My husband will tell you that the biggest regret he has leaving Indiana was leaving the access to legal sports betting. Despite legislation moving through here in Ohio, he spends a great deal of time longing for the “good ol’ days” when he could legally bet on sports. So what’s the draw? Does he have a problem?

Nope. Sports betting is rooted in some solid social psychology and both the in-person sports books and the apps know exactly what they’re doing…and you’ll never outsmart them!

If you want to get a little better at sports betting, stick around. The first thing you need to know is that impulsive betting will lead to greater losses. Slowing down, pausing, and placing thoughtful bets based on some objective data will lead to more money in your pocket than allowing your emotions to rule. 

With that being said, decide how much money you’re comfortable spending. Think about it like planning a trip. Set a budget for how much you’re willing to spend and make decisions based on that. A $3000 vacation budget will help me reign in my spending on flights and lodging and make choices that balance luxury and budget. Similarly, if you decide you’re comfortable spending (losing) $200 today, it will guide your bets in a way that is more likely to create a better return. 

Once you’ve set your spending limit, then think about your betting strategy. Do you like to bet the money line usually? Does a parlay make watching the events more fun for you? Go in with a plan and stick to it. Basic psychology tells us that when start losing money, we start making bigger, more reckless bets. In fact, it’s much like golf. Golfers tend to start taking riskier and less successful shots after a mistake. The best golfers stick to the plan they set at the start no matter how it’s going. So decide what types of things will increase your enjoyment. I’m here to tell you, the impulsive “DOUBLE OR NOTHING!” does not work in your favor. 

Also consider using a bit of trickery. For every bet that hits, pull some of that money and tuck it away. Then you can chose to “reinvest” the leftover in a way that reduces overall risk and increases potential reward. When you create that padding of money from winnings, you are more likely to make sound next bets rather than riskier ones. 

Finally, make smart bets. Unless the act of making the bet is more fun for you than the outcome of the bet, you need to bet with your brain, not your heart. Betting on your “favorite” or betting on what you WANT the outcome to be will increase your likelihood to lose. Sure, sometimes the odds are aligned with your favorites and desires, but don’t let that guide your betting. 

While there are many more components and far more complicated strategies, this is a good place to start for the casual bettor. And please know, betting should be viewed as spending money for an experience. When we move into a space of not being able to stop, spending to “fix” something, or betting to distract from negative feelings, we’re moving into a problem. If you begin losing more than you can afford to lose, please consider confiding someone and getting some help. Gambling addiction can destroy lives. So remember…sports betting should be FUN and viewed similarly to spending on a vacation…for the experience. 

Dr. Chelsi Day

Dr. Day is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is an Ohio native who completed her Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Health and Sport Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio while competing on the Varsity Swimming and Diving team as a diver. She then went on to earn a Master's degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology followed by a Master's degree and later a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University New England in Keene, NH.