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How to survive losing streaks...

By J.V. Miller


Two primary things are ever-present threats to your sports betting career.  Bad luck is one.  Faulty money management is the other.  One of these two things happens to pros just as often as it does to everybody else.  Bad luck.

Sports betting legend Sonny Reizner said he once lived through a 3-year losing streak. It was some 34 months between 'peaks' in his bankroll. He said it cost him his house and his kid's college fund.

Las Vegas celebrity handicapper Tony Diamond once gave out 27 straight NBA losers on his Las Vegas radio show. A University of Nevada mathematics professor figured the odds against going 0-27 to be well into 7 figures.

“Sonny Reizner said he once lived through a 3-year losing streak.” 

When I was 11 my dad went 0-13 on a Sunday during the 1985 NFL season. The odds against doing that are roughly the same as being dealt a cold straight flush in 5-card stud. (More than 60,000 to one.)

In Las Vegas, my uncle R.J. and I once went from the Stardust Sportsbook to Treasure Island's sportsbook and found an 8 1/2-point favorite at the Stardust was only a 3-point favorite on Treasure Island's snazzy new tote board! We naturally decided to go for a "middle," We pooled all our money into two giant bets and R.J. hurried back to the Stardust to take the 8.5 points while I got in line to lay the 3 points at Treasure Island. (*See below for an explanation of "middles.")  I laid the bet and checked the ticket.....It read, "Kansas -9." Not "-3." To make a long story short, one of those little red lightbulbs on Treasure Island's glitzy new tote board was burned out. What was supposed to be a "9" on the board appeared to be a "3." The ticket writer offered to give my money back, but since my uncle had already left to take the 8 1/2 points, I left the bet as-is, figuring to get out of the mess by losing only one vigorish charge. Then, to pour salt into the wound, the game ended with the only point spread that could really hurt us. The favorite won by precisely 9 points. We pushed one side and lost the other, and damn we lost a bundle.

.....There are enough stories about "bad beats" in Las Vegas to fill many volumes of books, that's for sure. You can't hope to ever overcome the disappointment that comes with them, but in order to be a pro you must have a good handle on how you react to them. I could tell more horror stories than you want to hear about bad beats and pure ol' Bad Luck, but the point is, if you bet on sports - or gamble in any way - sooner or later you're gonna meet Mr. Bad Luck, and it's gonna be sooner rather than later.

You definitely will have losing streaks, and if you ignore that fact, if you refuse to acknowledge that circumstance, if you think you can somehow avoid losing streaks, you're suffering from denial syndrome - you're kidding yourself - and you'd better re-think your decision to gamble in the first place. Your ability to handle losing streaks is most definitely one of the things that will determine your degree of success as a sports bettor.

One Sunday, my dad and I were watching NFL games on the big screens at Caesar's Palace when all of a sudden a man in the crowd jumped to his feet and yelled at the top of his lungs, "FUCK! .FUCK FUCK FUCK!," and headed for the exit. He went on to yell at the TV screen showing the Patriots-Jets' game, "YOU FUCKING LOSERS! YOU COULDN'T BEAT MY FUCKING GRANDMOTHER! FUCK YOU!.....FUCK YOU!" The New England Patriots had just scored to cover the spread and seal the game. The guy had obviously bet on the New York Jets. He went on to storm out of the casino, throwing a couple more "FUCK OFFS!" and "GO FUCK YOURSELF'S!" to the security guards who descended to follow him out.



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Who knows? Maybe the Jets were the last team on the guy's 15-game parlay card, - but it doesn't matter. The fact is, that guy's got no business gambling. Such a display of immaturity is proof that he should stay away from sportbooks and casinos. His actions point up the fact that no matter what we say in this article, no matter what anybody says, if you don't already possess a certain minimal level of maturity, you're screwed so far as succeeding at gambling in any form. Without an acceptable level of maturity we can't help you. Nobody can.

This article assumes two things, both of which are very big assumptions: First, that you're smart enough and schooled enough to use acceptable money management, and, second, that you have achieved an acceptable level of maturity.

The hell of it is, most all men that do NOT have an acceptable level of maturity don't know it. They are convinced they DO have an acceptable level of maturity, and if you disagree with them, then fuck you.

