Plugging Your Betting Leaks

Plugging Your Betting Leaks

Jack Andrews
The Process
June 12, 2023

Water pouring into a drainpipe representing sports betting leaks


Everyone I’ve ever known in gambling has a leak. A flaw in their game.  Sometimes a betting leak can be annoying. Sometimes a betting leak can be paralyzing. I’ve yet to meet the flawless person who plays like a perfect, optimal robot. There’s always something somewhere that can be improved upon. I invite you to be introspective and think about the flaws in your game. More importantly, I want to help you plug your leaks. First we’ll identify the different types of leaks and then we’ll set out to stop and control them.


Discipline Leaks

Leaks fall into three major categories when it comes to being a bettor. The first is the most obvious: discipline leaks. In fact, some of you probably hesitated to click on this article because you figured it had to do with problem gambling. Chasing losses. Making impulsive bets. Giving back your sports betting winnings at a slot machine or a table game.

You may not be swayed by those impulses and figured this article might not be for you. Yes, those examples are absolutely toxic to being profitable in the long run. However, discipline leaks go beyond the usual tell-tale signs of problem gambling. 

If you’re reading this article and you regularly chase losses with bigger and bigger bets or you rely on parlays to dig you out of a hole, you’ve got a serious leak. I probably don’t need to tell you that. What if your minus-EV wagering was a bit more nuanced than that though?


Recreation vs. Reckless

The biggest discipline leak for bettors of all skill levels is when recreational betting becomes your rationalization for reckless betting. It’s long been said that in the relationship between the bettor and the bookmaker, the edge for the bookmaker is they have the vig working in their favor. The edge for the bettor is that they get to choose which bets to make.

You don’t have to bet. That’s where the leak springs up for many bettors. Making bets they don’t need to make. The feeling of FOMO you get when it’s time for a UFC card and you don’t have a wager. Being willing to take a slightly worse line because you missed the line move. The need to have a wager in order to watch a primetime game. Betting when you don’t need to bet.

Another rationalization is the idea of cover betting. Sharp bettors like to make bets that won’t be deemed sharp by the sportsbook so they can sustain an account. There’s no harm in cover betting, but where do you draw the line? If you’re cover betting, you should have a plan on how much cover is needed to sell your story at any given time.


God Mode Creates A Betting Leak

"God mode" enabled in the game Fallout 4.Have you ever played a video game with a cheat code of “god mode” enabled? Your character is indestructible. There are a lot of bettors who think they are also indestructible. Winning at sports betting is a hell of a drug. It can make you feel like you can crack the code for any sport and any bet. That all of your bets are plus-EV because of whatever slight narrative you throw at them.

Even worse are those who think their sports betting prowess extends to other casino pursuits. It may seem counterintuitive that someone smart enough to know what it takes to beat sports betting would have a leak associated with slots or video poker, but trust me, they can. God mode makes you overestimate the role skill played in your success and underestimate the role luck did. God mode is scary.


Money Leaks

The second major leak that I see is in how they handle their bankroll. I’m not talking about bet sizing or what fraction of Kelly staking they used. I mean the same bettor who dutifully line shopped and tracked their EV and CLV to the fifth decimal place turning around and spending those winnings on a new car or fancy dinners.


ATM out of order


Your Bankroll Is Not Your Personal ATM

I’ve seen many players treat their bankroll as their personal ATM. In fact, I’ve been guilty of this. For about a 15-year stretch I didn’t even have an ATM card because I never had any shortage of $20 bills to stuff in my wallet for casual spending. It’s amazing how free-spending you can feel when you can have a night out that doesn’t touch your bank account or credit cards. However, it’s a bad habit.

Rewarding your hard work by buying nice things is fine. However, don’t think of your bankroll as your buying power for those nice things. Your bankroll is a toolbox. The more you have in your bankroll, the more tools you have to practice your craft. I’m fond of saying that the best thing you can buy with your bankroll is a bigger bankroll.


The Allure Of VIP

Another money leak is becoming accustomed to the lifestyle that goes with being around the casino/sports betting industry. VIPs get treated very well. There was a time when I was perfectly fine to stay in a budget room off-Strip in Las Vegas. Then I started to hustle comps and suddenly I was staying in suites bigger than my house. Being whisked around in limos. Fine dining at top-rated restaurants. Seeing shows with choice seats. Using secret doors and elevators to stay above the riff-raff. It’s very intoxicating. However, just getting from the airport to your room might require $100-$200 in tips alone.

Operators know exactly what they’re doing in tempting you with all the fruits of VIP treatment. It makes you feel indebted to them and makes you want to please them so they continue to offer those perks. It also raises your minimum threshold for what you expect to experience. Trying to maintain VIP status often leads to a leak in your game. Sometimes it’s a discipline leak, sometimes it is a money leak.


Optimization Leaks

Sometimes your time management is your biggest leak. Each of us operates within constraints. We only have so much bankroll. We only have so much time. How do you get the most bang for your buck? You have to optimize your resources or else you run the risk of developing optimization leaks.

A simple way to see this in action is to think of all your square betting friends. What sport do they love to bet the most? In the U.S., it’s likely the NFL. They’re trying to pick winners against the spread or total each week. Hopefully, if you’ve stumbled upon Unabated you know that the NFL is the most efficient market of all the U.S. sports. Your friends are pushing a boulder up a hill in trying to beat the NFL. It’s an optimization leak on their part. 

Even sharp bettors tend to fall into this trap. Those of you who watched some of my earliest YouTube work know the graphic of the money tree. There’s low-hanging fruit in sports betting and there’s also ridiculously hard-to-reach fruit. Sometimes sharper bettors feel like the low-hanging fruit is beneath them. As my friend Spanky likes to say: “The money is just as green, pal.”


