Why Data Mining Doesn’t Work In Sports Betting

The analysis of data is a practice used by a lot of professional bettors as a part of their betting strategy. At first glance, the results accrued from this practice can appear admirable, but it’s important to consider how these results were produced. Why does it matter? Well, there a lot of problems with data mining in sports betting. If you’re interested in finding out more, check out the guide we’ve compiled below.

What Is Data Mining?

Data mining involves the examination of a set of pre-existing databases, with the goal of attaining new information and patterns from the data. On its own, this practice might not sound very deceptive or disingenuous, but when data dredging is added into the mix, that’s where the real problems start.

Why You Should Dread Data Dredging

Data dredging, also known as ‘back fitting’, is when a person takes the data they’ve produced from data mining and presents it in a way that makes the numbers appear significant, showing patterns that could be considered statistically noteworthy – whether they actually are or not.

Unfortunately, data dredging can easily be applied to the world of sports betting, and a lot of popular online websites take advantage of this. The way they do it is by taking a large variety of results sets and betting odds from previous sports matches, which they then make available on their site so that people can search the results for patterns. This will then supposedly enable bettors to create and test out potential profitable betting strategies. So, what’s wrong with all this?

Ever Heard The Phrase ‘Correlation Doesn’t Equal Causation?’

Yeah, we hadn’t, either. What it basically means is that just because there’s a link between two different things, it doesn’t mean that one caused the other. Say, for example, you forgot to pick up the onions your partner needed to cook dinner. Now, when your partner was cooking the meal, they burnt it. Okay, so yes, there is a link between those two things: the dinner. However, just because there is a common link between the two separate circumstances, it doesn’t mean that your forgotten onions caused the dinner to burn. Get it?

So, when it comes to sports betting, you can attempt to glean patterns from a set of sports data, but if you can’t establish the cause behind the correlation, the pattern really is meaningless. You won’t have any idea what’s causing the pattern or if the pattern even means anything substantial. That’s why incorporating the correlation you’ve discovered into your betting strategy can actually be detrimental to your profit margin.

The ‘Backing the Draw’ Strategy

Backing the Draw is a strategy that involves betting on games where both teams haven’t drawn in their last three matches. This should provide odds in the range of 3.20 to 3.56. When this profit’s statistical significance is analysed, the record can be considered outstanding, and it’s something you’d only really expect to see one in a million times, if you assume that it’s just a random pattern.

When you see the successful results of a method like backing the draw, it’s easy to assume that data mining is a worthwhile strategy, but remember, the results are one in a million. If you test anything out one million times, you’re bound to get one outlier that demonstrates exceptional results, but that doesn’t mean it works every time. It’s actually 999,999 times where data mining would likely fail to produce any significant results. For example, if you saw one black swan, would you assume every swan in the world was black? Would you then take your hard-earned cash and bet that the next swan you encountered would be a black one?

Selective Analysis And Testing

While there might be some benefits to understanding the trends in the history of any sports team’s games, the problem really occurs in the way in which bettors apply this knowledge. Very few people can do it well, because most bettors’ method of testing is selective. Bettors will often comb through data while dismissing games that don’t fit with the pattern they’re trying to establish.

People often attempt to convince themselves that they wouldn’t have placed a bet on that particular game in that particular year, despite the fact that they would’ve had no way of knowing that it would deviate from their established pattern. It’s impossible to predict, and hindsight is 20/20. The human brain is designed to look for patterns and when you factor in a desire to make money, it can make typically intelligent and rational people make less than sensible betting decisions.

What’s The Take Home?

While it would be nice if we could devise methods of data analysis via data mining that would provide us with sure-fire ways to make stacks of cash, the reality is that it’s just not a viable long-term strategy. When we plan to create a system for betting using data dredging methods, scouring numbers listlessly until we find a profitable criteria, there’s a huge risk that we’ll actually fail to establish an explanation – a causation – for what we’ve found.

Unless you can find a genuine reason behind the profit or correlation you’ve discovered, you might as well be staring at your mother in law’s phone number. It really is complete and utter nonsense; you’re setting yourself up for long term losses. If you want to rely on chance to make your profit, go right ahead, but don’t deceive yourself by pretending that your successes are a result of anything other than lady luck.