People who are trying to become better sports bettors will hear time and again that as handicappers they have to have a long term view. There is nothing that is more true than that. Once you have a sports handicapping approach that works you can’t worry about what happens in any given game or week – if it is a winning approach then over the long term you will come out ahead. If you spend too much time worrying about what’s happening on a day to day basis – getting too excited by wins or too frustrated by losses – then you can lose focus on what’s important and what you need to do to sustain your success as a sports handicapper over the long term.
It’s also generally important for bettors to have a long term view regarding teams. Bad teams can go on winning streaks, and good teams can sink into slumps. None of those situations are truly indicative of what a team is really capable of, though, so over the long term reacting to those slumps or streaks would lead solid sports handicappers to judge the teams incorrectly. Over the long term teams are generally as strong or weak as their fundamentals, and forgetting that can be costly.
Despite the crucial importance of a long term view in sports betting there are definitely situations in which a short term view is what is needed. The ability to know when one type of view is appropriate is an important factor for long term handicapping success. Here are four situations when a short term view is warranted:
Right after a trade – We generally look at teams with a long term view because they have the same core of players, the same coaching, and the same general circumstances governing their play. When a major trade is made, though, those fundamentals are significantly disrupted. Trades obviously mean that some players are gone and others are arriving. That means we have a different group of players, and obviously we can’t expect the new group to perform in the same way as we expected the old group to. Essentially we are dealing with a totally different team from a betting perspective. We can’t look at the team from a long term view because there is nothing long term to view. Until as sports handicappers we know how the trade will impact the team we are forced to look at it form a short term view.
After a coaching change – When a new coach joins a team his first goal is to change the most immediate problems that are standing in the way of progress. That can mean small tweaks or major changes. Even the smartest sports bettors can’t predict exactly what a new coach will do because they don’t have an inside view of the team and what the real problems are. Since we can’t really know what the problems are, we can’t know what the solutions will be, and what the result of those solutions will be. That means we are dealing with a lot of uncertainty, and it just doesn’t make sense for a bettor to take a long term view when things are uncertain and changing rapidly.
After a key injury – When a team loses a key player for an extended period of time then they have to get used to playing without him. That means that they will be forced to play differently, and that the opposing teams will play differently against them as a result. Some injuries will obviously have bigger results than others – a point guard hurts more than a right winger, for example. Sometimes a team carries on after an injury like nothing ever happened, while other times they can be totally derailed by the setback. Until sports handicappers know how a team is going to respond and whether they can sustain their play they are forced to take a short term view.
When a team is far above or below expectations for an extended period – Before a season starts in any sport bettors can build a sense in their mind of how they expect certain teams to perform. I’m not suggesting that you should have a precise prediction of win and loss records, but you will almost certainly have a sense of which teams are likely to be good, and which ones aren’t. Inevitably, though, some teams don’t live up to those expectations to start the season. Bad teams will play like world champions and good teams will play like they have never played the game before. Intuitively we know that we shouldn’t panic – that things are likely to return to normal in a lot of cases. Sometimes, though, things go on long enough that we have to start to suspect that what we thought we knew isn’t right anymore. A great example of this is the 2010 Dallas Cowboys. They were hosting the Super Bowl, and widely thought to be headed to playing in it as well. When they lost their first two games then it wasn’t time to panic. By the time they were 1-4, though, it had to be clear to everyone, though, that they weren’t the team people thought they were. Until bettors could get a sense of what they were really like – they had too much talent to be as bad as they were playing, but they clearly weren’t playing well enough to justify their hopes – the only thing the bettors could do is look at things on a game to game basis – the ultimate short term view.