a handicapper.
Handicappers occupy an unusual role in the gambling world. They work for bettors, bookmakers, and even for services that provide independent picks.
A money line is essentially a way to express the odds. Let’s look at a fictional money line example from baseball.
The minus sign (-) means the odds are higher that the Nationals will win, while the plus (+) means the Mets are expected to lose. The numbers are where your bet comes into play.
To make $100 on a Nationals win, you have to put up $150. If you bet $100 on the Mets and they win, you make $120.
A money line is the most straightforward way of betting because you either win or lose based on game’s winner. The downside is that you win less money betting on favored teams and much less on heavily favored teams.
The point spread can be tricky for beginner bettors since it sometimes means that a team winning is still a losing bet. The basic idea is that many games will have a likely winner
The basic idea behind the point spread is that many games will have a likely winner. Smart bettors will always choose the team more likely to win, so bookies need to make the other team more attractive. They do this by assigning a number that will be subtracted from the favored team’s final score.
Say the Patriots are playing the Browns. Your bookie assigns a spread of 4 points. The Patriots win, but Tom Brady had food poisoning so the score is 20-17.
You subtract 4 points from the Patriots score and get 16. The Patriots failed to “beat the spread.” If you bet on the Patriots, you lost your money.
If you bet on the Browns, the drinks are on you.
Totals or over/unders are a way to bet on games without worrying about who actually wins or loses. Here’s how it works.
Your bookie says that total score for a Nets-Celtics game is going to be 205 points. In other words, when you add both teams’ final scores together you get 205 points. You can then bet that the score will either be over 205 or under 205.
There are other variations on totals, such as betting on the score at the end of a quarter or a half. In a boxing match, you might bet the over/under on the total duration of the match.
Something to bear in mind is that heavy betting in either direction will often make the bookie change the odds. Heavy betting for the under means the odds will shift to the under being favorable. After which, it costs more to bet the under with the exact same payout.
Watch Out for Roster Changes
Athletes and teams get analyzed all the time. Everything from statistics to their technical performances. Those are objective factors.
Since athletes are people and teams are made up of them, there’s also a non-objective element to keep in mind. Athletes are notoriously superstitious and psychology can play a substantial role in performance.
One thing to keep an eye out for are changes in the roster. The addition of a new player or the elevation of a talented newcomer can invigorate a team by changing the psychological dynamic of the group. This can lead to a turnaround in team performance that can catch the unwary player off guard.
Sports Betting and Maintaining Sanity
Gambling of any kind has the potential to become addicting. Before you venture into the world of sports betting, make sure that you’ve got your priorities in order.
Make sure that you’ve established clear goals ahead of time about what you’re looking to make happen. If you want your betting to turn into a secondary income, you need to leave emotion at the door. You don’t bet on a team because they’re your favorite, but because they’re likely to beat the spread.
Never make bets you don’t fully understand. If you’re hazy about how any given bet works, take a pass. There will always be another opportunity to place a bet you do understand.
The most important thing someone new to sports betting needs to know is this. If you can’t afford to take that money and set it on fire, you can’t afford to gamble with it. Money for bills belongs in exactly one place, your bank account.
The world of sports betting is a place where you can make money, but not by throwing money at favorite teams or with random selection. It requires analysis, cool consideration, and even the services of a good handicapper.