One of the questions I hear from both novice and somewhat experienced gamblers ask is, "Can sports betting be profitable?"
The smart ones ask that question anyway.
More often, I find that bettors fall into two extremes. The first is the jaded bettor. They'll stay stuff like:
"Sports are rigged. Vegas fixes all these games."
"The house always wins!"
"I'm done betting. It's such a waste of money."
These are examples of cope. They are coping with the fact that they make bad gambling decisions.
In the case of the third example, if you have a gambling problem, you should absolutely stop gambling. This article is not about problem gamblers, though. This article is about the difference between profitable and unprofitable gamblers. If you continue reading, I assume you're smart enough not to gamble with your rent or grocery money.
The second group of bettors is the overly optimistic. You may know these clowns from Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram. The guys who claim they always win. The guys that ever use the term "Lock." Signs you're talking to overly optimistic bettors include:
These guys are worse than the first group because they keep going until they destroy an entire bankroll. They disappear for a month and then return doing the same stuff that didn't work last time.
To answer the original question, yes, sports gambling can be profitable. It has less to do with your picks than how you play them. In the rest of this article, I will explain how you can improve your chances of being a profitable sports gambler. The advice I give you comes from 20 years of personal experience and a plethora of mistakes I made at the beginning of my sports betting journey.
Step 1: Establishing Your Bankroll & Unit Size
Perhaps you already have one, but let's review how this should be structured. Your bankroll is the total amount of money you have to gamble with. This pot of money is separate from your monthly expenses, savings, and investment accounts. Pretend this money belongs to someone you care about and you are managing it for them.
Your unit size is 1% or 2% of that bankroll. This is where people get into trouble.
"Yo Spooky, I only have $1000, so that's like $10 or $20 man."
Yeah, so what? Don't like that starting spot? Go get more money from something other than gambling. It's the same as if you want to go on vacation somewhere or buy something that isn't essential. You save up your money, and then you buy what you want.
Tough love guys. If you can't follow that first step, your long-term chances of being profitable are nil.
Step 2: Deploying Your Bankroll
You have your bankroll. You have your units. Now what?
Determine what sportsbook you are going to use. For me, I use many. My bankroll is spread across multiple books. To illustrate what I mean, let's imagine someone with a $4000 bankroll. Their unit size would be $40 to $80. If they are betting on four different sports books, each account should have roughly $1000, and their bets on each service will be $10 or $20.
Why am I spreading action? Simple. If you are profitable over the long term, you will likely get limited or banned. It sucks, but that is the truth. Robinhood will not bar you for making too much money trading, but sportsbooks will. That's just how it is.
This advice is for people with bankrolls significant enough to spread around. Stick to one sportsbook if you're starting with $500 to $1000. Once you grow that, open another account and fund it. Keep repeating that until you max the amount of sportsbook accounts you can reasonably manage.
Finally, we must cap how much of our bankroll is out at any given time. For me, that amount is 10-15%, at most 20%. For the math-challenged, that means 10 to 20 units if you're playing with 1% units. If playing with 2% units, then that works out to 5 to 10 units.
Even the best gamblers have bad days. Following those rules keeps you from losing everything in a day or a weekend.
Step 3: Make Smart Bets
It goes without saying you have to win bets to make money.
If you are betting on stuff you know nothing about, then stop it. Stop it right now. The only exception to this rule is when you are tailing handicappers you trust. If you join the VIP Discord Chat Server I handicap combat sports in, and you know nothing about UFC, follow the plays as I put them out—unit for unit. Don't get cute with different parlays or switching things up. The guys who don't make money with me over time are the ones who couldn't simply follow the plays as given.
There are plenty of sports I don't know much about and, therefore, don't have an edge like I do in MMA: golf, tennis, soccer, table tennis, and many others. I bet on those sports when I get reliable information from people who have proven themselves over time.
That applies when you're in a betting community working with other handicappers. Let's say you have no interest in other people's picks. You want to make picks on your own. If this describes you, you must pick your sports and stick to them. There is no way you will keep up on all the facets of the autumn sports season when NCAAF, NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB Playoffs are all going simultaneously. Are you watching them? Sure. Do you have a betting edge on all of them? Probably not.
This leads me to another important point. Be humble. Recognize when you don't have the depth of knowledge to have any gambling edge. If betting is purely entertainment, then bet on whatever you like. If you're trying to be profitable, be honest with yourself about what sports you know best.
Let's assume that sport is NFL for you. Stick to NFL. Spend your Tuesday and Wednesday nights preparing for Thursday, Sunday, and Monday. Don't be the guy betting KBO on Tuesday because he NEEDS to be on something. Unless you get the plays from someone reliable, you might as well set your money on fire.
Step 4: Parlay with Caution
Most professionals I know have made a religion out of hating parlays. Call me a radical; I disagree. Just don't abuse them.
Your bread and butter. The fuel that powers the engine that is your bankroll is straight bets. If you are deploying ten units on a betting day, then parlays should only consume one or two units. The other eight units should be riding on straight plays.
