Sports betting strategies: Guide to betting psychology

Sports betting strategies: Guide to betting psychology

You are not immune to bias. Nobody is, really. It’s just part of the way our brains are wired. We try to spot patterns and trends, we favour things because they are familiar, and we develop habits that we think make our choices easier. We also don’t like to admit when we’re doing something we know isn’t useful but we’ve convinced ourselves it is. We’re talking betting psychology, and it’s a useful thing to notice.

A casino is a casino is a casino, right? How different can one casino be from another? All they do is exchange money for chips, offer games, and then exchange chips for money.

Well, no. No story goes, “Once upon a time, everything was simple, everything was the same, and everyone was happy. The end.”

Every casino – both brick and mortar and online – is unique. Yes, there are similarities, both legislative and game based, but there’s no way to summarise all casinos with just a few simple sentences.

Luckily for you, we have taken the time and effort to really get into the foundations of online gambling: what makes it tick, how it works, what players can expect, and so much more. Here, we offer you all the in-depth guides to online casinos and gambling you’ll need. And we take that promise seriously, which is why we are constantly working to add more guides that cover every aspect of the online casino experience.

In this series of guides, you will find information about jackpots, variance and volatility, online casinos, casino bonuses, withdrawals and deposits, and more.

Why should you use guides?

Casino guides like these can really help enhance your online casino experience. For example, jackpot guides don’t just tell you what a jackpot is; they explain the various types of jackpot, how they work, how to play to win, where to find games with different jackpots, and even who the game developers are.

Casino bonus guides are another super useful way to figure out which online casinos will work best for you. We don’t only look at the types of bonus offered, but explain how they work, the hidden pitfalls to look out for, and ways to make the most of your wagering requirements.

You’ll find enough information here to keep you busy longer than a great game of poker, so dig in, and come out the other side a little more knowledgeable. And if there’s anything you’d like to learn more about that you don’t find here on CasinoPlay, let us know. Happy reading!


Sports betting is unique in the gambling world, because it is actually possible to make completely rational, researched and knowledgeable bets based on real information. Nothing else comes close – most casino games are based on pure chance, and even table games, where you have some control, include a huge element of chance. With sports betting, the random chance factor is significantly reduced – although it is still there.

That doesn’t mean that many sports bettors don’t fall prey to many of the same irrational biases and fallacies as many other gamblers. The simple fact is that chance, or luck, or whatever you want to call it, still plays a part and, as a result, many sports bettors fall into the trap of thinking they can outsmart Lady Luck. But as we all know, she is the absolute queen of games, and laughs in the face of our assumptions and efforts.

Because we are human, and we try to recognise patterns in things, there are many cognitive biases that sports bettors can fall victim to. The most famous among all types of gambling is, of course, the gambler’s fallacy, but there are many ways we trip ourselves up and play irrationally.

For the most part, these fallacies and beliefs boil down to one thing: our internal confidence that we can predict random events based on what is essentially unreliable information. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of fallacies that can trip you up.

The gambler’s fallacy

The most famous of all, the gambler’s fallacy works like this: When there is an active streak – winning or losing – our minds believe that it has to turn around due to the law of averages. The classic example is the coin toss. If you flip a coin several times and it lands on heads a few times in a row, the gambler’s fallacy leads us to believe that the next flip simply has to be tails. This is not true, however, as it is random and can’t be predicted.

The hot hand fallacy

This one works the opposite way to the gambler’s fallacy. Here, the bettor will assume that a streak will continue and bet accordingly. Once again, this isn’t true, as random is random and, again, can’t be predicted.

The conservatism bias

This is one that many sports bettors unfortunately engage in. The conservatism bias happens when we fail to take new information into account when making our betting choices. We see this with people who keep betting on the same team, just because they had some success at first – however, the entire team line-up and the coach could have changed, there may be injuries, and so on. This new information is relevant, but ignoring it in favour of your belief in the team counts as conservatism.

The sunk cost fallacy

Nobody likes losing – it’s horrible and it hurts. But if there’s one thing we can learn from sports betting, as well as in life, it’s that we need to learn to cut our losses and move on. Also known as ‘throwing good money after bad’, the sunk cost fallacy occurs when we keep following a strategy that has caused us massive losses, simply because we’ve already invested a lot and can’t bear to let the strategy go.

The hindsight bias

Also known as the ‘I saw it coming!’ syndrome (ok, not really, but we like the way it sounds). Also, also known as the ‘nobody could’ve seen that coming!’ syndrome. Hindsight is a powerful trap for many sports bettors and it can cloud your judgement for your next bet. We see it often with an unexpected outcome – those who win their bet believe they were insightful enough to ‘predict’ the outcome, while those who lose believe it was a fluke, and they still made a good bet. They fail to take new information into account and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Knowing what the fallacies are and how they work is only the first step to using psychology to improve your betting. The next step is to examine your own habits closely, and figure out which fallacies and biases you have fallen victim to.

It’s very difficult for humans to change our cognitive biases – often we aren’t even aware of them, and sometimes we’re in denial of them. But awareness and willingness to work on them can help us become both better sports bettors and better people, so it’s worth taking the time for self-reflection.

As we said before, sports betting is unique because you can use real, legitimate information to help you make the best, most rational bet. There is reasonable correlation between those who play rationally and those who win regularly, so revise your strategies to be as rational as possible.

When you are planning your next bet, ask yourself these questions to figure out if you have biases:

  • What is my gut feeling about this game, and why? Your gut feelings can often expose your cognitive biases. For example, is your gut feeling always telling you to bet on your favourite team, despite their poor performance?
  • Why do I feel confident about this bet? If your confidence comes from having done good research and applying maths, statistics and other concrete information, great! If it comes from a feeling, belief or even just fervent hope, that’s not rational.
  • Am I being flexible enough? It’s one thing to stick with a strategy that works for you. It’s another story if your strategy clearly isn’t working out, but you stick with it anyway because, well, it’s my damn strategy and I’m sticking to it! Even those who win regularly should review their strategy from time to time to take new information into account. Whether you’re winning or losing, be flexible enough to review and revise your strategy from time to time.

We have loads of guides about everything to do with sports betting, and we are constantly writing more. Check back in regularly for more insights into becoming a better sports bettor. If you’re new to sports betting and want to learn more about the basics, check out our Sports Betting 101 series.

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