Betting and Streaks
One of the risks associated with betting is the chance of experiencing winning or losing streaks. In this article, we will explore what winning and losing streaks are in betting, whether betting on streaks is advisable, and how to deal with them.
I’ll never forget a conversation I once had with a friend who told me that he had just started to bet on football. He had won his first six bets in a row. “Should I continue?…” my friend asked. “Of course…” I said, “just be aware that this series of wins means absolutely nothing!” The point was that my friend might have been the best punter that ever lived, or the worst. One thing though was for certain, no one was going to find out over six bets.
What are Winning and Losing Streaks in Betting?
A winning streak in betting occurs when a bettor wins a series of bets consecutively. For example, if someone bets on five consecutive football matches and wins all five bets, they are said to be on a winning streak. Conversely, a losing streak occurs when a bettor loses a series of bets in a row. For instance, if someone bets on five consecutive football games and loses all five bets, they are said to be on a losing streak. Strictly speaking a succession of wins or losses of two or more, is considered a streak.
Should you be Betting on Winning Streaks?
Betting on winning streaks can be a tempting strategy for many bettors. It is natural to want to ride the wave of success and increase profits. However, it is essential to note that winning streaks are not guaranteed to continue. Also, how do you know when decent streak might start or finish? It is crucial, therefore, to exercise caution if you want to bet on streaks. Remember, any wins could just be dumb luck.
Statistically, each bet is an independent event, and the outcome of one bet does not affect the probability of the outcome of the next bet. In other words, just because a bettor has won several bets in a row does not mean that they are more likely to win the next bet. Therefore, betting on a winning streak is not advisable based on mathematical analysis alone.
Luck and Winning Betting Streaks
Luck undoubtedly plays a role in winning betting streaks, but it is not the only factor. Luck can help a bettor win a few bets, but long-term success in betting requires more than just luck. A bettor’s skill, discipline, and betting strategy are all critical factors in long-term profitability.
Truck Full of Balls
To give an illustration of luck, imagine you are walking beside a road. A truck comes hurtling past. In the back of the truck are one-hundred rubber balls. Sixty of the balls are blue and forty of the balls are red. Let’s say that the blue balls represent the winners and the red balls represent the losers. Suddenly the doors of the truck fly open and all of the balls fall out at random and bounce down the road. Being a good citizen, you decide to pick them up, starting with the first balls that you come across.
It is perfectly possible, that the first three, four or more balls that you pick up, might be red ‘losing’ balls. This does not mean that there are more red balls than blue balls, it’s simply that you have come across the red balls first. In fact, in our example we know that there are more blue ‘winning’ balls, so it’s just by sheer chance that you have found the red balls first.
We know that once you have finally picked up all the balls, you will end up with more blue ones than red ones.
Applied to Betting
It’s the same with betting. You might hit four or five losers to start with but if you have a winning strategy, you will win in the long term. The winners ‘are out there’, you just haven’t found them yet. However, be aware that if you are unsure of your profitability with a strategy, the opposite could occur. After a good start with a winning streak, your profits may eventually be eroded and overtaken by losing streaks.
Of course, it is statistically more likely that you will find the blue balls or the ‘winners’ right away, if you have a profitable strategy. This would be the best scenario, as you may stay ‘ahead’ and never be in a losing position.
How Should I Deal with Winning and Losing Streaks?
Dealing with winning and losing streaks can be challenging for many bettors, but there are some strategies that can help:
1. Set a Budget
One of the essential strategies for dealing with winning and losing streaks is setting a budget. Bettors should set aside a specific amount of money for betting and never exceed that amount. This can help prevent bettors from chasing losses during a losing streak and also help them to maintain discipline during a winning streak.
2. Stick to a Betting System
Another strategy for dealing with winning and losing streaks is to stick to a betting system. A betting system is a set of rules that a bettor follows when placing bets. It can help bettors make rational decisions and avoid impulsive bets during winning or losing streaks. You have to be sure as possible, that your system is profitable before following it ‘robotically’.
3. Focus on the Long-Term
Finally, it is essential to focus on the long-term when dealing with winning and losing streaks. Betting is a marathon, not a sprint and short-term fluctuations should not be the sole focus. Bettors should evaluate their results over a more extended period to determine the effectiveness of their betting strategy.
