The sportsbooks cleaned up in Week 9 of the 2019 NFL season with four out of the five most publicly backed teams in losing outright.
If you’re anything like me, you probably fell victim to at least one of those games (it was New England -3 for me). But dealing with losses in betting is something I’ve grown accustom to. Sports betting swings are very similar to the ones I experienced playing poker. One week I’m running hot and the next, I’m left crying in the corner downing a pint of pumpkin pie ice cream.
How does one deal with the emotional stress of losing bets? This is a question I’m asked often. I’m not credentialed in this area but having been in the gambling world for some time, I've found a few things that have helped me to mitigate that sick feeling I get after gut-punching losses.
Here they are:
1: Keep Sports Betting Recreational
Can you name one true professional sports bettor? Someone who does this day in and day out, doesn’t sell picks, doesn’t profit from running their own book. Someone who makes a legit income from just betting on sports? I can’t.
I’m sure there’s an elite bunch out there somewhere hiding away in their lair with their AI systems and their algorithm models giving them the information they need to place a (winning) bet. But I don’t know any.
For the majority of people, myself included, sports betting is a recreational hobby. It’s important that you remember that. We aren’t trying to become millionaires from betting the NFL every Sunday. Is that even possible? I’ll go with NO! Instead, we are simply trying to make a few extra bucks by placing a wager on a game we want to watch – and betting is just an additional form of entertainment.
Labeling it as ‘entertainment’ doesn’t take away from the fact that we are still indeed trying to gain a positive ROI (return on investment) but by reminding yourself that it is a recreational hobby, it will keep you from losing your mind – and your bankroll.
2: Withdraw Your Winnings
This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. Over and over again, I’d make an initial deposit, run it WAY up, only to lose it all on a Sunday. It’s not a fun feeling. But how does this happen? I’d stay disiplined with my unit size, but I’d get over-confident and spread myself too thin on games I didn’t properly handicap. Making a deposit after losing it all – yet again – is not a good feeling.
Here’s what I learned to do instead: withdraw… withdraw… withdraw. Define a rule for when to withdraw. Maybe it’s after doubling your initial deposit. Take out your profit, and keep playing with the money you felt comfortable investing in the first place. It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that your hot streak will continue. You’ll make more money in the long run if you stick to this system.
Betting online requires so much more discipline than betting in person at a window. If you place an in-person bet and you lose, that’s it! The money is gone. If you win, you walk up to the counter and collect. Online, it’s so easy to click buttons from your phone, on your laptop, while you’re working, when you’re drinking, when you’re [insert activity here]. Without proper withdraw discipline, your bankroll can quickly evaporate. Set a rule and stick to it.
3: Only Bet Money you can Afford to Lose
This seems like a basic concept but it’s one that's often lost by the betting public and if it's not followed, it's a good way to get into deep trouble. The industry standard for a bet size is $100 as it’s the value that anchors the American Odds system. For many, however, $100 is too much to be betting per game. Each bettor needs to set a personal budget based on their own financial circumstances.
Keep it simple. Set a weekly budget. Let’s say you budget $100 for the week. Your season-long total budget should be between 15-20 times your weekly budget, which means your total budget for football season would be between $1,500 and $2,000.
Sports outcomes can be volatile. You can run cold and if it lasts all season, you could be out that entire $2,000. Even if you can afford to lose two grand, do you want to? If the answer is no, you should consider a lower weekly budget and a lower unit size.
Remember, sports betting is a recreational activity, if it’s not fun and you're stressing the losses, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Check out the rest of our sports betting 101 section to learn more and become a better bettor.