The Biggest Challenges of Sports Betting

Sports betting is one of the few forms of gambling where your destiny is in your own hands. In the long run, luck only plays a very small part. It’s YOUR decisions that will ultimately determine whether or not you make money. This means there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t become a successful and profitable bettor.

You’re going to have to work hard though. Making money is NOT easy. In fact, only a few sports bettors manage to make profits on a regular and consistent basis. If you’re willing to put in the necessary effort, then there’s no reason you won’t be able to join them. With that being said, however, there are some big challenges that you’re going to have to overcome.

We’re not telling you this to discourage you. We just don’t see the point of painting a false picture. If you’re going to stand any chance at all of making money, it’s important that you understand just how difficult it’s going to be.

That’s why we’ve written this article. We explain some of the biggest challenges you’re going to face, so that you’re fully prepared for the task ahead. To makes things a little easier, we also offer some expert advice for overcoming these challenges.

Developing the Right Mindset

Imagine you’re about to bet on a tennis match. It’s the second round of the US Open, and Novak Djokovic is playing Steve Johnson. Djokovic is currently ranked 2nd in the world, while Johnson is ranked 30th. Djokovic has made the final round of the US Open seven times. Johnson has never made it past the third round. Which player are you going to bet on?

The obvious answer here is Djokovic. He’s the better player, and far more likely to win. But now imagine that the odds on Djokovic are so low that a $100 wager would win just $1. And the odds on Johnson are so high that a $100 wager would win $10,000.

Would you STILL want to bet on Djokovic?

It’s not so obvious now, is it? Sure, Djokovic is very likely to win this match. Is it worth risking $100 to win $1 though? Johnson might not have a BIG chance to win here, but he does have a chance. At odds of 100 to 1, it’s got to be tempting to back him.

Now, no bookmaker would actually offer these odds on a tennis match. We’ve used this extreme example simply to make a VERY important point.

Betting on the most likely outcome is not always the right thing to do.

Sports bettors tend to bet mostly on what they think is going to happen. They want to win as many of their wagers as they can, and they figure that betting on likely outcomes is the best way to do this. They’re right too, as backing the most likely outcome all the time should result in winning lots of wagers.

The problem for these bettors is that their mindset is all wrong. This might surprise you, but they shouldn’t be focusing on trying to win as many wagers as possible. Why not? Well, that’s not actually the best way to make money. Winning wagers is obviously a good thing, as that’s where the profits come from, but simply winning a lot of them doesn’t guarantee an overall profit.

A bettor could win 80% of their wagers and still have an overall loss. On the other hand, they could win just 40% of their wagers and still make an overall profit. It all depends on the odds. When a bettor is focused on winning a lot of wagers, and betting on likely outcomes, they’re going to be betting at low odds. This leads to low payouts that can easily be wiped out when they lose.

Does this mean you should never bet at low odds? No. Nor does it mean you should bet at high odds every opportunity you get. It just means that focusing on winning lots of wagers isn’t the right approach. Wise up; think carefully about the odds on offer before a placing wager.

We cannot stress this enough: only bet when the odds are in your favor!

To determine whether or not the odds are in your favor, you need to understand the concept of value. In the context of sports betting, value basically describes the relationship between the chances of a wager winning and the odds. When a wager is more likely to win than the odds suggest, it has positive value. This means the odds are effectively in your favor, and that it’s a good wager to place.

We cover this subject in more detail in our article on finding value in the betting odds. Please take the time to read it. Understanding value is crucial for anyone striving to be a successful sports bettor. It may seem a little complicated at first, but this will become easier once you get the hang of it.

The challenge lies in applying the concept. Betting for value often requires you to bet AGAINST what you think will actually happen, and many people find this difficult. Consider the tennis match we gave as an example earlier. In that situation, your natural instinct will almost certainly be to bet on Djokovic. You’ll probably find it hard to bet on Johnson given his small chance of winning, even though the odds of 100/1 offer clear value.

There’s no quick and easy solution to this. It’s all about developing the right mindset, and that will take time. It’s important to keep telling yourself that value is the ONLY thing that matters when making betting selections. Forget about trying to win as many wagers as possible, and try to ignore what your instinct tells you. Focus on the end goal of making money, and always remember that betting for value is the best way to get there.

