Psychology is an underrated aspect of successful punting. How you deal with losing streaks plays an important role in your success.
Everyone finds it difficult to lose. But it’s what we do when we lose that’s the difference between a good and average punter.
With that in mind, in this article, I discuss the topic none of us like talking about: losing!
Betting Psychology: Optimism Bias
One of the fundamental problems in our psychology as punters is that we think we’re “special”.
This idea that we’re special leads to a cognitive bias called Optimism Bias. As the name suggests, optimism bias is the idea that we’re overly optimistic when we bet. We don’t think we’ll suffer the same horrendous runs that other punters experience… because “I’m me”. We think we’ll win all the time.
Betting Psychology: Great Expectations
Optimism bias leads to an expectation to win and creates a baseline (what we consider normal) that’s higher than what it should be. When we win or get lucky, we experience a mild thrill because we expected to win. When we lose, or luck goes against us, we feel that pain a lot more because that loss or bad luck is a lot different to what we expected.
Poker psychologist Alan Schoonmaker once said “the pain of a loss is twice the pleasure of a win”, and I’d say that’s not far off.
The problem with over-expectation is that it puts us “on edge”. When we cop a bad beat, or the inevitable bad run happens, we feel like we’re getting worse luck than we should be, even though we knew at the start that bad runs happen to everyone.
Bad luck can lead to poor decision-making designed (in our minds) to catch up the losses quickly. However, those decisions are based on emotion rather than profitable plays, and ultimately result in losing more money and making the situation worse.
Betting Psychology: Recalibrating The Balance
So how do you deal with over-expectation? There are several things you can do:
Learn about your psychology. When we understand our psychology, we can recognise negative reactions, re-focus on what we should be focusing on, and not lose more than we should.
Remind yourself that “results don’t matter”. Before you think I’ve lost it, let me explain!
Results matter over the long term, but the result of an individual race or match is meaningless. Therefore, we should not attach such strong emotions to it, and simply move on to the next bet (or take a break and do something else for a while).
Understanding that we cannot control results is important. We have no influence on how well a horse runs or a team plays. Therefore, we should focus on the things we can control: our selection process and our betting.
It’s tough but try not to expect to win on an individual match or race. Even expect to lose. Then you’re not disappointed when you lose (which will happen more often than you win), and any time you do win, it feels like a bonus. You should also avoid outcome bias and hindsight bias.
Another thing you can do is not even watch the event! That defeats the purpose of a bet for many punters, but there are several advantages:
Firstly, watching the match or race has no influence on the result.
Secondly, watching the match may have no influence on your selection process in the future (eg you’re a numbers-based punter, or you backed a tip), which means it’s a waste of time from a profit perspective.
Lastly, it can affect your psychology. Losers are a lot easier to deal with when you quickly check the score after the match, rather than yelling at the TV for two hours and copping a last-minute bad beat!
Betting Psychology: Summary
Everyone loves a winner – that’s why we punt. Next time you have a bet though, try to expect less from it. Focusing more on the long term and the things you can control will improve your psychology and make you a better punter.