Emotion-based Betting

I don’t come up with the titles for these weekly musings. I merely write whatever is in my head and send it off to Brian at Betting Tools who then puts them online (hopefully) under a title of his own choosing. Last week I submitted a piece bemoaning my misfortune at changing strategies while backing Holy Grail System tips and visited the site later to discover it sitting beneath the headline “The perils of not following a system properly” which I believe is Brian’s polite way of saying “It’s your own stupid fault you idiot.”

Sadly, he is probably right and I was forced to admonish myself in similar fashion this weekend when I committed the cardinal sin of trying to recoup losses on the hoof. There are times when I hate myself for being so weak. I am much better disciplined now than I used to be but I know as well as anyone that the cardinal betting sin is to try to reverse losses optimistically or on a whim. The punter who dashes to read the Racing Post on the wall of the bookies just before the off and sticks his last tenner on the Spotlight tip in the hope it will rescue his day is the punter who is destined to always be a loser. In a gambling sense of course – he or she may be a real go-getter and thoroughly charming individual in other respects, but, as far as betting goes….LOSER!

This is why it pains me when I catch myself doing something similar as I did on Saturday.

I was trading the big match of the day. You know the one – Lucerne v Young Boys – 4th versus 3rd in the Swiss Super League. With Lucerne 1-0 up and with a small gap in the odds at half-time I tried to be a little cute and looked to lay my chosen market at the current back price, assuming that the bet would be matched early in the second half. It would have been, given another minute or so, but when I returned to the screen after a brief break I discovered that Lucerne had gone 2-0 ahead in the 47th minute with only 20% of my stake having been taken. A couple of other bets had already been matched fully leaving me in the position where if the score remained unchanged I would profit very slightly but I would stand to make a small loss on every other outcome. At this point I should have accepted the position but, instead, I tried to manipulate the situation to give myself more opportunities to profit. While doing so it became 3-0.

I was now left in a position where I was looking at a loss all round. Still, however, I did not take my medicine and move on. I don’t know whether it was because I was sat looking at the screen as it was happening that gambling urges took hold of me but I found myself reasoning that with over 30 minutes to play there was a high chance that Lucerne would score again taking them into the ‘Any other home win’ bracket. I therefore backed in that market leaving myself in a position where if they did indeed score again I would make a few pence and if it stayed as it was I would lose no more than a pound or two. It was only after I had done this that I woke up to the fact that I had exposed myself to the possibility of a 3-1, 3-2 (just over four points at risk for both) or, heaven forbid, a 3-3 (seven points) end result. Of course that is exactly what happened. Young Boys pulled a goal back, Lucerne were probably happy to settle for what they had and the game ended 3-1, leaving me with a loss which was far in excess of anything I was standing to lose had I just accepted my position immediately after the second goal went in with my stake only partially matched.

Bad luck is incredibly frustrating, but, over time, luck will even itself out. Bad decisions however will keep coming back to bite you. This kind of mistake infuriates me because I KNOW it is wrong. I know the professional punter just accepts these situations and moves on. To do so is to live to fight another day. Chasing positions that have gone is a sure fire way of becoming a betting loser. So why do I still find myself doing it? I suppose it is a hard thing to accept psychologically that when you have taken what would have been the correct position but something happens before your stake is matched fully that you must just swallow a loss. I was right in my initial decision and had I asked for a price just one click higher I would have made a small profit. For a correct decision to put me in a position of probable loss due to the timing of a goal being seconds too early is quite hard to take and can (and did) lead to an emotional response and not a logical one.

It is the old parental adage that applies here – ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ I am better than I used to be at walking away but I still find myself making daft decisions like this from time to time. I am glad that my punishment was not too severe and I hope that I am able to take the lessons from it and avoid any repetition. My advice to anyone reading this is to take heed. You simply must be able to overcome these urges if you truly want to be prosperous as a bettor long-term. Emotions and hunches are not part of a pro-gambler’s make-up. Leave them behind when you log on and your chances of success will improve dramatically.


Paul Dixon is a lifelong sports fan and author of the book Fun and Games in Fife and Gretna– a humorous look at an Englishman’s journey into Scottish football. He has been making regular profits from betting since 2012.