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The Many Emotions of Sports Betting


In the world of sports betting, it’s common to hear people discuss the importance of “leaving your emotions at the door.” It’s a nice theory but one that is extremely hard to consistently execute. As human beings, we react emotionally on a daily basis to even the most mundane of situations. When it comes to sports betting, I’m here to tell you that it’s perfectly fine to show frustration or elation over the outcome of a wager. But there is a fine line that if habitually crossed can have a negative impact on your bottom line. Below I discuss some of my experiences as a sports bettor and how I approach them from an emotional standpoint.

Over the course of a year, the average sports bettor will hit close to 50 percent of his or her bets. What can impact the ratio — both positively and negatively — is how you process the outcomes. A common feeling that a sports bettor will experience is one that they simply can’t win. This most often involves an extended losing streak. You had a rough football weekend and rather than bounce back, the losses continue to mount. Understand first that this feeling of despair happens to even the most seasoned of bettors. I generally go through two or three stretches throughout a year where I not only can’t seem to find a winner but start to question whether or not I’ll ever be able to turn it around. Now having done this for over a decade, I have the built in advantage (i.e. voice in my head) telling me to just keep going and eventually things will start to swing the other way. And inevitably, a positive swing does occur. But rather than stand idly by and wait for it to happen, I go back and self evaluate why exactly the losing took place and then if needed, make the appropriate adjustments. If I notice that I’m losing a lot of games late due to uncontrollable “coin flip” type outcomes, I tend to stay the course. But, for example, if I’ve been playing a lot of unders and they’ve been consistently going over by large margins, then I know my numbers probably need tweaking. Losing streaks can involve randomness but more often than not there is a fundamental flaw in your handicap. Identifying it, acknowledging it, and making the proper adjustments are what makes it go away, not just waiting for your color of choice to hit on the roulette table.

On the flip side are stretches where you can’t seem to lose. Again, self evaluation is key. A bettor will feel invincible after crushing a football weekend and perhaps start to bet more or increase their volume. But they’ll often fail to evaluate why the “crushing” occurred. Random outcomes don’t always lose and your 10-1 could have very easily been 5-6 had it not been for a few overtimes and some lucky bounces. It’s perfectly fine to feel pleased about that 10-1 but a serious bettor knows the “true” outcome of every game they bet. I know when I’ve been fortunate because I either witnessed it take place or later went back and analyzed the box score. That college football game I won 35-14 with a -3 favorite may have seemed to be “never in doubt” but the favorite was also outgained and held a +4 turnover advantage. I’m certainly not giving that money back but I’m also aware that it was far from a perfect handicap. And when the perfect handicaps do start to pile up, I’m always quick to jot down why. From my notes, I know that the first week of college basketball conference play is typically going to yield a lot of unders after all the inflated scores and pace of non-conference play. I’ve had years where that philosophy has yielded a ton of profits and others where I’ve been lucky to break even. But the concept is rooted in logic and data and void of any sort of emotion no matter what the outcome.

I’ve really grown to hate the concept of “bad beats.” Not because I don’t believe they occur because they 100 percent do but the publicity that they generate is the worst type of poison for a bettor. Bettors will literally spend hours venting on Twitter or message boards as a way to cope with how they’ve been unfairly wronged. It’s a time waster of epic proportions, especially when a wound-healing winner could be right around the corner. Another bad habit bettors pick up is harboring ill-will towards the team they just lost a bet on. Let’s say Team A outplays Team B for nearly the entire game but commits a boneheaded turnover late that allows Team B to snag an undeserving victory. Are you focused on the one play that decided the game or the fact that the team you bet on was in fact the “right side?” Remember, the team that suffers the “bad beat” loss is frustrated too! That frustration, coupled with the potential for some extra betting value, can make for an excellent “bet on” situation the next time they play.

I would be lying to you if I said I felt zero emotion from sports betting. I know a few guys that are able to maintain a robot-like demeanor through thick and thin but they are the exception rather than the rule. Much of my time is spent mechanically betting on games; winning, losing, adjusting, and then winning some more. But when those emotional moments do arise, I make sure to step back and look at the bigger picture. Did I lose that bet because of bad luck or a bad handicap? Either way, I’m going to do everything in my power to apply that outcome to a winning wager in the future.

Andrew Lange

With significant market influence, Andrew Lange has produced a decade-long 58% winning rate on over 750 selections in college basketball. Using a low volume, high return approach, Lange's results in the NFL have been equally impressive with a 61% mark and over +49 units of profit on a 1, 1.5, and 2-unit scale since 2012.