Sports Betting Guide
Heuristics & how they affect your betting
Have you ever heard about heuristics? While it looks pretty complicated at first sight, heuristics are nothing else but your habits & instincts. There are plenty of reasons why we have and should rely on them, however, when it comes to sports betting, it might not be the best option. Let’s find out why.
Before we start talking about negative aspects of heuristics (in sports betting), let’s just say that, generally speaking, they are good and are nothing else but the result of billions of years of evolution. Thanks to our very distant ancestors, who developed such quick-fire mechanisms through continuous tests & failures, we can enjoy only those that proved to be effective and helpful in extreme & complex situations. It is a true blessing to have these heuristics in our genes, and they have shown to be quite helpful, but should we really rely on them at all times?
The most common heuristics in sports betting
Talking about heuristics, we must keep in mind that there are plenty of them, however, let’s focus on the most common ones among punters.
One of the biggest tricks used in various marketing and bookmaking industry, as well. This kind of heuristics affects our ability to estimate or guess the most probable number or value from the given sequence or group of items. Let’s imagine the following, you are asked to guess the number of female referees in the NBA. Your brain will automatically start generating some numbers based on the information you might or might not know in order to make it look more realistic. Next up, you will be given the RANDOM number (or percentage) and asked whether the number of female referees in the NBA is above or below that RANDOM number. Keep in mind, you will be aware of the fact that the number given to you is entirely random. Now, you will have to make your actual guess about the female referees but guess what? You will intuitively adjust your final answer to the so-called anchor regardless of the fact that it is entirely taken out of the blue.
The reason behind this phenomenon hides in our brain’s automatic assumption that the anchor is the working hypothesis or the kind of starting point, which humans appear to hesitate moving far from. As it was mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph, anchoring is widely exploited by the mainstream media & various industries, where betting is not an exception. A good example of anchoring exploits in sports betting are handicaps, spreads & even wording. Stay aware of those to keep yourself on the right track!
Just like many other biases, availability ones are lurking on us, not just in sports betting. There are tons of examples and the ways people exploit this phenomenon in our everyday lives. Availability biases are nothing else but humans’ tendency to assign greater significance to events that have a bigger emotional bound or are more memorable. Due to that very reason, we tend to over-estimate the chances (risk) of dramatic or extreme events taking place or actually happening. A great example of availability bias exploits is insurance companies. Such businesses usually raise their insurance premiums for certain extreme events right after their occurrence, despite the fact that the chances of them happening again or drastically lowered.
Going back to sports, what is the last football match result you can recall right away within 5 seconds? Bet it won’t be a 0:0 World Cup Playoff matchup or Champions League clash. Instead, a high-scoring game will automatically pop out in your head, regardless of its importance or whatsoever. As for sports betting, punters tend to over-estimate the chances of important events (like penalties, red cards & corners) happening more frequently, simply because they are easy to recall and more memorable. Such behaviour drastically affects bettors’ perception of the probability and leads to damaging betting style. This is subject is also closely linked to the fact that punters tend to wager more on the Over side of the Totals markets believing in them having a higher probability. If you would like to learn more about the availability bias, please visit our sports betting guides library, where we have already explained the phenomenon in a separate tutorial.
We all know the ol good idiom that goes: «don’t put all your eggs in one basket». Well, this is entirely true, however, there is one tiny heuristic that you might want to be aware of. The issue with diversity hides once again in the way we make our choices when we have to make them simultaneously rather than sequentially. A simple example would be the situation when you are offered to choose a set number of items out of the selection. People tend to make more diverse choices when they are offered a variety of options at once. Unfortunately, this heuristics also applies to sports betting - the more diverse we feel our selection is, the more we tend to stake on it, regardless of the value behind it. Using the regular 1X2 football market as the example, punters, generally, would stake more on X2 or 1X selection rather than a single one like 1, Z, or 2. The biggest threat of this heuristic is that it eliminates the logical reasoning behind the bet. Remember to place your punts based on the expected value and your own risk assessment only!
As problematic as it sounds, overcommitment is another big heuristics, which could potentially affect your betting. Interesting, but humans are usually eager to justify their commitment by increasing the overall investment regardless of the increasing costs over potential benefits. Find about the situation where you bought a ticket to one of the blockbuster films, but it ended up being horrible, however, you stayed until the very end because you have already invested your time, money, and effort into it. Thus, tryharding to justify your investment. A betting example of such an overcommitment would be the situation where you have placed quite a longshot wager and stuck to it regardless of a high probability of incurring costs instead of cashing out and taking a significantly smaller loss. Punters, in such situations, usually demonstrate highly irrational behaviour by being blindly determined to their original (wrong) decision instead of reducing their losses.
Sequences and representativeness
The last but definitely not the least common heuristics is the tendency to see the relationship between various events or small sequences of events, believing they are part of bigger sequences, despite being completely independent. One of the good examples of such heuristics is called the Gambler’s Fallacy, which we have already explained in details in this sports betting tutorial. Some of you might hear about it already, but for those who haven’t, it found its origin back in 1913 in one of the Monte Carlo casinos. It is also where it got its other name Monte Carlo Fallacy. It was the first time ever that the casino saw back come up 26 times in a row on a roulette table. 25 TIMES!!! Visitors who were playing at that time started blindly staking on red after the fifteenths black, thinking the chances of another black were extremely high. This very example illustrates the way people miscomprehend probability and the nature of chance, assuming that each event (spin) affects the next one. This belief, or actually misbelief, is completely irrational. Hence, each of the spins is entirely independent and is a pure gamble.
There is another sports betting fallacy related to the topic. It is called the Hot Hand Fallacy, which is also explained here. The main idea of it is that people believe in streaks of good and bad luck. Simply saying, whenever we witness a series of similar events with the same outcome (football team winning consecutive matches), we automatically treat them as atypical and assign higher significance to them, creating a fallacy of each subsequent entry being affected by the preseeding one by default. The Hot Hand Fallacy became known to the world back in the 1980s study, which suggested that basketball players who make a shot are more likely to make their next one going forward. The idea became so popular that it has stuck with the sport of basketball until the present days and is still given a large share of attention.
Once again, these are only the most common heuristics that punters are usually falling for, however, there are plenty more out there. We would like to once again draw your attention to the importance of educating yourself and betting responsibly and wisely. Remember that rational thinking, finding value & properly assessing the risks you are taking are the keys to successful betting. Gamble responsible and always choose your head over the gut feeling.
Please, click here to check out our previous sports betting guide if you have missed it.