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Common Sports Betting Mistakes

Before we dive into the heart of this article, we want to make one thing clear. If you’re new to sports betting, you ARE going to get things wrong from time to time. Don’t expect perfection! Even if you follow all the advice we provide in our sports betting guide, it’s still inevitable that you’ll make at least a few mistakes.

These mistakes will almost certainly cost you some money, but it’s important that you don’t let this worry you too much. Mistakes are simply part of the learning curve. As long as you’re learning from your mistakes, you can view each mistake as something positive. If each mistake you make is a new one, then they’re also a sign that you’re making some progress.

Don’t think that the mistakes will stop as soon as you’ve gained some experience though. Even the most successful bettors in the world still make mistakes. No-one’s capable of making perfect decisions 100% of the time. Sports betting is not something that can ever be truly mastered, so the learning process is an ongoing one.

Although there’s no need to get overly concerned or frustrated when making mistakes, you still want to keep the number of mistakes made down to a minimum. As we’ve already pointed out, they’ll cost you money. And you obviously don’t want to lose money if you don’t have to. That’s exactly why we’ve written this article.

Below we’ve explained the most common mistakes made by sports bettors. Simply being aware of them means you’re less likely to make them. Just to be safe, though, we also offer some useful advice for avoiding them. The majority of this advice will apply to recreational bettors and serious bettors alike.

Not Managing Their Money Properly

We’re starting with this mistake because it’s probably the most common mistake made by sports bettors. It also has the potential to cause more damage than all the other mistakes listed on this page combined. Thankfully, it’s also one of the easiest mistakes to avoid.

All you need to do is learn about bankroll management.

One of the most valuable articles in our entire sports betting guide is the one on bankroll management and staking plans. In it, we explain how effective money management is extremely important for ALL sports bettors. Those who are serious about trying to make a profit from their betting will ultimately fail unless they practice good bankroll management, and those who bet for fun are far less likely to enjoy themselves. Sadly, there are many sports bettors who give very little thought to how they manage their money.

The article we’ve just mentioned will teach you everything you need to know about bankroll management. Here’s a quick summary though.

Bankroll Management Explained

Bankroll management is relatively straightforward. First, you’ll need to set a budget for how much you’re prepared to spend on your betting. We suggest setting aside this money solely for the purposes of placing wagers. This sum of money forms your betting bankroll, and it’s better to have it separate from any day to day money and savings that you have.

Once you have a bankroll, the next step is to define some rules for how much you’ll stake on any given wager. These rules form your staking plan, which you should then stick to at all times. This requires some discipline, so it’s important to exercise self-control. The benefits of proper bankroll management are invaluable, but only if you’re actually committed to a staking plan.

The main advantage of bankroll management is that it should prevent you from losing money that you can’t afford to lose. It should also prevent you from chasing losses, which is a big mistake in itself, or from betting too much just because you appear to be on a winning streak. It can even help you make better betting decisions.

We cover all this in much more detail in our article dedicated to the subject. Please take the time to read that article, because not managing your money effectively really can be a very costly mistake.

Having Unrealistic Expectations

Most people who bet on sports lose. We repeat this quite often throughout our sports betting guide, and it’s something that’s common knowledge really. Still, there are lots of people who start betting on sports with unrealistic expectations. They figure they can easily start making money just because they know a little bit about the sports they’re betting on.

These people are wrong. VERY wrong.

Don’t ever believe that it’s impossible to make long term profits from betting on sports. Most people lose, yes, but there are also some that win. However, don’t ever believe that winning is easy either. It isn’t. It’s extremely challenging, and it certainly requires a lot more than some general sports knowledge. In fact, even an extensive sports knowledge isn’t enough to be truly successful.

We’re not saying this to discourage you from even trying. We just want you to have realistic expectations. If you think that winning will be easy, you’re going to end up very disappointed. Sure, , but they’re the exception rather than rule. If you want a real chance of winning money, you’re going to have to be put in a lot of hard work.

Recommended Reading

Remember: sports betting doesn’t HAVE to be about winning money. We’ve written an article that compares betting for fun and betting for profit where we look at the benefits of both. We also offer advice for the different approaches required, and detail exactly what it takes to be a consistent winner.

Placing Too Many Wagers

An important, but often overlooked, attribute when sports betting is having the patience to wait for the right opportunities to get some money down. Unfortunately, patience is not something that we’d associate very closely with the average bettor: especially not beginners. In our experience, most beginners place far too many wagers. For example, many people bet on a wide range of different sports. Others focus on just a single sport, but bet on almost every single event related to that sport. Neither of these approaches are ideal.

