While it may not seem like it, there’s actually a clear distinction between sports betting and gambling. The reason for this is simple; as while gambling always put you at a disadvantage to the house, sports betting enables you to tap into markets in which you have a vested knowledge or interest.
You don’t have it all your own way as a sports bettor, however, as the odds applied by bookies are designed to minimise their total losses and afford likely outcomes a prohibitive price.
This is why you’ll need a sports betting strategy if you’re to achieve sustained success as a punter. In this article, we’ll look at why this is beneficial and offer some examples of the most successful strategies in this space.
Even if we assume that sports betting affords you an edge by allowing you to target specific markets in which you have a pre-existing knowledge, this does not change the fact that the outcomes of matches and leagues occur randomly.
Sure, there are a number of regular mismatches and uneven contests in competitions such as the EPL or Rugby’s Super League, but in theory every side is capable of beating another at any given time.
This means that sports betting is opportunistic by its nature, drawing at least some parallels with casino games like roulette and blackjack.
This is arguably the single biggest reason why it’s beneficial to have a sports betting strategy, as it helps you to make the most of each individual wager and partially negate the strong element of chance that weights on your bets (we’ll explore this further in the second half of the post).
In the case of roulette, for example, bettors tend to apply positive or negative progression strategies that increase their stake by a fixed amount with every win or loss.
This helps them to control their bankroll and pursue long-term gains, and while it’s less relevant to sports betting as the boundaries change with each wager the theoretic benefits of creating a basic strategy remain relevant in this instance.
On an even more fundamental level, a sports betting strategy helps you to plot a clear course and avoid the lure of targeted promotions that force you outside of your comfort zone.
After all, the sports betting market is more competitive than ever before, and as a result of these operators continue to target customers with increasingly aggressive and lucrative promotions. Many of these may be associated with specific events (such as the Grand National), and as a result they’ll only be available for a limited period of time in order to create a sense of urgency amongst punters.
The issue here is that these promotions and events may exist outside your wheelhouse, forcing you to deviate from the markets that you know and pump money into a sport where you have less of a competitive edge.
As a result, you run the risk of wasting stake money in the pursuit of unrealistic returns, while even in the event of a win you may be subject to prohibitive wagering requirements that force you to make further (and similar) bets before you can make a withdrawal.
Make no mistake; having a clearly defined strategy that includes carefully selected markets and operators helps you to avoid this risk, as this creates a sense of focus that optimises the level of control that you have over your wagers.
In the absence of a sports betting strategy or a clear sense of direction, there’s also a serious risk that you’ll overcomplicate your wagers and become bogged down in non-value adding analysis and theorisation.
These really are detrimental to any chances of achieving sports betting success, as while concepts such as model overfitting and selection bias are well intended they’re just as likely to hurt your wagers as they are to empower them.
This is no match for a simple and concise betting strategy, especially if you have confidence in this and a willingness to stick with it over a sustained period of time.
Rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel or seek out complex metrics, this enables you to optimise each individual element of your sports betting endeavours and triggers incremental improvements across the board.
Of course, this does not mean that you cannot constantly monitor your results or make small alterations over time, but you must remain true to your core strategy and keep this as simplistic as possible going forward.
With these points in mind, the importance of a viable sports betting strategy should be clearer than ever before.
However, the question that remains is how you can build a successful strategy that delivers sustainable returns. Here are some of the most important elements of a sports betting strategy and the core things to keep in mind:
- Manage your Bankroll Carefully
Arguably, the most important element of any sports betting strategy is the management of your bankroll.
This is central to both short and long-term success while having a comprehensive plan for your gambling capital can maximise the impact of each individual wager and ensure that you always bet within your means.
To begin with, consider setting aside a fixed amount of cash to form your weekly or monthly bankroll. In an ideal world, your total bankroll should never exceed an amount that you can afford to lose, as this definitely minimises risk and allows you to make the most of your strategy going forward.
We’d also recommend pegging each individual wager at a fixed percentage range of your bankroll. For example, if you intend to set aside £500 each month to wager on the Premier League, try to cap each bet at somewhere between 1% and 5% of this amount.
This way, you can make your bankroll stretch further while also providing at least some flexibility in instances where it may be beneficial to increase your stake.
- Use Handicap Betting to Improve your Odds
Have you ever wanted to bet on a dead cert (such as Liverpool to beat Manchester United in the EPL last week), only to be put off by prohibitive or ridiculously short odds?
Fortunately, you can negate this as a punter, especially if you’re willing to embrace concepts such as handicap betting that can improve real-time odds and (in some instances) increase your chances of winning incrementally.
This is a particularly popular wager type in the Premier League, as this competition often includes games that feature considerable difference between the abilities of competing teams.
This is what creates such extended odds in some cases, but handicap betting can be used to shorten these prices and provide far greater value to punters.
There are three main types of handicap wagering in the market, with a single handicap bet arguably the most popular. This is best applied when there’s a clear and obvious difference in the perceived abilities of two competing sides, while the handicap is determined by a number of factors and typically increases by increments of 0.5.
So if you want to back Manchester United to beat Cardiff in Wales this weekend but don’t like the odds, you can back the Reds at a fixed handicap of -1 goal. This instantly creates a more favourable and competitive starting price, while it also means that United need to win by two clear goals for the wager to come in.
When applied to matches where the perceived difference between two teams is large, single handicap bets are simple ways of boosting your returns without overly compromising your chances of winning.
Another benefit of this is that your stake will be refunded in the event of a single goal win, as this would technically result in a draw. This arguably removes the draw from the equation, creating a simplified bet that marginally increases the likelihood of the wager being successful.
- Ensure that Each Bet is Informed
The way in which you inform and select bets is another key element of your strategy, and in order to be successful, you need to research each individual wager and leverage data rather than emotion to drive your decision making.
Analysing team and data sets is key is crucial, for example, as is comparing and contrasting the respective form of competitors.
You can also embellish this with feedback from seasoned punters or relevant experts, while local journalists who follow specific teams can also offer a unique insight into team news, injuries and any other developments that may impact on the final outcome.
If you’re a beginner, we’d also recommend taking some time to understand the statistical reporting associated with relevant sports and their meaning. Getting to grips with form and factors such as handicapping can be particularly complicated with sports like horse racing, for example, so being studious in your approach can pay dividends over time.
Just remember, most punters don’t invest any time or effort into researching their wagers. So, with a little preparation and effort, you can steal a competitive march on your fellow bettors and increase your chances of success considerably.
This, along with the other strategic elements that we’ve discussed here, will help you to become an organised bettor who can profit from a number of sports and alternative markets!