How to Be an Antifragile Bettor

How do you react when something goes wrong while betting on sports?

Do you crumble in the face of an unexpected loss?

Do you tell yourself that if you stay strong, you will survive this?

Or, do you ask yourself, “What opportunity does this present me?”

We hear a lot about how important it is to become more resilient in the face of adversity.

While resilience has its pros, it also has its cons but it is not the only way to meet adversity.

There is a better way called “antifragility”.

In this article, we will talk about how you can apply the concept of antifragility to sports betting.

But first, let’s start with basic definitions, and also talk about a few reasons why this is a valuable characteristic to develop.

What is Antifragility?

Antifragility is a trait that statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced in the book Antifragile: Things that Gain From Disorder.

Psychology Today quotes Taleb as explaining the concept like this:

“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

Reasons to Become Antifragile

There’s always a road to success. You just need to find it!

Sports Betting Success is Built on Failures.
This is a field where there is no way you can advance without repeated mistakes and losses. It makes sense to go beyond resilience to cope with such a challenge and gain the most possible from it. In fact, if you never go beyond being simply resilient, you probably will not ever become successful at sports betting. A mindset that is only resilient will not be able to turn failures into stepping stones. It will also not be as optimistic a mindset as you might need to stay on track during rough times.

The Unexpected Will Happen to You Often.
With sports betting, the unexpected is pretty much the everyday. Consider how often the unexpected determines the result of a game. It is estimated that flukes are responsible for as many as 50% of game outcomes. With that type of uncertainty to grapple with every day, adopting traits that help you to not just survive that uncertainty but thrive through it are invaluable.

Mere Resilience Survives.
It does not challenge its circumstances or overturn them.

Another reason to choose antifragility over resilience when you wager on sports is that it is an approach that does not tolerate negative circumstances continuing indefinitely.

Someone who is resilient learns to toughen their hide so that they can take more hits without falling down.

But the philosophy of resilience is reactive, not proactive. It is not about changing one’s circumstances for the better. In fact, the very mindset that it requires often is one that becomes apathetic towards negative events. It says, “I can learn not to mind being hit.”

In a sense, it breaks one thing (resistance) in order to preserve another (survival).

The antifragile individual looks at circumstance in a way that is more proactive. In response to being hit, they ask questions and challenge assumptions.

This might lead them to design a suit of armor that will spare their own hide in response to future hits, or inspire them to move out of the way going forward, or even to strike at their opponent and attempt to disable them.

As such, life improves going forward instead of staying the same. The person also remains more intact psychologically, as they are not breaking their resistance in order to survive.

You’ll learn to recognize antifragility in athletes and teams.

As you learn the difference between resilience and antifragility and begin to practice the latter, you also will start to notice that same difference in others.

You will be able to spot antifragile practices employed by teams, athletes, and coaches. When you see those practices, recognizing them may help you to make educated bets about how they will deal with adversities in the future.

Ways to Become More Antifragile When Betting on Sports

Now that you know some reasons it is worthwhile to become antifragile, let’s go over a number of recommendations for how you can take practical steps in that direction as a sports bettor.

Avoid a negative mindset about stress, challenge, or failure.

The first step toward antifragility is psychological. It involves thinking about how you currently respond to stress, challenges, or failures.

For many of us, any sort of volatility can cause a degree of discomfort, if not outright fear.

Not only that, but we may have a low threshold for feeling uncomfortable. As a result, we will do whatever it takes to stop feeling that way and get back to things that are more familiar.

That probably is one of the reasons why resilience looks more approachable to many people than antifragility.

The goal of resilience is to survive the status quo, not to change it.

Antifragility, on the other hand, dives headfirst into the unknown, the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable.

If you can learn to raise your tolerance for the unknown and the unfamiliar, and get used to feeling uncomfortable, you will find yourself more capable of rising to challenges or working through failures.

You will be able to venture further outside your comfort zone than you may be used to now, bringing back valuable new ideas and practices that strengthen you.

You might even discover that you can enjoy aspects of the process.

Try not to catastrophize.

One thing that can help you adjust your mindset in the way I recommend above is to learn how to catastrophize less.

When we catastrophize, our thinking is black and white, and all we are seeing is black.

If you have an anxious disposition, you might catastrophize frequently, perhaps in response to even small mistakes, uncertainties, or challenges.

