How to Handle a Hot Streak

Sacramento Kings buzzer beater NBA
Chimezie Metu #7 of the Sacramento Kings makes a three-point basket at the buzzer to beat the Dallas Mavericks by one point in a regular-season game. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/AFP

It sounds like the most unnecessary advice that anyone has ever offered to anybody else: How to handle a hot winning streak while gambling.

Admittedly, when it seems like everything is breaking your way and you can do no wrong, the last thing you seem to need is advice. We might as well do a story on how to handle being rich, wildly popular or dating the hottest person in town.

Your behavior, however, when it seems like you can’t possibly lose could lay the seeds for future problems. At the very least, it could prevent you from getting the most out of something that doesn’t happen all that often.

Here’s how to maximize your profit—and enjoyment—from what is usually the time of a sports gambler’s life.

Don’t Believe the Hype

“What hype?”, you might ask. The constant reel of it that’s been running in your mind since you won that first bet on what has turned into this hot streak. Yes, you picked the favorite to cover a steep spread and fingered the out-of-the-blue upset of the week. That doesn’t mean you’ve figured out how to split the atom.

Remember all those brutal losses, where you did everything right, made the right call and fell victim to dumb luck? Luck is just as dumb as it was back then, it’s just using its stupidity in your favor right now. Coaches will advise teams not to get too high or too low. You’re not as bad as it seems when things are down, and you’re not as good as it seems right now.

Enjoy the hot streak, but don’t draw the conclusion that you’ve turned into a guru or have a keenly developed gut feel for things. That will lure you into taking risks you shouldn’t, and that’s a habit that doesn’t wear off as quickly as a hot streak might.

If you’ve won a bunch of college football games in a row, that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly an expert on boxing or hockey. It’s not the time to venture into new territory, just because your bets are paying off.

Increase Amounts Slightly, Not the Number

There’s a temptation to “ride the wave” and get as much out of your hot streak as you can. The most obvious way to do that is a potential trap.

When you started betting on sports, you came to a decision on how many games you could wager on in a given day or week. Regardless of your rationale, your logic was good then, and it still is. The fact that you’re currently winning doesn’t mean you should increase the number of bets you make in a given time period.

Part of the reason you’re winning is that your process of research and prep is working. Increasing the amount of action you’re taking often means spending less time doing that all-important work ahead of time. And when the winning stops, you won’t feel in the mood to go back to that grind again. So your best bet is to keep doing the work and, hopefully, reaping the rewards.

Use Your Bankroll Wisely

On the other hand, you can maximize the impact of your winning streak by upping the amount you’re betting. Don’t go crazy or anything, but your recent luck should have increased your bankroll, meaning you have more available to wager.

Take a percentage of what you’ve made and use that to bump up your bets slightly, if you feel the temptation. But also take a percentage and set it aside for the hard times that will surely come, eventually.

That means keeping track of how things are going. That might seem obvious, but it’s a common mistake for someone on a hot streak. When all the shots are falling, you might not be as careful at keeping track of what shots you’re putting up.

You’ll want to know when things are cooling off, so you can dial back the amount you’re risking to your normal level of betting, and hot streak or cold, you don’t want to trust your feelings. You’ll need the hard data.