Losing streaks are inevitable. If a bettor is making one to four bets a day on average (and more during football and college basketball season), then there are going to be some dry stretches over those 1000 or so tickets. The key to long-term betting success is not avoiding losing streaks as much as how to handle losing streak.
First and foremost, do no harm. Don’t chase bad money with good money. Now is the time to remain ever-vigilant in maintaining your standards regarding what is a worthwhile situation for investment and what is not. Stay consistent.
For me, if I am not handicapping well, it is because I have lost the balance between my qualitative analysis and my handicapping fundamentals.
By qualitative analysis, I mean my understanding and appreciation of what is going on between the two teams in question. Do I have the right take on a team being undervalued or overvalued? Am I missing information regarding injuries? Are there changes in tactics that are impacting things? Have I fallen into the trap of accepting conventional wisdom?
By handicapping fundamentals, I mean remaining sensitive to the betting situation independent of the particulars of the two teams in question. Am I investing in situations that I would otherwise draw red flags? Am I ignoring situations that I would otherwise jump on? I am betting on too many plays? Am I not getting enough action out there?
When I am most successful, the decisions I am making on a daily basis take into account the specifics of the two teams in question and then balancing those thoughts with the handicapper situational perspective independent from the two teams in question. When the qualitative assessments and handicapper instincts are in unison, that should lead to strong plays. If those two perspectives are in conflict, I should be passing. When the picture is muddier, I should be weighing evidence and making decisions to play or pass.
After losses, I conduct autopsies to discern if I made a judgment mistake. If the losses coincide with ignoring some of the handicapping fundamentals I have accrued over the years, then it is a pretty easy fix to get back to prioritizing those values. If the autopsy exposes that I did not know as much about the issues that would decide the game, then I need to get in the trenches and learn more about the teams. Sometimes that is simply a function of harder work. But sometimes this work requires the difficult decision that the sources I am leaning on are not making a winning difference. That requires me to dump sources of information in the search for better analysis to help inform my conclusions. More often than not, if I get stuck in a losing streak in a sport, it is because the research I conduct is not providing enough actionable information. As the years have gone by, I rely less and less on ESPN (TV and their print/web) sources to help inform my thoughts. 538.com has all but dropped off the planet for me. In an ideal world, I could read it all. In practice, I need to make choices in a 24-hour day. Making better choices as to where I get my supporting research is often the solution to losing streaks.
But given all this, sometimes the best response to a losing streak is not change anything. Sometimes the breaks don’t go our way. It is called bad luck. It happens. Sometimes well-informed choices backed by sound handicapping fundamentals do not lead to a winning ticket. Successfully identifying those situations — and then not changing course — is the best route to long-term success.
The most important quality to embrace when conducting a self-audit is brutal honesty. Perhaps the choices are bad? Or perhaps the knowledge of the teams is simply rudimentary. But if conducting an autopsy of past losses leads to the conclusion that the choice was sound and the handicapping of the situation was spot-on, then perhaps the best conclusion is to simply accept that we can’t win them all. And regarding the losing streak, this too shall pass.
Best of luck — Frank.