Why We Chase Losses – And How To Stop

Why We Chase Losses – And How To Stop

January 22, 2021 Off By Diana Beasley

In sports betting, not unlike the world of business, it is nearly impossible to show a profit over the long term without incurring at least some losses over the short term. Losing is part of the betting process. Everybody in betting loses or has lost a bet at some point in the past. And by the same token, everybody will lose at some point in the future.

But barring unhealthy and/or obsessive habits, it just isn’t likely that any sports bettor, no matter their level of experience, would be impulsive to the point of chasing each and every single loss sustained. It stands to reason then, that there must be certain factors that determine not only our immediate response to losing, but also whether we chase the loss or leave it be.

The Possible Culprits

Lucky for us, the experts have already worked out what these factors are, one or more of which will likely be present at the time of our decision to try and “reverse” that fateful loss:

  • How sure were you of the likelihood of a win? Psychologists focus specifically on the emotional excitement of the anticipation of a win here.
  • How did the loss occur? Was it a bad bet?
  • What was the size of the loss? This should be considered from an emotional as well as a financial perspective.
  • How did recent bets turn out for you? Interestingly enough, the bigger picture often plays a significant role in our response to a loss – recent wins may provide a softer landing, while a losing streak will only compound feelings of frustration.
  • How did you perceive the loss and how did you translate that loss into “self talk”? This refers to how you ended up explaining the loss to yourself, and has bearing on your mental tenacity.

Understanding What Happened

More often than not, the thing that will end up causing common sense to go out the window will be the external circumstances surrounding the outcome – not necessarily the actual “on the field” reason for the loss.

For example: Person A bets $100 on the Astros winning the World Series, while Person B bets $300. A and B have exactly the same resources at their disposal. For the purpose of our example, Houston loses. B walks away and cuts their losses, resolving to leave it be and return fresh to the drawing board the next day. Person A, however, has a different reaction. Though not nearly as badly out of pocket as Person B, Person A obsesses over the $100 down the drain, vowing to win it all back pronto. Why the difference in reaction, given the fact that the two people in our example are on equal footing?

The reasons for the difference in reaction could be many. But chances are Person A will have checked quite a few negative answer-boxes if posed with our checklist of questions above. At the end of the day, whether or not a bettor foolhardily tries to chase down a loss depends on how aware they are of their emotional responses to disappointment, and how exercised they are at keeping those responses in check.