How to deal with losing sports bets

All sports bettors experience losing streaks. The key to long-term betting success is keeping a clear head through both losing and winning streaks. How?

Gambling challenges the human brain in so many ways, whether you are researching bets and analyzing information, deciding how much and how often to place a wager and how to deal with wins and losses. You could write a whole encylopedia on all the mental biases and psychological mechanisms that come into play. These are challenges that make profitable gambling more difficult and even leads some people into problems and addiction.

Dealing with streaks is one particular challenge, both winning and losing ones. Good money management using a calm head is vital to sports betting success, and long runs of either winning or losing could disturb that calmness.

Here's some advice on how to deal with the rollercoaster of emotions that is sports betting.

Never bet more than you can afford to lose

This is the cardinal rule of all gambling, whether you just like having an occasional bet or aim to to "pro". Money used for betting should not be needed elsewhere in your private finances. Not only is this obvious for financial reasons, but you will also never be able to keep a clear head betting if the money is needed for food, mortages, diapers or car repairs.

Use your betting bank sensibly. Most professional sports bettors rarely bet more than 1 percent of their total betting bank on each bet. This means that even a long losing streak won't kill your bank.

Also remember that sports betting is an exciting and challenging activity about analyzing sports - large bets are not required to enjoy this "game"!

Understand basic odds and probability

Betting on odds is all about having an opinion on the outcome of a sporting event such as a football match. We're not covering the mathematics in this blog post, but odds is a function of the assumed probability of something happening. If the decimal odds is 2.00 that simply means that the probabiliy of that outcome is about 50 percent (100% / odds = 100% / 2.00 = 50%). We're using the phrase "about 50%" because first of all in sports betting this is just an opinion (unlike probability in a casino) and second of all the bookmaker's commission skews the odds slightly.

If you are slightly better at making these probability judgements than bookmakers and other gamblers, for example in one specific sport or league, you stand a chance of making money.

Even so, there are so many factors that shapes the outcome of a sporting event such as a football match. Referee decisions, weather, small errors because a player has slept badly or argued with their partner the same morning, a slippery patch on the playing surface, tactical flaws, the millimeter difference when a football boot hits the ball that decides whether the ball flyes into the net or smashes off the post...

One minor event can shape the outcome of a match or even a full tournament, so you just have to get used to the fact that you can, and frequently will, lose on a great bet and win on a bad bet.

Both losing and winning streaks happen constantly

It is perfectly normal to experience long runs of either losses or wins when sports betting.

Many people believe that probability is predictable. They assume that when you toss a coin 20 times you'll have a nice distribution of "heads" and "tails" appearing about every second time. However, you're almost just as likely to experience 15 "heads" and five "tails" or vice versa, and it's not rare to see five "heads" (or "tails") in a row. Try it yourself!

Betting on sports you'll frequently experience long periods of wins or losses. It is vital that you don't panic during the long losing runs, and it's important not to think you're the world champion of betting when winning. Have faith in your judgement and try to be patient and calm. Try to learn a little bit from every bet you place, whether it wins or loses.

Increasing your stakes and/or the number of bets placed based on previous results, whether they are wins or losses, is usually the quickest method of ruining an otherwise promising betting "career".

Remember that four losses in a row means nothing for probability. That does not mean you are "due a win". Probability owes you nothing.

Some people visit a roulette table, or play online, and wait until the roulette ball has fallen into a black number five times in a row. Then they place their bet on "red". This is absolute nonsense. The chance of a black or red number is equal regardless of what has happened in the past. Even 100 black spins in a row does not increase the probability of the next spin being red.

If you spin a roulette wheel 100.000 times chances are you'll get a fairly even distribution of red and black numbers. However, underway you'll see lots of "improbable" sequences.

Also remember that the probability of a long losing run increases if you place bets with "high" odds.

How to deal with many losses in a row

The key is always to keep a clear head, believe in your long-term ability to beat the odds and control your emotions. Dealing with loss is perhaps what really separates the pros from the amateurs in gambling, and a huge factor in why so few sports bettor actually make a profit.

Remember that your goal is to profit long-term for betting, not from a weekend, ten betting slips or even a month. Also; you're expected to lose. If you keep losing long-term, decide whether the losses are worth the fun you're hopefully having.

It's easy to place more and higher bets, often with less thought behind them than usual, when you have lost money. Avoid this at all cost! Some people will benefit from having a checklist to follow before placing bets.

For example, one such rule could be never to place a bet on a soccer match before you have checked the league table and general team statistics. Visit the web sites of each team and see if there's anything interesting on injuries, priorites and so on. Demand a minimum of research before a bet is placed - the time spent will provide information and also serve as a "cooling off" period after your previous bet. Hopefully this will keep you from placing "tilt" bets and only make informed wagers.

Keep a list of information to check and think about before every bet is placed; this helps prevent stupid and "angry" bets.

Keep a betting record

You should register all your bets with a running total of profit/loss. Note down the date, type of bet, stake, odds, teams involved, other relevant information and some quick reasoning if you have the time. This will be a great help in learning from your mistakes and your successes. It could also keep you from placing irrational bets.

You'll notice that it's far more painful to update your betting records with losses rather than wins, but keep at it! This pain is part of why it's so useful as a deterrent for making rash decisions.

Learn how you function as a gambler

It's no secret that gambling could be a huge challenge and a problem for some people. If you're headed in that direction, seek professional help from resources such as the NHS in Britain or the equivalent in your country. Read up on resources such as this one about gambling addiction.

Either way, be conscious on how you deal with certain aspects of gambling. Some feel that they get a lot more angry and irrational when losing money on other people's betting tips. In that case: Stop following other people's betting tips. It's a lot more rewarding to do your own analysis and having nobody to blame could be useful.

Some struggle with live betting. If you end up screaming at the television when you're supposed to be enjoying live sports, it's probably time to reconsider your betting habits.

Some people are happy placing a small amount every weekend on a crazy odds betting slip with lots of matches, or just a bet on whatever match they're watching. That's fine - enjoy it! You'll neither need a method or betting records, just keep having fun with your bet slips.

Sports betting should be fun, thrilling and intellectually challenging. If it's not, perhaps you should find a hobby that is.

Winning is not easy...

Losing is one thing, but winning bets is also a challenge. When money flows into your betting account you could make the error of thinking you have some divine gift in predicting sports events. Lots of people make that mistake, increase their betting activity to make more money and end up losers.

Again: Stay cool. Keep betting records, bet a small percentage of your betting bank (which is money put aside for a hobby) and enjoy the challenge of beating the bookies!