Winning at Trading

A Winning Psychology

Tony Hargraves tells us why the most important mental lesson in being profitable is to keep your profits and your losses separate.

One of the most important aspects of sports betting is very often the first overlooked. In fact for many spread bettors it never even enters their thought process as to when they should or shouldn’t be wagering. The factor in question is that of mental state, that is whether the bettor is psychologically in the best place to be making financial decisions based on a pre-devised strategy. Although it is often ignored, being in the right frame of mind is the most vital of the five mandatory requirements for success in this harsh environment (the other mandatory requirements for success are Analysis, Strategy, Discipline, and Money Management).

“The manner in which you adapt to winning and losing trades is the secret to ending up a winner”

How can something considered to be so pleasurable be considered tough you may ask? The answer is that sports betting is a solitary profession, as every other person on the exchange is trying to win your money. In all trading and spread betting it really is a case of you against the world, and consequently you need to be in the best possible mental shape to succeed.

In the world of poker, to take a comparable example, those not in the right mental state to compete are often quickly eliminated from a competition, leaving the strongest minds to fight for the spoils at the business end of the tournament.

Sports betting is no different, and the approach you take can often determine which side of the fine line of profitability and loss you finish on. The manner in which you adapt to winning and losing trades is the secret to ending up a winner.

So let me ask you a question:

If you went on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and got the first eleven questions correct and had won £64,000, you would then have a choice, as you do after each question, to either take the money or answer another for a greater prize. Then assume once you see the next question you decide to go for it, but get it wrong. You’re handed a cheque for £32,000 (as that was the next safe level) and the game is over. The question is, did you just win or lose £32,000?

Over 98% of people will say they’ve just won £32,000, with a vast majority citing the old adage, “I came with nothing so anything is a bonus”.

At this point I won’t disagree, but would like to ask a further question instead. If you had not answered the question but instead taken the £64,000, banked the cheque and left it there for a year, and I then asked you a year later to bet me £32,000 on the question you would have been asked I assume you would take the bet, as you came with nothing, right? That £64,000 was what you got from nothing so the chance to win more has to be tempting. So you do it, and again you lose.

Did you just lose £32,000 or do you feel you are still winning £32,000? The only difference is the timeframe. In the first instance you had £64,000 for about three minutes and then gave £32,000 back. But you felt like a winner at the end of it. In the second situation, you had the £64,000 for a year and then gave £32,000 back, but now you feel as though you lost £32,000. And so you should. And you should have felt that way the first time too. You had £64,000; it was yours to walk away with. But you lost half of it.

Too many sports bettors risk money they have just won because of this very premise, their flawed psychology has them believing that what are now betting with is “free money”, which is ultimately going to be fatal in any quest to make it as a professional spread bettor. If I win £300 on horse racing in the afternoon and then lose £150 on football in the evening, I do not see myself as winning £150 on the day, like many people with suspect gambling psychology do. It is no different to taking £150 out of my bank and placing the same football bet. Losing that wager will never make me feel like a winner, I treat that £300 I’ve just won as cautiously as I would do if I hadn’t just acquired it from a successful speculation.

What if I won £300 on horse racing and then lost half the next day? Am I still in front or is that then counted as a loss? The point of this is to say that anytime you win money, psychologically it MUST be considered as if you own it and have banked it. If you lose the next bet that is a LOSS, not just a factor in a now smaller win that you’ve just had. It is this reckless approach to money won, and it is caused in part by not dealing in cash but in an “account balance”, that causes people to overstretch or take risks they would not take had they actually been asked to hand over pound notes.

This philosophy, or more accurately psychology, of keeping your winnings and losses separate is just as applicable to other forms of trading and spread betting as it is to sports betting, and really is the mental key to remaining profitable over the long term. So next time you have a loss, take note of how much caution you apply to your next bet, because THAT is the approach you need to take after each and every winner.

I wish you much success.

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