Cognitive biases in sports betting

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We are back and already “out of confinement” and today I bring you another article that will certainly leave you wondering. For those who just arrived in the world of sports betting or even for those who have been here for some time and didn’t even believe that cognitive biases could be a thing in sports betting.


The topic today is somewhat complicated, and many should keep in mind some of these cognitive biases because they’re important for us bettors to not only be able to detect but also avoiding/controlling them!

Once again, let’s go by parts, by topics, explaining each one of them and how they apply to the betting universe, and explain it in the simplest way possible so you can understand and realize if any of them hits you every day.

We’ll start off by the “concept” then and then, one by one, we’ll try to give examples even to help you understand!

Once again I bring attention to what’s to come, it is very important for you to be aware of these biases because I know that, after reading this article, you will realize each one of them, but this time, you will already know what they are and will avoid them!

Both the more experienced bettors and the newer ones sometimes have these sorts of “thoughts” in sports betting:

“Since black has hit the last nine times, red is overdue to hit on the next spin.”
“My ticket was one digit away from winning on the last draw, so I must be close to winning the jackpot.”
“Because the underdog is performing well against the spread this season, I bet they’ll beat it again this game.”


Biases are sort of like “traps”. Guys, I’m not a psychologist, but I’ll try to put it as simple as possible, I promise.


Cognitive is something of this kind: Cognitive psychology studies cognition, the mental processes that are behind behaviour.

It is one of the disciplines of cognitive science. This area of investigation covers several fields, examining questions about memory, attention, perception, knowledge representation, reasoning, creativity and problem solving.

You can define cognition as the ability to store, transform and apply knowledge, being a wide set of mental processes.

Now the most complicated part is combining these two words and explaining, as the definition of cognitive says, it is about having a perception, right or wrong, about something, a reasoning about a certain topic or storing knowledge, in a right or wrong way.

Now the question is: what does that have to do with sports betting? It has a lot, and now we’ll approach all of it, by topics, as you’re already used to.


One of the most important cognitive biases in newer bettors is expecting something will happen only because it happened a lot of times in the past or vice versa. This cognitive “bias” adapts very well to casino bettors, especially those who play roulette, for example.

In sports betting, it is the same, in the aspect that always betting on that team only because they’re winning a lot of times or because they’ve been scoring goals for a very long time.

The example of the roulette is ideal here, because it was “designed” so that this “bias” becomes very common and a lot of the gamblers don’t even notice what is happening.

The probability on this kind of games is somewhat “spread” and that way regular bettors try to find something similar or something that can help them predict the “future” from the past or vice versa, such as the number that will be drawn next or whether it will be red or black.

But in reality, the probability is the same on every play, it is not because it happened more often or because the black colour or a certain number just got drawn that it will get drawn next.

This is an “illusion” that the own game creates or a false predictive sense of what might happen next, because in reality, the probabilities are always the same every time the roulette spins.


In football, in sports betting, this “bias” happens a lot of times, I’ve already given some examples, like that team that wins very often or that always scores a lot of goals.

Keep in mind that this “false” sense of security can lead you to making some mistakes on your analysis and of course I’m not even talking about whether the odds have value or not, because that’s a whole new topic.

A false predictive sense or “gamblers fallacy” is a kind of “bias” that always has to be taken into consideration. Never forget that with each new match, spin or game, the probabilities are always the same.

In sports betting, the bookmakers can warn you about this bias a little bit, because if that said team wins very often, the odds also reflect accordingly. That way, even with or without value, you will have to think that tomorrow, on that bet, the “usual” might not happen, and that’s why it is so important to make quality analysis on every bet.


Never Forget about this. If for some reason I put this bias in first place it’s because it is really very important, and it is valid for both sports betting and games of chance. This bias gives you an illusion that you are in control and that is totally false.

Step away from this “illusion” created by your mind that you can predict the future just because an occurrence is repeating itself. It’s misleading because the probabilities haven’t changed!


This bias is very commonly found in sports betting, because the bettor has a slight tendency to underestimate recent results and check the evolution of the occurrences according to certain circumstances.

There are several examples for examples on handicaps, where this bias is very common, especially for bettors who bet on the NBA or MLB for example. Honestly, it is very similar to the game of roulette, but in football matches or other types of events, the results are all independent from one another.


Even if some matches give us the illusion or the idea of a certain team’s form, for example, comparing to other, this comparison has no real influence on a future probability.

Did you understand? I can only remember one very practical example, when we look at the H2H and decide heavily based on this “aspect” and place our bet based on this!


This bias is very funny, and I find it especially on a lot of those bettors who like to bet during the matches or place in-play bets. Remember those bettors who win that one in-play bet with “large” odds and then think they’re the best?

Or even before the start of the match? That is a result bias, when we get overly excited with a bet where we won big, which in other words might also be called a high-risk bet, right?

If the profit is high it is because we’ve increased our stake massively or because the odds were huge, which means the likelihood of that happening was very low, which means it was a high-risk bet.

After a winning bet within the formalities I’ve mentioned above a bettor can present a result bias, getting carried away by it, thinking they’re the wisest in the casino room or the best bettor in the world.

This bias is maybe in my opinion the worst possible one that a bettor will have to deal with because it isn’t easy to hold back on this aspect.

Even because, if you notice, there will be many people that, in case we share the bet, will thank us or praise us about our winning bet, right?

Controlling the result bias is a lot about not overreacting and maintaining focus. We can be happy, yes, but we should move on, onto the next analysis, because the hardest thing to pull off is another one, with many bettors only repeating this sort of feat several months later.


This bias is also very important in sports betting, especially for those who opt a lot for quality study, coming into an analysis already with a pre-conceived bet. For example, sometimes we imagine a possible outcome of that match.

When studying, we go after that confirmation, which always drives us away from things that don’t follow the direction of that pre-conceived opinion.

The ideal will be not having confirmation bias in sports betting, because we can drift away from that important information, so we don’t make it or adjust it upon that important fact.


Searching for information only to confirm our initial opinion is the most common mistake that bettors make often these days. Not wanting to see what’s important, not caring about anything else other than for our opinion to be right will surely backfire.

The confirmation bias is definitely the easiest one to surpass, with a single tip: don’t have any pre-conceived ideas and prove to yourselves that you’re right, but analysing everything, looking for everything that might make you step away from that same idea, which is placing that bet obviously!


Now to cap it off, I’ll give you some sad news: no one is able to beat all of these cognitive biases, because they are never completely surpassed, but they can and should be controlled.

YES! Cognitive biases can only be controlled and today we take the first step, which is being aware of each one of them to be more aware!

According what I was able to deduct, recent studies have shown that attitudes guided by cognitive biases can be reduced on the long term through specialization on the sport or market we are betting on, thanks to the experience we accumulate on each one of them.

A lot could still be said about cognitive biases, but I tried to be as simple and clear as possible so that everyone can understand it in easy fashion.

That’s it for today, good luck on your betting endeavours!

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