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There's more to sports betting than calling winners


I always wanted to be a professional sports bettor. 

I got lucky. J.R. Miller turned out to be my dad.  The handicapping information I learned from my father was invaluable, but the money management advice my father wrote about is among the best ever written.  I still use those philosophies today. 

When I was growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Las Vegas, my father had some very serious disagreements with others in the sports betting business over money management and whether progressive betting systems worked.  Many sports touts promoted progressive betting systems, like the Kelly Criterion, because it makes for a great sales pitch. However, those systems are all schemes that don’t work and my father was bad for business for them because he never hesitated to call them on the carpet.

There was one tout in particular whose aversion for my father was greater than any other – and lots of Vegas insiders during that time were unscrupulous characters.  This guy was an author like my father and, trouble was, even though the author’s advice on handicapping was excellent, his advice on money management was absolutely suicidal…..And I do mean suicidal.

One of the things this fellow advised was, if you begin the NFL season risking $50 per bet, and if you can call 60% winners, you can be risking $500 per bet by the time the playoffs come around. 

…..Whew! This man must have spent 100% of his time learning to handicap, but no time at all understanding money management. 

Never mind the name of the book or the name of the author. There's no reason to embarrass him here. You'll see why we're reluctant to mention his name when we get to the end of this story.

.....And to jump right to the end of the story, in the late 1990's, I was with my dad at the Gambler's Book Shop in Las Vegas because he was signing copies of the latest edition of his book, How Professional Gamblers Beat the Pro Football Pointspread.   

During the course of our book-signing event, I asked someone from the store about that author...Was he retired? Was he still in Las Vegas? Was he still beating hell out of NFL lines?

…..As it turned out, he still lived in Las Vegas, alright. He lived in a poor section of town and worked in a downtown hotel/restaurant, waiting tables.

The man’s ignorance of proper money management had obviously ruined his sports betting career and, apparently, his life. His ignorance of the dynamics of binomial distribution had wrecked him. There's no telling how many men he helped with his book - including me - but he, himself, wasn't one of them. While others got successful with his handicapping advice, he ended up waiting tables.

It's a sad story.

I can guarantee you that acceptable money management is essential to success. It is every bit as important as being able to predict winners. One of the most important things a beginning gambler can learn from me is this: The size of your bets cannot be used as a pry-bar to make more profit than you deserve, nor to catch up when you’re behind.

I don’t expect most beginners to believe that last sentence. Just remember where you found this article.....You’ll be back. Think about this: A gambler always loses his biggest bets.

Think about that again:  A gambler always loses his biggest bets.

To win at sports betting over the long haul, you must keep your bets ‘flat’. Successful sports bettors rarely “jiggle” the size of their bets. You can’t go wrong with this advice: If you’ve got $1,000 tucked in your sock drawer to risk on sports betting, risk no more than $20 (2 percent) per bet, and don’t keep moving the size of your bets. Keep risking $20 until your stash grows to $1500 or shrinks to $500, then readjust your bet to 2% again. Another way to handle it is to readjust your bet size to 2% at the end of every quarter, then keep it 'flat' for the next 3 months. It's the 'jiggling' that will kill you.

Forget such silliness as a "1-star, 2-star, 3-star" system, or the deadly "Kelly criterion," or any other progressive betting system. My friend, Jack Painter, used to say, "If you like star-betting, you'd better like stars because you're going to be sleeping under them."

'Star betting' is a tell-tale sign of an amateur...And a loser. Any sports tout that claims to be successful using a 'One-Star, Two-Star, Three-Star' betting system is a phony. He's no 'pro' at all.

Progressive betting systems – all progressive betting systems – are nothing but relatives of the old Martingale system, which is the granddaddy of them all.

On paper, the Martingale system absolutely guarantees you must be a winner. It's true. No doubt about it. Mathematically, so long as you win one more bet before you die, you cannot possibly lose. In the Martingale betting system, after you lose a bet you’re supposed to double the size of the next bet, and keep doubling until you finally win a bet. When you do finally win, of course, you’ll end up with a profit of one unit. Then, the plan is to start over with your basic single bet size. So long as you finally do win a bet, you simply cannot lose….What can possibly go wrong?

...What goes wrong is, you will sooner or later lose 8, 10, 12 or more bets in a row...Check it out for yourself. (And you definitely will sooner or later lose 8, 10 or more bets in a row. I regretfully can guarantee it.)

There are several articles on this web site concerning money management, written by successful sports bettors. You can find them on our Index page. Be sure to read them.

- J. V. Miller


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