Betting For a Living is Work

Betting for a living is work

King Yao is the author of Weighing the Odds in Hold‘em Poker, and Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting. He uses his experience from making millions in financial derivative markets and translates it into gambling. Since he left his trading position in 2000, he has been playing poker and betting on sports. He travels to Las Vegas frequently, especially during football season.

Let’s discuss basic principles of sports betting. All sports bettors should know the information below. All other types of casino advantage players, including blackjack players of all skill sets, which includes card counters, should have good working knowledge of Expected Value as well. You should not be betting online or anywhere else without this fundamental knowledge.

Making money gambling is tough

Wanting to win is not enough; you must be dedicated to winning. You must be a motivated self-starter willing to work on your own time without an outside force encouraging you. It is not easy getting motivated on a daily basis. My estimate is that less than 1% of people who try to make a living gambling are actually successful for over two years. A good thing about sports betting is that you do not have to do it full time to succeed. You can hold a regular job and spend your extra time on analysis and betting. If you concentrate on one segment of sports betting (such as one conference in college basketball), then betting sports does not have to consume 40 hours a week. Here are some qualities you need to succeed:


Whether it is math skills, street smarts or intuitive logic, you need talent to succeed.

Managing finances

You must understand the right amount to bet per game given your bankroll. If starting off on a good streak causes you to overestimate your true skill, you might soon be playing too big for your bankroll. When the inevitable losing streaks hits, as it always does for everyone, your bankroll may not be able to handle the negative deviation if your bets are too big. If you know how to manage your bankroll and understand the risks you are taking, you can better handle the negative swings.

You can’t be a successful sports bettor if you have a gambling problem. Problem gamblers bet more than they can afford to lose. Whether it is in one game or in a series of games, they extend their bankrolls to the limit and sometimes beyond. In order to succeed in sports betting, you must be able to control yourself and bet within the limits of your bankroll.

Motivation after winning

When on a winning streak, it is easy to get complacent and take unscheduled days off. Are you going to be motivated to find the edge in a small bet after raking in a huge win? Are you willing to continue to grind it out on a daily basis after a big day? If not, you will have problems motivating yourself after wins.

Motivation after losing

When on a losing streak, it is easy to stay in bed all day feeling sorry for yourself for suffering the bad beats. Why bother spending hours working on a database or walking in the Las Vegas heat when it seems you keep losing on silly last-second plays? Are you going to be motivated to gain small edges in wagers even after losing a few of them in a row?

Willingness to study

Winning sports bettors have to analyze, study, consult relevant websites, and think about the games as they evolve. Line makers and other sports bettors are quick to adapt to changes, so you must keep pace or better yet, stay one step ahead of them.

Persistence and physical endurance Gambling is not the easy life that many think it is. For the Las Vegas bettor, it can mean walking 10 miles a day from sportsbook to sportsbook in 110-degree heat.

This is part of an occasional series of articles.

Excerpted with permission from the e-book version of Weighing the Odds in Sports Betting by King Yao, edited for this format.


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