Last week I used a commentary written by Joe Wood on his blog TimelessFinance to offer some support for the Responsible Gambling Council’s (RGC) decision to use what some might consider an “edgy” approach in a new social marketing campaign. Joe called the RGC’s website “gross” and suggested it was inappropriate for both his Mom and 6-year-old daughter.
But Joe felt I missed the point(s) of his column and responded to my commentary on his next post (his response can be found here, but you’ll have to scroll past the pictures of the puppies, if you can!).
I wasn’t intending to enter into a debate with Joe but instead chose to use his statements to offer some discussion about public awareness and education programs and the need to start with what the audience (in RGC’s case, young male gamblers whose likelihood of demonstrating problematic gambling behavior is significantly higher than the general population’s) is prepared to hear, not what we want to tell them.
However, Joe indicates that he was just as critical of RGC’s message content as with the creative itself:
… The [RGC] campaign propagates significant misinformation: e.g. the claim that sports ‘knowledge’ can help a person win at ProLine [Ontario’s sports lottery brand] betting.
For many forms of gambling outcomes are determined from purely random events. Assuming the games are honest, there is no way to predict the results.
Where will the ball fall in a game of roulette? Which seven numbers will be drawn for this week’s LOTTO MAX draw? Which scratch ticket holds the right combination of winning symbols? For these and other games (like bingo, slot machines, Keno, craps, mini-baccarat) the only elements within the player’s control are how much is bet, and how often or how long you play.
But the fact is that there are also a number of games where skill or knowledge play a part. For example, knowing the rules of blackjack is not enough to make you an average player. Cards properly shuffled and dealt are delivered to the player in a purely random manner. But playing often and understanding the probabilities of certain outcomes helps a player choose “stay” or “hit.” More skilled players base decisions not only on the cards they’ve been dealt, but on those dealt to other players and to the dealer. However, skill is still not the determining factor … ultimately the cards dealt (randomly) will determine who wins, and who loses.
Poker is another game which, at its core, is a game based on the random dealing of cards and is beyond the control of the player. However most poker players would tell you a lot of the game is about the strategy they adopt in their own game play: knowing when to hold, and when to fold. Seasoned poker players also get to know their opponents and the strategies they favour. Some even look for behavioral cues (called “tells”) from opponents that will provide them an edge in their play.
For both Blackjack and Poker players, decision-making impacts the play.It improves with more knowledge and experience. But great decision-making skill is not sufficient to guarantee wins.
So what about sports betting?
It would be hard to argue that having some knowledge of the sport, the teams’ records, the skills of individual players, does not add to one’s ability to pick winners.
But does knowledge alone guarantee a productive wager? Of course not.
The sports world is filled with stories of underdogs who prevail, ordinary players who suddenly become superstars, and injuries that take stars off the field of play. That’s what makes sports so fascinating and enjoyable to watch for so many people. It’s also what makes betting on sports more of a gamble (pun intended).
What makes betting on sports even more interesting is the fact that professional odd-setters typically assess potential outcomes and set specific odds for each game offered on their weekly or biweekly menus. These people are paid for their knowledge of the games they cover, and for their ability to stay on top of developments that may affect game outcomes. Your own knowledge of the sport may help you determine whether the odds that have been set are acceptable for you to bet on, but again, the actual game outcomes may be entirely different from what you and the odd setters expect.
I was told that there was a big ProLine winner a few years ago who astounded everyone with the method she used to pick all the winners on a football card: she compared team uniform colours!
Knowledge of sports may help improve your ability to pick a favourite, but it will not necessarily lead to a winning outcome.
More about BCLC’s responsible gambling program.