Betting 101: 3 lessons poker has taught me about sports betting

Before sports betting, I was in the poker world. I left the industry in 2019 and haven’t really looked back. Until recently. On a December trip to Las Vegas, I had some free time to spare so I popped in at the Wynn Poker Room for a light $1/$3 cash game. I very much enjoyed being back on the tables, socializing and engaging. Some former colleagues saw that I “was back,” which led to an invite to play the RunGood Poker Series tournament at Graton Casino in Santa Rosa, California.

That was this week. I played two events, the Ambassador Bounty (I was one of the bounties), where I busted about two hours into the tournament. The other tournament was a $365 Deep Stack. Not only did I make Day 2 but finished 35th out of 374 players for $655.

Sure, it’s not life-changing money but I’ve always been an advocate of the game for how useful poker has been towards my success in sports betting. In the end, it’s all relative. The two require discipline, bankroll management and a healthy balance of risk.

However, being back at the tables this week led to some other lessons that could be beneficial as a sports bettor. Here’s what I learned playing tournament poker this week.

Balancing plates and/or removing plates from your load

The mistake I see bettors make most often is trying to handicap or wager on every sport available at the time. On any given week, you have MLB, NBA, tennis, PGA, UFC, XFL and whatever other sport is going on at once. Since the objective is to make money betting on sports, the natural thing to want to do is to bet on all the sports happening at the same time.

My experience this week: PGA has been hot for me lately. Between that, traveling and playing poker, I couldn’t find the time to properly devote the required energy to handicap tennis. There were three ATP tournaments, which I would normally jump all over. However, since I wanted to stay sharp, I had to remove a plate. That plate was tennis.

Why it matters: If you want to be good at something, do it all. If you want to be great at something, focus on one or two. After removing a plate from my load, I cashed one poker event and cashed another PGA first-round leader. It's no guarantee either would've happened had I added tennis to the mix.

Break from betting to pursue other interests

It’s so easy to get caught up in betting 12 months out of the year. Sports are always happening, which makes it especially easy to handicap something any day of the week. However, after football season, that can really be taxing on the mind. Our brains are a muscle. It needs rest and recovery just as other parts of our body. As a bodybuilder, I don’t train seven days a week. I have two days of rest to give my body time to heal and recover. The brain needs the same.

My experience this week: Playing poker was my thing to do not related to sports betting. As mentioned, I took a break from tennis, handicapped only PGA and even doing just that felt lighter. It was allowing my betting mental capacity to refocus and regroup. At the tables, I didn’t really even talk about sports. Instead, I got to know the players, who they were, what they did, where they lived, interests, history with the game, etc. I got to know people and not have it relate to their favorite sports team.

Why it matters: You may not think taking a betting break is necessary but it is. Betting is not physically taxing like performing a deadlift but think about it — you bet and bet and bet and suddenly you’re making mistakes, you’re chasing, your account starts to drop, you grow frustrated that you’re not winning or not winning as much as even a few months ago. You start betting other sports you never have before because you’re looking for the next winner. It’s time for a break. Take a week off. Heck, take a month off. Go hiking, travel, catch up on your reading list, partake in hobbies that bring joy and energy to your life. Sports and sportsbooks will be around when you get back. I promise you, your brain will thank you.

Find your happiness

Ok, this may be really cheesy and sound simple on paper. However, many forget to do the simple things. For example, I hate to run. For my cardio, you won’t catch me running. Why run if I don’t like it? Eliminate it. Boom. Life is already better.

My experience this week: Yes, it was about playing poker. Yes, I still produced PGA content. However, I made sure to do the things I loved so as to not have a stressful week. Those things were lifting and engaging with people. As much as I wanted to play poker and maybe win some big money, it was more about socializing, meeting new people and just getting back to what we used to do before phones and technology — talk. Working from home, I don’t get to socialize as often. This was a great opportunity to get back to my personable self.

Why it matters: The less stress you have, the better mood you are in. It can all correlate to how well betting can go for you at that time. You never want your hobbies to feel like a heavy load. If other parts of your life are chaotic and stressful, it can translate to the decisions you make in betting. The better state of mind you are in, the better decisions you will make. This is similar to Lesson 2. But there is a difference between taking a break to prevent burnout and knowing when to stop entirely because it’s no longer fun. Betting should be fun. Do what you've got to do to keep it that way.

Moral of the story: Avoid trying to do too much at once. Find balance and even take a break to keep your mind sharp. Pick up hobbies not related to betting to keep your interest strong. More poker is likely in my future. If you don’t play, I recommend trying it out. If you do play, maybe I’ll see you at the tables.