The Human Brain and Patterns
The human brain is wired to see patterns. This is known as Apophenia. Experts agree that overall it helps with learning but it can also deceive, leading us to find ‘meaning’ in random information.
For instance, we are ‘programmed’ to recognise faces but our brains are a bit too ‘casual’ in determining what is useful. Very often we apply a crude interpretation to this ‘recognition’. The facial template of eyes, nose and mouth can quite easily be fulfilled by everyday objects, causing a face identification response. This is known as face pareidolia.
Most of us will clearly see the face in the rock formation. Yet wherever you look, you will often see ‘faces’; in household objects, buildings, piles of clothing, fruit and vegetables.
A simple bathroom cabinet with a basket underneath. Robot face?
So it is clear that our face ‘recognition systems’ are far from perfect. Our brains use a rather broad-brush approach. Yet, from an evolutionary standpoint, the advantages of ‘always seeing a face’, outweigh the disadvantages where faces are seen in random objects.
Wins and Losses
In terms of streaks, top athletes can be seen as ‘weighted coins’. A top pro tennis player’s form might look like this:
The wins and losses represent the progression of the player over a number of tournaments – only losing in the semi-finals or finals. It does not mean the player is in good form. It does not mean that you will make a profit betting on these outcomes over the long term, as the odds will most certainly reflect the player’s chances. It just means that the player is good, beats most of the opposition much of the time and, of course, may occasionally be lucky or, indeed, unlucky.
Average Football Team
Lets take an average football team sitting in 10th position in a football league, at a random point during the season. Their form reads:
Let’s say you knew nothing about the team, and your only interest was in the results. You might be forgiven for thinking that the team was poor, based on the the six results to the left, or brilliant based on the six results to the right. We know, however, that the team is average, sitting in 10th position in their league. It’s dangerous to look at results and streaks in ‘isolation’.
To illustrate further, the random nature of streaks in everyday life and betting, let’s take a mathematical example of a coin flip exercise. We can show more easily how our understanding of streaks is often wrong.
If you flip a coin one hundred times, there is a 75% probability that you’ll get a streak of at least six heads or six tails in a row. There is a 10% chance of catching a streak of at least ten heads or ten tails in a row. Personally, I have had eleven losses in a row betting at around evens (digital odds 2.0). The more you bet, the more likely it is that these streaks will happen.
So, let me do a coin exercise now… okay done! I flipped the coin 170 times before I got bored. Here are my results. The blue circles represent heads and the red crosses represent tails.
If you scan the results, your eyes will probably be attracted to the most definable pattern, which is the sequence of nine circles close to the middle. Was there any skill involved for this string of results to happen? No. Do the results mean anything? No. Did they happen for a reason other than chance? No. It’s a coin. Occasionally these sequences just occur. In fact, heads (circles) only came up 83 times, compared to tails (crosses) which came up 87 times.
For bettors, traders, even team managers and athletes, winning and losing streaks can cloud judgement. Often the chances of a pattern continuing, particularly a ‘winning pattern’, are overestimated.
Look at the following win/loss pattern:
Instinctively, what do you think should replace the question marks? Most people believe the ‘W”s continue. There is no logic to that belief. This type of assumption is related to the Gambler’s Fallacy.
Check out this one:
What do think? We want to believe that the pattern continues with ‘WWWWW’, it seems logical but of course it isn’t. It is simply our brains attempting to find meaning in the pattern.
Winning streaks occur due to a combination of factors, including luck. Obviously ‘meaningful’ streaks do occur, dominant teams or athletes will go on long winning runs. In this environment, they could be viewed as ‘weighted coins’. If you are betting, it is important that you weigh up the odds and understand if ‘weighted’ streaks are likely to occur. Remember, that streaks are always broken at some point. It’s just a question of ‘when’.
Wierd fact: Did you know that the chances of a coin landing on either heads or tails is not in fact 50/50? There is a 1 in 6000 chance or a 0.0166% probability, that the coin will land on it’s edge. Of course it might take e.g. 20,000 tosses before it happens or maybe only 1. Over millions of coin tosses, however, the average should be around 1 in 6000.
Winning and losing streaks are a natural part of sports and betting. Punters need to be prepared to deal with them. While betting on streaks can be tempting, it is important to realise that each bet is an independent event and past results do not guarantee future success. Setting a budget, sticking to a plan, and focusing on the long-term can all help bettors deal with winning and losing streaks.