Most sports bettors correctly focus on recent performance when making Sports Picks. Recent performances show not only who’s playing well or poorly, but also reveal team mindsets and chemistry. Such intangibles are very useful in making Winning Sports Picks (or at least avoiding losing sports March Madness Picks).
But how much emphasis should be put on how a team has played over its last 3 or 5 or 10 games? In this article, we examine what we call “The Due Factor” – whether or not a team’s performance is ripe for a change because of a long series of similar performances and/or results. If a team has lost 10 straight games, are they really “due” to finally win one? As of this writing (May 1st), the baseball season is still very young, but a number of notable winning and losing streaks have occurred. Already this season, the Yankees have lost 7 straight Sports Handicapping, causing owner George Steinbrenner to issue a terse threat disguised as a statement of hopeful support.
The Giants, too, have had a streak of their own, an 8-game winner. The Yanks finally turned it around at home against their great rival, the Red Sox, but was that victory any more likely because they had lost the seven previous games? Imagine if they had lost the previous 10 games or even 15. How about then? Clearly, they aren’t going to lose 130 straight games. They HAVE to win sometime, right? The Giants 8-game winning streak came to an end as well. If they had won that 9th game, would it make winning the 10th harder? How about if they had won 20 straight? With each consecutive win, the odds of them winning the next game get smaller and smaller, correct? The answer is a big fat NO. Although recent performances are useful in evaluating potential sports picks, they are not predictive. The previous game will not tell you what will happen in the next game. It’s as simple as that. Whether it’s called “The Due Factor” or “The Law of Averages” or “Regression to The Mean”, this type of thinking is so pervasive among gamblers that mathematicians have their own name for it: The Gambler’s Fallacy. Not only are mathematicians aware of it, you can bet sportsbooks and casinos are too. In fact, roulette tables emphasize the Gambler’s Fallacy when they show the last 10 or so results on a big board for all players and potential players to see. The casino is HOPING for a streak. If 19 reds have come up in a row, lots of people will pile money on black. It’s due, these people think. If they have some (but not enough) knowledge of math, they may incorrectly think that the odds of red coming up 20 times in a row is 1 in 3,091,874, but the odds are exactly the same as the first spin. The same goes for flipping a coin.
The Law of Averages says that 1000 flips of a coin will produce a near equal split between heads and tails. If, while flipping this coin 1000 times, you hit a streak of 100 heads in a row, the odds of the next flip being tails is 50%, just like every other flip. The important word in the phrase Law of Averages is “Law” not “Averages”. If a team wins 20 games in a row, the odds of them winning the next game are not effected by this streak. Each game is an independent event and has odds of its own completely unrelated to the games which occurred in the past. Besides, why would you ever want to bet against a team that has won 20 in a row? Clearly, this team is kicking ass and taking names. When it comes to sports betting and streaks, the wisest move is to have your sports picks go with the flow, not against it. Betting against a streak opens up unlimited losses because you never know how long the streak will continue. A streak can go on game after game after game, but the end of a streak can happen only once.