I’ve been a self-supporting NFL bettor for more than 15 years now, and during this time I’ve learned a whole lot about how to make money wagering on the NFL. On this site, you’ll find various different strategy pages that give you the inside scoop into my personal process for betting types like moneyline bets, bets against the spread, total score over/under bets, and others.
But making money with NFL betting isn’t just about winning wagers. I’ve seen it time and time again that bettors who have real talent in picking games and betting on the NFL still can’t cut it as an NFL bettor.
This is because it takes more than NFL knowledge and betting experience to turn gambling from a casual hobby into a full-time profession. You have to be smarter and more disciplined than the rest of the betting public if you hope to make more money than they do.
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If you’re ready to take your sports betting game to the next level, follow the tips you see below. These are the tried and true NFL betting tips that I’ve learned the hard way over a decade and a half of NFL betting, and they are exactly what you need to go from a casual bettor to a veteran NFL bettor.
The tips fall into two categories: Managing Your Money, and Managing Yourself.
Managing Your Money
The first category of tips that you’ll need to bring your NFL betting to the next level concerns the way that you manage your money overall. Much in the same way that a business can sink if it’s financially mismanaged – even if it sells a great product or offers a great service – mismanaging your gambling capital can sink your NFL betting career.
Here are the five top NFL betting tips that I’ve learned in my career as a gambler concerning the way that you should manage your money.
Look for an Edge
One of the biggest traps that new professional bettors fall into is the urge to bet on every single game.
Perhaps you started out as just a casual bettor, placing one or two wagers over the course of an NFL season, and then you decide to take things much more seriously, you read a book or two, and all of the sudden you have a mountainous surfeit of betting knowledge and expertise that you just can’t wait to unleash every opportunity you get.
But as you progress as an NFL bettor, you quickly realize that the margins in NFL betting are razor-thin. It’s not like, say, slot machines – there’s certainly enough of a margin to reliably make money in NFL betting. But you definitely can’t bet on every single game and expect to turn a profit.
The thing that you have to remember is this: Just because you have the ability to place a wager on every single game doesn’t mean that you should. There is always a way to delude yourself into believing that a game holds value. You’ll say to yourself, But what if I throw this game into a teaser…Or what if I just do a prop bet…
But once again, finding a logical way to put money on a game is not the same thing as having an edge. When you have an edge – an angle that you believe gives you really great value – you’ll know. As you progress as a sports bettor, you’ll come to understand the difference between what it feels like to trick yourself into making a betting decision that you didn’t really believe in vs. what it feels like to really, truly believe that you have an edge in a particular matchup.
Bet for Value
Once you begin to understand when you have an edge and when you don’t, the next step is to determine whether that edge is even profitable to wager on. Being correct about what the outcome of a wager is going to be certainly feels good, but the reward of being right isn’t always worth the risk of being wrong.
To give a simple example, if the worst team in the league is playing the best team in the league on the best team’s home field, (and it isn’t a meaningless game), it stands to reason that the best team is going to win. But even though you correctly “predicted” this obvious outcome, the rest of the betting public probably did too, so the odds likely offer very minimal payout.
At the same time, there could be another game going on that very same week where the outcome isn’t nearly as certain, but the odds hold a much higher potential payout. In fact, you might not even feel certain that the outcome you wager on is going to happen. Sometimes, you have to wager on the value rather than on the outcome.
Practically speaking, the question that you need to ask yourself in order to develop this skill of betting for value is the following: If I win the wager, is the payout worth it to me? If the answer is yes, go ahead and bet. If not, rethink your strategy.
As with all of these NFL betting tips, time and experience will help you find a good balance on how much you are willing to risk for how much potential reward.
Bankroll is a very important term in NFL betting (and any other kind of gambling). Your bankroll defines the amount of money that you have allotted to yourself for placing wagers.
Think about it like a casino. The wisest casino-goers only bring cash to the casino, and more specifically only the amount of cash that they wouldn’t mind losing if things didn’t turn out well. That way, if the unlucky gambler runs out of cash, they have no choice but to stop betting. Their bankroll has run out, and they don’t allow themselves to go back on the decision they made earlier for how much to spend.
This is the same way that you need to treat your NFL betting. Set aside a specific amount of money that you are willing to lose – the amount of money that you would be totally comfortable lighting on fire, or flushing down the toilet – and make sure never to spend more than that amount.
The biggest, most important thing that setting a bankroll ahead of time does for your betting decision-making is it ensures that you never spend more than a certain percentage of your total bankroll on one wager. This is a great way to combat that erroneous belief that can creep into our minds that after a losing bet, we need to recoup our losses by wagering more on the next bet.
If you’ve successfully managed your bankroll, you won’t ever want to spend more than a certain small percentage of it (say, 5%) on an individual bet, because then you’ll run out of bets you can make!
Shop for Lines
As you get better at finding value in NFL bets, you become more able to pick out when a line offers good odds and when you need to stay away. At the same time, as you get better at managing your bankroll, you come to understand how valuable every single wager is, so you become less and less inclined to waste a precious opportunity to bet on a line that offers unfavorable odds.
This is where the process of shopping around comes into play. Much like gas stations, sportsbooks will often hover very close to the same line and the same odds, for two reasons. One, because they’re all utilizing a similar decision-making calculus with a similar goal; and two, because they all look around at each other and consistently try to set a fair market value for each individual wager.
This delicate market-driven balance is often undercut ever so slightly by certain sportsbooks, whether intentionally or unintentionally (also like gas stations). Some sportsbooks will occasionally offer lines or odds that differ significantly from the rest of the pack, and there can be value opportunities in that.
Pro bettors habitually shop around for the best line between different sportsbooks, saying things like Well…I would take that team at 7.5, but not at 7, so I’m going to bet here instead of there.
Pro bettors also pay close attention to when lines and odds first open – an “early bird gets the worm” situation. Sportsbooks have various mechanisms to correct lines when it becomes clear that they’ve made a mistake, so you need to make sure that you understand when and how lines will change so that you can pounce on a good value bet before the value is gone.
Think Like an Investor
I knew a sports bettor once who “wised up” and quit the business after decades of quite successful betting. When I asked him why he quit, he told me that he was just trying to limit his risk. He said, “I gamble enough on the stock market, I don’t need to gamble on sports too.”
The point is that there are many, many similarities between formal investing and NFL betting. In fact, one could even say that betting is an investment. You are making a complex decision about where to invest your money, trying to balance the risk of the investment with the promise of the reward.
Thinking like an investor helps orient you, and keeps you from falling into a lot of the traps that novice sports bettors often fall into.
For example, investors know that the average rate of return from a growth market mutual fund (in the long-term) is between 8-12%. But what most bettors don’t realize is that the betting odds equivalent to an 8-12% rate of return work out to between -800 and -1250. The point is that you don’t need to get incredible odds to do just as well as your 401(k) does.
So don’t get suckered into believing that if you’re not getting a 300% profit on every wager you’re “not doing it right.” This is just plain wrong. No investor would expect to make a 300% profit in the long run, and neither should you. The difference between the professional sports bettor and the casual bettor is that the pro is in it for the long haul, so they start thinking about things like an investor would.
The tips above can go a long way towards helping you understand the deeper money-management principles that you need in order to be a successful NFL bettor. However, what you’ll find as you go along in your NFL betting career is that even with the most sound financial philosophy, you will still get in the way.
Often times in sports betting, you are your own worst enemy.
The NFL betting tips below will help you understand the ways in which you can (and will) mess everything up. Once you start understanding your own flaws and failings as a sports bettor – the ways in which all human beings constantly mess up in this area – you begin to learn how to set up systems that will work around your own shortcomings, and ensure that you are able to continue turning a profit as an NFL bettor.
Don’t Be a Fan
Most of the NFL bettors that I know (myself included) got into the business because they love the game of football. Perhaps they were already spending hours of their workday on the NFL, so they just decided Hey, why not just make my workday about the NFL? It’s rare that a sports bettor will join the business purely as a business or financial decision, with no personal stake in the goings-on of the league.
By the same token, if you love the NFL, it stands to reason that you will almost definitely have a specific team that you root for. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a true NFL fan that wasn’t also a fan of an individual team.
So now you probably think you know what I’m going to say: You think I’m going to say Don’t bet on your favorite teams, because you can’t be objective if you’re a fan. Not exactly.
It’s certainly true that you can’t be objective with your own team, so you certainly do need to set up systems that double-check whether you’re being influenced by your fandom. However, it’s also true that you probably know more about your favorite team than you do about any other team, because you follow your favorite team more closely than any other team.
This insider knowledge can actually help you make good decisions, even while your lack of objectivity and frequently-misplaced optimism can hinder you. So here’s the pro tip: Go ahead and wager on your favorite NFL teams, just make sure you don’t do it more often or with more money than you do for any other team.
Don’t Drink and Wager
This one seems obvious, but my experience has shown me that a surprising number of people fall prey to this trap and see it sink their sports betting career.
In my opinion, the reason why so many people bet on sports while impaired is because for many sports bettors, betting on the NFL starts out as a casual hobby, which they generally enjoy on the weekends while waiting to watch football, hanging out with friends and enjoying some libations.
It’s obvious that alcohol impairs your decision-making, but the less obvious pro NFL betting tip here is that to be a professional bettor, you have to start treating sports betting like a profession. You have to be “profession-al.” None of the NFL players, coaches, administrators, announcers, or sportscasters show up drunk to work, so neither should NFL bettors.
In the same way that you follow rules at work – for what to wear, how to act, etc. – set up rules for yourself specific to your betting, and make sure that you don’t break those rules. If you are starting to get impulsive and toe the line, examine yourself and make sure you’re not slipping into problem gambling habits.
And as far as alcohol? It’s simple: Place your wagers while sober, and then drink as much as you want while you watch to see if they pay out.
Take Your Time
For whatever reason, sports betting lends itself very easily to compulsion. Not only is gambling addiction a serious problem, and a very easy trap to fall into, but even on the day-to-day level there is something compulsive about the act of gambling itself. It’s quite a rush, and that excitement can knock you off balance the same way that being a fan of a team or drinking alcohol can knock you off balance.
The best way that I’ve found in my 15+ years as an NFL bettor to mitigate the compulsive nature of gambling is simply to take my time. My personal NFL Betting Strategy involves three stages that are each played out at a different part of the week, and one of these stages (the last stage) explicitly requires me to get all the way up to the point where I’ve completely made my decision, and then sleep on it.
You should never feel like you’re on the fence about whether to place a wager. Even in situations where you don’t know whether your bet will win, you should at least feel 100% confident that it was a good value bet, and that you wanted to place the bet.
The way you’ll know that you’ve been taking your time is by monitoring your feelings of regret or embarrassment. Let’s say you start watching a game with friends that you wagered on, and you you’re your friends what you believe is going to happen. Now, let’s say that you were totally wrong.
The way to know that you took your time is if you say, Well, I was wrong, but I don’t feel bad about it, because I trusted my gut and I went through my full decision-making process. On the other hand, if you feel that deep sense of embarrassment because you just plain missed something, or you rushed your process, that’s when you know that you fell prey to the compulsive nature of gambling.
Trust Your Gut
When you know that you’ve taken your time and kept yourself from rushing your decision-making process, it allows you to trust that this decision-making process was honest – that it wasn’t influenced by the many biases and fallacies that gamblers often fall into.
But it’s important to note that this trust doesn’t just happen overnight. When you start out your career as a sports bettor, it’s very common to doubt yourself, particularly if you go through a period of time during which your bets aren’t paying out.
The important thing to remember in this instance is don’t panic. Trust the process. Professional sports bettors go through slumps – I can certainly vouch for that.
