The truth about streaks....

Last Updated: 08.11.2018

Thursday, 8th November 2018

The truth about streaks….

I was always drawn to betting shops – even from early childhood....

It was something about the the voices on the ‘blower’ as you went past the shop....

Even though I didn’t understand them, I was nonetheless fascinated and excited by phrases like ‘Going down at Chepstow....’ and ‘Weighed-in at Pontefract. At Pontefract, weighed-in...’

Once old enough to visit betting shops, my interest focused on individual punters and how successful (or not) they were....

I was interested to know how the better ones came up with their selections – how they thought and what they looked for....

  • Betting is life....

Over time you find – at least I have – that many of the people (if not all) in your social circle are there because, like you, they bet....

You travel across the plains of the sporting year with them. You exchange views, opinions and information....

You might land touches together. You console (or ridicule) one another’s losing streaks. And you all speak a dialect and live an experience that non-players or occasional bettors don’t really get....

It’s a lifestyle – or at least a way of life....

As your relationship with other punters deepens, you get a sharper insight into what type of punter they are at base. You get to know in detail how they play and – on some level at least – you get to know something of their internal world. You get to learn where on the scales they reside....

Are they fearful or fearless? Cautious or fast and loose? Unsure or certain?

Conventional or unorthodox? Intuitive or rational? In tune or out of step with the herd? Lucky or unlucky? Come-day-go-day or emotionally involved (these guys really suffer)? Or, on all counts and more besides, are they somewhere in-between?

I don’t want to get all philosophical about it, but betting is life. How you play is pretty much how you live. What you get is pretty much what you deserve. How you handle the ups and downs of betting says a great deal about how you cope with the high points and low points the real-world throws at us all....

That’s how I see it anyway….

  • What kind of punter are you?

It’s interesting to observe how individual punters work. For example, how do they respond to good fortune?

Up in the North we have an expression that is sometimes heard when a punter lands a nice touch. ‘Put a nail in it, lad!’

The advice basically recommends you hang on to the winnings and not give the bookie a chance to get it back....

Is that how you play? When you win a decent pot is your instinct to squirrel the winnings away – to hang on to what you have won?

It’s how I played when I was starting out. I was frightened of losing what I’d won. I’d hang on to those pound notes like grim death. The longer I kept hold, the longer the win – and the feeling that came with it – lasted....

These days my attitude is different....

At some point I realized that a punter is much like a horse. He goes through peaks and troughs of form – and it is not a good time to hang up the guns when a patch of good form is encountered....

Nowadays, I take the view that hitting form is a cue to kick on and do all you can to capitalize....

  • Losing runs....

How best to handle the losing runs? I should know. I’ve had plenty of practice over the years....

It doesn’t pay to get too despondent. Not much good comes out of gloom. And it doesn’t pay to dwell. You can’t change it. Once you’ve had a look at where you might have gone wrong, better to move on. Another thing you ought best not do is to go ‘on tilt’....

Spend time in any betting shop and you’ll encounter multiple punters engaged in that macabre dance with mental anguish. Their response to backing a series of losers is to get the spade out and keep on digging that hole....

The bets get bigger and more frequent. Discrimination goes out of the window. The hole just gets bigger and deeper. The losses accumulate, the losing streak gets longer, and the situation gets more desperate. And, as we know, desperate money seldom wins....

That’s how I used to bet....

A Saturday afternoon would often go badly wrong if I backed a string of losers early on. I think I placed bets as if I was entitled to win. And when that entitlement wasn’t forthcoming my response was to keep on swinging until it was....

When the bets I’d planned to place went down, bets I hadn’t planned placing were more heavily financed. Now and again I got lucky. More times than not I left the betting shop with empty pockets....

Over time you either accept that betting inevitably leads to losses, you give up or you learn. And I learnt....

I learnt to accept that losing days are part of the game. That losing sequences are tough to take but par for the course. I stopped chasing losses with additional bad bets. I smartened up. When my planned bets went down, I accepted it phlegmatically. I waited for another day....

And if I felt jaded, ill-prepared or off my game, I learnt to stand back and give it a break for a few days. I would try to ease back into form rather than force it....

  • What the academic experts say....

If a study conducted a few years back can be believed my development as a punter has gone the right way. I am right to kick on when I am winning. And I am right to hold off when events are conspiring against my bets....

Mathematicians from University College London examined 565,915 online sports bets placed by 776 punters....

Their research led them to conclude that there is some basis in the idea of cutting your losses when bets lose. They found that placing losing bets increases the likelihood that your next bet will be a loser....

Conversely their study also led them to conclude that winning streaks exist – that they are real and based on punter behavior rather than randomness or Lady Luck....

They found that once a punter places a winning bet, he is more likely to win again next time. Their research revealed that in groups of six bets the probability of the first bet winning was 48%. By the time the winning streak had produced five winners the probability of the 6th bet winning too was as high as 75%....

They did issue a proviso with those figures – outlining that punters who place a winning bet tend to seek out subsequent bets that are safer – reflected in shorter prices. As the winning streak goes on punters, it seems, are prepared to accept smaller returns to keep the run going....

I am always slightly skeptical when I read about studies and reports that say this or say that. Unless you have full access to the methodologies used and the full data examined you can never be sure how reliable the conclusions are....

But I can’t help noting that the findings of the study tally with my own betting experiences and observations. They provide a little encouragement that I’m on the right track....

If you’re on a losing streak – and inclined to chase – consider holding off. Chances are you’ll improve your ‘luck’....

And when you’re backing those winners – if you’re inclined to back off and ‘put a nail in it’ – consider kicking on and playing up your good form....

That way you might turn one or two winners into plenty more. At least that’s what the experts reckon!

  • The last word….

That’s all from me for today.

I’ll be back tomorrow.

Until then. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd