How to Manage Emotional Bias in Sports Wagering

Emotional bias can ruin your sports betting budget, leading to poor decisions based on past events or team loyalty. Learn how to identify and overcome biases like the gambler's fallacy, confirmation bias, and betting on a hunch to improve your betting profits.

Jon Young
Jon Young

Last Updated: 2024-07-05

A. Tzamantanis

6 minutes read

Tom Brady NFL – Emotional bias in sports wagering

Emotional bias can ruin even the best sports betting budget. You start making poor decisions based on past events, your current bankroll, or even the team that’s playing. Overcoming biases in sports betting is the best way to improve the health of your gambling profits. 

What is Emotional Bias?

Most gamblers go through an emotional experience when gambling that can affect their judgment. A big win can make you feel invincible and want to take bigger risks by using something called ‘hindsight bias’. On the flipside, a run of poor results can make you want to chase losses and increase wagers outside your comfort zone. 

The Gambler’s Fallacy

The gambler’s fallacy is one of the oldest biases for bettors. It’s the belief that a run of similar results is destined to change. In the casino, it might be the belief that black will come up on the roulette wheel after 20 red outcomes. 

In sports betting, gamblers look at a bad team who’ve lost 10 games in a row and are convinced that they’ll turn it around.

There’s no rationale behind this decision, only that eventually, the team must win. However, that’s not how sports works, and the gambler must factor in things like variance, injuries, and morale. 

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is commonly associated with social media, but it rings true in sports betting also. Confirmation bias is the belief that your pre-held opinions are the only ones that matter. 

You may feel that Brazil must win the World Cup because they have Neymar Jr playing and he’s your favorite striker. Plus, Brazil have won more World Cups than any other team. 

However, you haven’t factored in current form, Brazil’s recent tournament record, or their likely path to the final. Confirmation bias makes you seek out other opinions, on forums or from tipsters, that back up your opinion. 

Betting on a Hunch

Going on gut feeling is the worst way to make sports wagers. Gamblers haven’t analyzed the stats or backed up their picks with research. Instead, they just go with what they feel will happen in that moment. 

Plus, many sports fans think a knowledge of a game is enough to make bets. It doesn’t factor in value and the bookmaker’s vigorish that is added to all prices. One of the most important things to do is find value in the bookie’s odds. If an odds-on favorite seems under-priced, it may not be worth taking the bet. 

Top 5 Ways to Combat Emotional Bias

Here are a few ways to help avoid giving in to your biases when placing sports bets. 

#1 Understand Your Own Biases

Take a step back every month and analyze every wager you’ve made. Ask yourself whether you made the sports bets with research, on a hunch, or by reading tipsters. 

You can move forward by examining bets you made following a win. Did you increase your stakes after a big win or include one too many legs in your parlay? This ‘overconfidence bias’ is common to all gamblers, especially when they’re on a hot streak.   

#2 Accept Losses as Part of the Game

Even the best-laid plans go wrong for sports bettors and sportsmen alike. Players can stumble or score an own goal and ruin the best-researched wagers. 

Teams and players rarely go unbeaten during a season. The important thing is to even out your luck long-term and beat the bookmakers’ edge where you can. 

#3 Ignore ‘Groupthink’ to Make Your Own Choices

Confirmation bias in the echo chambers of betting forums or social media platforms can skew your reasoning when placing bets. Remember that ‘groupthink’ can also change the bookmakers’ odds if the weight of money is enough to alter the price.

#4 Don’t Bet on Teams Your Support

Betting on the team or player you support is the worst way to give in to biases. You may have an emotional attachment to a star striker on the First Goalscorer markets. But if he hasn’t scored in 10 matches, is it really a wise choice?
Plus, many supporters over-estimate their own team’s performance. They may blame the referee or other team as the reason their team lost, not the fact that they played worse. 

By taking personal attachments out of the equation, you can make more even-handed betting decisions. Do your research, but only place wagers on teams and players you have no personal interest in. 

Final Thoughts

Fighting your biases in sports betting is hard. It’s human nature to want to find patterns in results and events on the playing field. However, only research and an acceptance that random events can happen in sports will help you make more profit in the long term. 

Jon Young
Jon Young Sports Betting Writer

Jon is an experienced journalist and editor working in the gambling industry for over 17 years. He started life as a football betting blogger before being bitten by the online poker bug, eventually becoming editor of some of the largest gambling and poker publications around, including Gambling Magazine and WPT (World Poker Tour) Poker Magazine.