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 when money is on the line, people tend to go a little overboard.

The five sports betting myths described below are the biggest beliefs that lead to mistakes among sports gamblers. Avoiding these myths will keep your bankroll secure and prevent you from making the kinds of 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. Professional sports handicappers, armed with the knowledge that pro sports leagues are extremely balanced in terms of skill, spend hours researching games and poring over statistics to lay odds. In most leagues, there is a tremendous amount of parity – 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 valid strategy for winning. Team A may have athletes with better raw skill, but Team B may have a coach that can 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 the way games are played.

Professional sports teams tend to act conservatively in order 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 simply hold onto a lead, rather than risk a lead change. The losing team takes the opposite approach, trying anything they can to score points up to the last second of a game. That’s why sports gamblers who always bet favorites are making a mistake; it is much easier for an underdog to beat a point spread than it is for an odds-on favorite to totally 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 truth is, the actual influence that a referee or player can have on a contest between two teams is minimal, and the Tim Donaghy scandal was an extremely rare 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. In fact, Donaghy’s story was so outstanding because he was the first official in a very long time to be associated with any sort of 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 sum of money it would take to convince them to intentionally play worse and fix a game.

Sports Analysts Pick Winners

It’s easy to turn on ESPN or open your local newspaper to find picks for this week’s 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 his or her record in picking winners. Want a real-world example? The combined picks of the sports experts at the New York Post over the last two decades have never once hit the 50% mark. People who are paid to write or talk about sports are creating entertainment and are paid to keep people reading their paper or watching their station. They are far less concerned with the way their picks actually 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, and 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 that promises wins if you place wagers a certain way. Instead, spend your time looking into the teams and players in the games you’re going to wager on and make 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, 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 means that some teams or players will have a randomly 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 logic and you are more likely to be a successful sports gambler.