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Why patience is an essential trait for any serious bettor

Why patience is an essential trait for any serious bettor

Why do bettors need to be patient? Understanding the influence of cognitive biases. How can patience help us make rational decisions? Is technology making us impatient?

Betting for a living is often romanticised as being about big-decision moments and the highs of pulling off life-changing wins. The reality couldn’t be more different. Bettors need to work hard, learn quickly and be disciplined in order to succeed. Patience is also an essential trait for any serious bettor, and this article explains why.

Understanding the psychological side of betting is just as important as having the right kind of information and betting with the right bookmaker. Not everybody bets for the same reasons; there are a multitude of various reasons why we gamble, but regardless of the motivation, if you want consistent profits it is useful to adhere to certain rules.

Why bettors need to be patient

Patience - the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious - is often overlooked as a key component of making money from betting. Being able to calculate expected value and beat the closing line is obviously important but in an environment that can be influenced by randomness and luck, bettors also need to be patient.

The law of large numbers is perhaps the best way to explain how important patience is in betting. At the core of Jacob Bernoulli’s theorem is the principle of probability distribution. In terms of betting, this would be the expectation that a coin will land on heads or tails or a roulette wheel lands on red or black an even number of times within a restricted sample.

Of course, at some point in time things like a coin toss and roulette wheel will even out. Similarly, if a bettor has an edge that is bigger than the bookmaker’s margin, instances of randomness and luck will (at some point in time) even out. It simply requires patience to avoid restricting the sample size within which this expectation will be realised.

Joseph Buchdahl also highlights why patience is an essential trait in betting in his Becoming a profitable bettor: A question of luck or skill article. He uses Nate Silver’s example of how a skilled poker player could still be showing losses after as many as 100,000 hands (two years of playing for 40 hours a week). Granted, this is an extreme example but it shows how important it is to understand that once you have an edge, you still need to be prepared to wait for the positive results.

Understanding the influence of cognitive biases

Bettors might be aware of the common traps people fall into, understand what Gambler’s Fallacy is and know that (providing they have an edge) they will make money if they wait long enough. However, certain cognitive biases can interfere with this logical reasoning.

There are numerous articles within Betting Resources that analyse the impact cognitive biases have on our decision-making process when placing a bet. Whether it is the favourite-longshot bias or the hindsight bias, patience is one of many mechanisms that can help stop bettors deviating from rational judgement and make more informed betting decisions.

Short-term profit vs. Long-term success

One cognitive bias that patience can help bettors control is hyperbolic discounting - the tendency to choose an immediate payoff over a larger gain that will take longer to achieve. This notion is perhaps best expressed when looking at staking methods and the fact that different betting profiles are suited to a particular method.

Some bettors want the instant big win and will bet their maximum bankroll at once; even if there’s a big risk of going bust. Others will use progressive methods (like Fibonacci) continually betting after losses to recoup all previous stakes. However, proportional (such as the Kelly Criterion) and fixed staking methods greatly reduce and even eliminate risk - so why wouldn’t everyone use these methods?

Patience and rationality

If we believe in rational choice theory, every decision we make is based on the assumption that we are maximising our advantage and minimising our losses. However, this isn’t always the case in betting.

If a bettor wants to place a $10 bet and their usual bookmaker offers odds of 2.22 but 2.25 is available elsewhere (a difference of $0.30 if it wins), will they change bookmakers? Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. If the same bettor has the same choice but wants to bet $100,000, they will be more inclined to change bookmakers (for the additional $3,000). Yet in both situations the bettor has an opportunity to maximise their advantage?

Serious bettors know how important value (the better odds) is, no matter how small a difference it might make. They know that sometimes it requires extra effort to find said value and that with some patience, they will make more profit with better odds - this is why Pinnacle’s low margins are so popular.

In terms of rationality, it also important to understand that anxiety heightens irrational behaviours. If an individual is patient they will lessen such behaviours which will help them to rationalise the decisions they make. 

Is technology is making us impatient?

Outside the world of betting, advancements in technology have made acquiring goods and fulfilling needs easier than ever. You can order a pizza at the touch of a button, you don’t have to move to do your weekly shop and even ordering a taxi requires less effort than before.

This desire for instant gratification has permeated betting and bettors are now provided with endless means to place bets that require minimal effort but crucially (for some bookmakers), minimal thought. Curated bets have been around for years but “most popular bets” and “trending bets” highlight how the bandwagon effect (herd behaviour) dominates recreational betting.

Waiting for what you know is coming

In short, bettors need to be patient and “see the bigger picture”. If you have positive expected value but still suffer losses, you need to understand that it is merely a sequence of losses in a bigger sample that will produce a profit. 

Betting is about getting an edge over the bookmaker, finding positive expected value and understanding margins so you know how much your bet costs. However, in addition to a “winning formula” you have to be patient enough to see the desired results - betting isn’t a lottery, you won’t become a millionaire over night.





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Benjamin Cronin
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