With roughly 30 private operators set to compete in Ontario‘s regulated iGaming and online sports betting market beginning April 4, some Ontario residents may be contemplating placing their first ever sports wager.
A recent study by Deloitte Canada concluded potential bettors — those who didn’t place any wagers over the previous 12 months, but are now open to doing so with sports betting regulated — make up 58.5% of the sports betting community in Canada. The study also found prospective sports bettors desired more education about how to place bets and single-game wagering.
Being a new sports bettor can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What types of wagers can be made? What kind of a bankroll is required? And, with the recent boom of sports betting advertisements across Canada, and especially in Ontario, how do you decide which sportsbooks to use?
Sports Handle posed these questions, and a few more, to Canadian professional sports bettor Rob Pizzola. Pizzola has more than 33,000 followers on Twitter, is the co-host of the Circles Off sports betting podcast, and is co-owner of the app Betstamp. He makes a “good living off of sports betting now,” but says it took many years for him to perfect his craft with the use of statistical models in order to consistently turn a profit.
Some answers from this Q&A have been edited for clarity or brevity.
Prospective bettors in Ontario are being bombarded with all these ads from sports betting companies ahead of the April 4 launch. It’s overwhelming. How should they pick a sportsbook?
RP: OK, so there’s a couple things that have to happen before you even deposit into a sportsbook. You’re going to want to educate yourself on sports betting in some capacity. I’m not saying you’re going to turn into a pro overnight, but you need to understand the basics, right? If you haven’t made a bet before, I would say Google is your friend in terms of just quick searches. What is a moneyline bet? How to bet a parlay? What is a point spread? You need to understand the basics before you ever put money in a sportsbook.
It might be overwhelming for people to figure out which sportsbook they want to bet at. Everybody has a different bankroll, everybody has different goals in terms of betting. Some people will do it just for recreational purposes, and to throw some money on a game to make it more entertaining. Some actually just don’t find it fun to lose, and they want to win in the long run. So that factors into it as well. But what I tell people is this: Your best bet in the long run is to actually to bet at multiple sportsbooks, and not just one, preferably ones that offer different types of betting options. The more the merrier, I would say.
Now, not everyone can deposit $100 into 20 or 30 different sportsbooks. Even two or three is fine, three or four is fine. But when you deposit into sportsbooks, that gives you the ability to shop for the best available price on whatever you’re going to bet on. So if we think about it in terms of our regular day-to-day lives, you know the price of gas right now, for example. If you were driving to fill up your car, and there’s a gas station on all four corners, and one is offering significantly discounted gas when compared to every other gas station, you’re very likely to fill up there.
All of the bigger U.S. sportsbooks that will be entering the Canadian market — I’m talking about DraftKings, FanDuel, even to some extent BetRivers, and Australian-based PointsBet — these are what I would consider to be user-friendly books. They’ve had years now in the U.S. market to be able to adapt their interfaces, and they have good mobile presences as well. But typically, the longer that the sportsbook has been operating in the market, the more likely they are to have a user-friendly product.
To me, Bet365 is the gold standard of sportsbooks in terms of layout, because what they do really well, relative to other sportsbooks, is they’re able to filter the things that they know that I’m going to bet on. … For example, there might be a live soccer match going on, but I’ve never bet soccer in my life. They’re not going to filter that to me on my main screen. They know that I’m more likely to come in and bet the NHL, so that’s featured on my screen, so I can get my bet in quicker.
You’re going to be getting lucrative sign-up bonuses from sportsbooks in this space right now. Try different books, see what works for you, and you’ll develop your own natural preference. Operators are competing for a share of your wallet. You get to pick, so be willing to try different things.
Are there any specific resources a new bettor can access to get a sports betting education?
RP: The Logic of Sports Betting is a great book. Reading always helps. Some people resonate a lot better with video nowadays, especially the younger demographic. YouTube will be your friend quite often during sports betting. Be careful, though — you could Google something, or YouTube something, and you’ll get a lot of fluff.
