12/07/2015 11:13AM

Bergman: Leave your emotions on the sidelines


Don’t let your emotions get the better of you.

Those are useful words to live by in any walk of life. However, when it comes to gambling very few are able to master their emotions. The results can be simple losses or total devastation depending on your wallet or your willpower.

Human nature is such that sound logic and impeccable planning can go out the window when a gambler moves from his pre-game face to a point in the action where things turn to “Get Even” mode.

I often wondered how it is possible that so many people enjoy betting on football in-season and few come away victorious. The odds would suggest that it’s a 50-50 game, same as flipping a coin. Yet year-in year-out it’s hard to look around the room and hear anyone bragging about how they mastered America’s national pastime.

The simple “vig” argument suggests that at 11-10 inevitably all will lose. Yet there still should be some reasonable balance to winners and losers based on the coin-flip analogy.

It would seem that even some of the smartest gamblers enter the arena with solid strategy and great opinions. They can execute a game plan effectively while their bankroll isn’t being threatened. In other words, as long as they are within a specific budget they play with their head and not with their heart.

A string of losers has a dynamic impact on many gamblers, as not only do they lose confidence but judgment as well. There is a key point when many players lose their perspective and react to a situation rather than turning the page and moving on.

A bad beat may be the way it’s phrased but many gamblers are unable to accept such circumstances without lashing out emotionally at the actions.

First and foremost, I find that gamblers will blame the activity itself for causing the damage. I have to believe that millions of dollars went from one side to the other this past Thursday when Aaron Rodgers’ “Hail Mary” connected after time had already expired. How could one not get angry losing a bet “after” time had elapsed? What were the Lions coaches thinking about putting smaller defenders behind taller receivers deep in the end zone?

That’s the kind of betting loss that could turn a weekend around in a very negative way for those that wagered on the Lions. It’s the kind of sudden defeat that lends to an emotional outpouring and leads one to believe that they really don’t know anything about football.

But it doesn’t lead a gambler to quit.

It leads a gambler to react emotionally.

Losses sting and when emotions take over logic is essentially lost.

I’ve seen the same scenario happen time and time again in harness racing. A bad beat or a series of losses can have a gambler move from common sense and reasonable expectations to “Get Even” mode where handicapping changes, expectations change and looking for anyone that can give out a winner takes over.

How can confident people, smart people, suddenly find themselves asking others for winners when they are more than capable of selecting their own?

“Get Even” mode kicks in when a gambler suddenly realizes he’s lost more than he wanted or can afford to. It’s the point where emotions set in and that generally means a form of panic.

I’ve always said that anytime a gambler is looking to get even the likelihood is that he’s going to lose more than he wanted and is more likely to make critical mistakes.

I’ve seen countless sharp handicappers that looked for value plays throughout the card but upon losing a few bets decided the only way out was to double up on the chalk. Logically I never understood why anyone would abandon a way of playing. But this has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with feelings.

I see no point in having a strategy that includes getting even. All gamblers should begin and end the night, week, month or year with one attitude, and that is to come out ahead. There’s not a sound reason to gamble if the outcome that’s expected is to break even.

Reality says that all will not win every race, every night, every month or every year. However, a gambler looking to profit has to learn how to deal with his emotions when he approaches the get even point.

While there is always a next race or next game to play, the decision making process when it’s shifted from logic to emotions makes that event more difficult to discern. Unfortunately, under additional pressure people tend to make irrational decisions. When you attach money to those decisions the results can prove frightening.

To all of those gamblers looking to bail out from a tough night or a tough week there has to be the understanding that sometimes it’s better to pay for your losses and turn the page.

There will always be another race, another day and another game. What there won’t be for some is another chance if catastrophe strikes while attempting to break even and the losses are greater than one can afford, now or in the future.

You are responsible for your own actions and when it comes to gambling all bettors should take full responsibility regardless of the outcome of a particular race or game. I wouldn’t wager a dime on a football game but I can understand what it feels like to lose a bet on the Detroit Lions last Thursday. To me it was no different than losing a race by a nose after leading by three turning into the homestretch.

No one should take the outcome personally.

Sometimes players make bad decisions and sometimes coaches make bad decisions. In harness racing drivers too can make questionable moves. In the end gamblers need to assess the future and leave the past behind if they are interested in profiting.

Bet with your head not with your heart.

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