11 Unspoken Rules of Sports Betting

As legal sports betting grows across the country, everyone (and their sister) has a hot take about this week’s NFL spreads to share—not to mention plenty of gambling jargon to insert into the conversation.

California sports betting coming out of the shadows is a noteworthy development. But don’t get so caught up in the excitement that you look past the learning curve.

It takes a lot of work to be good at sports betting, and getting there is about more than learning how to pick winners and losers. There are some unwritten rules that you’ll want to pay attention to, including proper etiquette among bettors and things you’ll want to avoid. Here are 11 of them to start with:

1. Bet with your head, not your heart

We all have rooting interests for a favorite team or a preferred outcome of a game. Betting solely based on whom you’re cheering for is a recipe for disaster. Not only are there no guarantees that your hopes will come to fruition, but it can also leave you with bad vibes toward the players and teams that you like. Bet with your head, and pass when you can’t separate your rooting interest.

2. Never call someone else’s bet

No matter how sure you think you are of an outcome, never ever call it a “done deal” or anything along those lines when it has to do with someone else’s bet. Period. Just don’t do it. It’s a bad look as it is, but some bettors can get really up in arms about it as if you’re jinxing them. When it has to do with another person’s wager that’s playing out, root politely, but keep your opinions to yourself.

3. Don’t count your money before the bet is over

Similar to the above, don’t make the mistake of celebrating a victory before the result is official. Strange things can happen on the field of play, and games that look as though they’re wrapped up can shift quickly. Massive leads with seconds to play are pretty safe, but don’t make the mistake of feeling the same way when there are several minutes left on the clock.

4. Random dart throws while hoping for a bull’s-eye can be costly

The lure of the big return from betting on sports can be appealing, but actually catching the big one is far from easy. For some sports bettors, the answer is to throw a bunch of small-dollar bets at the big score while hoping one sticks. This rarely works out well. In addition, it’s a sneaky bankroll drain that can add up quickly. A shot or two with small bets is fine for fun, but leave it at that.

5. Don’t chase bad beats

Losses come with the territory of sports betting. There’s no way to get around that. Sometimes the defeat will sting badly, as in a last-second heartbreaking loss. When this happens to you, try to shake it off and fight another day. Revenge betting to recoup your losses while attempting to right what you view as wrong will generally lead to very poor decision-making and losses.

6. Be cool with hot takes

As sports betting continues to gain popularity, the proverbial hot takes from media personalities can be all over the place. Treat them as what they are: entertainment. The talking heads aren’t soothsayers, no matter how convincing they may sound. Do yourself a favor and form your own opinions; be skeptical otherwise.

7. Hope to win, but don’t consider it a foregone conclusion

Confidence can be a good thing, but overconfidence can be dangerous. When you make a bet, you likely expect to win. But don’t let those expectations metastasize. We all lose with sports betting, and it can happen when we least expect it. Wager on your most confident plays, but don’t expect to win every time.

8. The past is no guarantee of what’s to come

The trend is your friend, right? Not always. If you listen to many pundits, they can wow you with insights on fascinating trends for an upcoming game. These trends may be relevant to what’s going to happen. Then again, they may not. There’s a lot that goes into betting successfully. Trends can be a small piece of the puzzle, but they’re far from the magic answer to everything.

9. Accept that anything can happen

When athletes step onto the field, anything can happen. Yep, that means that big favorites can lose, and massive underdogs can pull out upsets. If all matchups were foregone conclusions, would anyone watch or bet? If you spend enough time around online sports betting, you’ll learn to expect the unexpected. Learning to take it in stride is the best advice.

10. If they say you can’t lose, run

If your plan to win your bets relies on hot tips from an online handicapper, you may want to recalibrate. While there are some tout services that provide value and do their best for their clients, that is not always the case. Scamdicappers are common on social media and the web. If you see someone promising that you “can’t lose,” move along quickly.

11. Stay in your lane

If you’re going to put your money at risk, stick to what you know. If you’re knowledgeable about football, that may be where you want to bet. If you know nothing about basketball, maybe try to find another option. You should also stay in your lane with the amount that you’re wagering. No matter how great you think your pick is, never bet with any amount that you would be uncomfortable losing.

This is just a small sample of the common rules that sports bettors pass along. At the end of the day, sports betting should be entertaining. If you can avoid these potential missteps and pitfalls, the chances of it being just that increase. Before too long, you’ll have an answer to the following question: What are some unwritten rules you’d share with other rookies?

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