Accurately Assessing Probability

Sports are unpredictable. It’s a big part of why they’re so entertaining. Would we really enjoy watching them so much if we knew what was going to happen all the time? Of course not. Some of the most memorable moments in sport history have been those upsets that we just didn’t see coming.

Entertainment means very little when betting to make money though. The unpredictable nature of sports is great for the fans, but it’s not so great from a betting perspective. The unexpected happens so often that you can’t afford to simply make assumptions about the outcome of sports events. Instead, you must try to determine just how likely each possible outcome is.

This means putting A LOT of thought in to every single wager.

We explained earlier how important it is to identify value in the betting markets. This requires assessing the probability of possible outcomes, which can be very time consuming. You must consider ALL possible outcomes, however unlikely they may seem.

Assessing probability in sports is a major challenge. Many factors affect the outcome of sports events, so it’s very difficult to put an exact figure on how likely each possible outcome is. Nevertheless, you’re going to have to try. Making these assessments is the only way to identify value effectively, and accuracy is extremely important.

Let’s go back to the tennis example we used as an example earlier. While Johnson is not a bad player, Djokovic is clearly more talented. He’s ranked higher in the world, and he’s won many more tournaments. So it’s very easy for us to say that Djokovic is the most likely winner of this match.

That’s not all we need to know though. We must assess his actual chances of winning. Does he have a 60% chance of winning? Or a 70% chance of winning? Or are his chances even better than that? That’s what you need to determine when trying to identify any possible value. But how?

Unfortunately, there’s no “perfect” method for assessing probability. It’s a matter of personal judgement really, and more of an art than a science. The key is to make sure that your judgements are always based on proper analysis and solid reasoning. Take as much relevant information into consideration as possible.

If we were betting on this tennis match, for example, then we’d consider all of the following.

  • Overall quality of the two players
  • Results from previous matchups
  • Current form of both players
  • Each player’s record on a hardcourt surface
  • Each player’s record in major tournaments
  • Current fitness levels of each player

This obviously goes beyond simply assuming that Djokovic is likely to win because he’s the better player. We’re probably still going to reach the conclusion that he’s likely to win, but analyzing all this information gives us a much better chance of accurately assessing his actual chances. Although our assessment will ultimately be subjective, it will at least be based on tangible and relevant information. We’re not just guessing here.

We’d love to provide a step by step guide to accurately assessing probability in sports, but the reality is that this isn’t teachable. It’s a skill that only comes with experience. You just need to be patient, and try to develop methods that work for you.

We do have three useful tips to offer though.

  • Spend plenty of time on research and analysis
  • Maintain a narrow focus
  • Keep detailed betting records

Information is power when it comes to sports betting. That’s a fact. The more of it you have, the better you’ll be able to assess probabilities. So you MUST be prepared to devote lots of time to research. Don’t rush this; it’s going to take more than just a few minutes of your time. Before betting on any event, you should gather as much relevant information as you possibly can. Then, take time to analyze that information as best you can.

Simply spending a lot of time on research and analysis will not guarantee your success. It’s the QUALITY of the research and analysis that really matters. We suggest reading the following article for some excellent advice on this aspect of sports betting.

Now that you see how time consuming research and analysis can be, it’s easy to see why we recommend maintaining a narrow focus. It’s just not realistic to think you can commit the necessary time if you’re betting on a ton of different sports. Focusing on just one or two sports will almost certainly yield better results, so that’s the way to go. You can always try widening your focus once you’re making regular profits.

Keeping detailed betting records is a must for all serious sports bettors. Make sure you detail every wager placed, including notes on WHY you placed it. Then, periodically set aside some time to review these records, and study what went right and what went wrong. This will help you find ways to improve your judgement.

Check out the following article for more information on this subject.

Controlling Your Emotions

Successful sports betting requires clear and rational thinking. Decisions need to be made based on logic and reasoning, which means you’re going to have to put your feelings aside. Sound easy? Don’t be so sure. We can pretty much guarantee that at some point your emotions will take over.

You’re going to experience highs and lows when betting on sports. Those highs and lows WILL cause an emotional response, and your emotions may start to cloud your judgement and prevent rational thinking.

