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Recency Bias in Sports Betting

This article looks at sports betting recency bias. Also known as sports betting availability heuristic, it is a concept that influences the mindset of many sports bettors after a recent run of winning bets.

It is one of the most common flaws that beset sports bettors and is not easy to avoid on a day-to-day basis. The reason why a lot of sports betting systems exist is to provide bettors with a framework that avoids such biases.

What Is Recency Bias In Sports Betting?

Betting for profit and not leisure should involve setting long-term goals and objectives but recent events tend to dominate. Recency bias explained suggests the concept can kick in after what an individual perceives to be what seems to be an unlucky loss or reverse which defies the recent form.

Sports betting bias is common for sports gamblers. NFL points spread betting is an area in which recency bias can have an influence on the next few bets. You could be looking at losing or winning bet and a late incident reverses the outcome of the bet. The result goes against the logic of recent outcomes.

There are many instances in sports betting when we can only envisage one result. All the recent form guidelines point to this outcome. Sports gamblers give too much credence to results over the last few weeks rather than looking at the bigger picture.

Problems Caused By Sports Betting Recency Bias

Recency bias suggests that individuals have a bias to recent events over outcomes that are more historical. The memory recalls and gives more importance to near-term events over longer-term memories and experiences. This concept causes problems when betting on sports.

Form is a key factor in the performance of sports teams because winning creates confidence and a winning mentality. However, many gamblers on sport place bets because they believe results from the recent past are more important than longer-term outcomes. Bookmakers understand this recency bias and skilfully adjust their odds accordingly.

We all know that when we toss a coin, there is an even chance of it landing on Heads or Tails. If the last 99 outcomes were Heads it’s still a 50:50 chance that the 100th toss of a coin will result in Heads. In sports betting, recency bias impedes rational thought and bets.

Other Sports Betting Mental Flaws to Avoid

Betting bias, or availability bias, makes gamblers susceptible to the following mental flaws, as described in an ESPN report.

Gambler’s Fallacy

This flaw is a cognitive bias that tells a sports bettor that after a poor run of outcomes from bets, a winning bet is about to happen. The fallacy can influence bets and stakes. Successful professional gamblers will generally adopt a staking plan as part of a long-term strategy. So, they will not amend it after a short-term run of results.

Staking plans are often measured using betting units.

Many gamblers believe a poor run will come to an end more quickly than logic suggests. This fallacy has a disproportionate effect on betting decisions but probability does not change because a bettor believes a winning bet is due.

Confirmation Bias

You can make a dispassionate assessment of the form of two teams in a game and create a probability of an outcome which the odds reflect. However, pre-existing ideas can influence bets which do not reflect the form. You believe that horses in a wide barrier are at a disadvantage despite draw statistics suggesting otherwise.

This is an example of confirmation bias. The memory likes to confirm set beliefs rather than accepting there is no major draw advantage on a track. A flaw amongst bettors is perceiving information as they wish to see it despite contrary evidence.

Outcome Bias

Outcome bias is a mental flaw that makes some sports bettors value information or a horse racing tip purely on the outcome. If a pundit tips a horse to win the Kentucky Derby there is a bias if the horse is beaten even if there was no luck in running or another runner improves.

The basis for good betting decisions is a proven strategy covering a decent sample of results and a significant period of time. There are many factors that influence the result of a horse race or the outcome of a sporting event. One single outcome does not categorically suggest a bad bet.

Hindsight Bias

The results of many sporting events can be random. A team in an NFL match may suffer from a bad bounce of the ball which costs them points. A slightly different event could change the result so a random play could be the difference between winning and line a game.

In hindsight, if this random event means a winning or losing bet, bettors can tell themselves it was predictable. Often sporting results are foreseeable but sometimes a marginal turn of events can defy any logical assessment of the probability. Our minds take false information from these events.

Optimism Bias

Confidence is key to most activities but there has to be perspective and realism. I might be the most confident golfer in the world but I’m not going to win the US Masters. In sports betting, there can be a mindset that makes us believe we can’t lose and this can be dangerous.

In betting, nobody has a right to win. Overconfidence can lead to bad bets which will bring about poor outcomes. Logical decisions are the basis for the best bets and not a belief that you are certain to win. Optimism bias can cause unrealistic expectations.

Recency Bias: FAQ

Here are the answers to some common questions about sports betting recency bias:

What is recency bias in sports betting?

Sports betting recency bias is the exaggerated credence given to recent results over more long-term outcomes. This type of sports betting availability heuristic bias can lead to poor betting decisions and losses. Sports betting recency bias is one of several potential flaws with gamblers on sports.

Can outcome bias extend to other gambling activities?

Sports betting is not the only activity beset by outcome bias. Roulette players can find is difficult to avoid when there has been a long run of Red or Black even though the probability of the next outcome is not affected by previous outcomes. Recent spins do not impact the next spin odds.

How do sports bookmakers use recency bias to their advantage?

Bettors will follow a team on a winning run or avoid a ream on a losing run. There is an over-dependence on recent outcomes and sports bookmakers adjust their odds to under-price the form tram or overprice their opponents. Bookies weigh their VIG in favor of the out-of-firm team.

How can confirmation bias happen?

Confirmation bias happens because individuals, in general, have set beliefs that defy the true probability of an outcome. Sports betting sees this bias when bettors place bets when there isn’t true value in the odds. It is one of the difficult-to-avoid mental flaws when betting on sport.

How do I avoid this negative sports betting mentality?

You can avoid a negative sports betting mentality by eliminating the potential flaws and assess the evidence objectively without subjective pre-conceptions. These can be damaging to long-term sports betting success but a key element for success. This is difficult to achieve but will bring tangible bottom-line results.

Sports betting recency bias, or sports betting availability heuristic, is a common flaw with gamblers. It is one of the major causes of negative sports betting mentality which has to be avoided for long-term profitable sports betting.

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