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Assessing Sports Betting Risk (Part 1)

Aug 17, 2007
Before I move on to discuss betting and risk, let me just say that you may find it a little "heavy" and academic in parts, and you may also be tempted to think that the points I make don't apply too much to you. But I believe that every sports Bettor should thoroughly understand all the issues involved when it comes to the vital matter of parting with hard-earned salary for gambling purposes, and the principles I outline can be applied with good effect to every sports Bettor's gambling philosophy. First off, however, I have to make some terminology clear.

Language fascinates me. I'm not referring specifically to English here (or any other specific language), but simply to the concept of humans using utterances produced from their mouths to convey messages to other humans. We all do it every day without ever questioning the concept in any way - we speak a series of words to another person believing that their understanding of what we said was exactly the meaning we intended.

This language system works surprisingly well, provided that the context in which we speak is not in danger of distorting the meaning, and provided that we are not trying to define a difficult concept (because we then have to find just the right set of words to explain other "hard-to-understand" words).

With regard to context, for example, saying "let me have another beer, please" works well where you have just finished drinking your beer in a pub and need another one, because you can be reasonably sure that (1) your message was understood by all listening and (2) that you will be served another glass of beer. However, if you used the same words just after your wife had emptied the first beer over your head in an argument, you would be taking quite a risk, because you couldn't be at all certain about how your beer would be delivered, as you weren't very specific about it (certainly not to your wife).

When it comes to using words to define other words, we can often get into a real mess. So please bear with me as I now move on to try and define the word "risk" in particular, specifically in the context I used in the above example.

In risk assessment theory, "risk" is directly linked to "hazard", but they most certainly are not the same thing. When we look at both those words in conjunction with the words "betting" and "gambling", it is easy to associate the word "risk" with the words "gamble" and "bet", even if their actual inter-relationship isn't very clear, but what part, if any, does "hazard" have to play in all this?

As I have mentioned before, a "bet" is a "gamble" based on the possibility of a particular event occurring or having occurred (not all gambles are bets, as a gamble need not involve another party, but a bet most certainly does). And risks are involved in both betting and gambling, but those risks are not identical. Remember, a bet is just one particular form of gambling, and it's only the degree of risk that varies from one gamble to another.

So what has this got to do with hazards? Well, as far as I am concerned, a hazard is a potential peril which, if it came into being, would cause a not insignificant amount of harm (loss, damage or injury). This is why I equate "the existence of a risk" with "the presence of an identifiable, potential hazard" and "the degree of risk involved" as "the probability of the potential hazard to cause actual harm".

For example, if I chose to cross a motorway on foot by nipping through a hole in the fence rather than walking another 500 yards to make use of the footbridge, I will have significantly reduced the chances of me getting across the motorway safely because I will have introduced the potential hazard of being directly struck by a vehicle (a hazard which wasn't there in the alternative option available to me) and thereby increased the risk to myself. If I chose to do this because I was "under the influence", then "the degree of risk involved" would increase considerably, although the hazard would remain precisely the same.

Moving on quickly now to the risks inherent in sports betting, what is the worst possible hazard out there for Bettors? Indisputably, the answer is: They may end up making themselves and their loved ones completely destitute! Fortunately, however, this sad scenario only affects a tiny minority of the betting population. Most of us are well balanced enough to be able to steer clear of that pitfall.

For the majority of Bettors the key hazard is that losses may continually outweigh gains, leading to a total wipe out of the betting funds on a depressingly regular basis.

The key issues therefore are (i) to assess for yourself the degree of risk involved in your betting funds being eaten up completely and (ii) to work out how you can reduce that risk to the bare minimum. To undertake a complete risk analysis necessary to define the likely degree of risk you personally face first requires the following questions to be addressed:

(i) What things could possibly go wrong that would cause you harm?
(ii) How likely is it that those things will go wrong for you?

In respect of the answers to the second question above, it will require a great deal of honesty from you if the results from the risk assessment are to be valid and useful to you. Helping you to provide answers to both the above questions will be discussed in detail in the next article.
About the Author
Woz Salmon is a specialist in risk analysis and mitigation techniques, whose primary aim is to help the average football bettor significantly improve his/her chances of winning more money from the Bookies. Woz Salmon runs Predict A Win ..Helping you bet to win!
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