This mental habit can make operating from a place of discomfort more uncomfortable than it needs to be.

As you learn to recognize that many challenges, uncertainties, and failures do not spell disaster, you might find it easier to spend time outside your comfort zone working proactively toward a less fragile future.

Learn to love redundancies.

Redundancies often get a bad rap. We mock bureaucracies for having many built-in layers of redundancy, which we see it as inefficient and annoying.

Additionally, under a minimalist mindset (which is very popular these days), keeping redundant items around is considered wasteful.

But did you know that some built-in redundancies are good from an antifragility standpoint?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is quoted here saying, “Redundancy is ambiguous because it seems like a waste if nothing unusual happens. Except that something unusual happens — usually.”

One can see how that applies immediately and directly to sports betting. As I mentioned earlier, “something unusual” can be expected to happen fairly often in a field where there is so much uncertainty and chance at play.

A simple example of how you can follow this practice with sports betting is to open more than one sports betting account.

These redundancies provide you with options. Here are some ways that those options could come in handy:

While we recommend just not doing anything to get kicked out, it would be nice to have a back up plan, just in case.

  • If one site has mediocre odds, another might have better odds.
  • If one site does not offer the type of wager you want, one of the others you have joined might.
  • If one site does not offer action on a particular event, another may.
  • If one site limits your accounts or kicks you out, you still have other sports betting sites you can wager on.

Although you can always join sports betting sites in the future, if you have done it in advance, creating some redundancies, you will have options available to you even at short notice.

That means being able to catch opportunities when they arise, not miss them because you were under-prepared.

As a related example, consider how a resilient person might react to the crisis of being banned from the only sportsbook they are currently a member of.

Such a person might quickly move on to another sportsbook and return to betting.

But another punter who is a member of just one sportsbook who is antifragile in their mindset would look at the situation differently.

They would realize they were lacking in redundancies, and would ask themselves, “How can I prevent having no immediate place to bet in the future if a site bans me?”

Their response would be to sign up at not just one new betting site, but several.

Going forward, they will not need to worry about missing the chance to place a wager because they are suddenly between betting sites. Even if one site bans them, they will have the others.

Additionally, they have given themselves new opportunities that they did not have before this seeming catastrophe occurred.

They can access new betting markets, more bet types, more odds, and more bonuses.

So, they end the situation in a position that is better than the one they were in at the start.

Balance High and Low Risk

Like it or not, it’s a balancing act – One that you’re going to have to learn to perform!

Nassim Nicolas Taleb talks about investment strategies. One of the things he suggests to investors who want to improve their antifragility is to adopt the barbell method.

Taleb is quoted as saying, “If you know that you are vulnerable to prediction errors, and accept that most risk measures are flawed, then your strategy is to be as hyper-conservative and hyper-aggressive as you can be, instead of being mildly aggressive or conservative.”

Wondering what the barbell method entails and how it pertains to you?

Basically, if you were investing, your goal would be to give yourself a kind of safety net of low-risk investment vehicles so that you could invest in some high-risk ones that could potentially pay you a lot more.

You want to give yourself a shot at huge success—but you want to acknowledge that super risky investments often fail, and thus, you want to reduce your fragility by balancing out your portfolio with more dependable investments.

With sports betting, you definitely are involved in a high-risk activity overall with some bets being riskier than others.

If you take nothing but extremely high-risk wagers, you probably are going to tank sooner than later.

But if you take lower-risk bets regularly for slow but steady growth, you give yourself a more stable foundation. From there, you can take the occasional high-risk bet for a chance at bigger payouts.

The barbell strategy also explains why you should resist the urge to quit your day job as a sports betting beginner.

If you are excited about a new career venture like sports betting, and you do not like being chained to your desk, it is going to be difficult to keep showing up every day to the office. It will get even harder in some respects as you continue on, because you will take sports betting more and more seriously, and struggle to devote more and more time to it despite the demands that your day job continues to make.

But if you want to be antifragile, holding on to that day job at least a little while longer is virtually a necessity. The only exception would be if you are going into sports betting super rich to begin with, as your savings would provide you with plenty of padding to pay your bills.

It is going to take most serious bettors years before they can make enough money on sports betting to pay their bills and continue to grow their accounts.

