Think Like A Pro Bettor

Think Like A Pro Bettor

Unabated Staff
Professional Gambling
The Process
March 6, 2024


To many, being a professional gambler might seem like the coolest job ever. However, what’s it really like to make a living betting on sports? I’m going to give you an inside look at how a professional sports bettor thinks. And you can decide if you have what it takes to do the same.

Hi, I’m Jack from Unabated. For the past 20 years I’ve made much of my income from beating casinos and sportsbooks. On my tax returns, my occupation is listed as professional gambler. It’s a job I definitely enjoy, but it’s much less glamorous than it appears. When I started out, advantage gambling was just a side hustle for me. Eventually I reached a point where I couldn’t deny this was a viable primary source of income, so I went pro.

First, you’re probably wondering how someone becomes a professional sports gambler. There’s no certification or license you receive. The only real delineation for U.S. bettors is how you file your taxes. The IRS has a checklist to determine whether or not your pursuit is a hobby or a profession. However, they can be summed up with one simple question: Do you treat this as a professional business? 


Think Like a Pro Bettor Step 1: Have a Plan

A professional bettor typically has a business plan. A document where they can prove to any IRS inquiry that they conduct themselves as a business with a plan for profit. They keep their business funds and their personal funds separate. Often utilizing business banking accounts as well as business structures such as an LLC or an S-corp. 

A professional bettor doesn’t forecast their future earnings based solely on past results. A professional bettor measures things in EV, expected value. They’re concerned about maximizing expected value above all. The actual win/loss in a week or a month is of little consequence as long as the EV was where they projected it out to be.

For those of you who might not know how expected value is derived, it’s pretty straightforward. The probability your wager wins multiplied by the amount you win if it does minus the probability your wager loses multiplied by the amount you lose if it does. 


Step 2: Think in EV, and Track it

Anyone who has ever fantasized about quitting their boring 9-to-5 job and becoming a professional gambler probably bases their dream on past results. Maybe they have a good weekend of betting and think they can repeat that 52 times a year. Or a good month or even a good season. Honestly, a serious professional gambler doesn’t use past results. They use their EV. How much expected value have they generated and how much can they continue to generate? 

Tracking your expected value isn’t always easy, but it certainly would be enlightening if with every bet you make you could see your EV in real-time. Seeing those numbers increase or decrease would help a lot of people make smarter decisions. To think like a pro bettor, understand this and focus on accruing the most possible positive EV.

Another trait you’ll find in most professional bettors is that they’re fairly unemotional and unbiased. Being a rabid fan of a sport usually comes with some biases that aren’t beneficial in betting. You can be a fan of a team, but you better be willing to put your fandom aside and bet against them if the number is right. Otherwise you’re leaving EV on the table and violating your own business plan.


Step 3: Avoid Tilt

Speaking of emotions, that’s probably the most important thing that separates the pros from the joes. Being a professional is not about how you handle wins, it’s more about how you handle losses. There are going to be many many losses. You must be able to take a loss calmly and, well, professionally. You’re going to face bad beats and games that don’t go your way for no fault of your own. However, you have to have that steely resolve.

You ever notice how some head coaches can just be completely unfazed immediately after suffering a gut-wrenching defeat? They shake the hand of their opponent and then minutes later face the media as if they’ve got it all under control. I try to imagine I’m the head coach of this betting team and I’ve got to go face the media. It’s not always easy, but the alternative is not a productive path.

See, the natural urge is to recoup that loss as quickly as possible. Maybe make a bigger bet to offset that loss and get you back where you should have been in terms of profit. That’s never the best path. Either you’re making a negative expected value wager and digging an EV hole. Or if it is a positive EV wager, you may be overbetting your bankroll relative to your edge and that is a recipe for disaster as well.

The true professional accepts losses as the cost of doing business. They focus on the long-run and rest in the knowledge that they banked some positive EV that they’ll end up manifesting later down the line.

If you haven’t picked up on it already, being a professional gambler requires discipline. A person who struggles with self-discipline typically doesn’t make for a good professional gambler. Of course, we all have our shortcomings, but if one of your vices is reckless gambling, then you’re not going to be able to bury those urges easily just by focusing on grinding out edges in betting sports. In fact, what I’ve seen happen plenty of times is that winning sports betting just allows the bad gambling behavior to heat up under the surface undetected. 

There’s a reason they put the sportsbook at the back of the casino. They want to tempt you with every other game in the house on your way in and out. And if you’re betting online in a state that has both online sportsbooks and online casinos, you’re going to have to weather a lot of cross-marketing.


Think Like a Pro Bettor Step 4: Approach Money Differently

Another important difference for professional bettors is how they view money. To a professional bettor, money is a tool. It is necessary for them to ply their craft. Just as a skilled craftsman wouldn’t want to be careless with their tools, a professional bettor shouldn’t be careless with their money. That includes what we just discussed with chasing losses, but it also includes how they look at wins.

To think like a pro bettor, don’t think of money won or lost as something material. If I lose $2,000, I don’t think of that as a luxury watch I’ve lost. Conversely, if I win $2,000, I don’t go out and buy that watch. The best thing you can buy with your winnings is a bigger bankroll. Of course, when sports betting is a primary source of income you have to account for drawing on your winnings to pay for life expenses. But you’ll find a lot of true professionals tend to live fiscally responsible lifestyles.

For many professional gamblers, making money from gambling is a means to an end. They intend to work hard profiting from betting in order to set up passive income scenarios down the line. I know a lot of extremely wealthy people who parlayed their gambling success into real estate, business ownership, and other investment opportunities. 

That brings me to another important trait of professional bettors, they work hard. Gambling, they say, is a hard way to make an easy living. That’s true of professional bettors. When you are self-employed it’s tough to ever turn off the work part of your brain. You’re always thinking about your business and how you can improve on it. Living a balanced lifestyle can be difficult if you’re a professional gambler. 

One of the reasons I transitioned into sports betting is because it significantly cut down on the amount of travel I’d have to do. However, sporting events happen almost 24 hours a day. My betting business could theoretically be open 24 hours a day if I let it. It can reach a point of overload very quickly. People underestimate how much time they’ll put into something when they are both the employee and the employer.


Step 5: Adaptability

Another item that gets underestimated is how much a professional bettor needs to adapt to change. No angle lasts forever. I can list off dozens of great things I used to bet on with a significant edge that have either disappeared or that I can no longer get an edge on. When an angle dries up, a professional bettor doesn’t dwell on it, they move onto the next thing. 

They’re always asking themselves “what comes next?” Being able to adapt is super important in any market. There are countermeasures, there is market efficiency, there are always forces pushing against you as you look to profit. Being a one-trick pony won’t be a sustainable income source. That’s why a lot of professional bettors like to network with other pros. Doing all of this solo makes for tough sledding. If being a pro sports bettor is your dream then you’ll probably come to realize that teamwork makes the dream work. There’s a lot to gain by having a trusted circle to work with or to exchange ideas with. 

If you’ve reached this point in the video and you’re asking yourself what comes next for you in the world of sports betting, we’ve got a library of content for you to explore. For instance, what are some of the ways pro bettors find what to bet on? Check out this video here to see how that works. I’ll see you in there.

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