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Those Dreaded Losing Streaks

Much has been talked about regarding the similarities of daily fantasy sports and horse racing betting. I agree more and more each day.

After several months of normally distributed results of my play in DFS, I am currently in the middle of what we've all been in the middle of with horse racing - a losing streak.

It feels remarkably the same. You are looking at a set of players (a horse), who on paper is exactly what you want to see (good trainer off a drop, looks great on the track, good early speed, chalk is a deep closer from a hot overbet barn) so you bet it. And the team stinks (you sent the horse to the scope barn).

This breeds the usual doubts: What am I doing wrong. I can't pick a winner even after the race. Has the track changed? Is the CIA plotting against me? It's like you know you are going to lose before the race is even run.

Usually a streak can be explained with math. When you are betting a 50/50 proposition, it can go against you for a perfectly acceptable streak. There are formulas for it, but anecdotally, this was exemplified by a famous stats discussion in a university long ago:

A professor asked a group of students to write down what they thought 20 coin flips would be, and another group would flip a coin and write down what actually happened. In reality there would be streaks of HHHHHTHT, but for the students who were writing down what they thought would happen, there were never any streaks.

If you are betting 5-1 horses, this streak can be deadly long (they higher the odds of the occurrence, the longer the potential streak), even though you are doing nothing wrong.

If you analyze that you are doing nothing wrong, there are a few prescriptions for this madness.

i) Take a break
ii) Bet Smaller
iii) Concentrate on high hit rate bets i.e. bet WP small for awhile, then move on to exotics when you feel more comfortable

The past couple of days I have concentrated on ii) for my DFS betting. I am sure my line combo will click, rather than watching another line combo on the same team I was going to use click. I am sure the horse team I am concentrating on will not be sent to the scope barn tomorrow, or the next day. I'm pretty sure my coin flip players will flip my way. It'll change.

But for now, just like in horse racing and just like in any other gambling game, the dreaded streak really, really sucks.


Anonymous said…
Hello Dean. I can't speak for DFS but I can speak passionately about betting horses. Just because you are currently on a losing streak does not mean you are making the wrong plays. A value player has extended losing streaks. The great players bet less when things aren't
going well and increase their wagers when things are crystal clear.I myself would lower my bets until your confidence returns.One of the greatest players in the world bets Hong Kong on nothing but horses whose odds are 30-1 and above. You can imagine the losing streaks this legendary player has.
I look at gambling on horses this way and most players can't do this. If we were betting on a deck of cards,there is the vocal majority that is betting they can pick a red card out of the deck and get 3-5 if they are right. The silent minority is trying to pick an ace out of the deck and get 20-1 odds in return knowing that the true odds of success are 12-1 (52 cards- 4 aces ). I don't have to tell you which player gets all the money in the long run.
In conclusion, lat me tell you what Don Zimmer once told me. He never had a paycheck that wasn't from baseball, had two stints with the Cubs and visited Chicago and the racetracks often. At the old Sportsmans Park one night, Zim had this classic line that broke everyone up. " Eventually in baseball the breaks even out. That is, if you can stay around long enough to have them even out." The moral of the story is relax. A losing streak for a fundamentally sound player is just a speed bump. That's all.
Michael A