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How to minimise losses when gambling on the World Cup

Given my academic background it may come as little surprise that when I gamble, I expect to lose in the long run. But, that is not to say that I don’t have some golden rules that I apply in gambling situations…

Research a better bet than an octopus oracle. Roland Weihrauch/EPA

Given my academic background it may come as little surprise that when I gamble, I expect to lose in the long run. But, that is not to say that I don’t have some golden rules that I apply in gambling situations. Rather than being the psychology of winning, they are better described as the psychology of how to minimise losses.

In some situations, there is a very fine line between psychology and common sense and this is one of those occasions. Here are seven tips to make sure you’re not completely out of pocket when the final whistle blows.

1. Don’t chase your losses

Never gamble without some kind of pre-set plan and amount that you are prepared (or can afford) to lose. Winning gamblers set themselves win/loss goals before they enter a betting shop or go online.

Don’t use any winnings as a reason to place even more bets and never – under no circumstances – chase your losses. Chasing losses is one of the known risk factors and behaviours of problem gambling and is one of the nine criteria of “gambling disorder”.

2. Don’t get distracted

Don’t let the excitement – or lack of it – of a football match detract from the pre-set plan you started with. If you are watching a World Cup game and your only wager is on who will win or lose, then don’t get carried away with the excitement of the game.

If it’s a dull one, don’t get side-tracked by gambling on spontaneous “in-play” side bets during the game to increase the excitement. If you do like a little in-play action, give yourself the option of (say) five in-play bets (or whatever you can afford to lose) and stick to it no matter what.

3. Stay rational

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 and make decisions.

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 punter do things that they would never have done in the cold light of day.

4. Be wary of promotions

Do your research when using promotions. Betting promotions are among the highest money earners for the gambling establishment’s marketing department, which means they pull in large numbers of players who don’t make returns on their bets. These promotions are designed to get you gambling in the first place or on something new.

Avoid gambling with offers that seem too good to be true (because they usually are). Stick with your pre-set plan and budget and you’ll be fine. If through your research you find a good promotion that suits your betting needs, then by all means use it. Just don’t use promotions impulsively or use the first promotion that you see.

5. Ignore the myths

Learn to think for yourself. Winners learn to sort things out for themselves and not rely on others' suggestions. 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.

6. Know the facts

Do your own research. As with any other product that involves the exchange of money, making bets on World Cup football requires that you do the research to establish the best deals around. For instance, there can sometimes be considerable variation in odds. Although the odds on winning or drawing might be similar across many bookmakers, some of the things that can be bet upon may show larger variations (such as who will win the “Golden Boot” or the odds on one of the lesser fancied teams winning the tournament).

This is especially useful on internet gambling sites and betting exchanges via mobile phones and tablets, but can be applied to offline gambling too. Only factual information should inform your decision-making when betting. Look at the things that are most relevant to the game in hand. For instance, what is the team’s record when playing games in humid climates? How does the team perform when specific players are in (or not in) the team? What is the team’s “head-to-head” ratio of beating their opponents?

7. Don’t bet on your own team

Gamble with your head and not with your heart. When it comes to gambling on the football team I support (in my case, England) I try to employ strategies that leave me feeling good whatever the outcome. That is why (from a psychological perspective) I tend to bet against England.

I ask myself: how much would I be prepared to pay to see England progress in the tournament? If they get to the World Cup final I would be more than happy to pay £100 to see them do it, so I’d happily put this on England’s opponents to win. My logic has always been that I win either way. If England win the game, I will be on an ecstatic high – I wouldn’t care about losing £100. If England lose the game, at least I would have the winnings to soften the blow!

I can’t promise that these tips will help anyone win lots of money, but they will certainly help you minimise any losses.