How to Lose at Sports Betting
Why the impatient gambler loses, and how to win

in this article...

  • The biggest problem with sports betting: impatience
  • Why streaks in sports betting are unavoidable
  • The difference between winning and losing
  • How to become a winning sports bettor

Don't like to lose? Get really upset when you lose? You might not be cut-out for sports betting unless you can change your attitude. As you will see below, losing days, weeks, or even months are inevitable. They are built into the fabric of life thanks to the laws of statistics. The key to being a winning sports bettor is to understand and embrace the realities instead of fighting them.

Bursts and streaks are inevitable - in life and in sports betting

Don't believe it? Think you can somehow find a way to win consistently without suffering losing streaks? Think again!

Consider the stock market. According to Money Magazine (April 2008), had you invested in an S&P 500 index fund in August 1997 and sat tight for 10 years, you’d have racked up an 88% return. Had you missed just the 20 best days in the market over that period, you would have had a 20% loss!

Think about what that means. Out of 3,650 days, 20 were big winners and the rest, in aggregate, was losers! Stock returns come in bursts. The same is true in sports betting (especially when picking underdogs in moneyline sports like baseball and hockey). Read my article on variance for a more detailed explanation.

Streaks happen. Winning streaks happen. And, as much as we like to deny their existence, losing streaks happen. Even in a season where you hit an unbelievable 60% winners (as good as it ever gets), there will be losing days, losing weeks and maybe even a losing month.

Consistent day-after-day winning just does not happen. Read that over again if you must. The point is, you need to expect losing streaks. And, you can't get too bent out of shape when they happen. If you expect them, you won't get too upset. Getting upset only makes things worse as that emotion forces you to do the wrong thing (chase or stop). You need to stay the course, again, shooting for 55%-60% winners over the long haul.

If a losing day or a losing week gets you too upset, you are probably betting too much. You need to be able to take those short-term hits so you can be around for the long term spoils. Bet a small enough percentage of your bankroll that you can survive the short-term losing streaks.

Begin to manage your sports wagering like a business that doesn't need a good day, or a good week, or even a good month, but rather needs to show a profit at year's end. If you can cap out 55%+ this is the only way it can be done!

What's the difference between winning and losing? Not much.

To further demonstrate how hard it is to "win" consistently, check out these probabilities, presented so you can get a feel of what winning feels like. The best way to describe what winning feels like? It feels like losing!

Yes, you read that right - it feels like losing, and that is why most gamblers crumble to the psyche that initializes their demise!

Let us explain. Let's say your having success gambling. You are a long-term 55% handicapper, yet somehow it doesn't feel like it is supposed to feel.

Here is your answer:

Let's say you average between 3-5 plays a day, let's say on average 4 plays per day. If you are a 55% gambler making 4 plays per day this is your statistical expectation:

WINSLOSSESProbability
4 0 9.15%
3 1 29.95%
2 2 36.75%
1 3 20.05%
0 4 4.10%

So, what does this tell us? It tells us that the chance you'll have a winning day, after the juice/vig is considered is less than 50/50! To have a winning day in this scenario, you need to win 3 or 4 out of 4. The chance of that is happening 39.1% (29.95% + 9.15%). So, over 60% of the time you - a winning gambler - will be losing money!

Now you can see where the problem lies. A gambler goes 2-2 on his well capped plays, but after a 2-2, or 1-3, or the rare 0-4 decides he needs to make money for the day, and plays an ill-advised game. Or, he bets too much to try to catch up. Unconsciously he has just reduced his chances of being a 55% capper, even though he is!

Think of it this way. If we flip a coin, we expect to see heads 50% of the time and tails 50% of the time. If we flip a coin 3500 times, we would expect to be very close to 1750 heads and 1750 tails. It would be extremely rare, with 3500 "trials" to vary far from that. But if we flip it 200 times, we are much more likely to vary from the expected 100 heads and 100 tails. It would not be unreasonable to see 60% heads on 200 trials.

It goes beyond basic money management. It takes a substantial amount of bankroll discipline to accept losing 60.9% of the time, in order to win. WHY? Because it feels like losing! Until this is understood, the sports bettor, even the one that can hit a good winning percentage,will show a loss at years end.

In the end, remember:

  • Even at 60% winners you lose 52.48% of all days you bet!
  • As counterintuitive as it may sound, winning feels like losing
  • Don't fight the losing days or weeks. There will be many of them. Variance is a normal part of sports betting. Take a deep breath and ride it out until the winning streak comes along. For more on sports betting variance and sample sizes, check out what you can expect.

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Good luck!