All about Sports Betting Psychology

It’s not uncommon for the mind to play some wicked tricks whenever we indulge in sports betting and try to assess the possible occurrence of an event. Regardless of whether you’re trying to understand the actual workings of probability and the way randomness can have an impact on different outcomes, or how psychological biases and common mental errors can come into play, you’ll notice that our mind can be a very finicky ally in our pursuit of booking regular betting profits.

Let’s throw some light on the concept of availability bias and how it can distort your assessment of any particular sporting event. Please note, availability bias is something that’s for real and comes into application no matter where you’re placing your bet at, whether in an online casino, or with an offline bookmaker. Your assessment of probability can be significantly affected by whatever you can immediately recall about that event at that particular time, thereby having dire consequences on your betting activity.

What’s meant by availability bias?
If we look at our psyche, one of its most interesting aspects is that we always seem to have an answer for almost everything! There may be only a few subjects that we may not have an opinion about. To give you an example, if you are asked by someone about how Arsenal normally plays its game? or Which is the favourite sport of Donald Trump?, you may readily think of an answer, even if you may not have seen Arsenal play in a long time or have no interest in politics!
In addition, you can instantly decide whether to trust or not trust a stranger within a few seconds of meeting him/her. What we mean to highlight here is that we often have answers to almost all the questions, despite not having proper understanding of the context and/or the subject. Why this happens is because our mind has the tendency of subconsciously replacing difficult questions with simpler ones, just so we can answer them easily.

Why do we often ask the wrong questions?
We can easily see a typical example of our mind substituting a difficult question with an easier one whenever we visit a departmental store to buy something. Let’s say the difficult question we’re faced with is:

Difficult Question - Which is the best shaving cream for my purpose?
Unless you’re absolutely obsessed about shaving creams, it’s highly likely that you’ll replace such question with a simpler one, which in turn will form the basis of your buying decision.

Easy Question - Which shaving cream do I consider the best?
This is exactly where the advertisements play a crucial role. Whenever we’re faced with multiple choices, we’re more likely to go for the one that we have some familiarity with, especially if all of them are priced almost the same.
There’s a simple reason why our mind subconsciously replaces difficult questions with easier ones. All it tries to do is help you function as effectively as possible. It tries to save and protect its resources for more important decisions. Although such mechanism may work in our favour, for instance when we go out to buy a shaving cream, it can lead to major problems if we don’t pay heed to it and indulge in sports betting activity.

When does such question-substitution become an issue?
Whenever you indulge in sports betting at an offline bookmaker or an online one like Bet365, the most important thing to be kept in mind is the correct evaluation of betting odds. However, we’re not intuitively aware of such evaluation and many sports bettors don’t even realise about it when placing bets. So, whenever you come across betting odds, what you actually get faced with is the probability.
However, it isn’t very easy to answer a question like – Does Liverpool really have a 70% chance of winning a particular football match?
Hence, our mind replaces such difficult questions with easier ones, which leads to problems because we actually should be thinking about probabilities instead when placing bets.
But our intuitive mind isn’t actually prepared for that; all it does is that it thinks in terms of black / white and yes / no. It may be able to process some shades of grey every now and then with a little luck, but that’s the maximum extent that it can go to.

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It’s actually the availability heuristic in play
When indulging in sports betting at an offline / online casino, you’re most likely to substitute hard-to-answer questions that have the following pattern:

Hard-to-answer question – What is the probability of Liverpool winning the football match?

Easier question – Do you remember Liverpool’s last victories?

As the original question may be hard to answer, our intuition automatically replaces it with the availability heuristic. When it does that, all we need to do is answer the easy question if we remember the Liverpool’s last few victories. That in turn allows us to quickly answer in terms of a yes or a no when we wish to place a wager on Liverpool. However, it also implies that we aren’t making a correct assessment of the probability of Liverpool winning the match.
Furthermore, availability bias leads to incorrect assessment of actual probabilities of other events in other situations too.
For instance, celeb divorces get a lot of media attention, hence we always tend to overestimate the chances of such divorces actually happening; the same way terror attacks also gain plenty of prominence in the media. As a result we greatly overestimate the dangers posed by such attacks, which in turn makes them highly effective for the terrorists; another example is of goals scored directly as a result of a corner kick in football. Hence, we always overestimate the chances of corner kicks actually converting into goals.
As it is easy to recall the past few victories of a particular football team, you may underestimate the likelihood of an under-dog scoring an upset.

