We are currently in the early days of the NHL season, and in just a couple of weeks the NBA season will be underway. College basketball starts up in a while, too. It’s always exciting when a sport you love to bet on gets underway again after a long break. The first few weeks of a long season can provide some unique and difficult challenges for bettors to overcome if they aren’t careful. Here’s a look at four of the biggest problems, and some solutions that can help you overcome them and avoid any serious and costly issues.
Problem: Insufficient current data. Good handicapping typically involves looking back at how teams have been performing this year – in general and in particular circumstances – to help you predict how the will perform in the upcoming situation. When a team hasn’t played many games you obviously can’t rel on what you have seen so far. Bettors heavily dependent on these stats can find themselves lost in the opening weeks before a reliable data set has been established.
Solutions: If you are careful you can look at the preseason for information. The challenge of the preseason is that you can’t take anything that happened at face value – star players often don’t play the whole game, ad teams often don’t have winning as a primary goal of the preseason games. Despite that, you can often interpret what you see in the preseason and draw valuable insights from it that will help you in the regular season until better data arrives. You can also look at coaching trends. Some coaches have developed a pattern of early success in a season, while others typically take a while to get their team on the right page and rolling.
Problem: Teams are unpredictable early on. In any sport every year you will see a few really good teams that look terrible out of the gate, and a few seemingly lousy teams that can’t lose at the start. Over the course of a season it’s usually reasonably easy to know which teams are good and which ones aren’t, but in the first couple of weeks it seems like anything can happen.
Solutions: The best and most obvious thing to do here is to bet less until you feel you have a handle on things. You don’t have to bet to the full extent of your bankroll on every bet, and smart bettors know that avoiding and limiting losses is at least as important as winning. In the same spirit, it makes great sense to be more patient early on, and to only make bets when you are particularly confident of your edge. As the season goes along and you get a better sense of how teams are looking then you might be willing to bet a slim edge, but early on you need to give yourself the widest margin of error possible. Finally, successful bettors early in the season have to play amateur psychologist to be successful. Sometimes teams get off to slow starts because they have no major motivation to get off to a fast one – they know they are going to succeed in the end, so they are more focused on the end of the season than the beginning. Bad teams, on the other hand, are just trying to get something going whenever they can.
Problem: Line movement is unpredictable. Later in the season astute bettors can usually make a pretty good guess about how the lines are likely to move. Early on, though, it’s not so easy – the public often hasn’t started paying attention to the leagues yet, so the lack of their money combined with the added unpredictability leads to increased uncertainty. It can be harder to time your bets for maximum value early in the season, and you can often find a line with value unexpectedly moving against you.
Solutions: Later in the season you can be choosy, but earlier in the season you sometimes can’t afford to. Whereas you might later wait on a line to see if it improves, early in the season you might want to bet the line when you handicap it if it is reasonably acceptable where it is. It’s better to take an acceptable line now than be forced to take a worse one later on, or to b forced to pass on a game you wanted to bet.
Problem: Excitement and impatience lead to bad choices. If you have anxiously been awaiting the start of a particular season for a long time, then you are probably very anxious to start betting on it once you can’t. That can lead to people making bets that aren’t totally ideal, and forcing situations that they normally wouldn’t be attracted to. That can be very costly.
Solutions: Early in the season, the first thing you need to do is take a deep breath and relax. You have to remember that successful sports betting is a marathon, not a sprint. There is no reason at any point to make a bet unless you are sure of your edge and confident in your insight – regardless of how badly you want to make a bet. Making bets on sports you love is a lot of fun, but losing those bets isn’t much fun. By being patient you can cut down on those losses.