Lenses, and why Gamblers need to be generalists

My most recent post about the lack of Innovation in the Sportsbook industry has shown me how different we all are. It was amusing to see all the comments on Twitter and the blog and to read all the emails I received. It reinforced my view that we all see things from whatever limited skill set we have. I believe our lack of generalisation is a major reason the majority of people who bet are long term losers.

The articles main point was simply that since Betfair created peer to peer betting, there has been no real innovation. There continue to be incremental developments in the product, but nothing as ground breaking as exchange betting, which was created 15 years ago. That groundbreaking idea created a company that is today worth £1.48 Billion.

To prove my point further. Sportsbet is rumored to be announcing their latest innovation on Tuesday. There will be millions spent on marketing this new product, and I’m sure they will advertise it as something ground breaking and new. Do you know what it is? Cash out. Yep, the same product Betfair has had for years and Gamebookers had many years before that. Their parent company Paddy Power has had it for years as well as most other UK books.

But how pathetic the industry is at innovation is not what I want to talk about today, instead I want to talk about you, and how you can improve your betting.


nerdglassesWe all see the world through different lenses. The way we see things is based on the society we grew up in, our parents, friends, religion, teachers and most importantly, what we think we are really good at and interested in. There is nothing at all wrong with this, it means that one thing can be viewed millions of different ways. A piece of art has a different meaning for each person.

My Lens is one of IT/Startups. Information Technology is what I loved as a kid and what I learnt at University. Startups are my love now and my brain is always trying to come up with new ideas. There are many other mini lenses I use to see the world. Think of it like having poor vision and the Optometrist testing lots of different lenses until you have near perfect vision. The optometrist adjust the settings to get that perfect combination. Mine might be 30% IT, 35% Startups, 5% maths, 10% Sports, 8% Australian, so on.

If our lenses are made up from lots of different areas than that’s great, we can look at things in the world from a few different angles, we are able to squint at times and potentially see the other sides point of view. Problems arise when our lenses are predominantly made up of just 1 or 2 things. I see these type of people all the time and they came out in full force because of my last article.

From my Lens, the article was about Innovation, but I also sprinkled in some maths, some business and a few other things. I like to think of myself as a generalist. Not great at any one thing, but pretty decent at a few things. On most comment sections of blogs and also on Twitter, the loudest people are umathsnerdsually the ones with a heavily weighted lens.

Lens Type 1: The Maths guy

I get these guys a lot on this site. They are the pure maths guys, have been university educated and concentrated on maths their entire lives. Gambling and maths go together, there are lots of numbers involved in gambling. The odds, game stats, modelling, and so on is a math nerds wet dream. I believe a basic understanding of maths is a fundamental block in your gambling arsenal.

I am not strong at maths, my degree required some basic statistic subjects which I stumbled through. But my basic maths is more than adequate to be a profitable gambler. Whenever I do maths on this site, I know without doubt that a maths guy will point out any errors. Usually I will ask Jonno if the maths is right or ask my readers to do the maths for me. In the innovation article, I did some maths and rounded up some numbers. Not giving exact numbers really sets of the maths guys. I guess it is akin to getting grammar wrong for linguistic experts.

Here’s the thing, the maths in the article was irrelevant. I could have just as easily left it out. Abraham Maslow said it best.

if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

To these maths guys, the only thing they saw was the maths. If a person is familiar with a certain, single subject, or has with them a certain, single instrument, they may have a confirmation bias to believe that it is the answer to/involved in everything. These guys only see the maths, nothing more. It is what they are trained to do. Everything can be classified and ordered into a simple equation. Sadly life is not all about numbers, and I see these type of people struggle to make a profit gambling time after time. They might produce a profitable model, but yet they still lose. How is that even possible? It’s possible because maths (while important), is only the tip of the iceberg of skills you need to be a profitable gambler.

