Sports bettor studying athletes

Sports betting is growing by leaps and bounds even in countries where it has long been legal.  This contrasts with the United States where sports betting was illegal in most jurisdictions for decades until last year when the Supreme Court said that any state could legalize sports betting if it so desired.  Now legal sports betting in the United States is growing fast as states begin to implement it.

Now that sports betting is so popular, many new sports bettors are asking how they can know enough to make smart bets on sports matches.  Here are a few answers.

You Won't Know Enough

By this, we mean that it is impossible to know enough about more than a few sports to be able to make sound bets on any other sports.  This is one of the most important pieces of advice you'll likely hear from many sports betting industry observers: simply become expert in one or at the most two sports and don't bet on any others.

The Road to Expertise

Sportsbooks are counting on you to bet on sports that you don't know well and to bet from the heart rather than betting from your mind.  Thus, the Super Bowl of American football, which was played just on February 2, garnered millions of dollars in bets even from bettors in countries that never see American football.  The game was such an international spectacle that many sports bettors got swept up in the hoopla.  


Truly sound sports betting requires research.  In this sense, it is no different than buying and selling in financial markets.  In the stock market, companies are divided into sectors.  Many people, feeling a sector is on the upswing, put money heavily into many companies in that sector even though some of the companies are not strong enough to warrant such confidence.

Fortunes are made or lost in sports betting as much as in financial markets.

Every minute you spend researching one sport is time away from researching another sport.  So, concentrate on one sport or at the very most two sports.

Player and Coach Evaluation

When we learn as much as we can about a sport we have to divide the areas of evaluation into two broad categories: player evaluation and coach and staff evaluation.


Player evaluation is more difficult than coach evaluation.  There are many more variables with players than with coaches.

Upside, or potential, is one such variable.  A player may enter the top league with relatively little playing experience.  As a sports bettor, you need to coldly determine in your own mind how much any given player may improve in the next few seasons.   

This type of evaluation varies from sport to sport.  Whilst you have to rely to some degree on sportswriters’ evaluations, you also must keep in mind that they are not professionals in any single sport.

Body Type

Some athletes enter the top league in their sport needing to add muscle mass to their bodies.  You need to be aware that many athletes can’t add a lot of muscle.  These may be great athletes but they will have to find a way to excel with a less muscular body.

College Experience

In many modern sports, players get a great deal of experience playing at the university level.  However, there are many levels of competition at the university level.  This is especially true of the major American sports. 

An athlete who excelled at his or her university level may be unable to excel at the much more demanding professional level.


This is a very broad category that also includes the necessary quality called teachability and the essential quality called work ethic.

A player’s character may not have anything particular to do with a single match but in every sport and in every season there are a few players who suddenly are suspended because of character issues.  The most common are domestic violence and drug or alcohol use.  You need to keep track of sudden events of this sort to know how safe a bet might be.

Teachability is the willingness of athletes to learn from their coaches.  Every sport has a few prima donnas who never take instruction.  They hold their teams back and cost sports bettors a lot of anguish and money.  When we look back at the best athletes and teams, we see that excellence in many cases rests with the athletes’ ability to learn from their coaches.

We often assume that all professional athletes have a strong work ethic but this is dramatically not the case.  This season, the Chicago Bulls gave a big contract to Jabari Parker hoping that he had grown up and would accept coaching.  He hadn’t and didn’t so the team traded him after a half season with the team.

In contrast, Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs baseball team went to work last winter to lose weight and get into the best physical condition of his life because he had had a poor season.  The results were some improvement and this winter he is back working hard to get better at his job.

In sports where the average players are closed to each other in skill, the difference between winning and losing a match or having overall success in a season may be the team’s collective character, teachability, and work ethic.


We see athletes in action but we have a much more difficult time seeing coaches in action.  The best way to evaluate coaches is by seeing how much the players on their teams improve from year to year.  Some coaches can take a team of relatively average players and win whilst other coaches can take a team of superior athletes and lose.

Assess not Guess

Coaches do this all the time.  They run their team through plays over and over with two thoughts in mind.  One, they want the team to execute plays as they are supposed to execute them and, second, they want to see how every player responds to constant repetition.

Coaches cannot afford to guess and neither can sports bettors.  Assessing involves measuring performances that can be measured and it involves watching keenly to see how athletes perform tasks that can’t be measured.


The bottom line is that if you are truly committed to betting from your mind, you need to invest many hours evaluating players, teams, and coaches.

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