The tricky part of betting-Randomness!
Joachim, our admin for the German-speaking BettingExpert, has written this excellent piece for the blog. Therefore I’m very happy to publish his blog post.
Randomness is a huge part of betting – and a bigger one than we are usually willing to accept. This doesn't mean that winning at betting is in itself necessarily just luck. Plenty of tipsters on our site prove the opposite. But even for the best tipster in the world there will be the inevitable down swing, and some of those can be surprisingly long. Stretches of around 200+ bets with no winnings or even losses for successful tipsters (with a long-term yield of 5-10%) aren't as uncommon as we'd like to think. When a streak like this hits a very good tipster (or vice versa: a very bad tipster hits a long lucky run) there is obviously randomness at work. But why do we have so much trouble understanding and dealing with the random factor?
We are natural pattern-finders
The main reason is that our brain isn't built to understand random and erratic processes. We are by nature pattern-finders. Long before we established anything close to a scientific process we realized that heavy dark clouds on the horizon will likely result in wet clothes if we don't run for cover in time. As a kid we pretty soon realize that throwing a fit every time we don't like our friend's opinion will soon in result in no friends at all – and so on. We establish patterns very fast, and in evolutionary terms this has been critical to our survival. When processing data, we automatically try to make sense of it.
Why people are superstitious
Sometimes this has funny consequences. At times we find patterns where there are simply none to be found: This for example is why people can be superstitious. Rationally it makes sense for us to assume that what we have for dinner won't affect what Messi plays like – yet you will regularly find grown men not wearing their favourite scarf “because my team loses when I wear it.” Does that sound familiar? The likely scenario here is that the guy wore said scarf twice in a row and twice his team lost – maybe unexpectedly at home. For some people even a sample size of 1 will be sufficient to come to this conclusion. Then something kicks in that is called confirmation bias. Once we have established a certain pattern, we only tend to recognize indicators that support it – likewise we tend to simply ignore signs that indicate the pattern is wrong. It can be surprisingly hard to change our opinion once we have made our mind up about how a certain process works.
Pattern? There is no pattern!
Randomness is so much of a problem for us because it is so difficult to grasp that sometimes there is no pattern to be found. This greatly limits our intuition, as it means there are processes we cannot fully predict. Intuitively we are stuck in a deterministic world, a perfectly predictable universe. Of course outside our heads that place doesn't exist. Our inability to cope with the absence of patterns shows in many aspects in life: We believe in astrology and that Jupiter's position somehow affects our well-being, when our doctor tells us we have cancer we tend to look for reasons and someone to blame. Likewise we fail to understand that natural disasters strike randomly and kill good people just as much as they kill bad people. And don't be surprised that even if you live and eat healthy, there might be that one annoying uncle that spends his life cigar-smoking and in a drunken haze and somehow manages to outlive you. Of course drinking heavily is still bad for your health, but random effects you have no control over can still make sure you get outlived regardless.
How do you know you are actually a winner?
The biggest problem, and here we are back to the subject of betting, is the fact that random events can very much look like non-random events. It's sometimes hard, even over longer hauls like 200 bets in a row, to really know if you just had a lucky run or if you are actually the gifted tipster you always fancied yourself being, constantly making value bets. So what is the best way to deal with this as a punter, and how can you make sure you actually have an edge? There's really only one way to find out: Record your bets, and collect a large sample size. As large as you can. And being a tipster at BettingExpert is a great way to do just that.
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