One of the more popular gambling adages throughout the years has been “scared money never wins.” Never is a bit of a strong word, but for the most part the adage is one that has proven itself to be true over the years. What is scared money? The easiest definitions are that it’s money you can’t afford to lose or you’re simply betting over your head. Both are recipes for disaster over time.

To bet over your head is to ask for trouble because if you’re feeling financial pressures, your betting is going to suffer. Just as we’ve all seen teams we’ve bet on fall apart in the end when they stop playing to win and instead start playing not to lose – gamblers will do the same thing.

If you are betting with money you can’t afford to lose, you’ll do things differently than if you could write off the loss with no problem. This holds true not only in sports betting, but in all forms of gambling where the player has any sort of input into the outcome.

A slot machine doesn’t know if you’re playing scared or not, but if you’re playing video poker, you’re more likely to keep four to a flush instead of three to a Royal. Players playing with scared money are more likely to stand on 15 or 16 when basic strategy says they should take a hit because they’re afraid of busting. Don’t even think about going to a poker table in Vegas. You’ll be eaten alive even if you sit down at a low-stakes table.

At the horse track, bettors will pass up what they believe are promising long shots in favor of lower-priced horses who appear to be safer bets. They can miss some nice exotic payoffs because they were worried about losing, but as many serious horse players will tell you, the difference between a winning meet and a losing meet often comes down to four or five nice hits.

In sports betting, those who can’t afford to lose are also going to miss out some nice underdogs, as they’ll typically stick to favorites, especially in baseball or hockey. Most of the time they’ll also choose favorites against the spread, betting on who they believe the better team is and not really paying attention to the line.

If you’re playing over your head, you basically have two options; three if you count to continue what you’re doing and suffer the consequences in the long run. You can either take a break until your financial situation improves to the point where you can pick right up where you left off. Or you can cut down the size of your bets, which is preferable if possible, so you can remain in action and hopefully build your bankroll up over time and can start wagering larger sums of money.

Betting sports is stressful enough. You don’t need to add to it by creating financial stress, as well.