Patience is a virtue - particularly in the world of sports betting
For many people, being a full-time bettor sounds like the dream job. Such a profession probably conjures up images of an individual experiencing a huge adrenaline rush after making a huge decision which brings about a life-altering triumph. As is often the case, though, the reality is very different. A full-time bettor is more likely to be studious, disciplined and incredibly hard-working, and knowing when to refuse a bet is a key part of becoming successful.
Having a good grasp of psychology is vital for any bettor, as is the ability to self-analyse and judge situations objectively. There are different styles of bettors – after all, no two human beings are exactly alike – but there are certain rules which serve every gambler well regardless of their particular personality.
It is something of a cliché to state that patience is a virtue, but that phrase could not be more accurate when it comes to sports betting. Even the most talented and experienced of bettors will encounter obstacles blocking their path, and being able to remain calm and composed in such situations is often what sets apart the most successful gamblers. In an environment heavily influenced by randomness and fortune, patience is essential.
To illustrate this, let us take a look at the law of large numbers, a theorem developed by Jacob Bernoulli which is based upon probability distribution. For instance, we would expect a fair coin to land on heads and tails an even number of times in a restricted sample. Of course, it might not work out as 50-50 if we only conducted 10 tosses, but over time we would expect the results to even out.
This is also the case in sports betting. If a bettor has gained an edge that is larger than the bookmaker’s margin, he might not be able to capitalise on it with his first two wagers – but as time goes on, he will be able to use it to his advantage, provided he remains patience. Overhauling one’s strategy and thus restricting the sample size would be the wrong choice for a bettor in this scenario.
Every bettor will want to avoid a number of common traps that inexperienced gamblers have a tendency to fall into. Gambler’s fallacy refers to the misguided belief that if an event initially happens more frequently than normal (a tossed coin landing on heads), it will happen less frequently than normal at some point in the future (a tossed coin landing on tails).
This is wrong because the outcomes in different coin tosses are statistically independent. If you had been betting on tails initially and then drastically changed your approach because of a lack of immediate success, you would probably lose out in the long run.
Cognitive biases affect the decision-making process when it comes to wagering money on a particular outcome. One example is favourite-longshot bias, which sees many overvalue outsiders and undervalue those options available at shorter prices; another is hindsight bias, which occurs when people perceive an event that has already taken place as having been more predictable than it actually was before the event occurred. Remaining patient in such situations can help bettors remain rational and therefore increases their chances of winning.
Another bias worth considering is known as hyperbolic discounting, referring to the tendency to choose a quick pay-out over a more long-term gain. In the real world, it is the young child choosing one chocolate biscuit that is waved in front of his face now, rather than the prospect of being given three biscuits later in the day.
Some bettors behave in a similar way; they will not thin twice if confronted by the chance to win a large sum at once, even if there is a not insignificant change of going bust. It would make more sense to employ proportional and fixed staking methods in these situations, but not everyone chooses to do so. The desire for instant gratification can lead bettors into making bad decisions.
Let us use a concrete example. Most bettors will have a favoured bookmaker, perhaps because they had coincidental success while using them. If a bettor wants to place a €5 wager and their preferred bookmaker offers odds of 2.22, will they switch to another company offering 2.25 on the same outcome? They might do, but a difference of €0.15 if the bet wins is unlikely to be much of an incentive to most.
However, what if the odds difference is the same but the stake will be €100,000? Almost all bettors would switch to another bookmaker in the hope of earning an additional €3,000. Yet in both situations moving to a different firm maximises the advantage – and the most successful bettors would therefore switch in both cases, knowing how important it is to develop a habit of doing whatever it takes to increase value.
Anxiety decreases the likelihood of a bettor behaving rationally. Learning to be patient and evaluating situations calmly will increase your chances of gains in the long-term.
It is interesting to consider why people have become more interested in instant gratification. One theory is that the rise of technology, which allows us to do so much with a few taps of our phone, has made society less patient and less willing to wait it out, even if bigger rewards lie at the end of the path.
Placing bets has never been easier; whereas punters would once have had to leave their house and go to a dedicated location to have a wager, they can now do so wherever they are in the world using their smartphone, tablet, laptop or other device. Minimal effort often leads to minimal thought, and this lack of patience has an adverse effect on a bettor’s chances of success.
In summary, patience is a virtue which has even more value when it comes to sports betting. Even if you have discovered a winning formula, you will not be able to reap the rewards unless you are able to understand that you will not become a millionaire overnight.