Most symptoms of immaturity are obvious. One of the most prevalent signs that a man should not be gambling is when his betting choices appear somehow connected to his crotch. Challenge his opinions and you challenge his manhood. Doubt his choices and you doubt his virility...Or, at least, that's how he apparently sees it. Disagree with one of his selections and he is quick to anger and get defensive. He rarely submits his choices for honest and open debate; rather, he tends to seize the conversation and put forth only his own arguments, refusing to hear or acknowledge contrary evidence. It's a sure bet you've seen plenty of these guys around. They usually have low-paying jobs and risk maybe ten or twenty bucks per play...And they tend to have advertising of some sort printed on their tee-shirts.

When one of these fellows has a bad day it's always due to the Gods of Bad Luck. Every beat is a bad beat. Every loss should have been a win, and would have been, except for a bad official's call or bad weather or bad turf or some other adverse and wholly unforeseen miracle working against him, and working against him personally. He takes every loss as a personal affront. 

...And it's usually not enough that he's The World's Greatest Sports Handicapper. Everyone else has to be NOT The World's Greatest Sports Handicapper. No one else is as "gifted" as him. He was somehow born with an innate and natural ability to call winners.

Another related symptom of immaturity is anger, and was exhibited by that fool at Caesar's Palace. If a man finds himself yelling at his family and kicking the dog after going 0-13, he's got a maturity problem. Oh, not that you can't sulk a little after going 0-13. Sure, you can. After all, you've earned it. But if your life and the lives of those around you are profoundly affected by a losing streak, something's wrong, and it is very wrong.



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All successful gamblers accept and acknowledge the inevitability of losing streaks. It's a prerequisite to success. After going 0-13 real pros appear to act pretty much the same as after going 13-0. They know they didn't get any dumber to go 0-13 and they know they didn't get any smarter to go 13-0. They've learned to accept either happenstance as being inevitable. Of course, it's natural to feel better after a winning streak than after a losing streak, but both circumstances are understood by successful gamblers to be only the vagaries of binomial distribution. Make no mistake about it, it's a helluvalot easier to belly up to the window and lay your next bet after going 13-0 than it is after going 0-13, but, hey, people in all walks of life have bad runs now and then. Perhaps the most telling thing about a gambler is whether or not he's got the balls to belly up and lay that next bet after going 0-13.

Your best weapon against the anguish of losing streaks is to keep careful records. That advice cannot be overstated. A handicapper must know in his heart that he has a proven edge over the long term. If you know for sure you have a winning record over the last 5,000 or 10,000 bets, the bad psychological effects of losing streaks are automatically and dramatically reduced. With a carefully kept record you will be better able to see losing streaks for what they are: Temporary storms affecting today's weather, but with no permanent effect on the overall climate. Given the two very big assumptions that you're using acceptable money management and that you have an acceptable level of maturity, keeping careful records is the best weapon I know of to help you survive losing streaks. Provable long term results do wonders for your peace of mind.

Records are best if they include the sequences of wins and losses along the way rather than merely the total won/lost record over a specific number of bets. For example, having an overall record of 110-90 is helpful, but it doesn't show the runs of, say, 20-4 or 4-20 that occurred along the way to establishing that total. Short streaks with seemingly wild swings are commonplace, but if you're not expecting them they can be upsetting. By keeping a record of sequential results - 1 bet at a time - you will come to know what to expect over the short run. I have written before that surprises are for birthdays and Cracker Jack; - not for sports betting. The fewer surprises you get, the better. Carefully kept records can reduce your vulnerability to surprises. 

...But be aware of those two big assumptions we are making. Consider your own reaction to your last bad losing streak, or to your last great winning streak. Playing the fool after going 13-0 can be just as telling as kicking the cat after going 0-13. If you can go either 0-13 or 13-0 without having an acute personality change, you're probably already keeping careful records and you didn't need to read this article in the first place.

- J.V. Miller


          (* MIDDLES: An opportunity to "middle" a bet comes when you can get more points at one sportsbook than you must lay at another sportsbook. Your losses are limited to only one vigorish, 4.55 percent of the total amount risked - giving you slightly more than 20-to-1 odds.
          In the case above, it appeared we could get 8 1/2 points at the Stardust and lay only 3 points at Treasure Island. If that was true, and if the favorite won the game by 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 points we'd have won both bets. If they won by 3 points we'd have pushed one side and won the other. If anything else happened we'd lose one side and win the other, limiting our losses to only one vigorish, or 4.55 percent of the total money risked. In essence, it appeared we were getting better than 20-to-1 odds that the favorite would win by between 4 and 8 points....A handicapper's dream come true. )


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