Sports betting is a tough business.

Successfully picking winners with and against the spread at a rate high enough to beat the vig is challenging for even the best bettors.

I’m sure a person could come up with 101 real struggles sports bettors face, but I’ve listed 6 below that I have personally faced. I say that like it’s in the past, but the truth is I still face some of these.

See if you can learn from my mistakes and struggles and see if you are in danger of struggling with any of these.

1 – Overcoming Favorite Team Bias

Almost every sports bettor started as a fan. Most bettors are still fans after they start betting heavily on games.

This creates a problem for most handicappers when they try to accurately handicap their favorite teams.

For many years I didn’t place bets on games involving my favorite teams. I couldn’t look at the players I rooted for in a practical manner. I wanted them to succeed so bad that I always gave them more credit than they deserved.

If you want to have the best chance to win you either have to avoid betting on your favorite teams or make sure you handicap their games without any bias.

You should always track your bets and their outcomes, but start tracking games involving your favorite teams separately. If you can go back through your records see how you do on your favorite teams versus all the other teams.

Eventually you may be able to turn this weakness into a strength when you can judge all players and teams equally. After all, who knows more about your favorite team than you do?

2 – Accurately Judging Injury Severity

Judging the severity and long term outcome of injuries is a handicapper’s nightmare shared by most bettors.

Complicating this issue even more is the lack of reliable information the teams release.

The only thing you can usually do when handicapping a game with injury questions about important players is factor in how well the backups are expected to play in the event the injured players don’t perform up to expectation.

Though it was mid game so unless you were betting in game you didn’t have a chance to handicap the injury, I remember when Emmitt Smith injured his shoulder in a game against the Giants. It was a fairly severe injury and if it had happened before a game you would’ve wanted to know who his backup was. As it turned out, he continued playing and his performance didn’t suffer at all.

This is an example of how hard judging injuries is. I was watching the game and didn’t think he would be able to finish the game, much less contribute in a meaningful way.

3 – Deciding How Much To Bet

Your bankroll is just as important as figuring out what games to place wagers on. It doesn’t matter how many winners you can pick if you don’t have any money to place bets with.

You should bet more on games where you have a larger edge than in games offering a smaller edge.

But how do you figure out which games offer higher edges than others?

That’s the heart of being a successful sports bettor. When you master the art of handicapping you start seeing the difference in value between games.

Once you start assigning a level or degree of edge for each game you can start sizing your wagers based on the expected value in the long run.

To be honest, you don’t have to use or understand Kelly to size your bets to make more money. If you have a $10,000 bankroll and usually bet $400 per game you can start betting $200 or $300 per game on lower edge games and $500 or $600 per game when you have a higher edge.

4 – Becoming an Action Junkie

I always feel that the danger of becoming an action junkie is the most dangerous struggle a sports bettor can face. This might be because it’s the one I struggle with the most, but it can be deadly to your bottom line if you don’t watch out.

An action junkie has to bet to feel the rush of risking money and the hopes of a reward by winning. They bet on games they shouldn’t because they have to have the action.

Only bet on games where you feel you have a real advantage. If you start reaching for games to bet on you need to take a step back and evaluate your actions.

5 – Correctly Judging Home Field Advantage

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that home field advantage exists in almost every sport. Football, basketball, baseball, and soccer all have distinct home field advantage. If you don’t believe me do about two minutes worth of research and you’ll see it proven year after year.

The key for a good handicapper is figuring out just how strong home field advantage is and how to use it to help you pick winning games.

Remember the sports books and other line setter’s factor home field advantage into their predictions so finding value isn’t easy.

6 – Knowing When to Quit

This doesn’t necessarily mean knowing when to quit forever. Sometimes you just need to quit for a day or week or month to clear your head and then jump back into the game.

You’ll have natural swings even if you pick winners consistently, so the key is figuring out when a losing streak is natural and when it’s because your handicapping is off.

I can’t tell you how to evaluate your own ability, but don’t be afraid to take a little time off. It can be quite profitable at times not to bet instead of pushing through a rough spot.


All 6 struggles listed above can cost you money because anything that hurts your ability to handicap games is costly. The two that can have the most expensive consequences are number 4 and number 6. Watch for those two first and immediately take action if you fear you’re slipping into either problem.

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