Sports Betting Psychology: How To Deal With Bad Runs

Written by Miles Wigby - @wyattbets on Twitter.

Psychology plays a huge part in all forms of gambling. Winning at sports betting is no easy task and the psychological factors just make it even harder. No one likes losing, but unfortunately, variance is unavoidable and something you will experience if betting long term. Negative variance swings can come in all forms and at any time, staying strong mentally throughout is difficult but necessary if you want to profit from the long term edge. Here are some useful tips from professional sports bettors on how to keep your cool and decide to carry on betting throughout downspells.

1. Simulations

One way you can deal with losing runs is by running some simulations, which will give you a better understanding of how probable a downswing is. For example, let’s say you are consistently placing bets with a 3% edge. Using a tool like SportsBettingCalcs you can run a simulation based on your bankroll size, stake size and more variables to see some possible future results. Once you’ve inserted the data into the calculator, you’ll be able to see the chances of losing 10% or 50% of your bankroll. With access to in-depth data like this you can be better prepared for variance. So, if you are down 20% of your bankroll you won’t be as surprised, as you are already aware of the risks.

If you are not sure how to use the tool, check out the video below where Alex goes through his betting results using the simulator. Fast forward to 8:55.

2. Analysing Results

Analysis is key in improving your betting systems and becoming more profitable. There are many ways to analyse results, the key is to focus on the reason why you placed the bet. The first example I will give is from bets that have an edge on the market between bookmakers. If you bet on a 3% edge, the first thing to look at is if you are beating the closing line. Regardless of lucky or unlucky results, if this is your main advantage over the market then you need to be consistently beating the closing lines of the sharpest bookmakers.

The bigger the sample size the better in all cases when it comes to gambling. With larger sample sizes, you’ll also be able to determine which betting angles have been the most profitable for you. That’ll not only help you choose the most profitable bets but also help you with stake sizing. Once you have a good sample size of at least 1,000 bets, you can start trying to make your betting more efficient. Playing around with different markets and figuring out how much edge you need to meet your goals.

3. Managing Expectations

Possibly the hardest part of gambling and managing losing streaks. Ultimately, no gambler has ever avoided losing streaks entirely, unless you’ve retired with less than 10 bets. The truth is, even if you have an impressive 10% ROI or more you will still see huge swings in variance. In an ideal world, you’d get two wins for every loss etc., but it simply never plays out like that. So to some extent, you have to expect it and power through. Long-term gamblers are fully in control of their emotions and see losing streaks as merely a bump in the road. Ask yourself things such as, ‘Yes my bankroll is down 10% now but if mathematically it will be up 60% in two months does it matter?’

Before you even start certain betting systems, envision all scenarios. Imagine in your head beforehand, you losing 25% of your bankroll, would you give up? Even if you knew after 6 months it would double? If you would, then you’re not confident enough to follow out the system and you probably shouldn’t start it. If you would carry on, then you’ve already envisioned the worst case scenario, so psychologically it should be easier.

Always be realistic with potential outcomes and ask yourself why you got started with this strategy? Using Trademate as an example, your aim was to get as many bets as possible and have a closing EV of 2%. If nothing has changed and you are doing that successfully why would you quit? Bad variance is simply a short term result from the strategy, if you’re hitting your goals then long term you’ll reap the rewards.

4. Staking

Staking can be a crucial part of making a profit gambling. The last thing you want is to go back through your recent bets and notice you are staking half the amounts on the winners and double on the losers. Unfortunately there’s no perfect method when it comes to staking, there are lots of different methods, it’s just about using the one that suits you the best.

It’s very important to stay consistent, whether you are on a losing run or if you are currently making good profits, you can always be more efficient. Here are some of the methods for staking; flat, kelly criterion and betting to win one unit.

When on a bad run, it is crucial you stick to your stake sizing. Never change the system just because you’re currently on a bad run. If it worked out mathematically before you started, then it's likely nothing has changed, it's just bad variance. Even more importantly, definitely do not raise your stakes to win back losses. If you have a strategy in place, stick to it. If you are unsure about how to stake, do some research into staking types and what best suits your strategy. Try and do this with a clear mind, rather than during the peak of a bad run when you may just be wanting to do something different to get wins.

Gamble Safely

Nothing is more important than your health and we always promote healthy gambling. Professional gamblers are stoic, they place the bets and continue on with their life regardless of short-term results. Don’t get carried away watching every bet you place, it’s really not that important, especially when following a long-term strategy.

Losing streaks will happen and if you can’t deal with them, then gambling isn’t the best industry for you and taking a break isn’t a bad idea. Time is on your side, there’s always more sporting events, so don't rush to chase bets. If you need a break, always take one.

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