All of us screw up from time to time:
- we bet with our hearts instead of our heads
- we click on the button without shopping around
- we think it’s outrageous that a team is available at such long odds so we back them without stopping to ask why (I did this once – I’d misread the kick-off time and my team were 2-0 down and had two men sent off. They didn’t win.)
Occasional mistakes are part of the gambling experience. We say “That was dumb”, resolve not to do it again, and move on. The bigger problem is when we make systematic mistakes that cost us dearly. Here are a few of them.
1) This run of losers must end soon so I’ll increase my stakes
Aargh. Do NOT do this, unless you’re betting against me on betfair, in which case, go right ahead ;o) Chasing your losses is a really good idea… if you like living in a cardboard house and asking strangers for spare change and wearing John McCririck’s cast-offs. Horses go dozens of races without winning. Teams go whole seasons without winning. The chances of it are low… but when it does happen (and it happens eventually) it gets very expensive very quickly.
2) I’ve lost three in a row so this system must be rubbish
It ain’t necessarily so. Especially if you’re backing outsiders, you have to expect to put together the odd losing run. You can’t conclude that just because you’ve been losing for a while, your selection criteria are useless, or your tipster is a con-man, or you’re doing something wrong. You can figure out whether you’re being unlucky or mistaken by doing the sums.
3) Who wants to bet at such short odds?
I remember watching a tennis match in which Roger Federer – being Roger Federer – was winning comfortably. His odds on Betfair had shortened to 1.03 – something around 1/30. I rated his chances of losing from there as effectively zero, so I backed him merrily, and happily won pennies. Yes, the odds were short; yes, my winnings were small; and yes, I won. The winning wasn’t the important thing; it was judging that this was a value bet and betting accordingly.
4) Those are long odds, it must be good value
Why do you think bookies advertise the first scorer/correct score bets in their windows? It’s not because they’re nice, generous people. They’re not. Those bets – even though the numbers look big – are about the poorest value bets this side of “Dunfermline to win the Champions League*”. The way to judge whether a bet is worth making is to compare the odds on offer against how likely you think the outcome is.
5) I think I roughly broke even!
You think? Show me your spreadsheet. You don’t have a spreadsheet? Then show me your betting slips. You don’t have those either? Then you clearly don’t take winning seriously. You need to know how much you bet, with whom, on what, and to analyse that every few weeks to see how you’re performing. Is one bookie kicking your arse? Are you making bets with your heart rather than your head? Are you chasing losses? The only way to see your patterns and figure out how to improve is to keep a careful record of your bets.
Banish these filthy and disgusting habits right now, and you’ll be far more likely to come out ahead. You can bet on it.
* At the right odds, that might be a value bet. Not this season, though.