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Irrational Escalation Bias in Sports Betting

Bookmakers always take advantage of bettors who make bad decisions. If you would investigate the reason behind their bad luck, the result will be clear. In order to fully understand the betting psychology and why bettors are making poor decisions, you must learn about the irrational escalation.

Introduction

The term irrational escalation is common in the field of economics, philosophy and psychology. Other areas such as politics and business use it, but under the name escalation of commitment. Furthermore, these terms are used to explain the commitment shown by the U.S. in wars involving Iraq and Vietnam. They all have one thing in common: the irrational decisions are being justified based on previous investments, even if the new investments are not profitable. Basically, the irrational escalation can be explained as throwing good money after bad. Although in sports betting this investment is financial and other investments are constantly made in order to recover or justify previous actions, in wars it is measured in human lives.

Irrational escalation in betting

The best example of irrational escalation in betting is when a poker player becomes pot committed and the funds he has invested in the pot are making him continue the game, even if the best move would be to fold. In sports betting, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about irrational escalation is in for a dime, in for a dollar. It is not uncommon for punters who start with small bets to increase the stakes after they lose a few times. As a result, the dime becomes a dollar and the bet selection and amount are justified by the lost bets, instead of being based on real odds and proper money management. The irrational escalation goes the other way also, and in some situation bettors who are winning increase the stakes more than they normally do. Even if there are moments when increasing the stakes is the best choice, the decision should not be influenced by previous bets.

Another common case of irrational escalation caused by a cognitive bias is when bettors spend a lot of time trying to find a proper value bet and fail to do so. In many such situations, they spend more time researching the match, and in order to make that time seem valuable, they spend even more time investigating. Moreover, they try to justify the lost time by saying that there must be a good bet, as long as they spend enough time looking for it. These bettors end up placing a bet and feeling proud that their hard work finally pays off, when in reality they choose a type of bet they would have normally dismissed.

Based on all this, is it important to remember to step back and analyze the situation before placing a bet. Ask yourself if the bet is in line with your money management system and if it is a value bet on its own. Try not to justify your action based on previous investments so you avoid the fatal irrational escalation.

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