I'll illustrate with this example. Imagine this scenario where eight units were placed on straight bets and two units were wagered on parlays. The parlays lose, but you won the straight bets. You would finish the day up +3.48 units of profit. You could also lose three out of those eight single team wagers but still finish the day up +0.48 units.
That doesn't sound sexy, but consider how your betting has been going. Are you the guy who bets exclusively on parlays, loses all of them, and is down ten units at the end of the day? If I showed up like Doc Brown in a time machine after the games and said I could go back in time to change your bets so that you would be up +0.48 units instead of down ten, what would you say?
You'd probably say you prefer I make you rich, but whatever, you get the point I'm trying to make here.
Use parlays, but use them wisely and sparingly. I often use them in the UFC and boxing because the lines are heavily juiced with big favorites. I have a good idea of who will win the fight, but I can't decide on a method to bring the odds down and turn to parlays to turn a profit.
One last thought on parlays: the lotto parlay.
I love them. They're like a drug. The odds of hitting are low. If you like playing these, budget for them. If you would be comfortable buying $20 worth of scratch-offs at the gas station, take $20 and make four lotto parlays instead. Your odds are better in sports than in the lottery. Doing a few small ones gets it out of your system. If you hit, be smart with the money and grow your bankroll with the lucky win. LOTTO PARLAYS ARE NOT YOUR STRATEGY FOR BEING A PROFITABLE SPORTS GAMBLER. It's for fun. That's it.
STEP 5: Track Your Results
Tracking is boring but essential. Come up with a system that requires the least effort to maintain. I like Excel spreadsheets, so that's what I use. For tracking the UFC results I deliver for the VIP Discord, I note my unit profit or loss for the entire card. Separately I save screenshots of the plays I gave members and then I have another spreadsheet that delves into the fighters I picked (but not the bets I made on them).
That system works for me and what I do. You may want to screenshot your tickets as you put them in and sort through them later. It could be as simple as just noting your balance at the beginning of the weekend and how many units you're up or down when it's over.
Many guys will tell you that you have to painstakingly track each pick, the date, the unit, etc. It's good advice, but common sense tells me people are inherently lazy and undisciplined. That includes me. Figure out a system of tracking you can stick to. An imperfect plan is better than no plan. I find ChatGPT helpful for this stuff, too. Maybe I'll write an article about that at some point.
STEP 6: Set a Goal
Your goal is not profitability. It should be a precise number of units you are trying to hit. A target keeps you motivated. There should be a time constraint as well. You could have weekly, monthly, seasonal, or yearly goals.
Need to know what your goal should be? Then, set it for +100 units for the year. That works out to eight units a month or two units a week. If you're playing with 1% units, then that means doubling your account in a year.
"But Spooky, I only have $1000 man. That means I'd only have $2000 after a year."
Again, so what? You're not capped at 100 units, by the way. If you hit 100 units of profit, set a new goal. At that point, you likely want to change your unit size to reflect the new size of the bankroll.
Let me show it to you another way. You start with a $1000 account. You annually reset your unit size to reflect the actual percentage of the account.
Year 1: $1,000
Year 2: $2,000
Year 3: $4,000
Year 4: $8,000
Year 5: $16,000
That could happen. At $16,000, your unit size at 1% is now $160. If you've been consistently doing eight units of profit a month, you're making $1,280 monthly profit at that level. If you started with a $10,000 account, add a 0 to each of those numbers I gave you.
That's the playbook. It's pretty simple. You can have losing weeks. Even losing months. What you can't do is bust your bankroll. You can't give back a whole month of profits because, one NFL Sunday, you decide to play nothing but parlays. If you spread your ten units over ten different bets, it is almost impossible to lose all ten units. You would still win at least two or three of those plays by accident.
Thinking about the last few weeks of UFC for me, I'll show you how this style plays out.
7/22/2023: +9.09 Units
7/29/2023: +29.92 Units (went 10-0 on my picks... rare outlier, obviously)
8/6/2023: -4.42 Units
8/12/2023: -0.44 Units
8/19/2023: +9.4 Units
8/26/2023: +6.86 Units
So over the last six weeks, I had two losing weeks. The key is that I limited my losses (and those of our VIP Discord members who were tailing).
Overall, that adds up to +50.4 units of profit. However, we have that crazy outlier in there. Can't expect that type of weekend very often, so let's remove that. We'll pretend that week doesn't exist. In this new universe, Thanos snapped his fingers and there were only five weeks. Three of those weeks were winners, and two were losers. I still come out ahead by +20.48 units.
I'm not telling you this, so you join the Discord. We would love to have you, but you don't need to join us to do this. If you have a talent in a particular sport, like I do in MMA, you can do this too. You have to follow the steps I laid out, though. Bookmark this article. Read it a couple more times if you have to.
If you want to be a profitable sports bettor, you have to treat this as the serious business it is.
Good luck, and thanks for reading. Make sure you're following me on Twitter @Spooky47Crypto.