7 Tips for Poker Players Making Their First Sports Bet

By Jennifer Newell
December 17, 2017

Poker players may rest heavily on skill, but they also enjoy the calculated risks involved in poker. The art of the gamble, as some call it, is a rush. A player can bring a wealth of strategy and tools to the tables, but the luck of the draw adds the excitement that makes players jump out of their chairs.

Sports betting offers much of the same kind of exhilaration. Those who purport to use various skills to make their wagers often spend time studying statistics and history, players and odds. But given the human component to sporting events, anything can happen, adding a rush to the mix that keeps players on the edge of their seats until the final score becomes official.

Sports betting

Image credit: Las Vegas Review Journal |

It is no secret that many poker players find enjoyment in sports betting, and the crossover has become more prominent in the past several years. As poker options diminish in some jurisdictions, sports betting can fill the void. And many mix the two, as watching sports while playing poker is quite common.

For poker players who are considering following the trend and placing their first sports wagers, there are a number of poker skills they implement to ease the transition.

1. Calculate the Odds

Every poker player these days knows about odds and the importance of using pot odds to aid in making decisions at the tables. Implied pot odds can also be helpful for more experienced players. In sports betting, there are odds and handicaps and lines, all of which can vary from one game to another but are very important in making educated bets. One popular site for poker players trying their hand at sports bets is PokerStars’ new sportsbook – Betstars, reviewed positively here, but all comprehensive online betting sites offer the odds and tools you need to calculate betting lines correctly.

2. Have Patience

Poker players must often fold and keep folding until they find the right hands or the right opportunities. The best sports bettors don’t necessarily bet on every game, either. They study and watch game highlights, look for statistics and read commentaries, all waiting for the proper time to make their most important wagers. Small, inconsequential bets can help bide the time and keep bettors entertained, but they use proper preparation for the big bets.


3. Use Appropriate Bet Sizing

For those first getting into sports betting, small bets can be fun and educational if they don’t terribly impact one’s bankroll. As in poker, experience is one of the best tools of learning a new trade, but that experience really only matters if the player is learning from each one. By taking notes and matching results with the proper education of various aspects of sports betting, a person can feel more confident and increase bet sizing throughout the learning process. In addition, it’s important to size bets according to the knowledge of a game and the odds, weighing all of the factors when deciding how much to bet on a particular game or event.

4. Trust Your Instincts… Sometimes

Sometimes, all of the strategy and calculations in the world cannot match up to the power of instinct. A poker player may know that the odds, strategy books, charts, and HUDs tell her to fold a particular hand, but pure instinct may tell her she has her opponent beat. Gut feelings can be simple or a product of reading other players, and they are often reliable. Sports bettors should be careful not to mix hope and instinct, but the latter can certainly be used on occasion.

On the other hand, as the following conversation James Hartigan had with 2003 WSOP Main Event Champion Chris Moneymaker indicates, sometimes going with your gut can cost you (the Rams lost…):

5. Utilize Proper Bankroll Management

Bankroll management is just as important to sports bettors as to poker players. At the end of the day, you’d rather have a bankroll than a budget. Those in the betting world as professionals must never risk more than 10% of an entire bankroll so as to stave off any bad luck and survive the downswings. There will be bad runs that require patience but also the type of money management that can take a person through it to the other side. Conversely, big wins prompt the desire to celebrate and continue that positive momentum, but getting carried away can backfire. Ask most poker pros who have gone broke by following that upswing too far beyond its shelf life.

6. Exhibit Tilt Control

Spend any length of time in a casino sportsbook and watch for the bettors who go on tilt. It is inevitable. Poker players know all too well that the tilt moments can be embarrassing, but what follows is even more dangerous. A big or surprising loss of a hand or a bet can send a person on tilt, and they then chase a turnaround of their luck. Poker players aplenty have thrown rules about position, bet sizing, and odds out the window when on tilt, and sports bettors can do the same by throwing good money after bad on bets that don’t make sense. Tilt is a sign to walk away for a time, cool down, and return only when cooler heads can prevail.

full blown tilt

7. Remember: Safety First

Most sports betting in the world today is done online. Instead of placing a bet in a casino that is accountable to a state or national gaming commission, many choose the convenience and expediency of betting online. But it can be tougher to know which sports betting operators are trustworthy and following the regulations that best protect player information and funds. That’s why it is important to wager with a company that is trusted and proven.

Poker players know all too well about the pitfalls of putting money on websites that make great bonus offers and guarantees but then cannot follow through. Anyone who lost money on Black Friday or when other poker sites disappeared without a trace can attest that a licensed, transparent, and regulated site is the best bet.



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Jennifer Newell poker author
Written By.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell recently moved back to her hometown of St. Louis and spends much of her time writing. After more than a decade in the poker industry, she continues to write about gaming while working on a novel and a small business.



tip 8… not do it

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