Betting Luck, Variance (And Those Cowboys!)

We speak a lot about variance here on the blog because it's a topic that each of us - no matter what game we play - have to deal with almost every day. This variance can mean the difference between winning and losing on that given day, but it's more than that - it spawns so many other biases we have to work through as we try and become better and better bettors.

I opened the interweb today to see some serious consternation in Dallas Cowboys land. As most know, the Texas team had a less-than-stellar performance to the Bills yesterday and the headlines are murder. It's all but a done deal that Head Coach Jason Garrett is done after the season - a season that everyone seems to feel is toast, despite leading the division, with a tiebreaker.

Let's go back five days and play the variance game.

On Sunday, Dallas does not get called on that phantom (super variance) tripping call, and have the ball 1st and ten at the New England 40. Prescott drops back to pass and more football luck kicks in. A New England safety slips, Cooper is wide open, Dallas wins 16-14.

They - including Jason Garrett - slayed New England, right in Foxboro.

Then the entire narrative changes. Jason Garrett just "beat Belichick" at home. He's not on any hot seat, he's probably getting talked about glowingly. All because of one slip.

In betting this is something I think we need to come to grips with.

Many of us will hit scores that are high in variance. We grabbed that freaky pick 5 and made $11,000. We hit an odd superfecta that paid $4,000. Those are wonderful, but if we can't show profit consistently, they are kind of meaningless in the long term.

It's why when we analyze our betting we should probably take out one or two high variance scores (and maybe drop one or two very bad days where we let our emotions take over as the losses mounted during that losing streak). If, after doing that, and looking what we do at the mean, not at the fringes, we find out we're near break even, well we're onto something. If our ROI is barely beating the takeout, we have a lot of work to do.

It's one of the only ways we can be honest with ourselves and our ability. It's not what we do at our best and worst, it's what we consistently do that will guide us.

Whether Jason Garrett's team beat Belichick's team or not last Sunday shouldn't make a ton of difference, because win or lose he's still the same Jason Garrett. And it works the same way with us. Variance can be a blessing or a curse, but it tells us little about ourselves.

Have a nice Friday everyone.




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