The workings of availability heuristic
A German psychologist named Norbert Schwarz has contributed immensely to a better understanding of the workings of availability heuristic. He carried out the following experiment which neatly displayed its mechanism:

Group A exercise
Describe 6 situations wherein you exhibited an ability of asserting yourself.
Make an assessment of how well you did at asserting yourself.

Group B exercise
Describe 12 situations wherein you exhibited an ability of asserting yourself.
Make an assessment of how well you did at asserting yourself

It may be pretty obvious to you that members belonging to group B may think of themselves to be particularly assertive, whereas, the opposite may actually be true.
As group A described those 6 situations more quickly, it was concluded that this group was indeed more assertive. On the other hand, the members belonging to Group B found it significantly hard to describe 12 examples of assertiveness, just because there were too many examples asked of them. As it got pretty hard to complete the list towards the end, the members belonging to this group ended up thinking of themselves to being far less assertive.
A great interesting fact about this experiment is that it also works wonderfully well if conducted the other way round. Even if the groups were asked to describe 12 situations when they were not assertive enough, they ended up perceiving themselves as particularly assertive. If you carry out some research you’ll know that it’s possible to reproduce similar results in other areas too.

The impact of availability heuristic on sports betting
Regardless of where you bet, at Bet365, Betfair or anywhere else, the workings of availability heuristic neatly explain the manner in which we make intuitive betting decisions. This is the precise reason why betting on strong favourites is so popular, or why people love to bet on teams that are in good form. In a way, we, on many occasions substitute the hard-to-answer questions about winning probabilities with the simpler ones about the number of victories we remember.
Resultantly, on most of the occasions, we are unable to make a correct estimate of the real probabilities. This is a major problem in sports betting; as being successful in sports betting is not about picking the winners, but knowing about the right prices. You can’t enjoy long-term success in sports betting if you are unable to think based on probabilities. You’ll be constantly engaged in a battle with your intuition, which will prompt you to base your decisions and betting in yes/no terms.

How you can use availability heuristic to your advantage in sports betting
As availability heuristic impacts almost everyone, it impacts the betting markets too and you can use it to your advantage in sports betting at any offline bookie or online casino cum bookmaker.
For instance, you can see availability heuristic in action almost every time Barcelona plays Real Madrid, especially when it’s the last major game on a weekend in the European League. Quite often, a team that’s considered a huge favourite, witnesses a significant drop in its odds in the last hour prior to kickoff. These prices are almost always pressured by square money.
As per availability heuristic, it is always advantageous to bet against the wind. The betting odds are always way too high when it comes to relegation candidates or the teams which haven’t done too well in their recent matches. A major reason behind this is that it’s very hard for people to remember these teams scoring a win.
Therefore, in most cases, we are inclined to base our betting decisions only based on the recent information and because of the availability heuristic – the reason why we feel more inclined to quickly figure out and create short-term trends to base a decision on.
We fail to realise that when it comes to sports betting, it’s very important to have a long-term perspective. Short-term form is something that can be ignored many times. And doing so intentionally can provide you with a major advantage over the market.
It may also be extremely helpful if you decide to write an analysis while engaging in all such betting activity at Bet365 and other places. When you write an analysis you’re forced to think about the reasons behind placing certain bets. And if you’re someone who is very thorough about such processes, you’ll quickly understand that placing losing bets is always an option, in turn making it much easier for you to place bets based on actual probabilities, exactly as you should be doing.
Although doing that may be neither intuitive nor easy, it’s the only way you can get the necessary means of winning your bet/s.

Final thoughts
As is evident, availability heuristic is something that so clearly explains the reason behind even hard-core fans failing to book profits from their favourite sport, despite knowing everything about it. Although they know every possible aspect of their sport, they often answer the wrong questions.
Furthermore, it’s never a good idea to trust your emotions when placing bets. Availability bias can always influence your intuitive perception about a particular event.