The Psychology of Sports Betting - Things to Know

Psychology of Sports Betting

Sports betting has been a popular pastime, and even serious activity, for millions and millions of people for generations.

Nowadays, sports betting is as popular as ever. At some point in your life, you’ve probably even placed a few bets yourself, or at the very least, you’ll know someone who has, that’s for sure.

To some, sports betting is one of the greatest inventions ever; to others, it’s a futile endeavour undertaken by fools.

Lots of sports bettors can’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it, while those against sports betting cannot fathom why anyone would spend money in such a way.

If you are someone who bets on sports, or perhaps you’re thinking about starting to place a few sports wagers, then you really ought to learn about and begin to understand the psychology of sports betting.

The motivators

Let’s start with what motivates people to bet on sports. So, what are the driving forces behind a person placing a wager? This is a hugely important question.

Before you begin gambling, you should ask yourself what your motivation is. Why are you going to place a bet? Are you simply looking for a little fun? Do you want to make the experience of watching a sporting event on your favourite sports more exciting? Are you searching for that hit of adrenaline?

Some sports bettors like to bet simply because they’re huge fans of either one or multiple sports, and by betting, they are able to engage further with something that they love. It’s also a great chance for them to test their knowledge. For example, if you’re a huge NFL fan and are something of a nerd when it comes to stats, figures, form etc., then placing a few sports bets is a great way to put your research and opinions to the test.

The common reasons as to why people embark on a sports betting journey are as follows:

  • They want to have fun.
  • They enjoy the thrill of placing a bet and the anticipation of waiting to see if it wins.
  • They want to make a sporting event more exciting.
  • They want to use their sporting knowledge to win a few dollars.

Does any of the above sound familiar? If it does, don’t worry. Betting for fun, or for the adrenaline rush, or to make sports more exciting, or to test your knowledge, are all perfectly normal reasons for online betting. There are many sports bettors who bet for some or all of those reasons and do so in a responsible way, a way that does not harm their life, financially or otherwise.


There are lots of reasons why a person may gamble on sporting events. Beyond the above, escapism is another big one. For some people, sports betting is a form of escapism. People are stressed, they have problems of all kinds, and in such situations, people often look for something to take their minds off things. If you’re betting on sports, for however long it lasts, you’re likely to think of little else, so sports betting can certainly be a form of escapism.

Unfortunately, using sports betting as a form of escapism in times of struggle can be harmful. It’s not difficult for people to develop a gambling problem, and what starts out as something to take your mind off things, can quite easily and quite quickly become a sizable problem. If you think you may have a gambling problem, or if you feel that somebody you know has a gambling problem, then you should seek help, which fortunately is available through a variety of channels.

It’s risky

Sports betting can be a risky pass time. Some people enjoy that risk, but it’s a fine line. It’s often a slippery slope. While many people can place sports bets and never really be harmed by doing so, some people struggle, and the struggles are often psychological.

When you place sports bets, you’re risking money. And money, whether we like it or not, is an emotional thing. If you lose money, you can become frustrated, angry, and upset.

You can also become irrational. If you lose money, it’s relatively normal to want to regain it. At the end of the day, if you lost $20 dollars walking down the street, you’d want it back. The feeling is the same when you lose money betting on sports. The only difference is that you’re angry, disappointed or upset at yourself for losing the money by placing a bet. This is where regret comes in.

For some people, the regret after losing and the want or need to regain the money that they’ve lost becomes too much, so much so that they’ll make irrational and ill-advised betting decisions to try and recoup their losses. This is known commonly in the gambling world as chasing your losses. People who regularly chase their losses in this way often end up in serious financial trouble.

For example, it can leave you overly stressed, which can have a negative effect on both your mental and physical health.

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Sports betting as more than a hobby

Sports betting is a perfectly acceptable hobby. Maybe you like to place a few dollars on your favourite sports team winning, or perhaps, every now and then, you like to head down to the racetrack and place a few wagers for fun. If you’re somebody who likes a little flutter, doesn’t get too involved and is happy to gamble with a small amount of money that you’re comfortable and able to lose, then sports betting can be a great hobby. It is, in fact, a hobby of millions of people worldwide, the majority of which can engage in sports betting as an insignificant pass-time that causes little harm.

However, many bettors do not want to bet for fun. They want to adopt a more serious approach and try to make a profit from their sports betting endeavours. There are people out there who make money from wagering on sports, and some of those people are even able to earn a very healthy living from sports betting. However, these people are few and far between.

The figure varies depending on the research looked at, but it is generally accepted that only 1-3% of sports bettors are profitable in the long run. This suggests that becoming a profitable bettor is incredibly difficult. In fact, most people who try to become profitable bettors – fail, and one of the reasons for their failure is that they fail to acknowledge the importance of betting psychology. Psychology plays a huge part in both success and failure.

When taking betting seriously, psychology is hugely important. You can be a great judge of your chosen sports, and you can identify viable betting opportunities, but if your psychology isn’t right, you’ll be destined for failure.

There are a few psychological tools that a successful bettor needs. These are:


Being disciplined is critical. Many would-be serious bettors with the ability to identify viable and value betting opportunities have fallen down because of a lack of discipline.

If you’re going to be a serious bettor, then you need to be disciplined. You need to have a plan, a strategy, and you need to stick to it. A lack of discipline, whether it’s naively chasing your losses or placing ill-advised bets that go against what your strategy/system advises, will result in failure.

The disciplined bettor bets only when they know it is viable to do so. This may mean going a period without placing a bet. Why? Perhaps there really is no play. The disciplined bettor will be patient when they need to be, and show decisiveness in the right moments.

Keeping a level head

To be a serious bettor and to stand a chance of being successful, which can be classified as being profitable in the long term, you need to keep a level head.

What does it mean to keep a level head? Essentially, you don’t want to be too affected by results. In other words, don’t go crazy when you win, and don’t think you’re untouchable and can no longer lose just because you’ve had a good run. Doing so can lead to complacency, which is the enemy of the serious sports bettor. Similarly, you don’t want to get too down over the losses. Serious bettors incur losses, it’s normal, but you need to remain disciplined and focus on the long-term picture.

Work, not fun

The serious bettor does not treat their betting activities as fun. They’re not in it for a quick thrill, short term enjoyment does not matter.

Now, the serious bettor may enjoy what they do, just as many people enjoy their jobs, but they still treat their betting as a serious pursuit. They’re disciplined, they stick to their plan, and they don’t make rash decisions for the sake of fun or excitement.

Keeping in the back of your mind that you’re betting on sports to try and make a profit, in the long run, is a key part of becoming a serious bettor.

Author Nemanja is new resident of Canada, with English is not his native language he is still learning about the betting industry. His main interests lie with Boxing and MMA especially UFC.