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Betting Biases

MLB Betting: Dealing With Betting Biases

By Loot, Major League Baseball Handicapper,

Baseball wagering, if done well, forces us to leave some of our feelings at the door. No one starts betting baseball without having first been a fan. That means there are many things that we either like or dislike, maybe even stuff we love or hate. To a large degree, how much of that we are able to leave at the door will determine if we can succeed at betting.

If wagering just becomes an extension of being a fan, you will be governed by feelings rather than facts. Growing up, there was a team, or teams, that we loved and a lot of that sticks with us as adults. Sure, we mellowed on the topic. That doesn’t mean we still aren’t carrying around some of that baggage. At the betting window, we want to make sure it’s been left behind where it belongs.

It can work both ways. You might want to see certain teams do well, while you want to see other teams fail. If you grew up in San Diego as a Padre fan, there’s something within you that wants the Pads to win, while wanting the Dodgers to lose. A Yankee fan is probably more likely to pick his team and against the Red Sox.

Gotta let it go. And if you can’t--stay away from those teams. Bet teams where your stance is completely neutral. When handicapping a game, you can twist anything to fit your purposes. If deep down, you want to bet on a team, you will find enough reasons to justify it. When predisposed to go against a team, you will be able to make a case for that too. The world of baseball stats is so vast and open to interpretation that you can make a case for anything. Keeping a clean slate is the key. Let your handicapping guide you to a pick, not just affirm an uneducated lean you took before even looking at the details of the game.

The same can apply to players. With free agency such a robust part of the game, players scatter all over the league from year to year. Just like with teams, there are players you like or dislike. There might be guys still playing who were your childhood heroes or villains. For us older cats who have bet on a lot of baseball over the years, there are players we remember either coming through or blowing it for us. Over the course of years, these players can be scattered among almost every team in the league. We need to make sure we’re not carrying around good or bad feelings--even if they’re on an unconscious level.

Another less-discussed form of bias is the one we tend to show toward our own observations. We would all like to think we are great observers of the game and therefore we make judgments. The challenge is not to become intoxicated by our inner-narrative. Just because we saw something doesn’t make it a universal or constant reality. We might note a pitcher always seems to fall apart in big games or a certain hitter is worthless at the end of long road trips. It can be anything.

We might tend to place too much credence on our judgments. You see a certain pitcher come to your city and get blasted each time. Now you’re lying in wait looking to pounce on the next time he comes to town to bet big against him. Then he gets a two-hit shutout. It’s easy to get carried away by something you saw far too few times to really make it a reliable guiding light when betting.

In a general sense, betting on baseball forces you to almost stop being a fan, or at least to separate it. If you’re a guy in Vegas for a few days who only bets once a year--what’s the harm? Go ahead and bet your teams. If this is something you plan on doing with any kind of frequency, you undoubtedly should become more clinical about it.

In a way, this sounds all so hardened and callous. But we only wish we could go back to our joyous youths where we lived and died on baseball results and players were like comic book heroes. Now, a lot of that joy has been sucked out of the game for some of us. Our favorite team is the last one that won a bet for us. It’s sad, but it almost has to be that way to make it in baseball wagering. Being a fan, if anything, just gets in the way.

Tip: Don't become too attached to your sportsbook either. If you're not receiving reduced odds like the ones offered at 5Dimes Sportsbook, you're pissing away Loot!

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