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Smartgambler sports betting articles

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Managing a losing streak.

By Nolan Dalla. July 2002.

(Reprinted unedited by permission of top rate gambling site madjacksports.com)

Part one: When good handicappers go bad

The chance that you will experience a losing streak increases --

the longer you play

the more games you play

In other words, as the TIME FRAME, and FREQUENCY of your wagers increases exponentially, a losing streak becomes more and more inevitable.

Agreed? Of course, you agree. Otherwise, go back and read the first part again. And again.

For example, if you bet just one game per day for the next two weeks, it's unlikely you will encounter a severe losing streak -- which is defined as a inordinate number of losses within a given time frame. Based on 14 total plays in a two-week period, most bettors will win or lose between 5 and 9 games. In fact, about 85 percent of all bettors will go 5-9, 6-8, 7-7, 8-6, or 9-5. A smaller percentage will go either 10-4 or 4-10. A much smaller percentage will go 11-3 or 3-11. And the fractions are miniscule for going 2-12, 12-2, 1-13, and 13-1. For any bettor -- no matter how good or how bad -- to go either 0-14 or 14-0 is less than one-tenth of a percentage point. Picture a bell curve. That's explains the distribution of wins and losses based on probability.

All handicappers, no matter how skilled or experienced they are, encounter losing cycles. The question isn't so much "if" it will happen, but "when" it will happen. Although professional and semi-professional sports handicappers understand these cycles and are forced to accept the inevitability of losses, it doesn't make things any easier when we are in the midst of a bad run. Our deeper understanding of the laws of mathematics and probability only seems to compound our frustrations.

So, what are the chances that you (or I) will encounter a losing streak? Let's look at the likelihood of a losing streak occurring within a one-year period. I, Nolan Dalla, will serve as the model in this experiment, since my wins and losses are documented publicly on this forum and are probably consistent with the approximate number of wagers each of you makes within a 365-day period. In other words, some bettors will make less than 500 wagers. And others will make far more than 500 wagers. But "500" appears to be a reasonable figure, which equates to an average of 1.38 wagers per day.

As stated previously, I expect to make approximately 500 wagers this year. This breaks down by sport, as follows: NFL (160); XFL (9); NBA (121 pending playoffs); NCAA Basketball (20); Baseball (175 estimated); Other (5)

Based on 500 flat bets between September 1, 2000 and August 31, 2001, here are the odds that the following will occur, given that each wager is a 50-50 proposition:

THE NUMBER OF "TIMES" DURING THE NEXT 500 PLAYS THAT THE FOLLOWING WILL OCCUR…..

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 2 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 124.75

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 3 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 62.25

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 4 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 31.06

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 5 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 15.05

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 6 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 7.73

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 7 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 3.86

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 8 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 1.93

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 9 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: .96

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: .48

THE ODDS THAT THE FOLLOWING WILL OCCUR (BASED ON 500 PLAYS)…..

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 2 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 100 percent

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 3 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 100 percent

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 4 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 100 percent

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 5 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 100 percent

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 6 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 98 percent

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 7 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 86 percent

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 8 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 62 percent

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 9 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 39 percent

-- I WILL LOSE AT LEAST 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 21 percent

COMMENTS: As you can see from the regression, it is a virtual certainty that we will have extended losing cycles. There is a very good chance we will lose 6, 7, or even as many as 8 games in a row. In fact, the odds that you will lose more than 8 consecutive games in 500-game stretch is better than 60 percent. Hence, if we place all the handicappers at MadJacks into a very large room (or a stadium) -- more than half of the handicappers will be pulling their hair out at some point during the season wondering what in the hell they are doing wrong. Surprise! The answer may (or may not be) -- nothing at all!

What a novel concept! You can be a good handicapper, but might lose EIGHT GAMES IN A ROW! Want to dispute this? Go ahead. Argue with the laws of mathematics. You'll lose every time.

So, for those of you who think that you can coattail 500 picks in a season and NOT lose 6 in a row, I have some beachfront property in Arizona that I will make you a helluva' deal on. I mean cheap!

Now, let's get serious.

One point related to the chart above: I question the fact that it's a "given" that almost every handicapper will lose at least 5 games in a row during a 500-game run. That number appears way to high in my estimation. However, it is the result of solid mathematical analysis. My opinion is purely subjective and I am not qualified to dispute the figures. See below for a more detailed explanation of the math formula(s) that were used to make these calculations.

Note that these percentages (above) are not given in order justify my losses nor to make excuses for my poor performance. I will have more to say about this topic in subsequent reports, which I hope will serve as a learning tool for us all. However, these percentages do PROVE the inevitability of losing cycles occurring within a broad time frame and large pool of games.. How we chose to deal with these losing streaks is often what separates long-term winners from losers in sports gambling.

Next topic.

What about the chances of a winning handicapper suffering a losing streak? The aforementioned chart assumes the handicapper will hit 50 percent of his/her plays. What about a handicapper that hits 53 percent, or 55 percent, or even 60 percent? What are the chances they will also experience a losing streak? Let's find out:

If you get 51 percent of your games right in the long run, then:

2 1.0

3 1.0

4 1.0

5 1.0

6 .98

7 .83

8 .57

9 .34

10 .18

COMMENTS: This means that it is 100 percent certain that you will lose between 1-5 games in a row, then 98 percent for 6 consecutive games; 83 percent for 7 consecutive games; 57 percent for 8 consecutive games; 34 percent for 9 consecutive games; and 18 percent for 10 consecutive games.

If you pick 52 percent winners, then:

2 1.0

3 1.0

4 1.0

5 1.0

6 .97

7 .79

8 .52

9 .29

10 .15

If you pick 53 percent winners, then:

2 1.0

3 1.0

4 1.0

5 1.0

6 .95

7 .74

8 .47

9 .26

10 .13

If you pick 54 percent winners, then:

2 1.0

3 1.0

4 1.0

5 1.0

6 .93

7 .70

8 .42

9 .22

10 .11

COMMENTS: So, even a "wining player (defined as a handicapper that picks 52.38 percent of winners correctly)" will lose 5 games in a row at least once a year.

If you pick 55 percent winners, then:

2 1.0

3 1.0

4 1.0

5 1.0

6 .90

7 .64

8 .37

9 .19

10 .09

If you pick 56 percent winners, then:

2 1.0

3 1.0

4 1.0

5 .99

6 .87

7 .59

8 .32

9 .15

10 .07

If you pick 57 percent winners, then:

2 1.0

3 1.0

4 1.0

5 .99

6 .84

7 .54

8 .28

9 .13

10 .06

If you pick 58 percent winners, then:

2 1.0

3 1.0

4 1.0

5 .98

6 .79

7 .49

8 .24

9 .11

10 .05

If you pick 59 percent winners, then:

2 1.0

3 1.0

4 1.0

5 .97

6 .76

7 .44

8 .21

9 .09

10 .04

If you pick 60 percent winners, then:

2 1.0

3 1.0

4 1.0

5 .96

6 .71

7 .39

8 .18

9 .07

10 .03

COMMENTS: Anyone that picks 60+ percent of games correctly at the 500 game mark is either a fraud of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. So, I’ll stop with the comparisons at this point. But as you can see from the final chart, even a phenomenal handicapper will lose 6 straight in about 71 percent of each 500-game brackets.

All of these statistics DO NOT mean that you should ignore losses or disregard losing streaks. To the contrary, there may indeed be problems with your methodology or the factors you apply in handicapping. In Part 2, I will discuss your options when encountering a losing streak.

 

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