Similarities Between Poker and Sports Betting

Many of you are probably familiar with Jonas Gjelstad’s background in poker, as he has been successful in both sports trading and playing cards.

For those of you who are interested in the similarities between sports betting and poker, in this article we cover the similarities between betting and poker and also where these endeavours differ from each other.


Unlike in games like chess where you can clearly see skill differences of the players, in poker and betting you can never be 100% sure how big your edge actually is.

In the short-term, making unprofitable bets or playing bad poker might lead to good results – this is why pretty much all poker players and sports bettors have a biased view on their actual skill level.

If you’re too stubborn, you might just curse your bad luck and not make any analysis on why you lost, while good players and bettors are always looking for ways to improve, no matter if their results have been good or bad.


Although the nature of betting and poker are different in the way that you need discipline, both endeavours need a great amount of patience if you want to become successful.

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In betting this means that sometimes you might not find profitable opportunities to bet on and you need to pass match after match until you notice a clear pricing mistake.

In poker you might not find good games for a while, or you might simply be card dead in a great game and need to just fold hand after hand and watch others play.


Live poker or betting on a sports events and watching the game with your friends can both be fun activities for relaxing and socialising while enjoying the thrill of the game.

If you’re mostly betting or playing poker for enjoyment, you should be careful that you’re following a budget and not let it take over your life.

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While these activities can be quite fun, they’re pretty addictive and therefore should be enjoyed in moderation – unless you’re a professional with a proven track record, in which case you should probably spend a lot of time in pursuing your craft and improving further.


The profitability of both poker and sports betting depend on many factors, but mostly comes down to your skill edge. You can make good money in both if you have the proper skill set. In poker this means the less mistakes you make and the more mistakes your opponents make, the more profitable it’s going to be. In sports betting the more pricing mistakes there are in the markets that you can spot, the more profitable you will be.


There are too many great sports bettors and poker players who have gone broke due to ignoring bankroll management, which is one of the key areas you should take seriously in both pursuits.

Poker bankroll management

Whether you’re a bettor or a poker player, you should take advantage of the Kelly Criterion or some form of bankroll management that has the following qualities:

  1. It ensures your odds of risk of ruin are relatively small
  2. It ensures your edge is maximised by risking more when the odds are heavily in your favour or you’re a big favourite at the poker table you’re currently playing
  3. It ensures you have peace of mind so that you can make the best decisions possible without worrying about monetary outcomes and variance too much

The third part can be quite hard for both sports bettors and poker players – some people might never be able to get comfortable with the bigger swings that eventually occur when you start to play for higher stakes, especially if these stakes are so significant that they well and truly exceed the money needed for a normal life.

In this case, it’s better to pass up some of your edge by playing a little bit smaller, as constantly thinking about the money that is involved and what it represents in real life can lead to poor decisions in both betting and poker.


The fundamental difference here is that in betting you are mainly looking for pricing mistakes in the markets based on your own models and calculations on the true odds of a certain game or event.

On the other hand, in poker you are mainly looking for good games where the other players are weaker, with leaks in different areas of the game, which leads to them making more mistakes than you make.

Additionally, in online poker you can find value in certain promotions, like tournament or cash game leaderboards available at different poker sites – they might significantly boost your overall winnings.



Tip number 1: Always place the bets where you can find the highest odds for the event. This alone will boost your return % more than any available information. Just like in poker, you want to play in games with the smallest possible rake, biggest rake-back and/or weak players.

Tip number 2: Due to smaller edges, the variance in betting is even greater than in poker. Therefore you should apply a very strict bankroll management (BRM) in betting. Many winning players go broke if their BRM is not in place right from the start.

Tip number 3: The next season for the major leagues is just around the corner, and you can make some money in NHL/NBA/Premier league in the beginning of the season just by applying logical reasoning. For example, there might be two teams playing with equal strength, but the first won has been winning 8/10 matches and the other one just 2/10 – the odds will reflect their recent performance, and you have a clear value bet on the ‘underdog’ here.

Tip number 4: In my experience, the best games in poker occur during the night time so I prefer playing at that time. In betting, timing is also crucial: the majority of bettors will bet on overs until the start of the match, which presses down those odds. This means, you should bet on favourites and overs as soon as the odds are published and you find value in them, and consider leaving the bets on unders and underdogs to the last minute.

Tip number 5: News regarding a teams form is crucial info and you can’t get an edge on knowing a great player is missing from a match if everyone already has that info. Or, perhaps you can in case the market overreacts here, which frequently happens – then you can bet against the crowd. The same thing applies to poker, as we aim to exploit population tendencies that are non-optimal.

Tip number 6: Experience will sharpen your skills in both poker and betting. Therefore, you should be ready to pay your dues, even if it means losing in the beginning. Very rarely will someone be a crusher right from the start, but as we gain more experience, everything is possible as we are playing against other humans.

I hope you’ve gained some insights from my tips that you can apply in your own game – have fun while playing and studying more about betting & poker!

Beasts of Poker

-Henri, Beasts Of Poker Pro team

Twitter: Henri Koivisto


Whether you like to bet on sports or play cards, there’s always more to learn as the room for improvement as a player or a bettor is practically limitless.

Both require the same type of characteristics and share some common principles that you can utilise to gain a mathematical edge against the competition. We wish you the best of luck, both at the tables and in wagering!

About the author:

Beasts of Poker is a team of poker loving entrepreneurs and a group of poker professionals who share a common vision: to help and inspire players in the game that we love. Get inspired by our lifestyle section or chat with the pros in the forum at by visiting the Beasts Of Poker website.

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