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Can you really make a living betting on sports?

I'm going to guess that you're not a math genius (that's okay, neither am I).

There's nothing wrong with that most of us aren't.

There's also many sports fans who seem to know every stat, about every player, on every team, and they think that their knowledge is going to give them the edge needed to beat the sportsbooks.

It won't. The line already includes every bit of knowledge they have.

Sure, they'll have their winning streaks, and that causes them to wonder if they could actually do this for a living.

To those people, the answer is NO! They will not be able to make a living betting on sports.

If knowledge of the game was all you needed, there wouldn't be anybody working at ESPN, FOX Sports, or SKY; they'd all be rich from staying home and just betting on the games.

So for the rest of us who aren't delusional die-hard sports fans or math geniuses, that leaves us with the option of paying professionals for their opinions. These professionals are either called handicappers, touts or tipsters, depending on where you live in the world.

So ... can you?

​This blog is about my experiment to see if I can make a living just from betting on sports.

I'm not rich, so I still have a day job.

I'm starting with a $2,000 bankroll that I will be depositing into various sportsbooks.

One of the systems that I use (I developed it myself) is a live betting system, and BetOnline has one of the best live betting platforms (with decent limits) for Americans.

I will start off using the following sportsbooks:

  • BetOnline. They offer a 50% welcome bonus up to $2,500 for new accounts. They also have a 25% lifetime reload bonus, up to $1,000. They even have a $25 live betting free play, as well as a $50 mobile betting free play.

    I do a lot of live betting, and BetOnline gets probably 98% of my live bets.
  • 5Dimes. They offer up to a $520 welcome bonus for new accounts, and up to a $500 reload bonus. You also get to choose between either reduced juice or a cash back program. I chose the reduced juice option.

    5Dimes gets most of my UFC/MMA betting action, because I can always bet on whatever fight that I want to.
  • Heritage Sports. They offer a 50% cash bonus up to $250 on new accounts, and a 10% reload bonus, up to $500. They also offer reduced juice and a cash back program.

    I don't make a ton of bets at Heritage, but they do have a good live betting system, and frequently offer really great odds if you're unable to bet at Pinnacle.
  • MyBookie. For new accounts, you can choose either a 20% cash bonus (up to $500) or a 50% free play bonus (up to $3,000). For reloads, you get a 25% bonus (up to $500).

    I primarily joined MyBookie for the incredible bonuses they offer, but they do offer live betting and you'll get great lines during American football season. For the rest of the year, I rarely make any bets at MyBookie, because of their standard 20-cent lines.

    But when the American football season rolls around, MyBookie gets a lot of my action. Their bonuses are incredible, and they're competitive on lines.
  • Bookmaker. For new accounts, you can choose between a 15% free-play bonus (up to $1,500) or 50% cash bonus (up to $1,000). For reloads, there's a 100% free-play bonus (up to $1,000).
  • Bovada. For new accounts, there's a 50% bonus (up to $250). They also have reload bonuses, but they're not advertised.

    Bovada is a great sportsbook that you have to have, simply because they have great odds on dogs. They've definitely made me a chunk of money, just from the better odds.

    I bet a lot of underdogs, so I would be leaving quite a bit of money on the table if I didn't give Bovada some of my action.
  • Pinnacle. They don't offer any bonuses whatsoever, but Pinnacle is my all-time favorite sportsbook.

    They openly welcome winners (they don't limit your account for winning), they have incredibly high betting limits, and they offer lines on all the major sports. Their live betting system isn't the best out there, otherwise they would get nearly all of my action.

    Unfortunately, Pinnacle doesn't accept US residents, but if you're able to get an account with them, Pinnacle is definitely a must!

They're all pretty much the same. They all pay fast, they all offer plenty of different wagering options. Most of them accept Americans and have great welcome and reload bonuses (only Pinnacle doesn't).

I have my reasons for having accounts at each of them. There are a few other European sportsbooks I will be creating accounts at eventually, because they offer a lot more bets for soccer.

For now, I'm sticking with the above sportsbooks.

The Rules

​Since none of my bets are any stronger than the others, I will be betting them all for the same amount.

Some handicappers release plays for multiple units, but I strictly bet the same amount on all bets. Therefore, the records I report for those handicappers will be slightly different than what they have.

I don't know how they pick their games, so I don't know if they rate their games based on a mathematical edge, or just how strongly they feel about the game. For this reason, I flat bet the same amount (level stakes).

The only time I would consider following a handicapper's unit rating system is if I knew that the picks came from a model, and the unit rating was directly related to what percent edge that pick had.

I will be betting to risk 1% of my bankroll, and this number will change daily. My spreadsheet keeps track of this for me, and tells me how much I should be risking per bet.

