Too many sports bettors have stiff necks – they only look forward. Recreational bettors are quick to forget losses of the past or even their wins – quickly scouring stats, posts, and analysis to find the next day’s hot picks.
Failing to self-assess stunts the bankroll of many bettors. This separates the winning sports bettors from the recreational losers… and it really is not hard.
Search for beginning sports betting advice on any website and you’ll be sure to find “keep a log of the games you bet”. This is for bankroll tracking and assessing the leaks in your game.
Sports Bettors Should Keep Good Records
The term “leak” is a crossover term from poker. Good poker players – especially ones who play primarily online – catalog each hand they play into a database so that they can go back and analyze how they played.
This makes it quite easy to spot facets of your poker game that are -EV. Maybe they are too passive with monster pocket pairs or call too much with flash draws … stuff like that.
This term has been applied to sports betting in the exact same context.
Back when I first started betting sports in college I did not keep records of my bets. I would bet on all the sports I followed – MLB, NFL, NBA, college sports, even some European soccer if I got a tip from a buddy.
At the end of the year I had no clue which sports were my best sports, which types of bets tended to win, or which bets or teams were costing me boatloads of money.
I began logging my picks in a simple spreadsheet on Google Sheets and it quickly helped me identify my good sports, my bad sports, my good bets, and my bad bets.
Experts say you shouldn’t bet on the teams that you love because you are incapable of thinking objectively – that was true for me. For months I had ignored that advice, thinking my analytical, math-based mind was immune to that type of error, but I was dead wrong. Betting on my beloved Tigers, Lions, or Michigan Wolverines in -EV spots was killing me.
I learned that I am not a great college football bettor. I learned that I’m pretty good at baseball and basketball. I have my moments in the NFL, but college football is by far my worst sport.
Guess what, I scaled back the college football bets immediately. I never would have developed the wisdom to do this without first tracking my picks.
Now I have even greater accountability than a private spreadsheet that I keep to myself. I post a lot of my stuff online for the world to see. With the 2021 NFL season drawing to a close I want to look back at this article that I wrote in July.
You’re Not Always Even “in the Ballpark”
While I didn’t make any concrete predictions in this article – it was just a preview – I was stunned, like I am every year, at how inaccurate some of our consensus preseason predictions are.
Every single year there are teams receiving so much preseason hype who never deliver. Likewise there are teams projected to finish in last place each year who have amazing seasons.
Far too often as sports bettors we forget to go back and look at these things and we continue thinking that preseason projections have to be right. We continue thinking that the preseason number one team is for sure at least going to make a deep playoff run.
At one point or another we have all been guilty of putting far too much stock in the long-term predictions of the so-called experts … or of ourselves.
It always makes me chuckle a little bit when I see people posting online about preseason futures that they want to jump on but they are scared because the line is a few points off.
Have you ever heard someone say, I would take the Packers to win the Super Bowl at +600 but right now they are only +550 and I just don’t feel like I’m getting enough value?
What, are you psychic?! How can you confidently say that the Packers are going to finish close enough to your projections then an extra 50 points on the line will help you?!
Far too often we check ESPN in the preseason and see that the Packers are projected for 12 wins. OK, that means they’ll probably win somewhere between 10 to 14 games.
In reality, that range is probably anywhere from 6 to 16. We love to think that our projections are right or that the experts are always right, failing to realize that far far far too often we are way off.
With most of the divisions already wrapped up, let’s take a look back at the preseason division odds – taking time to reflect on how we felt about them at the time and see how our projections held up.
The Bengals and Cardinals Shock Us All
The most glaring inaccuracy is the Cincinnati Bengals. Back in July, the Bengals were (+2000) to win the AFC North and projected to win as many games as the Detroit Lions.
Guess what, the Bengals have been out in front of the AFC North for a lot of the season and just clinched it last week. Most of us did not even give the Bengals a chance in the preseason because we put way too much stock in the projections.
Do you know who was projected to win the AFC North in the preseason? The Ravens. They now have just a 2% shot of even getting into the playoffs entering Week 18 – needing several games to break their way.
The Arizona Cardinals were another surprisingly good team that few saw coming. The Cardinals were receiving the longest odds to win the NFC West at (+575). Now granted, that’s a pretty good price for the last-place team, but as it turns out they should’ve been right there with the Rams.
Here’s how quickly we forget how much of a surprise Arizona was: The Cardinals quickly won their first 7 games and became the best team in the NFL. Were people saying, wow what a surprise I sure didn’t see this coming? No! Instead, they kept their heads turned straight forward and began treating Arizona like the contender they were.
That is all well and good until next year rolls around and those same people forget that surprises like Arizona or Cincinnati can happen. These people will totally ignore underdogs again and shoot themselves in the foot to begin yet another NFL season.
Some bettors erroneously think that betting the NFL becomes easier later in the season because you can get a better feel for the teams and make more accurate handicaps. While that may be true, the multi-billion dollar brains in Vegas also get better as the season goes along and they have way more time and resources to invest in handicapping than you.
The best time to beat the books in the NFL is early in the season. This is when the lines are their softest.
Many bettors find success in the NFL, MLB, or even NBA by betting underdogs early in the year. When we aren’t sure which teams are good yet, doesn’t it make sense to err on the side of the team getting the points? I have learned the value in this the more time I spend in the sports betting world. This is something I wish I knew earlier.
Sadly, far too many recreational battors are scared to put money on underdogs early because they think there’s no way that team will get off to a hot start, especially when playing a team that is projected to do well. This is a classic case of putting way too much stock in preseason projections.
Of course, the public was right about some teams. We figured the Bucs would be good and win the South. They did. We figured the Chiefs would be good and win the West. The season didn’t unfold like we thought it would for Kansas City, but we were ultimately correct.
I’m not saying you should never get hyped for big, contending favorites in the preseason and that you should go out and blindly bet the farm on each underdog.
We would be remiss if we didn’t take the time to look back at the times we were dead wrong and see if there was anything we could do differently in our handicapping next year so we don’t make the same mistakes again.
All it takes is to be right about a few underdogs and you’ve cashed a major payday.
By holding yourself accountable and analyzing your picks objectively – the good and the bad – you can find flaws in your thinking and identify sports or bets that may not be suitable or profitable for you.
Sure, we can all agree that the Bengals are good now but never forget that you were so wrong about them early in the season.
Far too many sports bettors get caught with their heads stuck in the current betting landscape and they totally forget to look back and explore how that landscape changed over time.
In a business where jumping on trends is the name of the game, shouldn’t we research how those trends operate? Taking the time to self-analyze will prove wildly beneficial for many recreational sports bettors. It did for me.
I’m looking forward to the final week of a terrific season of NFL football. Let’s not forget how these teams got here and which ones we were wrong about. We should strive to become stronger preseason projectors in 2022.
See you on top, Boppers!
Kreighton loves sports, math, writing, and winning — he combines all of them as a writer for WagerBop. His favorite sports to review are MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAAF, and NCAABB.
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