Updated: October 2019

How to Understand Randomness

22 May 2019

There is no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to sports betting.

In the past, short priced favourites in a horse race have been pipped to the post by a 16/1 outsider, a Premier League football team has been knocked out of the cup by a team from two divisions below, and the heavyweight boxing champion of the world has suffered a humbling and humiliating defeat against an unknown contender.

All of these occurrences show that nothing is certain in the world of sports betting and that everything can be altered by randomness.

But, just how much impact does randomness have on the world of sports betting? Why do we fail to understand it? And how can we use it to our advantage?

The Impact of Randomness on Sports Betting

A punter who has several winning bets in a row will always put it down to knowledge, skill, and their approach to betting. Whereas, a punter who studies stats but still loses will say they’re “unlucky”. But, both of these people have randomness to either thank or berate.

Unfortunately, we can all be as analytical and statistics driven as we like but it doesn’t guarantee a winning bet.

For example, a casual punter who only bets on football matches on a Saturday afternoon may spend days picking their selections for an accumulator. They may bet just favourites, who are at home, against teams on a bad run of form and in a lower league position.

It would seem that statistics and implied probability make these bets almost certain to come in. But, that person may have won once in their last ten bets. The reason is randomness.

Chances are, those bets had one selection that let them down. One team who were held to an unlikely draw, conceded a last minute equaliser, had players sent off, had their star player taken off injured, gave away a controversial penalty. Variables and random acts that had an impact on the outcome of a match.

Failing to Understand Randomness

The main reason people fail to recognise or understand the presence of randomness is because we are programmed to follow patterns. Our brains tell us that everything happens in a particular order or to a particular pattern.

In terms of life in general, we look for pattern to recognise an outcome. For example, dark clouds in the sky tell us that rain is probably imminent and we should get the washing in off the line.

So, we tend to look for patterns in everything. This includes sports betting. We study form, league position, statistics, head to head records, and any other piece of information we believe will give us an advantage over the bookmaker.

When we win, it’s because our system worked. If we lose, it’s because we were unlucky. Or, we could have lost because of a certain top we were wearing, or because we backed a certain team who always let us down, or because of some other weird superstition.
Instead of believing that a simple random act has cost us our bet this time, we look for a pattern. We even create superstitions in an attempt to find reason, where no reason actually exists.

Randomness is a part of life and has an impact on everything we do. The sooner people understand that, the better.

Using Randomness to Our Advantage

If we are clever about it, we can use randomness to our advantage when it comes to sports betting.

Lets say there are ten sporting events being played in one day, all with just two participants in each. So, sports like snooker or tennis. We know that, due to randomness, at least one of the favourites will not win their match. If all the favourites are short-priced, even odds-on, and all the outsiders are at long odds, we could possibly make a decent profit by backing the outsiders.

Of course, randomness may mean all the favourites that particular day win. But, backing outsiders could prove profitable in the long run.

If we know that a certain number of outsiders will win at some point, we know that backing them will give us some sort of return in the long run. This is by no means an actual science, and it probably isn’t a sustainable betting model. But, it does allow us to take advantage of randomness at some stage.

Remember, we will always recommend an analytical approach to sports betting regardless of the impact randomness can have.

But, understanding that winning or losing is usually down to a random act can help us better understand why we do not win every bet we place or sometimes go on extremely long losing streaks.

It can also help us to maintain a business-like approach to sports betting, using a proper money-management system, and not allowing our emotions to impact our betting. Random things happen, and it helps us if we can recognise this.

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