Even setting that aside, let’s imagine that you get a great start right away for whatever reason. Maybe you are a natural, and luck is on your side. Since you are already doing well, why not quit that day job?

Well, picture that you do, and for a few weeks, everything is great. Then your first big losing streak begins.

Not only are you now losing money instead of making it, but you have to take even more money out of your account to cover your bills.

If you had maintained the low-risk income of your day job alongside the high-risk venture of your betting, this would not have happened.

The low-risk day job income would have continued to pay your bills while you worked on getting back on track with the high-risk activity of betting.

I read an interesting quote here in an essay on an unrelated topic that I like:

“Wealth is not a number of dollars. It is not a number of material possessions. It’s having options and the ability to take on risk.”

The essay focused on minimalism, and how people with fewer material possessions are often those with enough money to afford that lifestyle, which would be too risky for someone with lower wealth.

Minimalism is not particularly antifragile, but then again, with enough money in the bank, antifragility can come from assets or income.

But that probably doesn’t describe you, does it? You may not be super wealthy in terms of dollars, but you want to have the ability to take on the risk of sports betting.

What gives you that ability? Your wealth comes in the form of giving yourself options and diversifying your financial activities.

Having a day job and betting on sports is not very minimalist—but it is the antifragile approach.

Indeed, your day job is another redundancy in your system, assuming all is going well with betting—but for now, that redundancy has value. Maybe someday continuing it would be a waste, but that “someday” is probably years from now.

Embrace the Standalone Nature of Betting

Okay, so you won’t be like a hermit even though it may feel like it.
And who took the picture anyway?

It can be scary being totally on your own, solely responsible each day for your successes and failures. That is the nature of sports betting. But did you know that there is an upside with respect to antifragility?

When a crisis strikes an organization, the whole organization needs to react. Picture, for a moment, that a large organization is a person, and every cell of that person’s body is one component of the organization (i.e. a department or an individual in a department).

Now, imagine that body trying to move rapidly during a crisis. Unlike our bodies, there is no unified neurological system. Every cell in the body has to exchange a set of messages and individually decide to act.

You can easily picture all the cells trying to move in different ways at different times, along with a general, sweeping “delay” effect. In fact, the stresses imposed by those delays and differences might be sufficient to cause severe damage, maybe even ripping the body apart. And chances are good that the entire wave of movement will be too slow for the organization to evade the crisis, resulting in even more damage.

Taleb asserts that big, complex organizations like these are often the ones that do not survive when things get tough.

Ultimate agility is possible at an individual level. When you encounter a crisis as a sports bettor, you don’t have to communicate with other departments or explain to other people what they need to do in order for you to minimize the adverse effects of the crisis.

The moment the crisis hits, you know to move, and move fast. You can execute the decisions you make immediately without delay. You can move fluidly in one direction without conflicting pulls.

So, that is something to take heart in when you feel anxious about operating alone. In some respects, it is actually a circumstance that empowers you during challenging situations.

Don’t Rely on Others When You Do Not Have To

Something that is fragile relies on external forces for its well being. It does not have as much ability to take care of itself.

So, when something goes wrong, the fragile thing will break unless somebody else takes responsibility for it, stepping in to avert disaster.

Alas, one cannot really rely on external forces to be there in times of stress, particularly since others usually have their own problems to deal with.

Therefore, it is in your interest to become as self-sufficient as you can.

In terms of sports betting, that translates to taking responsibility for your own account, and taking on the hard work of doing your own handicapping rather than leaning on the work of tipsters.

If tipsters are your main source of bets and those tipsters encounter problems that make them and you unprofitable, there is nothing you can do about it except go look for new sources of tips.

Beyond that, you are helpless to do anything except wait—or finally embark on the hard work of learning to handicap.

But if your main source of bets is your own handicapping and you encounter a problem with your own strategies, you will have the knowledge and experience to tackle the problem and fix it. You get to take an active role in your recovery rather than a passive one.

In fact, at best, if you rely on tipsters, you can hope they get back on track and produce similar results. They might do more, but you have no reason to expect it.

But if it is you doing the hard work, you have an opportunity to learn from the experience and come back stronger and more profitable than you were before your strategies stopped producing the results you wanted.

So, you should strongly consider doing the hard work for yourself from day 1, not leaning on others to do it for you.

Do Network For Ideas

I have talked a lot about independence and self-reliance, and how it keeps you agile and antifragile to embody both.

