A chance meeting with a gambling guru or a whim sparked by a flash of inspiration - the ways in which we speculate on the next winner can often come in many forms. Of course, many punters like to rely on logical analysis before they ante up. However, there are times when gut feeling takes hold and pushes you in a certain direction.
Although there is often no rhyme or reason behind these picks, there is often something that strikes a chord with the chance gambler that prompts them to make a particular move. The classic example, and one that many novice gamblers will be familiar with, is the horse racing scenario. Whenever a major meeting captures the imagination of the masses, the rookie tipsters come out in force and their default method for choosing a winner is a simple one - pick one with a name that you like.
For instance, take the Grand National or the Melbourne Cup. These races are big money affairs with a lot of high-quality horses all very close in terms of skill, which means picking a winner is very tough. As mentioned, studying the stats will help you get some sort of handle on the top runners and riders, but many players often like to refer to a horse's name. Be it a name with a certain ring to it or a moniker that holds a certain personal meaning, a lot of people choose their horse based on its name.
In a similar way to horse racing prospectors, sports bettors also refer to the name game when they are choosing their top team. Again, relying on nothing more than gut feeling and a pseudo sense of connection, punters will often choose a team with a clever name or nickname.
Another way in which people suss out the field and choose a potential winner in the sporting arena is through local allegiances. Regardless of whether or not a team is weak or strong, novice punters will often stake their money on their home side.
In technical terms, this is known as motivated reasoning. As explained in a study by Princeton University's Ziva Kunda, motivated reasoning essentially prompts use to accept ideals that conform to our previous beliefs and emotional ties (i.e. local allegiances) and scrutinize those that don't. In real terms, this can lead to someone blindly backing their home team regardless of their actual skill set.
Indeed, this sort of local bias can lead to a North Londoner backing Arsenal, an Aussie siding with their home country in the cricket Ashes or Americans backing a UFC fighter from the US, such as Ronda Rousey. People from certain areas will often support their home team.
Another example of this reliance on instinct is also apparent in the online poker world. Newbies who sit down for the first time will often do so without being completely sure of the hand rankings. When you're playing a variant, such as Texas Hold’em, the hand rankings should be your first starting point. There's no point trying to sit down and win pots without knowing whether or not a flush beats a straight or which hands trump a full house.
While many players will sit down without having a strong idea of poker's hand rankings, it doesn't take long for them to figure out the basics. In fact, once novice players have got a handle on their hands, the way in which they often size up their competition is through a process of stereotyping. In the same way that members of the general public tend to categorise someone based on their looks, age, name and even nationality, poker players also use this to assess their opponents.
When you're playing at an online poker site, screen names, nationalities and avatars are all part of the playing experience. Although not the most reliable source of information, players will often look at an opponent's moniker, check out their country and take a mental snapshot of their avatar in a bid to glean some insights into their play.
Very much based on stereotypes, these assessments often guide a player's early strategy in much the same way a horse racing fan or a sports bettor will choose a runner based on gut feelings.
Naturally, the key to success in any betting field, whether it's horse racing, sports betting or poker, is logical analysis. However, that doesn't mean you should overlook intuition or sentiment. In fact, these initial thoughts are often the easiest way to penetrate a particular discipline.
For example, the Melbourne Cup has 24 runners, many of which have strong pedigrees and everyone will have a betting tip for the big race. Getting into the action and picking a winner isn't easy for a novice, so a good way to start filtering through the prospects is by choosing the ones with the best names. From this point you can then start to assess the recent form, weigh up the stats and check the odds in order to pick the strongest runner.
Similarly, while an online poker player will pick out certain traits and use stereotypical ideals to initially suss out a player, they can then use this information in a more logical way. If it's assumed that a player is aggressive because of their screen name or their avatar, then a player can use this idea and test it out in real time. If the player isn't aggressive then it will be more memorable because their actions will go against your preconceptions.
Making judgments based on gut feeling or intuition might not be the best way to thrive in the betting arena. However, if you can use it properly then it can unlock a world of possibilities, but only if you combine these feelings with sound knowledge and logic.