How to be a winning sports bettor

Sports betting can be a fun and enjoyable hobby for any sports enthusiast or gambler, but the bulk of sports bettors lose.

Because they are doing it for fun, this is not a problem, but it only takes a bit of shrewdness, training and control to win some of the money your fellow sports bettors are losing.

  • Specialise
  • Have a system and do the research
  • Set yourself rules and be disciplined
  • Bankroll management


Most professional sports bettors specialise in one sport. At first, you will probably try betting on many different sports when you are getting a feel for things, but after a while look over your results, and you will find you are more profitable on some sports than others.

If you can specialise in an obscure league, you can gain an edge by knowing more about that league than the Bookie you are betting against.

A sportsbook will know absolutely everything there is to know in high profile competitions like the Premier League or the NFL, so the most you can do is be as informed as the sportsbook, which gives you no edge.

If you can become a true expert of the Turkish Basketball League or the Hungarian Second Division of Football, for example, you can be more knowledgeable than the sportsbook, therefore, gaining an edge.

The only small drawback to specialising in an obscure competition is that sometimes the odds being offered are poor value, always make sure to shop around for odds as this strategy doesn’t work if you’re settling for -EV odds.

Conclusion: Narrowing your focus to one specific market on one particular competition, in my opinion, is a good strategy to gain an edge over the bookmaker.


Have a system and do the research

A system is a way of making betting selections and a staking plan. You need to have a system and have enough faith in that system to stick to it and keep investing in it even when you are worried about losing.

With past sporting results and odds readily available online you can backtest your ideas for systems or test out systems in real time by paper trading. Paper trading is writing down your bets but not actually placing them and then looking over the results of what would have happened if you had have placed them.

For real-time testing, we think you are better off making the bets but starting at the sportsbook’s minimum stake.

Always study the form and relevant conditions for a match to be well prepared to make your bets. With all the information available at your fingertips online it will usually take less than 15 minutes to research a team’s relevant past performances, injuries and so on. When you are betting in your system, you will know what information you need and where to find it, meaning pre-bet research will only take a few moments.

Read our Tips for doing research on Football Tips 

Conclusion: Separating the signal from the noise is often difficult, over time you will see what metrics matter and what ones don’t. Paper test systems at first or trial them using minimum stakes.

Set yourself rules and be disciplined

You will need some betting rules or a code you can stick by to avoid making common betting mistakes and to bet in a consistent and controlled way.

I am a successful sports bettor and share my rules here to serve as an example. These rules work well for my betting systems and counteract some mistakes I am prone to make. Because you will be using your own system and you have your own tendencies your rules will have to be specially tailored to suit you.

  • Only bet on team sports.
  • Only bet when undistracted and able to concentrate.
  • Never bet on something because you want it to happen.
  • Only bet within a system, never bet for the sake of betting or for fun.
  • Only bet amounts that you can afford to lose.
  • Always research before betting.
  • I do not stick to these rules 100% of the time, but when I do I am profitable, and when I don’t, I am not profitable which proves the value of the rules.

Bankroll management

Your bankroll is not necessarily your betting account balance; it is the total amount of funds you have available for betting.

Your staking plan that is how much you stake per bet. Your staking plan is almost as important as your bet selections themselves.

You can choose to stake a certain amount per selection and let the odds decide your potential winnings, or you can choose to win a certain amount per winning selection and let the odds decide your stake.

You need to be able to survive a bad run so if you’re staking 10% of your bankroll per bet you can only go on a losing streak of ten bets before you lose all your allocated betting money. Personally, stakes start at 1% of my bankroll but can go higher when appropriate.

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