But it does not follow that you should be trying to work in a vacuum. No one is an island, and nobody needs to be.

Other people you might know may have already been in a situation similar to yours. While you do not want to rely on their experiences, if you have the option of learning from them, there is no reason to waste it.

So, make networking a habit since it provides you with a wider range of resources to draw from, and reach out to others for their wisdom in situations where it might benefit you.

Taleb also has some useful advice regarding who is worth listening to. Here is quoted here saying, “Decision makers must have skin in the game.”

Basically, if someone is going to give you advice on your sports betting, they had better

  1. be an actual sports bettor themselves with similar goals (and preferably be good at what they do), and
  2. be able to relate to your situation and what you have to lose.

Point in case, the person who first got me into betting on sports was good at it, but he did not always give me useful advice. Why? Because he was also extremely rich. In essence, he had no real skin in the game, because he had little to lose even when things went badly with his bets. He could just refill his account and try again.

If I lost those bets, on the other hand, I would be struggling for months to replenish my account and move forward again.

One could say he had skin in the game in the sense that he cared about winning, but he did not have skin in the game of my economic situation. He could not relate, and if he was wrong with his advice, only I would suffer from it.

As a result, he wasn’t motivated to give me useful advice. He could be entirely complacent.

Make sure anyone you take advice from is invested in giving useful advice. If their advice goes south, will they experience adverse consequences like you will?

Only if the answer is “yes” should you take them entirely seriously. Otherwise, consider looking elsewhere.

Plan Time to Deal With Crises

A super efficient individual or organization is minimalist in nature, avoiding redundancies, as we already discussed. That is not a good thing when the unexpected comes to pass.

Super efficient organizations have another problem too, which is that they tend to allocate every unit of time they have to carrying on their usual business.

That is just fine on a normal day when things are going well. But what happens on a day when something goes wrong?

This is an example of a fine way to deal with small problems, and very easy to obtain.
All you need is time to meditate, an orange robe, a shaved head, back and forth flights to a mystic land…

At that point, that organization is going to struggle to continue operating with efficiency. It does not have any built-in time or resources to manage the crisis. As a result, regular operations will also take a hit as the organization struggles to re-organize itself around the needs of the moment.

As a sports bettor, you may encounter both small day-to-day hassles that are unexpected as well as bigger crises.

Life will be a lot less stressful if you have some buffer time built into your daily routine to deal with small problems.

Doing this may feel less efficient on a smooth day, but on a day with hassles, it will help you to continue functioning with less of a disruption.

You also may want to have some time set aside each week or each month to deal with bigger crises.

On months you do not have crises, you can dedicate that time to ongoing research and development.

Don’t shy away from backup plans and lots of them.

Closely related to the usefulness of redundancies for antifragility is the utility of backup plans.

A “Plan A or bust” mindset is not an antifragile one. It may sound heroic and committed, but in a field of high risk, it is doomed to fail.

Continually come up with contingency plans in case of disaster. Have things in the works that you can fall back on if your preferred plans collapse.

For example, let’s say that you bet exclusively on basketball.

Earlier this year, when the season was put on hold because of COVID-19, you would have found yourself with nothing to bet on—at least in terms of knowing what you were doing.

But if you had been cultivating an interest in horse racing, table tennis, or non-sports betting in the background while focusing on basketball, you might have found yourself with plenty of wagering opportunities as you waited for the season to start again.

Alas, this is a scenario that involves such specific elements that it would have been unlikely that you would have had applicable backup plans in place (i.e. chosen table tennis or political betting or another of the narrow band of options still open).

But as this is a scenario that you can foresee possibly happening again in the future, that gives you an idea for the types of backup activities you might want to start cultivating.

If major sports seasons are delayed again because of another wave of COVID-19, at least you will not need to take months off of making money through betting. You can just fall back on whatever else you have been learning to wager on.

See what is, not what you want to believe.

Coming back to the matter of staying agile in a crisis, it is pretty hard to move and restructure rapidly if you cannot see what is happening in your environment.

We tend to walk through life with a surprising amount of optional blindness. We carry false beliefs about the world and ourselves.

