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Sports column: Some words of advice for novice football bettors

It wasn’t that long ago when, if you wanted to bet on sports, you needed to know a guy who knew a guy, and it was helpful if they both knew a guy.

Everywhere except Las Vegas, sports betting was a murky business that conjured up images of broken dreams and broken legs, and numbers that didn’t make a ton of sense.

That all changed two years ago when sports gambling was legalized in Mississippi and elsewhere, and the industry jumped out of the shadows and into the mainstream. Now you can see betting odds on ESPN, listen to a dedicated sports gambling channel (VSIN) on satellite radio, and place bets at any casino in the state.

It can be a fun hobby but, like any hobby, it should be done in moderation lest it take over your life. If you’re going to dance with the point spread devil when the NFL and college football kick off this month, here are some friendly pointers from a guy who has won literally tens of dollars over the past two years:

• Have a budget, both for each week and the season, and stick to it. Whether you win or lose, don’t risk more money than you’re comfortable putting at risk. Typically, whatever you’d consider an entertainment expense is a good number.

• You don’t need to bet a ton to have some fun. The minimum bet on each game is $5, so you can spread money across a handful of games for a relatively small amount while you’re trying to get the hang of it.

• Beware of parlays. For the uninitiated, a parlay is a multiple-game bet that pays higher odds if it wins. The catch is, you have to win every game on the ticket. This is harder than it sounds. Three-team parlays are not terribly difficult to win, and it is fun to follow the twists and turns of three games at once, but anything more than that should be considered a longshot.

• You don’t need to bet on every game. Pick a couple you really like.

• Don’t get upset. Much like parlays, this is harder than it sounds. Sports betting is fun if you win and frustrating if you lose, particularly when one play changes the outcome. Keep a level head, stick to your budget, and realize you’ll be on the right side of some of those bad beats from time to time.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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