Over the last few Olympics almost all bookmakers have reported increased amounts of betting activity during the games. Given I am a Professor of Gambling Studies it probably shouldn’t surprise you that when I gamble – even on Olympic events – I expect to lose in the long run. However, that is not to say that I don’t have my ‘Golden Rules of Gambling’ that I apply in any gambling situation to help keep things in perspective.
Some might say my rules are about the psychology of winning but I would prefer to describe them as the psychology of minimizing losses. In some situations, there is a very fine line between psychology and common sense and this is one of those occasions. So here are my golden rules for safe and enjoyable gambling on Olympic events.
1. Never gamble without some kind of pre-set plan and amount that you are prepared to and/or can afford to lose. Winning gamblers set themselves win/loss goals before they enter a betting shop or use an online betting exchange. Planning and goals are the catalyst to life success and gambling should be no different.
2. Don’t let the excitement of gambling on an Olympic event such as the men’s 10,000m final detract from the pre-set plan you started with. If you are watching to win, only do what you planned to do and don’t get side tracked by adding additional side bets during the event.
3. Remember that the excitement of gambling itself can lead to irrational thought processes. Psychological research has consistently shown that when gamblers are in the thick of their gambling ‘action’, they tend to be more irrational in how they think. Irrationality leads to poor decision-making and pre-set plans and budgets often go out of the window. Just like alcohol, gambling can make the betting punter do things that they would never have done in the cold light of day.
4. Where possible, ignore the betting company’s Olympic promotions. As a general rule, betting promotions are the highest money earners for the gambling establishment’s marketing department. They are designed to get you into the betting shop or to get you gambling on something new. Avoid gambling with offers that seem too good to be true. They usually are. Stick with your pre-set plan and budget and you’ll be fine.
5. Learn to think for yourself. General advice – like that contained here – is one thing. Winners learn to sort things out for themselves and not rely on others. They are comfortable with how they approach their betting. You should also disregard rumours. Gambling can often invoke certain urban myths, such as “your first bet after opening an internet gambling account is always a winning one’.” Banking on such speculation while betting is a recipe for disaster. Only factual information should inform your decision-making.
6. Do your own “research”. As with any other product that involves the exchange of money, a gambler needs to do research to establish the best deals around. This is especially useful on internet gambling sites and betting exchanges but can be applied to offline gambling too.
7. Finally, gamble with your head and not with your heart. When it comes to gambling on British athletes I try to employ strategies that leave me feeling good whatever the outcome. That is why – from a psychological perspective – I tend to bet on non-British favourites. How much would you be prepared to pay to see a British athlete, swimmer or cyclist win a gold medal? If a British Olympian like Sir Chris Hoy gets to a one-on-one cycling final, I would be more than happy to pay £20 to see them do it therefore I would happily put £20 on Hoy’s opponent to win. My logic has always been that I win either way. If Hoy wins, I will be on an ecstatic high. I wouldn’t care about losing £20. If Hoy loses, at least I have the winnings to soften the blow.
Professor Mark Griffiths
Professor of Gambling Studies
School of Social Sciences