One thing that professional sports bettors don’t do is they don’t pay other people to do their work for them. Even if you’re going through a slump, the answer is not to pay some tout for his “100% foolproof betting system,” or his “epic NFL insider information” that’s guaranteed to turn you into a winner overnight.
There are no shortcuts to developing trust with yourself. It takes time and dedicated effort to get to a place where you understand NFL betting and you understand yourself well enough to quiet the brain chatter and simply to make the best decision possible. There is a lot of information-gathering in sports betting, but there is also a key aspect of intuition, so learn to trust your gut.
Learn from Your Mistakes
In order to go through the process of learning to trust your gut and to make profitable betting decisions in the long run, it’s essential that you learn from your mistakes. There’s simply no way to get better as an NFL bettor if you’re not willing to figure out where you went wrong.
Think about every single sports betting decision that you make not only as an investment of your bankroll, but also as an investment in your sports betting education. Win or lose the wager, the only way that it could turn out to be a waste is if the outcome didn’t improve your understanding of NFL betting or your understanding of yourself.
For this reason, don’t be afraid to be wrong! When you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, you become incredibly comfortable with being wrong. Even the smartest professionals in the NFL aren’t correct much more than 50% of the time – this is what makes NFL football so special. If we all knew what was going to happen, there would be no reason to watch.
The best-case scenario for a sports bettor is that you’re wrong slightly less than 50% of the time, and even better — that you understand when you are going to be right and when you are going to be wrong. An intuitive knowledge of when to stay away from a particular betting situation is just as valuable as an intuitive knowledge of when to jump in.
But once again, the only way to gain this knowledge and expertise is the ability to be comfortable making mistakes, to learn from your mistakes, and to grow as a sports bettor because of your mistakes.
Summary: NFL Betting Tips
In the end, developing NFL betting into a profitable long-term career takes time, dedication, and concerted effort. Like any other career, it’s not something that happens overnight. NFL betting is not a get-rich-quick scheme, nor is it just a natural talent that some people are born with. No: It’s a skill, that you develop over time.
In my 15+ years as a professional NFL bettor, I have learned a lot of lessons about how to manage money and about how to manage myself. The NFL betting tips I present above give a brief summary of some of these lessons, including the following:
- Managing Your Money:
- Margins in NFL betting are razor-thin, so don’t expect to place a wager on every single game. Instead, wager only on those situations in which you know you have an edge.
- Just because you can correctly guess the outcome of a bet doesn’t mean that it is worth the wager. Find those wagers where the balance of risk and reward offers good value.
- Like a casino trip, set aside a specific amount of capital to use for NFL betting and don’t let yourself go above it. This helps you subdivide your capital into chunks.
- Professional bettors don’t just place wagers with one sportsbook. Instead, they shop around for the best lines and odds at the best NFL betting sites, like finding the lowest gas price.
- Sports betting is an investment, so make sure you don’t lose your head fixating on crazy profit margins that you would never expect to earn in traditional forms of investing.
- Managing Yourself:
- It’s true that you can’t be objective about your favorite teams, but being a fan is also an advantage. Just make sure not to bet more money or more often on “your teams.”
- Treat sports betting like a profession, and be “profession-al.” Don’t wager while impaired by alcohol; set up rules and habits like you would at any job, and don’t break these rules.
- Make sure you don’t allow yourself to become compulsive with your betting. You’ll know you’ve taken your time when you don’t regret the wrong decisions you’ve made.
- Even if you go through a slump, don’t panic. Professional sports bettors go through slumps, but over time they develop a thick skin and an ability to trust their gut even in a slump.
- The biggest, most important thing you need in order to improve as a bettor is an ability to learn from your mistakes. Win or lose, every wager is a learning opportunity.
My hope is that by reading and internalizing these tips, you’ll be well on your way to developing skills as an NFL bettor. I can tell you from more than a decade-and-a-half of experience that there are few better ways to make money while having fun and doing what you love, so I hope that my experience can help you take your sports betting game to the next level.