HELENA — I’ve always been contrarian by nature. Whether it was politics, advice from my parents or listening to analysts on any number of sports talk shows; if I hear a group of people saying the same thing I tend look toward the other direction.

Naturally, I found my way into the world of sports betting.

I placed my first bet in 2016 when I worked as a cook at Majerle’s Sports Grill (Yes, “Thunder Dan” Majerle from those Phoenix Suns teams with Charles Barkley) in Flagstaff, Arizona. The Raiders were playing the Panthers and I bet the number of points would go over the projected total. I won!

In my mind I was just a “broke college student (and this was true),” so the amount I bet on a game reflected that mindset.

I didn’t know it at the time, but wagering through the lens of a broke college student was the only smart thing about my gambling strategy back then.

It was fun.

Sometimes I’d win; sometimes I’d lose. I still had fun watching games, regardless of the outcome.

Down the road, this column will include general concepts (which will likely stay relevant within an evolving industry), aggregated information and data, and some – hopefully – entertaining personal anecdotes with the goal being to keep sports betting fun.

Fast forward to Jan. 14, 2018; I was working my first journalism job out of college. I thought to myself, “I’ve gotten pretty good at picking sides, I should bet more – a lot more – on each game.”

Without knowing the outcome, anyone who works in journalism with outstanding student loans can tell you this was stupid. But, nevertheless:

As the new guy on the sports desk, I worked Sundays during the NFL season and playoffs. Any fan of the Minnesota Vikings remembers Jan. 14, 2018, quite well. Long story short, Stefon Diggs caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum as time expired to send the Vikings into the next round of the playoffs with a 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints. After a series of bad bets preceding that game, I had far too much money riding on the Saints because I was trying to win it all back.

Instead of jumping up and down with excitement like everyone else in the room, my face was buried in my hands. After some time without speaking I went back to finishing my shift, fighting back tears while thinking about all the Top Ramen I was about to eat for the next two weeks, and whether or not I needed to call my father for a loan so that I could make next month’s rent.

This was not fun.

I went back and re-evaluated how I arrived at that point. I realized something. Not only was I obviously betting too much, but I thought I could use sports betting to supplement my income when, in fact, it should be nothing more than a hobby.

There are a handful of people in the world who can make a living betting sports, but they have resources I will never have. They have 20-30 places to get a bet down, teams of analysts working for them and most importantly a multimillion-dollar bankroll they used to get their enterprise off the ground.

My goal isn’t to give out a guaranteed number of winning picks.

My goal is to discourage compulsive behavior by offering stimulating handicapping advice and betting strategies.

Now that Sports Bet Montana is live, it feels natural for me to enter the world of writing about sports betting.

This column will hopefully be useful for recreational bettors. I am in no way an expert, but I do have quite a bit of relatable and relevant experience.

Matthew Kiewiet covers high school and community sports for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Email him at matthew.kiewiet@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter @IRmattkiewiet.

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