Sports Betting Myths

The world of gambling is crowded with myths and legends. People tend to believe just about anything they read about gambling – the idea that a slot machine can be hot or cold, the insistence that betting a certain way can influence your odds at the roulette wheel, and even superstitions among fans that they swear will help their team win are all widely-accepted falsehoods, and plenty more exist. A list of betting myths could run into the hundreds of pages – our brains are designed to look for patterns, and people tend to go a little overboard when money is on the line.

The five sports betting myths described below are the most significant beliefs that lead to mistakes among sports gamblers. Avoiding these myths will keep your bankroll secure and prevent you from making errors common among newcomers to the sports betting market.

The Smart Money is on the Favorite

Most people overestimate the strength of a particular team or player. Armed with the knowledge that pro sports leagues are incredibly balanced in terms of skill, professional sports handicappers spend hours researching games and poring over statistics to lay odds. There is a tremendous amount of parity in most leagues – the cliché that any team can win on “any given Sunday” is true since there is very little difference between the skills of different pro teams and athletes.

Always betting on the favorite is not a good strategy for winning. Team A may have athletes with better fundamental skills, but Team B may have a coach to motivate his players to beat their more-skilled opponents. With point spreads thrown into the mix, you can see how it is easy for the team that everyone thinks is inferior to over-perform; often, a field goal late in an NFL game or a random home-run in Major League Baseball can mean a difference of millions of dollars won or lost around the world.

Betting on underdogs is often a winning strategy because of how games are played.

Professional sports teams tend to act conservatively to preserve a win. It isn’t often that a team with a lead will make any risky moves to score additional points; the vast majority of coaches will do everything they can to hold onto a lead rather than risk a lead change.

The losing team takes the opposite approach, trying anything to score points up to the last second of a game. Sports gamblers who always bet favorites are making mistakes; it is much easier for an underdog to beat a point spread than for an odds-on favorite to blow out the competition.

Professional Sports are Fixed

When NBA referee Tim Donaghy resigned in 2007 amid speculation about referees fixing the outcome of games, sports media on talk radio and TV went nuts. The idea that some outside force is at work to fix the score or the outcome of a game is particularly distressing to sports gamblers. The actual influence that a referee or player can have on a contest between two teams is minimal, and the Tim Donaghy scandal was a sporadic case. Pro sports leagues and collegiate sports authorities go out of their way to look into the backgrounds and behaviors of their officials and refs. Donaghy’s story was so outstanding because he was the first official in a very long time to be associated with any game-fixing.

Consider that the high salaries of today’s professional athletes make them less likely to accept payment in exchange for throwing a game. The infamous 1919 World Series scandal that brought down Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven of his White Sox teammates came at a time when professional athletes were paid far less than they are today; a low salary made it difficult for Jackson and his teammates to turn down large sums of money from gamblers looking for an advantage. Now that athletes earn millions of dollars per season, it’s difficult to imagine the money it would take to convince them to play worse and fix a game intentionally.

Sports Analysts Pick Winners

It’s easy to turn on ESPN or open your local newspaper to find picks for these big games. ESPN turned sports reporting into a 24-7 news avalanche, providing fans up-to-the-minute sound bites on Eli Manning’s right pinky toe or the record of an NFL team on turf versus natural grass. Because sports analysts and talking heads are so visible, it’s easy to follow their lead and bet based on what they report.

But sports journalists are not professional handicappers. Follow the track record of a given sports expert, and you’ll likely be disappointed by their record in picking winners.

Want a real-world example? Over the last two decades, the combined picks of the sports experts at the New York Post have never once hit the 50% mark. People who are paid to write or talk about sports create entertainment and are paid to keep people reading their papers or watching their stations. They are far less concerned with the way their picks perform than professional handicappers. The bottom line is that betting based solely on the opinion of a sports expert is a losing proposition.

Progressive Betting Systems Help You Win

Progressive betting systems have been around as long as gambling. With roots in casino gaming, these systems for placing wagers in a particular way are designed to sound like they can’t lose. People who follow progressive betting systems are buying into the idea that the way they wager somehow influences the outcome of a contest.

Progressive betting in sports wagers is just as ridiculous as the same style of betting in craps or roulette. These systems go by many different names, but all follow a similar pattern, instructing bettors to double a losing bet or cut their wager in half when they win. Serious gamblers can see the flaw in this line of thinking without too much effort; the amount you bet on a game has no impact on your likelihood of winning.

Don’t fall for any chain email or around-the-water-cooler myth promises wins if you place wagers a certain way. Instead, spend your time looking into the teams and players in the games you’re wager on and making your gambling decisions based on tangible things.

Researching One or Two Stats Gives You an Advantage

The average sports bettor doesn’t have the amount of time that a bookmaker has to research an upcoming game. That leads people to compare one or two statistics and place their money on the team or player that performs better in those few categories. Let’s face it, and it’s easier to look at an NFL team’s yards-per-game number and compare it to their opponents’ points-allowed-per-game state and make a selection than it is to do the kind of hardcore research that bookmakers do to handicap games.

Stats are overrated in terms of their meaningfulness in head-to-head competition. When you place a bet at a big-name sportsbook, remember that you’re going up against a team of pro handicappers who do more than look at a starting pitcher’s road record. Placing smart sports bets means more than comparing two sets of numbers, and league parity mean that some teams or players will have a poor performance, and some will play above their average.

These are just a few of the sports betting myths that lead bettors to make big mistakes when it comes time to lay down a wager. Avoid these common pitfalls in the logic, and you are more likely to be a successful sports gambler.