When winning consistently, for example, you might get carried away with the success. This can lead to overconfidence, complacency or even greed. You may stop putting the effort in, thinking you’ve cracked it. Or start chasing bigger wins, only to end up losing more than you won in the first place.

When on a losing streak, you might get frustrated and just give up. Or experience self-doubt, and start second-guessing every decision you make. In a worst-case scenario, you might start increasing your stakes to try to recover previous losses. This never ends well, and is a HUGE mistake.

The bottom line is that emotions invariably lead to bad decisions.

Unfortunately, there’s very little you can do to actually prevent emotional responses. They just happen; it’s the way our brains are wired. What we can do is try to control these responses when they do happen.

This can be a real challenge. There isn’t a textbook solution that will work for everyone, but we do offer some useful advice in the following article.

In the meantime, here’s a couple of quick tips to bear in mind.

  • Learn to recognize when your emotions are starting to take over
  • Don’t bet when tired, sick or under the influence

Simply recognizing when your emotions are starting to take over makes it much easier to control them. If you’re aware of what’s happening, you can act accordingly. Some people may benefit from taking a few deep breaths, while others may need to take a break to get refocused. In time, it should become easier to put your feelings aside.

Our second tip is perhaps an obvious one. It’s good advice though. When you’re tired, sick or under the influence, you’re much more likely to be affected by emotions. You won’t have the same resilience to deal with them, so why put yourself in that position? If you’re not in the right shape physically or mentally, it’s best to just not bet at all.

Other Minor Challenges

Here’s a list of three additional challenges you’ll face when trying to make money from betting on sports. None of these are especially hard to overcome, but you should still be aware of them.

  • Gaining the required knowledge
  • Picking the right betting site
  • Dealing with the grind

Let’s take a quick look at each of these challenges, and explain how to deal with them.

Gaining the required knowledge

A lot of sports bettors assume that that the only knowledge they need is their existing sports knowledge. They figure that if they know enough about a sport, they should be able to make money from betting on it. Unfortunately, they’re wrong.

An extensive sports knowledge helps, but it’s not enough.  An extensive knowledge of the actual betting side of things is required too. You need to learn all about the different types of wager, and how the bookmakers set their odds and lines. You need to learn why the odds and lines change, and what those changes mean. Then there’s all the strategy involved, and a whole lot more too.

The best way to gain all the required knowledge is to spend some time going through our comprehensive sports betting guide. It’s full of valuable information and advice that will help you become successful. It will take you a while to get through it all, but we promise it will be time well spent.

Picking the right betting sites

Betting online is THE best way to bet. No question at all. It offers many advantages over the more traditional methods, some of which can directly improve your chances of making money. There’s only one problem. To make the most of these advantages you need to use the right betting sites, and picking the right sites is harder than it seems.

This is because there are hundreds of sports betting sites to choose from, most of which offer a reasonable service. Who wants to settle for reasonable though?

We can help you to find the BEST sites, as we’ve written a detailed article with advice on choosing where to bet. For an even easier solution, check out our recommended betting sites.

Dealing with the grind

Sports betting can be a lot of fun when done for recreation. It can be a real grind when betting specifically to make money though. Reading all the latest news, analyzing statistics and studying recent form quickly gets very boring. Heck, even watching sports gets tedious when doing it for “work” purposes.

Once you stop enjoying sports betting, it’s all too easy to stop putting the effort in. So you need to learn to deal with the grind, and not let it affect you. This is easier said than done, but you’ve got to try.

Taking regular breaks definitely helps. We suggest having at least one day per week where you set aside everything betting related and focus on other things instead. Try to not even think about betting.

It’s also beneficial to take extended breaks every now and then. A whole week off can work wonders, and allow you to come back refreshed and ready to go again. You’ll feel better, and you’ll probably be able to get more accomplished.

In Summary

Making money from sports betting is hard. Not impossible, but definitely not easy. You ARE going to face some challenges, and it WILL take time to overcome them. If you’re patient, and you follow our advice, then there’s no reason why you won’t be able to achieve your goals. Don’t expect it to happen overnight though.

And remember, sports betting doesn’t HAVE to be about making money. There are plenty of people who enjoy it even though they lose. So if you don’t want to deal with all these challenges, why not simply bet for the fun of it? Just make sure you stick to a budget.