Emotional Control & Discipline
For many sports bettors, or gamblers in general for that matter, gambling is appealing because of the emotional highs and lows it brings. Obviously the highs are far more enjoyable, but the old cliché of having to taste the lows to appreciate the highs is painfully true when it comes to gambling.
There's nothing particularly wrong with gaining some enjoyment from riding the emotional roller coaster that gambling can represent, but you are likely to do much better as a sports bettor if you are able to remove the emotion. Successful betting is all about making rational decisions, and you'll find that very difficult to do if you can't control your emotions.
What sets successful bettors apart from losing bettors isn't just their ability to analyze all the factors that can affect the outcome of sports events, but their ability to maintain discipline and control their emotions. These are things that the average bettor pays very little attention to, and yet they are extremely important.
In this article we discuss some of the emotions that can get in the way of making good betting decisions. We also look at why strong discipline is so beneficial for bettors.
No-one likes to lose money, obviously. It is, however, a simple fact of betting that you'll lose on occasion. If you're betting regularly, then you will probably experience periods when you seem to lose all the time. There will almost certainly be times when you're losing more than you win.
You can't be afraid of losing though. This will result in you making decisions for the wrong reasons, and you'll probably go looking for "safe" options rather than using your judgment to find the best betting opportunities. This will ultimately see your fears realized, as your bad decisions will lead to losing money.
There are two effective ways to avoid the fear of losing money. The first is simply to make sure that you only ever bet with money that you can afford to lose, and are fully prepared to lose. This is one of the main reasons for having a proper bankroll. By allocating a sum of money that's purely for betting purposes, you don't have to worry about losing money that you need for something else.
Secondly, you should try and ignore the monetary value of your bankroll. If you view your bankroll as a tool of the trade, you'll remove your emotional attachment to it. If you then also practice good bankroll management, you'll have no reason to fear even a string of losses.
An important part of betting is knowing when to bet. With online betting sites making it so easy to place a wager, and offering so many betting markets, it's very easy to bet in high volume. Placing a lot of bets can potentially bring some success, with an appropriate strategy, but it's generally much better to be selective and only bet when there's a very good reason to do so.
This might sound simple enough to do, but many bettors suffer with impatience. The urge to place a bet, even if there's no real reason to do so, can be overwhelming. This can lead to placing speculative wagers that aren't properly thought out, and this isn't exactly a recipe for success.
Dealing with impatience can be a challenge. It's very easy for us to say you need to be patient, but it's not necessarily that easy to do. The best advice we can give is just to make absolutely sure that you are betting for the right reasons. Before you place a wager, ask yourself why you are placing it. If you can't provide a solid answer, it's probably not a wager you should be placing.
Desperation & Greed
Most, if not all, sports bettors will have a particularly bad run of results at some point, and many will have a particularly good run of results. Sustained periods of losing can be very emotionally damaging, for obvious reasons, but sustained periods of winning can actually be just as bad.
A long streak of losses can easily lead to desperation. Desperation, in turn, can lead to betting at higher and higher stakes in an attempt to chase those losses. Chasing losses is one of the cardinal sins of betting, and should be avoided at all costs, but it can be so tempting to try and recover some of the money that has been lost. It almost always ends in disaster though with even greater losses.
A long streak of wins, on the other hand, can lead to greed. It's easy to feel like you can do nothing wrong when you are winning all the time, and the urge to try and win more can be overwhelming. Just like desperation, greed can also lead to betting at higher stakes. The reasoning is different, but it should still be avoided. No winning streak lasts forever, and the last thing you want to do is give all your winnings straight back to the bookmakers.
Controlling your emotions in either of these circumstances largely comes down to discipline.
It's not easy to develop winning betting strategies, but it's certainly possible. Even the best strategies, however, will result in some losing bets. It can be hard to stick with something that isn't generating an immediate return though, which is why confidence is so important in betting. If you don't have any faith in your own abilities you will end up second guessing every decision you make, and that's not likely to end well.
Once you have decided upon the approach you are going to take with your betting, you have to stick with it for a while, even if you go through a losing streak. You should never automatically assume that you are doing something wrong. Have some self-belief, and trust that you're making the right decisions for the right reasons.
With that being said, over confidence can be just as damaging as a lack of confidence. If you have too much self-belief you may continue with a losing strategy for far too long, perhaps choosing to blame bad luck rather than accept that there's something wrong with your approach. What you should be doing is analyzing when you're going wrong, and why.
Getting the right balance of confidence is difficult. You have to be able to deal with a few losses without losing faith in yourself, but you equally have to be prepared to accept that you are capable of making mistakes.
A good way to try to strike the right balance is to make sure you spend time analyzing the bets you are making and the results of them. If you genuinely believe you are making bets for the right reasons, then you should keep going with your strategy even if the results aren't great. You should set some kind of loss limit though, to force yourself to look at possible flaws in your strategy if it really doesn't seem to be working.
Many sports bettors are also sports fans, and this can present a problem. There's a lot of emotion involved in being a sports fan, particularly if you are passionate about a particular team or individual. This passion is part of what makes being a sports fan so much fun, but it's not so good when it comes to sports betting.
For example, imagine your favorite football team is about to play in a hugely important game against their biggest rivals. As a fan you're probably going to be looking forward to the game, and obviously hoping for a win. In such a scenario, it's somewhat unlikely that you're going to be able to make a rational decision about which wagers to place on the game.
If you are an optimist, you may be tempted to bet on your team winning simply because you want them to, even if their chances aren't that great. If you are a pessimist, you might bet against your team, because you can't believe your team will get the victory you hope for. You may even decide to bet against your team so that you are happy either way. If your team wins you don't mind losing the bet, and if your team loses at least you'll have won some money.
The point here is that you are making bets for the wrong reasons, which is always a mistake. It's very, very difficult to take the emotion out of things when betting on a sports event you really care about so it's best to simply avoid doing so. You'll surely find plenty of betting opportunities on events that you have no emotional involvement with, so they are the ones you should focus on.
The Importance of Discipline
Strong discipline will help you deal with all the potential problems that the emotions we have discussed above can cause. For starters, you'll need to be disciplined if you want to practice good bankroll management. As we've already mentioned, it's good bankroll management that will enable you to cope with any fears of losing you may have, and resist any temptation that desperation and greed may lead to.
Having the confidence to stick with your approach even when things aren't going well requires discipline, as does forcing yourself to accept that your approach may not actually be as good as you think. You'll also need discipline to stop yourself from betting on events that you really should be avoiding because of an emotional involvement. It will help you to remain patient too, and ensure that you don't bet simply for the sake for it.
It's definitely not easy to maintain discipline and keep your emotions in check when betting on sports. There is, after all, real money at stake. It's something you really should think long and hard about though, because if you can master it you'll be well on your way to success.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: March 2015
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