Almost everyone out there has felt it: the thrill of winning your first bet, that sudden feeling of excitement and pleasure running through our bodies as we are handed our money for something so trivial. We ask ourselves, how can this be so easy? We then win another bet and another, thinking we have found the key to financial freedom in life… and then we lose it all. All those previous emotions reverse and now we’re drenched in sweat, our mind refusing to assert control in our bodies, thinking how could we be this stupid, another victim of the game. But, and this is the problem most of us have, then another feeling comes over us, which is our pride leading us to believe that we have found our mistake, that, if we adjust, we can get back on track to the winning side and then we go through the motions once more, with that feeling of total loss lingering still on the back of our minds. This is a never-ending vicious cycle for most gamblers out there.
The problem with sports is that we get insanely invested in them. We love them so much! The adrenaline that we feel when our favorite team wins the championship is unparalleled to pretty much anything. However, when our team loses, we are filled with sadness, anger, pride and all the other bad feelings you can imagine. If you can imagine yourself being in this emotional roller coaster, is adding money to this world a smart idea? A powerful experience indeed, but is this the right way to go?
This article’s purpose is not to prevent you from betting, but for teaching you the most important rule of sports betting, one that will help you out in the long run and really separate the best from the worst: YOU NEED TO LEARN HOW TO KEEP YOUR EMOTIONS IN CHECK. This applies even before you think about placing a bet.
The first step to learning this is to know yourself and be honest about what you feel when a certain event happens. Do not shy away from your emotions, as learning how to feel them will help you to better control them. This moment of clarity will help you identify the source of your emotion, understand it and not let it affect you. If you are not honest about this, you will let your emotions get the best of you when you bet your entire life savings on the Cleveland Browns winning the Super bowl, even when a few weeks earlier you were bashing on their Hard Knocks episodes.
That may sound absurd, but it happens to the best of us. We get all the things that we read about betting, all of our strategies, and throw them out the window when we get riled up and, this is important, this happens even when we win! When we win we think we can’t ever lose again, that we have found the golden strategy and this is when we take the most risk.
As I said, I can help you understand how these emotions affect your gambling. So here are a few strategies to help you become a more rational gambler.
- Have a betting budget
Make sure whatever you bet you can afford to lose. This is not the same as thinking you will automatically lose that money, but know that you will be fine in the event that things do not go your way.
- Whatever the result is, accept it
At the wrong end of a bet, we always kick ourselves to the ground for not listening to 1 out of the 13 experts we found in a foreign website, that said the opposite thing to our bet. We can’t think like this. We have to understand probability and the fact that we will lose sometimes. Be definite in your decisions and do not think about what might have happened if.
- Do not mistake facts as opinions
A well-defined betting strategy is to listen to facts, not opinions, even if they come from experts. If Michael Irvin says the Cowboys will beat the Jaguars because Jalen Ramsey is overrated and Dak Prescott is Dallas’ next Troy Aikman, please do not bet on the Cowboys just for this. Learn to listen to facts.
- Do not take into account everything everyone says
If you do this you will go crazy, which will lead you to frustration and placing a bet not aligned to your betting strategy. Also, if we look at all the information available, we may never reach a decision (most of them opinions) so have a clear basis on which to rely on.
- Avoid hindsight bias
Forget about clearing things up or identifying facts you should have known, after knowing the outcome. The only reason those things become so clear is because you already know that they happened. If a team is 8-0 and looks unbeatable, and then plays the Patriots at Foxborough and they lose, don’t let the outcome fool you. It does not mean that the Patriots will always win at home, that you were so blind to this or that the 8-0 team has a lot of uncovered weaknesses. Do not let the outcome fool you.
- Avoid overacting to dumb “stats”
Oh my god! The Jets have won their last 3 games when a blond quarterback is starting for them, which means they will beat the Saints at home, with Sam Darnold starting his first NFL game! These kinds of stats are found everywhere and you should learn to ignore them. Even if the Jets beat the Saints, it was not a smart bet.
- Avoid creating delusional trends and patterns
If the Oakland Raiders have done worse on the road for the last 12 seasons, and there were not drastic changes going into this season, that is a trend you might want to look into. However, if you have won your last three bets on the Cowboys, thinking that you will win another one just for that is delusional. Do not confuse trends with superstition.
- Do not listen to outcome bias and avoid constantly changing your strategy
This is one of the most important strategies to listen to. If you have created a sound sports betting strategy, one that takes into account stats, expert takes, recent news, injuries, etc. but you lose your first 2 bets with it, avoid changing your entire strategy completely. Maybe you should tweak it a little, but learn that if you change just because you lost a couple in a row, and then win on another new strategy, this does not mean that the latter is better than the former. (Avoid recency bias) Also, if something does not work once, it does not mean that it is an idiotic idea or strategy, as well as if something does work once, it does not mean it is a genius concept.
Do not let yourself become your worst enemy. Understand the subjectivity of emotions and how do they affect you so you can control them. Think rationally, look at stats and analytics before making the decision and create a sound gambling strategy that only looks at facts. We make worse bets when we let our emotions get the best of us. A great gambler is a rational one, who does not let emotions get in the way of their betting strategy and who know the importance of probabilities, meaning he is okay with the fact that he will not always win.
Oscar is a rabid sports fan who started to develop his own models when he realized that lots of sports betting “experts” rely too much on their own opinions and publicly available information to provide picks. Oscar focuses on football, basketball, and soccer.