Optimism Bias In Sports Betting

Optimism Bias In Sports Betting

The Optimism Bias is a widely occurring cognitive bias which causes individuals to believe that they are less likely to experience negative events, or that positive events are more likely to happen to them compared to others. In everyday life, you may hear that being an optimist is a good thing, however, when you are a bettor, your optimistic nature is more of a liability, and has the potential to greatly affect your betting performance in a negative manner.

Optimism does have a very obvious benefit, it just makes you feel good. However, for as long as you can maintain your optimism, it will be easier to suppress doubt and negative emotions. For this sole reason, we naturally tend to seek out and find information that reinforces our optimistic outlook.

What is Optimism Bias

You can see this bias in action when you decide to put on a bet and go over some analysis for it. Usually, you will be looking for arguments that support your bet. But in fact, for a more complete analysis, you should look for counter-arguments with the same vigour. This just means that you are looking for ways that your bet may lose. This allows you to judge the merits of the bet as objectively as possible. For these reasons, statistical betting models are significantly better. Models force you to attach objective weight to facts and establish a consistent relationship between them. Intuition, however, often lead bettors to search for more reasons that support the bet, and violate consistency for the sake of finding these reasons. This leads to bettors not placing enough weight on reasons that speak against their bet option.

Things To Consider

Another important thing to consider when making bets is the comparison of information. Typically, newer and more inexperienced bettors possess knowledge of only a few of the teams in a given sport or competition. This usually tends to be their favourite team, or some teams playing in the same league as their favourite team. The asymmetry of information becomes evident immediately. For instance, while fans are typically quite familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the team they follow closely, this is usually never the case for the opposing and lesser-known team. Alarmingly, this rarely leads to more caution, but rather more optimistic and gut-feeling based predictions. Of course, the overall strengths and weaknesses of one of the teams is not irrelevant but adds very little information about the possible outcomes as you are not able to assess that information in relation to the overall strength of the opposing team.

So what does this all mean?

In sum, to be a better bettor, you should be betting in sports or competitions that you actively follow. Specifically, you should aim to know all the teams and players involved as in-depth as possible. This makes your decision making significantly better as you are more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals involved. Also, remember to constantly think about why a team may lose a match against the opposition instead of purely focusing on why they will win.  

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