A much better approach is to be selective. Rather than betting on lots of different sports, try to focus on just one or two. Rather than placing wagers on each and every game or event, try to look for opportunities where it’s possible to make good judgments about what’s likely to happen.

Remember that the goal is not to place as many as wagers as you possibly can, but to place the BEST wagers you possibly can.

This advice is more relevant for those who bet mainly for fun rather than those who bet mainly for profit. If you genuinely enjoy placing lots of wagers, and are betting responsibly, then it won’t necessarily turn out to be a disaster. It’s just not what we recommend doing.

Betting for the Wrong Reasons

Have you ever sat down to watch a game of football on TV and decided to place a bet just to make things more exciting? Or placed a wager on a tennis player to win a tournament because he’s your favorite? Or backed your country’s soccer team to win an international tournament because you’re feeling patriotic?

If you answered yes to any of these questions (and you probably did if answering honestly), then you’re guilty of making one of the most common betting mistakes of all. There is only one good reason to place a wager if you’re aiming to make long term profits, and that’s when you’ve identified a genuinely good opportunity. Betting without a cause or betting based on your emotions are not good enough reasons to place a bet. This type of behavior will almost certainly cost you money in the long run.

Of course, we should point out that it’s absolutely fine to make this particular mistake if you’re betting purely for recreational purposes. If your goal is to have some fun, then go ahead and bet in whatever way brings you the most enjoyment. Just make sure that you’re always betting within a budget though.

Misunderstanding or Ignoring Value

It’s absolutely vital to avoid this mistake when betting for profit. Ideally, it’s a mistake you should avoid even when betting for fun. In fact, we recommend that ALL bettors have at least some understanding of value.

Most truly successful bettors only ever place wagers when they’ve identified value in a betting market. This is a rule that all bettors should stick to really, but very few actually do. Many people completely ignore value when placing wagers. Even worse, many more don’t even fully understand the concept of value as it applies to sports betting.

To all intents and purposes, it’s impossible to make money in the long run without a solid understanding of value and how it relates to sports betting.

Value really is that important, and it’s not even an especially complicated concept to understand. Unfortunately, many people completely misinterpret what value is all about. It’s one of those terms that gets used a lot in completely the wrong context.

For example, some people use the term simply as a way to describe odds. They’ll say that high odds offer good value, and low odds offer bad value. This could potentially be misleading. Value is actually a measure of how the odds relate to the estimated chances of a wager winning. In very simple terms, a wager offers good value when the estimated chances of it winning are greater than the odds suggest. There’s even more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea.

Recommended Reading

If you’re not familiar with value and its importance, please believe us when we say that you should be. It’s a concept that you simply have to understand if you want a realistic chance of being successful. We strongly recommend reading our article explaining all about value in sports betting. It tells you everything you need to know on this subject, and it will completely change the way you decide which wagers to place.

Not Learning Basic Strategies

Most people who bet on sports to make a profit understand the importance of learning some strategy. So, they’ll typically dedicate some time to learning at least a few basic strategies to help them make better betting decisions. Those who take things more seriously should try to understand the more advanced strategies too.

Unfortunately, we’ve discovered that the majority of those who bet for fun make the mistake of completely overlooking strategy. We understand WHY this happens, but it’s still not something we agree with. Even if they don’t stress over the money that they lose, we are positive they prefer to win.

Learning basic sports betting strategy is a great way to improve your chances of winning.

This should be obvious really. Maybe most recreational bettors don’t really understand how much it can help, or maybe they don’t know how straightforward most of the basics are. Either way, we stand by our view; no matter what kind of bettor you are, not learning basic strategy is a mistake.

If you bet for fun, and you’re reading this article, we think it’s safe to assume that you must care about your overall betting results to some extent. Otherwise you wouldn’t even take the time to learn how to avoid the mistakes we’ve outlined here. If you’re prepared to invest the time for reading this article, we hope you’ll consider reading at least one more too.

We’ve written an article detailing some simple betting strategies that work, and this is a great place to start learning some very basic sports betting strategy. Everything has been explained in a very easy to understand way, and the strategies we outlined are extremely straightforward. They WILL help to improve your betting results, without requiring too much effort.