Here are some examples of possible false beliefs that can make it hard to be anything but fragile:

  • “There is no way my strategy could be failing. Things don’t simply break.”
  • “This drop in my statistics is surely temporary. I just need a larger sample size, and I will see that bear out. If I keep betting, everything will get back to normal soon enough.”
  • “I can’t fail. I’m too good for that.”
  • “I can’t succeed. I never do anything right.”
  • “I only am successful with this strategy because I got lucky. I’m not likely to luck out and find another working system again, so this one has to keep working or it will all fall apart.”

Some of these are examples of denying adverse circumstances, while others are denials of positive opportunities. But in both cases, they are inherently limiting.

Becoming antifragile is all about turning negative circumstances towards your benefit and seizing opportunities.

But if you do not acknowledge negative circumstances, there is no way for you to turn them to your benefit.

Likewise, if you do not acknowledge opportunities, there is no way to seize them.

In both cases, what holds people back from seeing the world as it is and themselves as they are is probably a combination of fear and low self-esteem.

This is where batting psychology comes in handy. The more you learn about the factors that stop you from seeing clearly, the more capable you will be of seeing the truth and acting on it.

Question Your Assumptions

Every false, limiting belief has false assumptions underpinning it. Let’s look at the examples above again, and identify the underlying assumptions.

  • “There is no way my strategy could be failing. Things don’t simply break.”

The assumption here is clearly stated: “Things don’t simply break.” But don’t they? Sometimes change happens fast. And sometimes variables show up that you simply haven’t accounted for.

  • “This drop in my statistics is surely temporary. I just need a larger sample size, and I will see that bear out. If I keep betting, everything will get back to normal soon enough.”

This one is just flat-out denial. It is possible the statement is correct. It is also possible it is incorrect.

  • “I can’t fail. I’m too good for that.”

The underlying assumption here is that the person is literally too skillful or lucky or amazing to get it wrong. But nobody is infallible.

  • “I can’t succeed. I never do anything right.”

The underlying assumption here is that the person has something inherently wrong with them and/or deserves to fail consistently. This is a self-sabotaging belief that creates behaviors that “prove” the belief. Dropping the belief may help the person drop the behaviors, allowing them to discover they can do things right, and may earn success.

  • “I only am successful with this strategy because I got lucky. I’m not likely to luck out and find another working system again, so this one has to keep working or it will all fall apart.”

This is another belief driven by an assumption that something is wrong with the person in question. They see themselves as small and incapable, attributing control and success entirely to external forces. They are also operating from a scarcity mindset.

By acknowledging that they do have a degree of control and capability and that there are other strategies out there they can discover or create, the bettor can empower themselves to find a solution—maybe even a better one than they had originally.

Have a Reason For All That You Do

For both resilience and antifragility, it is important to be motivated. You are most likely to handle stressful and volatile situations admirably if you have a compelling reason to do so.

Ideally, the reason should encompass not just making money, but what you can do with it. Maybe your motive is to free yourself from your day job, or to have extra money to take care of your family. The more compelling it is, the less fragile you will be.

Indeed, sociologist Aaron Antonovsky developed the sense of coherence (SOC) scale to measure sense of coherence, “The extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring though dynamic, feeling of confidence that one’s environment is predictable and that things will work out as well as can reasonably be expected.”

The three components of that scale are

  1. Coherence
  2. Manageability
  3. Meaningfulness

So, simply having a sense of meaning and purpose in what you do can help to offset deficiencies in terms of coherence and manageability (you can improve the latter too, but that is a topic for another article).

Never stop thinking of ways to improve.

Perhaps what characterizes antifragility most is plain and simple proactivity. Instead of waiting for negative events and reacting to them, the antifragile bettor continually seeks out opportunities, even when everything is running smoothly.

The antifragile bettor is not invested in things staying the same, but rather in finding ways to change them for the better. It is an upward path that involves getting ahead of problems and staying ahead of them as much as possible. When negative challenges are not presenting themselves, one can seek out positive challenges on one’s own terms.

The Antifragile Sports Bettor Thrives Through Volatile and Challenging Conditions

Resilience is a trait that can help you survive losing streaks as a sports bettor, but antifragility is a trait that can help you turn losing streaks into launch points for future wins.

You now have many practical suggestions for how you can make your business model and yourself more antifragile.

Making these changes may not be easy in the beginning, but in the long run, doing so will help you achieve better results, all while coping with stress and volatility with greater optimism.

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