Opportunity Cost And Sports Betting

Another component of these optimization leaks is your opportunity cost. Everything you do in life has an implied cost and an opportunity cost. The opportunity cost is what you missed out on doing because you were busy with something else. This can spin into a big work/life balance thing, so let’s just focus in terms of sports betting.

What types of sports betting get you the most reward with the least amount of opportunity cost? Some of you might like making models to beat pitcher strikeout props despite it requiring hours per day to maintain. If your time spent doing that worth more than if you stared at the Unabated Odds Screen for those hours and picked off some top-down value? 

Similarly, do you gain more value from scrolling through Twitter instead of finding edges in derivative markets? Or perhaps the path with the least opportunity cost is when you set aside time to step away from sports betting. You need that time so you can focus and be more fresh in the future.


Playing Your Optimal Game

In his book, Elements of Poker, Tommy Angelo talked about the difference between your A-game and your B-game. Sports bettors face a similar dichotomy. You have your A-game where you are literally at the top of your game. You’re prepared and sharp. You see angles and edges and you’re poised to take advantage. Your B-game is not nearly as sharp and you make sloppy mistakes or you miss bets.

Sports bettors of all skill levels can feel when they’re not on their A-game. That develops into a leak when you accept and perform at B-game levels or worse. If you feel like you’re in a rut and what you’ve been doing isn’t working. Perhaps this is the leak that has sprung up inside you.


Solving The Betting Leaks In Your Game

I’ve outlined the three major types of leaks, now let me help you find ways to plug those leaks. Starting with the discipline leaks. These are the hardest to solve because they deal with emotions and habits. However, they can also be the most rewarding to overcome.


Figure Out Your Triggers

When it comes to having leaks that lead to problem gambling, there is often a trigger event. For some it can actually be non-gambling things like stress, depression, or low self-esteem that leads to triggers that spark problem gambling. 

For others who are fighting the recreational vs. reckless battle, sometimes the trigger is just the feeling of being compelled to make a bet. Start by proving to yourself that you don’t need to have a bet on a game or match to watch it. Try being a pure sports fan again. If you do want to make recreational bets for cover purposes, be sure and track them. Record the minus-EV. See how it brings down your overall numbers. Be honest with yourself. 


Block Off As Much As You Can

An influential book I once read was Willpower Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy. He advises that in order to live the life you want to be living, you should create workspaces that are conducive to what you want to accomplish. In terms of plugging leaks around you in your sports betting, you should attempt to do this as well.

If your leak is playing in the iCasino at your sportsbook site, see if you can block that off under the responsible gambling controls. Put the phone in the drawer and turn off the PC if you’re tempted to make some reckless decisions. Control your workplace.


Chess pieces on a board representing long-term planning and finding betting leaks in sports

Eyes On The Horizon

Often discipline leaks are the result of trying to fix a short-term problem. You lost on afternoon baseball and you want to end with a winning day. You have six winning days in a row and you’re down on the seventh day with just one game remaining. Or you want to make sure you have a winning month so you 5x your action on the final day. 

All of these are examples of short-term thinking. Your results per day, per week, or per month don’t matter. The IRS requires you to keep score based on the calendar year. Ultimately, it’s a career-long marathon. Don’t be influenced by short-term results. 


Be An AP In Every Part Of Your Life

In terms of money leaks, they go beyond just matters of discipline. We talk about the value of being an educated consumer. The value of finding the best price. The value of identifying value. It’s all part of being an advantage player. If you’ve got money leaks in your life, you should attempt to be an advantage player in every part of your life. 

I’m not saying you need to be a devotee of Jean Scott’s Frugal Gambler. Keep your spending in check and the profits will grow with your bet sizing. In the same way you wouldn’t withdraw money from your retirement account unless you absolutely needed to, you shouldn’t withdraw from your bankroll unless necessary.


Eyes On The Horizon Part II

Long-term thinking about discipline leaks carries over when addressing money leaks you may have with your bankroll. Some day you may transition your bankroll into your source for passive income later in life. For many of you, that goal is still many years out. 

Focus on that long ramp toward retirement rather than any short-term bankroll goals. Buying a bigger bankroll now will enable you to afford luxuries later when you have more time to enjoy them.


Keeping A Healthy Balance

When it comes to plugging those optimization leaks, you need to decide what is the right balance for you. What part of that money tree do you want to pick from? How much time do you have to devote to your pursuit of sports betting? In fact, is sports betting the best use of your time?

As I mentioned earlier, the discussion of work/life balance is a healthy discussion to have with yourself. It’s not the focus of this article though. One of the best ways to keep a healthier balance is through division of labor in using a team approach.

Make use of networking to find like-minded people who share your same passions for betting. In the right setup, you can multiply profits while dividing efforts. By teaming up with other bettors you also have an accountability partner to help you plug leaks in your game. Some of the most rewarding experiences come from team efforts. 


Know Your Expected Value

Lastly, you should always try to be mindful of the EV of everything you do. This is probably the most important thing to keep in mind to stop and control leaks in your game. If something is minus-EV, it needs to be minimized. If something is plus-EV, it needs to be maximized. When you don’t know the EV of your actions and decisions then all of this just becomes a mental battle of will. It’s like the person who wants to lose weight but just talks about it without taking the steps to find an actionable game plan that works for them. 

If you want to discuss this article in more detail or meet other bettors. A great place for that discussion is the Unabated Community Discord. You can find me there all the time and I think you’ll find it informative and supportive.

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