Not Comparing Odds & Lines

We’ve covered the concept of value as it applies to sports betting a little earlier, and explained how important it is. Although it’s not always easy to identify value, it IS easy to get the best possible value for any wager that we choose to place. All we have to do is compare the odds and lines available at different bookmakers and betting sites, and make sure that we place our wagers where we can find the best deals.

In our opinion, this is an easy way to get the maximum value out of our wagers. Sadly, it’s something that many bettors fail to do. They either can’t be bothered, or don’t appreciate just how much difference it can make. For something that takes so little time, however, the difference it does make is more than worth the effort. Comparing odds and lines isn’t overly time consuming, so there’s really no excuse for not doing it.

To illustrate our point, here’s a list of the odds available for a tennis player to win an upcoming match. These are real odds, taken from five different betting sites.

Not Comparing Odds and Lines

At first glance, the differences here might not seem substantial. Consider this though. A $100 wager at the best odds offers a potential win of $83. A $100 wager at the worst odds offers a potential win of $70. There’s nearly a 20% difference between these two figures, which is significant.

The differences aren’t always that great for all betting markets, but even smaller differences will still have a noticeable impact on how much you can potentially win. Over time, all those differences can add up. So it really is a big mistake not to spend the time comparing odds before placing wagers.

Using the Wrong Betting Sites

Without a doubt, the easiest way to place wagers these days is over the internet. It’s convenient and easy, and there are several other benefits too. It’s essential to use the right betting sites though. They’re not all of the same standard, and some should absolutely be avoided. Unfortunately, a lot of bettors make the mistake of just signing up at the first site they find.

MOST sites are at least reasonably good, and the vast majority are safe to use too. So signing up at a random site is unlikely to have disastrous consequences. There are a few genuinely bad sites on the web though, some of which should not be trusted with your funds. It’s risky to sign up with an unfamiliar site when you have no idea if they’re reputable or trustworthy. Knowing this information should be a minimum requirement. Ideally, you should only consider the best sites available.

We’ve made this mistake very easy to avoid, because we’ve researched and tested a wide variety of betting sites and ranked them according to what they have to offer. Our top rated sites are all very high quality, and can definitely be trusted. Check out our rankings to find out more.


Please note that we recommend opening accounts with more than one site. This makes it very easy to follow a piece of advice we gave earlier, which was to shop around for the best odds.

Other Simple Betting Mistakes

Here are some additional mistakes that are common among bettors. Some of these are not as bad as the mistakes covered so far, but you still want to avoid them if you can.

  • Forgetting to Cash Out
  • Regardless of whether you bet for fun or profit, it’s important to cash out after an especially good win or a long run of wins. You can use some of the proceeds to build up your bankroll, but it’s nice to actually see the fruits of your labor sometimes!
  • Not Putting in the Effort
  • Betting is NOT an easy route to untold riches; it takes hard work to be successful. If you don’t put the effort in, you’re not going to make any money. It’s that simple.
  • Blaming Bad Luck
  • Sometimes you’ll lose because of bad luck. More often, you’ll lose because of bad judgement. Don’t confuse the two. Accept when you’ve got it wrong, and look for ways to improve.
  • Betting When Drunk
  • Do we really need to explain why this is a bad idea? Alcohol clouds judgement, and clouded judgment invariably leads to losing money when betting.
  • Sticking With a Losing System/Strategy
  • You shouldn’t automatically give up on a system or strategy that doesn’t immediately generate positive results. But you shouldn’t stick with losing ones for too long either. It’s just throwing good money after bad.
  • Always Backing the Favorite
  • Beginners are often guilty of this. It won’t cause too much damage, as favorites do win frequently. Still, it’s a mistake that should be avoided, as backing the favorite is not ALWAYS the right thing to do.
  • Chasing Big Payouts
  • This mistake is the exact opposite of the one we just listed. Rather than blindly backing the favorite all the time, some sports bettors instead back longshots all the time. The big payouts on offer for longshots are often tempting, and it can be right to back them on occasion. Consistently backing selections at high odds SOLELY to chase a big payout is definitely a mistake though.

Please Note:

Even though we covered 15 common sports betting mistakes in this article, there are still more we have yet to cover. So even if you follow our advice here to the letter, it’s likely that you’ll still make a few other mistakes. Always remember what we stated in the introduction to this article, and try not to get too annoyed with yourself when mistakes happen. Getting hung up on mistakes will hold you back, but learning from them will move you forward.