Winning Streaks

Is there really such a thing as winning streaks?

In this article, we will discuss luck in terms of sports betting and in winning streaks. Some may be baffled when I say that luck plays an important role in sports betting. You may say, Hey! I thought when I train and practice very hard I will great in my sport! And you are saying that its about luck?! Are you nuts? Well, we’ll answer that later.

Now, we assume a professional game of coin toss played with all fairness. This means that this is all based on luck and has nothing to do with skill. Now, lets say that there is a World Cup for coin tossing and I want to be part of it. So, I played in my region and got some results.

For this ‘World Cup’, I have created a simple program in Open Office Spreadsheet. In this program, the computer will randomize a number between 0 to 100. If the random value is less than 50, you lose and if its above 50, you win. This simulates the World Cup Coin Tossing game.

Figure 1. Different Games in our simulated ‘World Cup’ Coin Toss (a) Set 1 and (b) Set 2

So, in a set there will be 20 coin tossing instances. In Set (Figure 1a) 1 of my imaginary match we can see that I actually had a 7 game winning streak! Can I say that I am really great at this ‘sport’? Can I say that I have the ‘skills’ to do it with this streak? Can I possibly be called the great coin tosser? Probably not.

So what is my point? Winning streaks is not all about the skills. A factor of luck can be accounted. Let’s cite another example. In game 2 of Figure 1(b), I had a losing streak with my imaginary coin tossing game. An 8-game losing streak! I had this streak even though I have a 50% chance of winning. I’m not really as lucky as a four leaf clover for my second set. Does this equate to my coin tossing skill? No.

Why the hype?

Why are people so hyped with winning streaks? Because people love patterns. Figure 2 shows a simulation instance in my imaginary coin tossing streak. As you can see, Game 3 to 15 should have been a 13 game winning streak! If it wasn’t for Game 9! As stated in the article, if people do not know that Game 9 was a losing one, most people will assume that it is a win because of the pattern—a winning pattern.

Figure 2. Simulated game of Coin Tossing.

Even without the skills, we can see that one can actually get a great winning streak! Lady luck is probably with me.

How about those with the skills?

I have told you an instance where I have a 50-50 chance of winning. Of course, those with skills have a higher chances of winning. Let’s say that good players have 70% chance of winning, better player with 90% chance of winning and, those great and best ones with 95% chance of winning.

For example, great players such as Rafael Nadal is said to have a 95% clay-court win percentage [1]. We try to simulate this using the simple program created.

Figure 3. Simulation of the win streaks based on winning percentage.

From Figure 3, we can see that at 95% winning percentage, it is easy to sweep all the 20 matches! This is just like what happened in Rafael Nadal’s 2010 season [1]. Of course, those “good and better players” have a higher chance of winning, thus have a greater chance of having a winning streak than my coin tossing “abilities”.

Note that we always use the word chance. Its because these calculations are not absolute and may deviate. No, its not all about the luck but on the skills. Since you cannot change your luck, focus on the skill. There are lots of instances that may happen and probability tells us that yes, luck plays a role in winning. Winning streaks may just have Lady Luck or a four-leaf clover with them but skills will give you the edge. On these winning streaks, probably the odds are just in their favor.