The Zen of NFL Wagering

NFL Betting: The Zen of NFL Wagering

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

The zen of NFL wagering? This might seem humorous to those who have spent some Sundays at the sportsbook–where the evidence of “zen” is scarce indeed. Watching the temperaments of these gentlemen, one thinks less of a Buddhist monk and more of a borderline mental patient. But when you look at the sharps in this business and compare them to the hordes of bettors who come and go every year–this element is one of the things that separates them.

Think of some of the traits that befall most NFL bettors–a bad temper, pride, volatility, impatience, and an unquenchable thirst for action. Now think of a zen-master. What are some traits that give him an edge? He’s calm, cool, and collected. Unflappable. Nothing ruffles his feathers. He takes the good with the bad and manages to process them almost equally. He just keeps plugging along, knowing that his strategy will pay off in the long run.

These mental pitfalls represent most of the challenges that face normal NFL bettors. Their ability to succeed and, more importantly–last is tied up in their ability to not fall prey to the elements that the zen-master has under control.

Pride is a big one. They say that pride comes before the fall. In other words, it’s not good. In NFL betting, it can lead to a sense of entitlement and an unwillingness to accept unpleasant results. There is a fine line because you want to be confident, but if you take it too far, it can lead to a really bad headspace. The overly-prideful bettor feels he has something coming to him–that his handicapping is so scary-good that the results should always bear this out.

And when the prideful bettor loses a bet or a series of bets, he has a very difficult time accepting failure–even on a short term. If he would let some of his pride ebb, he would realize that even the best NFL bettors go through bad stretches. It’s nothing to get too down about. But being able to accept it is a big part of losing. If you let your pride get in the way–you will not be able to handle setbacks well–which is a signature trait of all successful NFL bettors.

Pride leads to impatience and the inability to stay the course regardless of what befalls you. A player without zen might be betting on, say, an afternoon game. A missed extra point costs him beating the spread. So he tries to double up on the Sunday night game–a game he previously had no interest in betting.

Or sometimes a guy is actually winning a fair amount of his bets–at a clip that would guarantee success if he stayed on the righteous path. But his bankroll is not growing fast enough for his tastes. He figures he’s winning, so why not place bigger bets to speed up the growth of his bankroll? Then he gets on a bad run and his bankroll is decimated even though his overall winning percentage is actually quite good. He just started making bigger bets at the wrong time and now he’s gardening on Sundays.

Having a certain amount of zen will help you absorb the inevitable badness that eventually plagues all NFL bettors. And this is the key point that will decide if you’re along for the long haul or another betting casualty that couldn’t even make it to the midway point of the season. And it applies to winning, too. When you win, you pocket the money. You achieved your goal. You don’t adopt the ridiculous and deadly mindset of “playing with the house’s money” and go hit the craps table for an all-night session.

When you lose, you grin and bear it. It will force you to martial all your inner resource. But the zen-master knows that the worst time to make up for something bad is right on the heels of something bad. He regroups, rallies his troops, and readies for the next battle. He knows that in a game where picking 57% equals excellence that you’re going to lose. A lot, too. He is able to emotionally come to grips with it and not allow a minor loss to spiral into total annihilation.