I will be as transparent as I can be. I will be tracking everything with a spreadsheet, and will be sharing those results with you.

I will be doing a weekly update post, and my weeks run from Monday to Sunday.

I have 3 systems that I developed myself. I probably won't ever reveal what they are, but they are definitely profitable. 

I will also be purchasing picks from a few different handicappers that I trust and that have been in business for years.

My Criteria for Choosing Handicappers​

Let's face it, most handicappers give the entire industry a bad name.

They're mediocre at best, but they're absolutely great at marketing, and manipulating your emotions.

They want you to think that something is wrong with you, and that you can't win without their advice.

They tout seemingly incredibly winning percentages (which are either extremely cherry-picked subsets of their bets), or more than likely, just outright lies), and frequently have Game of the Year bets every weekend.

They advise you to bet 10 units, or 10-20% of your bankroll on their plays. This is a quick way to lose all of your money. If you regularly risk more than 3% of your bankroll per bet, you WILL have to reload at some point. It's a mathematical certainty.

It's only a matter of when, not if. It will happen.

A lot of them say they have insider information, or used to play the game, or used to be a coach, or try to use trends, weather, or even "bad" game schedules (like east coast teams having to fly to the west coast for a late night game and then back the next day for an early game).

It's really no wonder they have such bad reputations.

Unfortunately, sports bettors fall for their scams every day, and then once they lose their money, they swear off handicappers for life, and never end up making money from betting on sports.

Obviously, I won't be using any of these types of handicappers. I have my own criteria that I'll be using to pick which handicappers that I'll be buying picks from.

  1. They must have released a minimum of 1,000 picks over a minimum of 1 year. Anybody can go on winning streaks. Twitter is full of what’re known as “Twitter touts”, who go on winning streaks and decide to start selling their picks. When they go on their losing streak, they close that account and start a new Twitter handle. Anybody that can stand the test of time, especially over 1,000+ picks, isn’t using luck. They have skills, and I will gladly pay for their picks.
  2. Their record must be tracked somewhere. With the exception of one handicapper (because I’ve known and followed him for years) that I’ll be using, every other handicapper that I use must have their picks tracked at a 3rd party site. Too many handicappers lie. It’s too easy to change your record on your own website. When it comes to my money, I trust very few people. For this reason, they must be tracked, and there’s a handful of tracker sites that I trust.
  3. They must release the picks early enough for me to get my bets in. I have a day job. I have things to do. I can’t be sitting around waiting for my phone to ding to let me know I have bets to place. I work in an office, and frequently have meetings. I can’t be getting an email 15 minutes before a game starts, or during halftime (to make a 2nd half bet). I want a minimum of 4 hours before a game starts to get my bets in.
  4. I must stick with them for at least 1 season. I’ve been betting on sports for long enough now that I know that there will always be winning and losing streaks. You can lose for 4 months in a row and then have a killer 5th month that makes up all your profit for the season. It’s just how sports betting works. You have to have the bankroll to weather the storms, and you have to be realistic about what to expect.

I know that by restricting handicappers to the above criteria, I remove most of them. I’m fine with that. I’m incredibly picky about who I go into business with. You should never do business with a handicapper that you’ve never researched or never heard of before. They don’t have insider information. There are very few reliable betting models that work, so you have to go with professionals that use one of these models.

If you’re bored and you get a tout on the phone, try asking him how he gets his picks. What model does he use; how is he actually determining who is going to win the bet (whether money line, spread, total or 1st half)? Does he make his own lines and then look for discrepancies in the published lines (I wouldn’t ask a handicapper this directly, as they can simply say yes and that’s pretty much it)? Ask him what his ROI is over his last 1,000 picks. His winning percentage doesn’t matter. ROI is all that matters. You’re looking for somewhere around a 5% ROI, plus or minus a few points either way. Ask him if he assigns a rating to his picks (some of them refer to this as stars, units, dimes, etc), or if he bets everything for the same amount.

What I Hope to Accomplish

I know that people make money from betting on sports – and not just the sportsbooks. I know that my systems produce winning picks. I want to eventually quit my job and be able to bet on sports for a living, supplementing that with income produced by this blog.

I know that it will take at least a couple of years before I can hope to produce an income that I can live on. Since I’m starting with a $2,000 bankroll, my bets will be very small in the beginning. I will add more money to my bankroll as I can afford to do so, but $2,000 is what I’m starting with. 

I want to be able to prove to people that the sportsbooks do not always win. It will take discipline and consistency, but I want to be able to prove that yes … you can make a living by betting on sports.

About the Author Steve

Steve firmly believes that most meals can be improved with mac n cheese. When he's not helping people make money betting on sports, Steve loves mountain biking, playing video games with his son, & annoying his wife. Oh, and he's a big Dallas Cowboys fan. Don't hate.

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