Betting on Winning Streaks
Nothing denying the fact that successful sports stars are well known for their ability of consistently overcoming difficult situations and avoiding defeats, for instance, Floyd Mayweather against anyone in the ring, Rafael Nadal at French Open, Jose Mourinho playing at home and more. However, do you think these winning sprees are merely a matter of good luck or are a result of some great skills? And should be always backing these winning streaks as a sports bettor? Let’s find out.
No one can deny that the people listed above constitute the crème de la creme of their respective games or professions, however, why do you think they have so successfully managed to have such strong winning runs, something that’s way beyond and above (or perhaps equal) to some of their talented counterparts, both of present and past era? The reality is that apart from their talent, sheer luck is another major factor in establishment of such winning streaks.
The replacement of characters with coins
Step away for a moment from the personalities and performances related to the professional sports arena and view all such winning runs as mere mathematical occurrences; when you do so, you’ll find that it’s far easier to comprehend how skewed our general perception of winning streaks actually is! Do away with the ‘pretty boy’ for now, and think of matches as being coin tosses instead of skill-based events.
As per the matters of probability if you toss a coin precisely 100 times, the chances of you witnessing a streak of minimum 6 tails or 6 heads (back to back occurrences) is 75%. On the other hand, the chances of you witnessing a streak of minimum 10 consecutive tails of heads is 10%.
Now imagine, if the sequence of these 100 coin tosses is shown to you in the form of a ‘x’ and ‘o’ diagram, wherein ‘x’ is the equivalent of tails and ‘o’ represents heads as follows:
Being human, you’ll naturally get drawn towards the pattern which is easiest definable – The long sequence of ‘x’ in the second row. However, does that imply that this specific period is more noticeable compared to the others? Did tails grab the initiative all of a sudden? Did it display some sort of a peculiar skill? No, not possible. After all, it’s just a coin! As per probability, it is natural for such sequences to occur from time to time.
When it comes to sports managers, boxers, tennis players and more, any such a run of form, despite the fact that winning streaks are quite poignant, are highly likely to skew the sports bettors’ judgements in the same manner as explained above, causing them to overestimate a particular player’s, team’s or manager’s chances of continuing that pattern.
For instance, if you replace the ‘x’ and ‘o’ with ‘L’ and ‘W’ respectively (standing for losses and wins), the resulting pattern would look something like as follows:
Thus by taking a simple glance at it, how do you think that the progression would follow and fill up the ???? that you see in the second row? Majority of people may think that the losing streak would continue. Now pay attention to the following image:
What do you think would replace the ???? you see in the text above? Quite naturally, you are likely to replace the ???? with WWWW as you would expect the player to continue on his winning streak, despite the fact that this space could be filled up by any possibility.
Why do you think this happens? Simply because human brain is constructed in a way that it naturally creates patterns and is habituated to stay true to them, regardless of whether there is any rationale behind it or not.
About the skill factor
Quite obviously, no one can dare suggest that the biggest sports personalities whom we’ve witnessed achieving some of the biggest feats in their respective endeavours have all done it merely because of randomness! Of course it’s their talent which has enabled them to be in a position wherein they can accomplish such feats. Truly speaking, their skill converts them into a sort of weighted coin, which is more probable to land on a ‘W’ than anything else, however, that ‘W’ is by no means a certain outcome.
To give you an example, Rafael Nadal playing on a clay court at French Open can be likened to a very heavy weighted coin. If you see his clay court win percentages over some consecutive tennis seasons, they are like 93%, 92%, 96%, 100%, 96% and so on. In fact, his average performance on clay courts can be worked out to be in the vicinity of 95%. This proves that the Nadal’s chances of winning tennis matches played on clay courts aren’t merely high due to the luck factor, however, luck could have definitely played a huge part in the perfect season he enjoyed in the year 2010.
So, do you think the reason why Roger Federer always dominates Wimbledon is because he is a far better player compared to Pete Sampras? Are you of the opinion that Heats are as good as the Lakers of the 1970s owing to their regular winning streaks?
Perhaps the answer to that question is ‘Maybe.’ Realistically speaking, winning streaks happen because of a combination of different factors, the most important one of which is the factor of luck. If we don’t pay heed to the inputs that constitute the matter of chance, we leave ourselves vulnerable to overestimating the chances of players, teams or managers on winning streaks.
When it comes to American sports, the matter of chance plays a huge role in the proceedings, as their egalitarian structure makes sure that the talent is divided evenly between all teams, and hence no single team has distinguishably higher opportunity of dominating a sport or a league, as you may witness in case of European football.
Apart from the winning or losing streaks, the same type of caution should be applicable to usage of any form guide as an indicator in the sports betting activities. Do you think you can 100% believe that a team or a player enjoying a five-game form which reads as: LLWWW is likely to beat another team whose five-game form is WWLLL?