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Learn Sports Betting 101 With The ‘Teach Me To Bet’ Series

Written By Dave Bontempo on October 15, 2020 - Last Updated on December 5, 2023
Learn sports betting basics with PlayUSA's Teach Me To Sports Bet series.

In football, it’s the end of the first quarter.

In “Teach Me to Sports Bet,” the weekly instructional sports betting basics video series on PlayUSA‘s YouTube channel featuring Kimberly Yuhl and me, it’s the end of the NFL’s first marking period.

And “Kimmee” got an A.

Kim’s biggest accomplishment is forming a foundation to achieve the critical first step, not getting crushed right off the bat, ensuring long-term interest in sports betting. To get an idea of the series, here is the first video:

Start off with sportsbook promos and sign-up offers

Kim’s journey from late August into early October mirrors the evolution of the new-age sports betting world. Thanks to mobile devices, each bettor holds a sportsbook in the palm of his or her hand. Each bettor peruses literally thousands of potential wagers each week and, like a good shopper, must find an edge.

Here’s what Kim did. The first area involved taking what the sportsbooks offered, much like maximizing the match a company would provide your IRA.

She made a deposit on the DraftKings Sportsbook app and seized a Week One promo awarding $100 for selecting a team to win on the moneyline. Kim selected the Baltimore Ravens, who triumphed handily over the Cleveland Browns, and obtained a combination of money and free bets.

Kim maximized the free bets, meeting the deadlines for when they needed to be used. One of them was a Week Two losing bet on the Kansas City Chiefs to cover against the Los Angeles Chargers. But two of them, including the Indianapolis Colts in Week Four against the Chicago Bears, came through and brought money to her bankroll.

She subsequently found the advantage of DraftKings’ 20% profit boosts and turned a couple of her winning wagers into additional cash. She looks for these promos every week. And they are there, from odds boosts to parlays.

Kim is up nearly $200, derived mostly from maximizing promos, free bets and profit boosts.

Strong budgeting for your bets

Kim established a bankroll of $500 for the NFL season. That broke down to $30 a week, but she doesn’t have to play that amount each time. She made a good nonmove in the first week of the campaign by not betting at all. It made sense, because there was no NFL preseason and there were no performances to factor into handicapping.

Kim decided “no insight, no investment.” This is an important characteristic. There is a strong temptation to play something just because it’s there. Just because it’s on your phone. Just because it’s staring at you from the other side of the computer. And just because we love playing.

Many seasoned gamblers don’t exhibit the restraint Kim showed in Week One. This appears to be a philosophical carryover from her poker-playing days, in which gamblers make a decision about the hand after receiving two cards. If those cards aren’t favorable, players exit the hand. Kim exited the NFL’s Week One pot and looked smart after many bettors said they’d had an awful first week.

Kim stayed near the $30 pace in the following three weeks and has begun to experiment with side journeys, like moneyline parlays, to extend her knowledge base and enjoyment. I called it a “homework assignment” for her and wished I’d gotten one like this when I was in school.

The next level: picks

As Kim’s instructor, I’d like her to develop her own gut instincts. This is a perpetual process for anyone.

What separates gambling profit and loss over time is winning the “battle of extremes.” Many players will hit 45-55% of their bets, and the difficulty is compounded by the vig, or the extra 10% players give to the book in order to play.

Winning the battle of extremes means having a certain number of winning bets when doubling or tripling the wager. That’s the only way to get ahead of the mathematical probabilities.

You put yourself in a position to make those hits by building your database, watching games and developing a feel for when to bet bigger. That knowledge will be derived from believing you’ve seen a pattern with certain teams. It may take weeks, but eventually, a game lines up and one concludes, “I’ve seen this pattern. The game should end like X.”

Never mind the handicappers. Never mind the computer models simulating a game 10,000 times. No person or computer can guarantee the next outcome. But your gut can suggest it.

Developing a knowledge base

Kim has gained an understanding of favorable and unfavorable numbers for bets.

In Week One, for example, the Philadelphia Eagles were a -278 on the moneyline against the Washington Football Team. It was a bad number, because one had to wager $278 to profit $100 if the Eagles won the game outright. And they didn’t. Kim stayed off of that bet.

A good number (for Kim) is a favorite laying less than a touchdown against the underdog. Kim has stayed true to this concept, with one exception. And she got away with it, taking the Indianapolis Colts at -11 against the New York Jets before they romped 36-7 in Week Three. Sometimes the gut outweighs logic, and that bet must then be played.

Continued growth in sports betting

Kim is not chasing losing bets or doubling down if she made money one week. Good. She is beginning to ask meaningful questions, like whether the Philadelphia Eagles should be given respect for beating a banged-up 49ers team. Good, good.

She is stepping back amid information overload. If too much information confuses the issue, that’s no bet. Wise choice.

What she wants next is to get an instinct about more teams. That will develop over time.

She has a potential blind spot regarding her beloved Arizona Cardinals and can minimize that by assessing more teams over time or by developing such a strong feel for one or two teams that they get most of her bets. She’s cashed in on the Colts the last two weeks.

Our joke: Kim (of course) has friends in many cities. They all chime in on the NFL. We may reach a point where there’s no game she doesn’t like.

In conclusion, Kim has strong budgeting fundamentals and gambling instincts from other games. She’s in that 45-55% win range mentioned earlier, but she’s far ahead financially because she maximized the promos and offers from the sportsbooks.

Kim also understands the need for fun and is starting to compartmentalize her budget to allow for impulsive and even crazy wagers. Where’s the enjoyment if we don’t do that? Just put it in the budget. When Kim branches out, she does so smartly, in managed steps.

Her journey is a revealing experience for any new gambler. The choices are intimidating. Discipline is essential. And, because the joy of winning is unmatched, we need to preserve that bankroll.

Kim’s novel idea of learning sports betting techniques from the ground up has never been more timely. She is learning a skill during the most exhilarating yet complex era in sports betting history.

Her journey mirrors the evolution of sports betting itself. The industry has been transformed in a complex era via mobile betting and creative sportsbook operators.

One’s phone is a miniature, handheld sportsbook containing thousands of wagering options. It’s easy to become lost in a sea of parlays, over-unders, adjusted lines and in-game bets, spread across the spectrum of numerous sports. Narrowing down the options to make smart decisions is critical.

Photo by Andrew Harnik / Associated Press
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others. He writes significantly about the emerging world of legal New Jersey sports betting.

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