Control Over Random Events In Sports Betting

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It’s easy to assume you have some control in sports betting, or even something completely random.

This certainly applies to some sports bettors, so it’s important you understand how to avoid falling into this pitfall.

Read on to learn how.

Why We Seek Control

Our brains are hard-wired to try and find patterns, even if there are none there.

This goes all the way back to early man where rituals and superstitions were used as a way to overcome their inability to understand the environment.

There have been various studies that illustrate this same behavior in the animal kingdom.

B. F. Skinner perhaps has the most famous example of them all.

In 1984, Skinner began to feed a pigeon at regular timed intervals.

The pigeon could not influence when it was to be fed but displayed certain behaviors when the food was introduced.

Over time, these behaviors became conditioned to the point where they were associated with food appearing, thus developing a ritual to trigger the reward.

The same goes for humans today too.

There are all sorts of superstitions and rituals to provide us with a sense of control (not putting your umbrella up inside, not walking under a ladder, etc).

They also occur in less obvious places; for example, several studies show city traders believe they can control totally random systems.

Skinner introduced the term “Operant Conditioning” – responses that impact behavior – on the basis of his results.

Types of Operant Conditioning Techniques

One factor that plays an important role in reinforcement is personal choice.

Here’s why.

Personal Choice

The best way to look at this is with casino games.

Most casino games are completely random.

This includes the popular games like Roulette, Blackjack, Baccarat and more.

Nevertheless, many players think they have control over the outcome in instances where they can apply personal choice.

For example, in the game of Craps, players will bet more when it’s their turn to throw the dice.

This element of “control” over the outcome is irrational and is a major mistake.

Just because they can assert personal choice does not take away from the randomness of the game.

It also applies by proxy, such as when someone makes the same bet as a player on a “lucky streak”. 

Behaviors that produce success are likely to be reinforced, while those that fail tend to generate a punishment response.

Most casino games are random

The lottery is another example of having perceived control over the outcome.

Players become more confident of winning when they select their own numbers over picks made by a computer.

In reality, the chances of winning are exactly the same no matter who picks the numbers.

Interestingly, picking completely random numbers can increase your winnings.

This is because many people like to use their birth dates, meaning the numbers they use tend to be between 1 and 31, resulting with reduced payouts.

Control From Information

Knowledge is power.

We’ve all heard that before and it’s certainly true when it comes to sports investing.

But in the same breathe:

A little information is dangerous

Having some degree of knowledge about the game, a certain team or the sport in general can exaggerate a bettor’s feeling of control.

If any success comes from their prediction, but not how they expected it to occur, they will try and make their own logic to fit the narrative ie reinforcement and thus, control in sports betting.

The same goes for near misses; bettors will reinforce their logic by taking encouragement from almost getting it right.

This leads to repeating the same actions as, in their minds, their approach to the bet was valid.

The reality is there was no valid correlation between the result and their prediction at all.

How To Overcome The Illusion Of Control

First of all, you must accept that your actions bear no impact on random outcomes.

Do the research, create hypotheses and back-test the data.

We’ve covered how to do this properly in a previous post:

How To Create A Sports Betting Strategy

Here's all you need to know

How To Create A Sports Betting Strategy

Here's all you need to know


Learning to stop associating outcomes with certain behavior is tough – it’s just the way we’re wired.

But if you’re to be successful from sports betting, you must stay disciplined and use hard evidence to back-up your ideas.

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