Gambling is a fun pastime, but smart bettors take gambling much more seriously than the average punter who might bet on a Saturday football match for sheer entertainment. You will find a lot of literature, online betting forums, and strategy information out there separating the gambling world into pros and amateurs.
In Las Vegas circles, professionals are referred to as “sharps” and amateur punters are called “squares.” Here’s the thing: you can be a casual bettor and a sharp bettor at the same time if you simply stick to strategic bets and play optimal strategy.
There are many winnable and beatable games out there if you simply follow basic strategy. At the same time, if you are interested in pursuing intermediate or advanced strategy, you really need to get the basics down pat before you proceed.
If you’re new to the game, or someone who is returning after taking an extended hiatus, then you should always revert to basic strategy. You also want to keep your wager size rather small. Beginners never want to risk too much initially. It’s always best to start out small. According to Jimmy Vaccaro, long-time Las Vegas bookmaker at the Mirage, MGM, and South Point, “The worst thing that can happen for the first-time bettor is to put down a lot of money and win. Because then you think it’s easy and that it’ll happen every time. And that gets you into trouble.”
SPORTS BETTING: HOME DOGS
In the sports betting world, the team that is not the odds on favorite to win is called the “underdog.” It does not matter the sport, whether it is basketball, American football, or ice hockey… but typically home teams have an advantage over the visiting team. The reason is obvious: comfort. In the modern age, sleep and rest have become priorities for pro teams. That’s why home teams, especially in the NFL, have a built-in edge because they don’t have to travel and sleep in a hotel.
However, you should keep an eye out for home teams that are underdogs, otherwise known as a “home dog.” It’s difficult to go out and play on the road when you are the inferior team playing inside a hostile stadium or venue. On the flip side, an underdog has the added advantage of playing in front of their home crowd. You can never underestimate the power of a rabid fan base. Feverish fans can energize a team in a matter of seconds. Home dogs often get that emotional boost needed to level the playing field against superior opponents. That’s why there is some inherent value in betting a home dog.
BLACKJACK: KNOW THE HIT CHART AND WHEN TO DOUBLE DOWN
Blackjack is one of those rare card games that attracts amateurs and professionals alike because the rules are simple and it is fun to play.
There is a lot of confusing and complicated information on the internet about how to play using advanced blackjack strategy. That’s why sometimes it’s just always easiest to play straightforward basic blackjack strategy. Any semi-serious player has memorized the card values and the anatomy of blackjack. If you have not memorized it yet, then you should start right away. You can find pocket-sized charts in almost any casino gift shop.
You can double down if you have a 9 but only if the dealer is showing 3, 4, 5, or 6.
You can also double down if you have a soft hand containing an Ace, but depending on what the dealer is showing. If you hold an A-6 or A-7, you should double down if the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6 showing. If you hold an A-4 or A-5, you can double down if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6. You can also double down if you have an A-2 or A-3, but only if the dealer is showing a 5 or 6.
ABC POKER, OUT OF POSITION, AND FANCY PLAY SYNDROME
There’s a saying in the poker world, “When in doubt, go back to playing A-B-C poker.” It’s just another way of saying, “Go back to basics.” Usually the basics involve tweaking your hand and knowing the value. There are always certain trouble hands that look good, yet never seem to win. Doyle Brunson, the godfather of Texas Hold’em poker once said, “We call Ace-Jack the ‘walking back to Houston’ hand. Because that hand looks good enough to win, but it will cost you your entire bankroll and your car, so you will have no way to drive home.”
Position is vital in poker, especially Texas Hold’em. The player with the most power at the table is the player who is last to act. That’s why it is vital to avoid playing weaker hands out of position. The later you are in position, the wider the range of playable hands you have at your disposal. However, if you want to play a hand out of position, you better make sure it’s a strong one.
BEWARE OF BETTING SYSTEMS
Most betting systems, like the Martingale System, are flawed. They might sound good at first, but upon closer inspection, you will find gaping holes in the system.
“Betting systems constitute one of the oldest delusions of gambling history,” said Richard A. Epstein in The Theory of Gambling and Statistical Logic.
That’s why you should learn basic strategy, use a betting calculator if available, and then play as optimally as possible. Over the long haul, there’s a reason players have used a true and tested method… because it works.
WHEN IN DOUBT, GO BACK TO BASICS
Gamblers should engage in optimal strategy and not get too fancy. Whenever things get too complicated, simply return to rudimentary strategy. It does not matter if it is craps, blackjack, poker, or sports betting… sticking to the basics is the fundamental path toward profitability.