Winning at sports betting is hard. The most common estimate is that only 3% of sports bettors profit over the long term.
Winning picks – either originated by the bettor or from another source – are necessary to profit, but they are not enough. The accumulation of small edges is the path to overcoming the bookmaker’s 11/10 vig. The best you can hope for is a few point edges (e.g., laying 5½ when the spread should be 7½). But, in this case of mis-pricing, the “value” results in dollars only in the rare instance of the favorite winning by exactly 6 or 7.
Line shopping offers the diligent bettor the chance at better prices with every bet they make. If you shopped for the holidays at only one store, you would miss out on great deals available elsewhere – just like the bettor who has a lone out misses out on value offered by other shops. This is no small matter – when your entire edge is typically is no more than a few points – every half-point is huge.
Discipline to bet optimally in all cases is also required. Some good handicappers chase when on a losing streak – by either betting extra games or by risking extra on each game. Some press too hard when hot – dreaming about the big score. Some are suckers for TV games – needing the action even when the value is not there. Every such mistake eats into profits.
Mistakes in bankroll management has the most severe consequences. Even if every other aspect of your sports betting is profitable, you can easily go broke from bankroll mismanagement. Extreme streaks – both winning and losing – occur more often than most bettors expect. Picks that win over the long term will lose 15 out of 20 (or even 25 out of 30) far more often than most account for. Failing to properly protect against inevitable losing streaks exposes a bettor to ruin.
Imagine the following prop: you and I flip coins, and every time you win I pay you double what you pay me when I win. Now that’s the nuts for you, right? Oh, one other thing: you are required to bet half of your total bankroll on each flip. Assuming my role is big enough, I will win ALL your money eventually! The simple real-world advice is to bet an amount less than your instincts suggest, because you will need to weather losing streaks worse than you are inclined to imagine.
Winning is also not enough for pick sellers. A bettor who throws darts but shops for lines hits 51%; a professional who lives in a big house off his winnings hits 55%. The difference is “only” one extra win every 25 games. Such a “small” difference is imperceptible to the average customer observing daily Ws and Ls.
Promoting the aggregate long term performance of 55% winners, some will say, not understanding that a depressingly large percentage of customers will consider such “disappointing” results not worth buying. All those years of TV touts screaming about 70% winners and can’t-lose locks has created an environment in which expectations are unachievable.
Even as Pregame.com strives to improve upon the pick industry’s past, oversized expectations lead us to place more emphasis on eye-popping short-term results than we would ideally like. The fact is, customers respond more strongly to 73% in the last 2 weeks than 55% in the last year.
We are combating this by educating at every opportunity what winning results actually look like; plus, by focusing on the creation of quality, free content, it’s our goal to prove a Pro’s expertise each and every day with zero commitment required. Lastly, we insist that our Pros make the effort to connect personally with our online community – offering as much insight as possible into the man behind the brand.
Understanding the way legitimate pick sellers attempt to earn your attention can help you better evaluate which experts to follow. Just as understanding the added effort and discipline that is required for bettor to profit over the long term can help you plot your 2014 attack against the books. In both cases, winning picks is not enough.
RJ Bell is the founder of Pregame.com - and co-host of FIRST PREVIEW, heard Monday through Friday at 10 am on ESPN 1100/98.9 FM. Follow on twitter: @RJinVegas. Discussion of this article continues at Pregame.com. Contact RJ at [email protected]