Sports betting was taboo as little as 10 years ago. It was only legal in one U.S. state, though it was practiced in many more places. Now though? It’s legalized in more U.S. states than not, and sports gambling commercials are EVERYWHERE.
Chances are, you have an inkling of beating the odds and making money. Whether you’re doing so at a local casino or a trusted site like vegasbetting.com, you should be aware of this: psychological biases.
There are underlying biases that guide your every decision. The crazy party? Most people aren’t aware of these in the slightest — which presents a problem when betting for money.
Welp, that is no more because we’re listing the most common biases you want to be aware of. Before betting a dollar, read this list and make sure you’re not succumbing to one. It could save you or make you a pretty penny (depending on your perspective)!
Here is a list of some psychological biases that can influence betting on sports:
This might trip up bettors more than anything else. Bettors who fall victim to this think they’re smarter than everybody else. Smarter than bookies setting lines. Smarter than the algorithms the bookies used to set those same lines.
Folks, we’re not saying you should think you’re dumb, but you should check some of the ego at the door. If so, you’ll avoid excessive risk-taking just because you’re so sure one of your picks will hit.
Plus, you have to realize there’s always uncertainty with betting. You physically can’t know everything. Maybe there’s an injury that’s not on the report. Maybe the team meal made players sick. Maybe the coach is tanking the game. There’s always an element of surprise, and guarantees don’t exist in betting — no matter how confident you are.
Let’s say you’re overconfident and you’re thinking the Dolphins will beat the Jets by three points, and cover the spread. When researching the game, you’ll latch onto research that supports your existing opinion — all while ignoring evidence that goes against you.
If anything, you should directly seek out news with opposing viewpoints and actually consider what you’re finding out. If you find yourself disregarding opposite opinions, you’re exhibiting tell-tale signs of confirmation bias.
Gambler’s Fallacy Bias
Here’s the most obvious example of the gambler’s fallacy: let’s say you’ve lost five sports bet in a row. Five! You start telling yourself, “you’re due for a win.” This is one of the biggest fallacies of the human mind.
Look, the next outcome you’re betting on is influenced by zero percent from your previous losses. No one is due anything. Every bet stands by itself.
Still, bettors might force a bet thinking their time is now. More likely than not, the time is inconsequential. So try to approach every bet with a fresh mind.
Betting lines typically change from the time they’re first posted until the matchup is actually played. Take an NFL game. The betting line on Monday isn’t exactly what ends up being there on Sunday when the game is contested.
Anchoring bias refers to becoming attached to the first betting odds you see. For instance, say the Cowboys open as six-point favorites. If the line drops to minus-three, you may believe you’re getting good value because the odds have been halved. More times than not, this is not actually the case.
There’s usually a reason those odds have swung so much since it opened. Maybe there’s an injury. Maybe there’s smart bettors piling on the opposite team. Either way, you can’t assume your getting value just because the odds opened higher than they ended.
Relying too heavily on initial information or odds when making decisions, even if new evidence suggests a different outcome, is a recipe for disaster. Instead, consider why things have changed and allow that to guide your next decision.
So you just witnessed the Lakers blow a 20-point lead, eh? In the event you did, you could use that recent event to influence your soonest betting choice on the LA team (e.g bet against them for being chokers). This is the availability heuristic to a tee — when you overemphasize recent results.
Look, the best way to evaluate a team is not by one result you happened to remember right away. No, you’re better off weighing recent games. That’s plural, meaning more than one result. Looking at how the team is trending in, say, it’s last five games, to give you a better idea than one single game. Always go for a bigger sample size than one-off results.
How many times have you heard about “bandwagon fans”? This is typically a fan that starts rooting for a team when everyone else does too — mostly once they start winning.
This doesn’t just apply to fandom, though. The same goes for betting. You can follow the crowd and make the same bet “”everyone” else is. At that point, you’re gambling based off groupthink rather than individual choice.
We hate to break it to you, but most bettors lose money at this sports gambling thing. There’s a reason why bookmakers stay open and not run out of business — cause they profit more then they lose. Therefore, is it really a smart idea to follow the average person (that’s prone to losing)? No way, in fact, going against the grain might be more beneficial.
Sunk Cost Fallacy
Alright, this is the last bias we’ll cover, but it’s a biggie. Sunk cost fallacy is when the amount of money you’ve already wagered begins factoring into your decision-making going forward.
For instance, there’s futures betting on championship winners for every sport. In the MLB, you might bet a large sum on the Yankees to win the World Series amid the preseason.
But if the Red Sox end up performing hot during the season, your initial bet could deter you away from throwing another futures wager on Boston because you don’t want to admit defeat on the New York wager. So in essence, your letting a past decision influence a modern choice. That’s a big no-no cause you want to be updating your opinions with new information.
Like we said, review these biases before every bet. It’s the best way to keep yourself honest when sports gambling, which goes a long way, believe us.