Sports Betting Guide

Survivorship bias in sports betting

Everyone likes to read the success stories of the best sports bettors, but what does it really take to be a profitable punter. Let us find out what makes a profitable bettor and what role survivorship bias plays in it.

survivorship bias betting guide


Once again, we all love to hear success stories about people who made it. This could be easily seen in sports betting. Just be honest, would you rather read a story about an incredible wager that pocketed a life-changing fortune or about the mediocre punter who just lost a couple of Premier League wagers off free tips they found on some online betting forum.

How to make the most accurate Premier League predictions?

The answer is quite obvious here, and the main reason behind such a phenomenon is called survivorship bias. The concept has been discussed numerously by various analysts and sports betting experts. The main idea behind this concept is that we are simply not paying attention or even discarding the losers. There are a couple of reasons why, but in short, it does not excite anyone to read about losses. Moreover, people who lose are not too keen on telling the world about their failures. This actually fits quite well with one famous saying, «history is written by the winners».

You must have heard this one at least once in your life. It should actually start making more sense after reading this betting guide. The main idea behind «history is written by the winners» is, in fact, the survivorship bias. People prefer hearing about things that are more interesting and exciting, instead of reading about failure, which is simply boring. This type of bias got its name because when falling for them, we commit a logical mistake of concentrating on features that have «survived». Assuming that something has won, or in other words, «survived», we automatically consider it as a more accurate representation of the process, overestimating the actual chances of succeeding. The very problem of this type of bias hides in this very phrase «overestimating the actual chances of succeeding». It all happens due to the fact that when we fall for such bias, we are, for the most part, or even completely, omitting the failures. The phenomenon started being widely considered during the Second World War when an open-minded mathematician Abraham Wald was trying to find a solution to the extreme loses of the army’s bomber fleet. He was one of the first who shifted his focus to failed cases rather than successful ones in order to provide an efficient solution to heavy aircraft losses.

Please, click here to read more articles about sports betting bias

Measuring the probability

When talking about highly uncertain markets like sports betting, we cannot forget about the probability. Calculating & estimating the probability of the events you are looking to bet on is one of the first steps each bettor has to take on their way to become profitable. However, falling for survivorship bias is one of the biggest threats that are lurking on you.

If we take a certain set of historical data to help us calculate the probability of certain events, which should help us build our efficient betting model or whatsoever, we have to consider not only the samples that succeeded but also the ones that have not. The failure to consider the latter would result in a completely inaccurate perception of the entire process. Survivorship bias are basically hacking your understanding of the relationship between the results and whatever has caused them. In other words, we are getting completely fooled that winners are skilful because they won, but not that they have won because of skill.

Sports betting Guide - Skill paradox in betting

Having said that, it is crucial to see the bigger picture in situations where a share of luck is huge. Whenever such a share is that big, like in sports betting, the connection between the forecast and the actual results has very little in common. The approach towards analysing your data set when the only thing you consider is the result is destined to lead you to wrong assumptions and, thus, inaccurate predictions.

What are your chances of succeeding under such bias?

Being affected by survivorship bias will definitely hurt your bankroll, however, it does not completely eliminate your chances of winning a couple of bets here and there. Achieving success in sports betting is an already challenging task, imagine your chances of making it under the effect of such bias. 

One study has found that an average inexperienced bettor will have an approximate 10% chance of returning a profit (assuming even price wagers for the first 200 attempts at the bookmaker with an average betting margin of 10%). Unfortunately, the longer an inexperienced punter plays, the less likely they are to succeed.

Since you already know what the survivorship bias are and how likely you are to succeed under them. The first step you should take after re-adjusting your analytical approach is to find a reliable online bookmaker with a lower betting margin. Doing so will help you minimise certain loses and increase potential profits. What is more, do not forget about odds shopping and other methods of increasing your chances to succeed.

You might also like to learn why is it important to have an account at multiple bookmakers and how it could help you during your betting adventures.

Hope this online sports betting guide found you useful. Like always, stay sharp and gamble responsibly.

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