Lens Type 2: The Business Guy

I relate to this guy a little more. Start ups are all about creating something that will then become a business. So how did these guys react to the article? These guys sent me emails saying how silly I was to give away ideas. I could have patented it, and made money if any bookmakers used it. Or I could have started my own Sportsbook with this as the key differentiation. All the emails I received were telling me how I could have made money or a business from the idea. They also wanted to partner with me on future ideas as long as I did not share them on the site.

The Business Lens is all about extracting value. For them life is a zero sum game. There is only a set amount available in the world and you need to destroy any opposition that stands in your way. I see Business a little differently. I feel that if I can create something that creates value for others, I will be rewarded for creating that value. The pie is not a static number, but an ever growing one the more and more value is created.

I did appreciate the Business guys emails and they did get me thinking about protecting some of my better ideas. This article is not a stab at people who specialise, it is just to show everyone that we can improve by looking at things from different perspectives.

Lens Type 3: The Ideas guy

I loved these guys. Mostly because I think of myself in this lens type. These guys sent me emails talking about the idea and also added BUT. The but is great, as it takes my initial basic idea and expands on it to create something even better. From these email exchanges the initial idea changed into something even better and a much more compelling product. These guys added even more value to my idea. They used their unique lens makeup to firstly understand the idea, but to also add improvements based on their own lens.

There are so many other lens types, but those were the 3 main ones that contacted me.

How you can be a better gambler?

The quote earlier said it best. If all we have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. If you want to be a profitable gambler you need a wide variety of skills. Let’s pretend a profitable gambler is a builder. Yes we need the Hammer (maths), but we also need the Tape Measure (recording of bets), the Level (Psychological impacts), The Drill (Placing bets), and the Saw (knowing when to cut a Tipster).

I could go on with the analogy. But the more tools we have (or lenses we see through), the greater the chance we will have all the skills necessary to be one of those rare few who make money from betting.

You can change lenses at any time and any age. Start by understanding when your biases are showing through and ask yourself “Is there another way to look at this?”. You’ll be surprised how many more colors are in the world when you open your eyes.


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  • Pokersunited

    Nice article Steve. I can very much relate to this topic from my coaching/tutoring experience in the poker community. As you will probably agree poker and sportsbetting are very related in a lot of ways and most agree that for poker you need even more math skills. And although it certainly helps to be good with numbers, you really don’t have to be a math geek to succeed in poker (or sports betting).

    In fact, the most successful guy I coached had no math/numbers skills at all. What he did have, was crazy discipline and a very humble mind. The math guys very often went crazy when other players made terrible mistakes, they just couldn’t handle losing when making good ‘math wise’ plays. While the disciplined guy just loved seeing people doing dumb stuff, he knew that he played for enough hours he would always win against them. Math wise, he could count the outs he needed, but If I asked him for % and he usually didn’t know. He just knew some plays were the right plays without knowing the actual numbers, he learned by playing a ton of hands with good money management and being very disciplined in every possible way (making hours, know when to quit, don’t play tables you don’t have an edge (being humble!) and so on…

    Another thing that helped him in getting a long time winner was thinking on the right level. When you are playing with guys who are thinking on level D (just looking at their own cards), you have to be thinking on level C (what do you think he has), while math guys very often just like to think on the highest level (what does he think, that I think, he represents or whatever form of that…), while that might works against other world class players, it doesn’t help you in winning from the weaker players.

    As from my own experience in poker and sports betting, I would say that ‘soft’ skills, make up for way more then 50% of a skill set needed to be a winning poker/sports bettor.

  • This is what I have found too.
    Give me a guy who has never placed a bet, doesn’t really care about sport and has some basic maths knowledge and I can turn him into a profitable gambler. He is a clean slate and has no biases.

    But when you try and help someone who is either maths based or been gambling (and losing) for a while, you have to first start by getting rid of everything they know. Which is almost impossible to do. These type of guys assume they have got it all figured out and just need that one tip that will turn it all around for them.

    It can be done, but the person has to be very open minded and ready to let go of things he believed to be true. It takes a very humble guy to admit they were wrong.