I would highly recommend some sort of introduction to statistics. Even if you never took stats in school or anything like that, you can find free training online. Or, you can just go to a Chapters [bookstore] and pick up an intro book. Having a stats foundation and understanding of how probabilities work will help.
How much of a bankroll should new bettors have?
RP: This should be a separate amount of money, where if you lose it, in its entirety, it’s not going to put you on the street or affect your day-to-day in any way. That’s what your bankroll should be. People often don’t do that and get themselves into trouble. Don’t confuse it with your living expenses. Make it a separate amount of money, where if things were to go completely off the rails, and you have a really bad streak, and you lose that money, you’re still fine.
If you’re going to lose sleep because you lost 10 percent of your bankroll in a day, then don’t put 10 percent of your bankroll in play. It’s going to affect your mental health. If you’re ever sweating a game so much that you’re uncomfortable, you’re stressed, then you’ve put too much money into play, and you need to learn from that experience.
Obviously, check for the sign-up bonuses on the site. That’s going to be the easiest way to build a bankroll in the early going. For example, [you might find] a match bonus deposit up to $500 and the sportsbook will match your $500. Now, there’s often terms associated with these bonuses, so you’ve got to read carefully and do your due diligence. But the easiest way in the early going is to get your money into different books, take advantage of the bonuses, and then line shop.
If you have a $500 bankroll, rather than putting it all into one book, I would suggest dividing that up amongst three, four, or five different books. Usually, beginners should place somewhere between 1 or 2 percent of their overall bankroll on a standard bet. That would vary depending on how many bets you make in a day. So if you’re placing one or two bets in a day, you probably would do something like 2 percent of your bankroll.
Which markets should newbies bet on?
RP: Actually, more people in Ontario are already familiar with betting parlays because of PROLINE. (Parlay-style betting has been legal through Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s PROLINE games in Canada since 1992.) In fact, when single-game wagering became legal, people didn’t even know what to do at that point because they were so accustomed to parlay betting. These bettors may want to bet parlays, because in a sense, it’s like a miniature lottery ticket, and they’re already comfortable with them. However, it’s probably best to avoid them at first.
Straight bets — that’s where we start to get less variance in play. You’re more likely to be able to sustain your bankroll over a longer period of time. Whether that’s on the moneylines, spreads, totals, whatever, it’s just a single bet on a single outcome.
When you’re a recreational better, you actually have a better chance to compete in a market where other pros are not necessarily paying attention. So props is a great place to start because, for one, it’s very entertaining to be able to bet who’s going to score a goal tonight. You know, player point totals, over/under the passing yards, over/under for NFL, they’re very entertaining things to bet on to enhance your experience. And on top of that, you’re not getting that much professional money in that market, which is really damaging your ability to find an edge, so that’s not a bad starting point.
What are some rookie bettor pitfalls to watch out for in Ontario?
RP: I have a great friend that lives in the Chicago area. And anytime that the Chicago Cubs play, they’re going to be paying 20 to 30 cents more to bet the Cubs than anywhere else in the world. So you’re going to want to look at what the prices are outside of the market before you bet on the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s very likely that the operators know that they’re going to get a lot of action on the Toronto-based teams: the Leafs, the Raptors, Toronto FC, Blue Jays. People naturally want to bet on the teams that they cheer for. Because of that, they probably will charge you a premium. So you have to be aware of that.
There are offshore sportsbooks, and other regulated sportsbooks, that you can compare odds to. If you’re betting in Ontario and every sportsbook is charging you minus-130 to bet on the Blue Jays, and then you go and you check the [other] sportsbooks and they’re charging you minus-110, well, you know you’re being price-gouged at that point. Understand that there’s a very high likelihood that if you want to bet the home team in Ontario, you’re going to be paying a premium to do so.
But to be clear, I’m not saying you’re better off betting in an offshore market compared to a regulated market, because there are rules and certain regulations that the sportsbooks will have to abide by in Ontario. When you’re betting offshore, they’re kind of making their own rules. Using offshore books to compare lines, though, can be a useful tool.