Does Your Punting Suffer From Confirmation Bias?

When it comes to betting on horses, we’d be lying if we claimed that we didn’t to have a favourite trainer, a favourite jockey or even a favourite number.

It’s no coincidence that there are a number of catch-cries around the top names in the industry.

What about at the footy? You never back against Geelong at the Catery? Or in the NRL, you always back the Unders when it’s raining?

Another example would be wanting to back a horse. You notice the odds tumble in and conclude that it’s a moral and now you get involved.

The problem with these beliefs is that they are fallible.

They’re actually examples of confirmation biases that may be limiting your punting.


Confirmation Bias

The Betfair Hub exclusively shares a whole series of punting psychology articles by the published author, Jack Houghton. In one of them, Houghton describes the chimp paradox and confirmation bias.

Houghton, through an example, shows how limiting a confirmation bias can be when it comes to punting.

Imagine two punters watching a horse race. After a cursory study of the form, one decides that Horse A will win an upcoming race and backs it accordingly. Later, it’s odds begin to shorten. The punter says that this is because the horse’s connections are backing it. A good sign. The punter notices a jockey change. A young apprentice is now on board.

This is a good sign, too. The trainer wants better odds and is trying to throw punters off the scent. The horse is sweating in the paddock and is behaving skittishly. More good news. The horse is clearly primed for this race and ready-to-go. The horse breaks badly and trails the field. How much better can this get? Connections are clearly trying a change of tactics.


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At any point in the narrative, the punter could have laid the horse and locked in a profit. However, every new bit of information that was available, rather than being rationally assessed, was used to confirm the punter’s original choice. Objectively, whilst those interpretations were not necessarily wrong, other interpretations – such as a popular tipster had recommended backing the horse; the original jockey was injured; the horse had become anxious its surroundings; and jockey error caused the horse to start slowly – were equally plausible.

In these situations, though, humans – it seems – are hard-wired to ignore alternative explanations. It’s especially difficult in situations like the one above, where we have shared our prediction with someone else. Admitting that our original prediction is looking less likely means losing face.


Conclusion

Confirmation bias might be useful to us as human beings. Maybe it explains our ability to persist at tasks. To pursue a goal with a single-minded focus. However, when it comes to betting, it’s a predilection that must be overcome if you want to be profitable.

You’ll find these learnings, and many more, at the Betfair Hub.


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