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May 16, 2017
May 16, 2017

4 betting lessons from Sir Alex Ferguson

What are Ferguson's secrets of success?

Which mistakes did he regret the most?

What does discipline mean in betting?

4 betting lessons from Sir Alex Ferguson

With the release of his latest book, Leading, Sir Alex Ferguson took a step back from soccer memoirs to reveal the secrets of his winning ways in the 38 years he spent managing Manchester United and Aberdeen. What are his secrets of success? What can bettors learn from it? Read on to find out.

Accumulating 49 trophies at the top level of Scottish and English football, Sir Alex Ferguson has gone down in the history of soccer as one of the most successful managers ever. His name represents success, leadership and of course, trophies.

What Sir Alex Ferguson achieved with Leading is an inspirational guide full of lessons that can be applied in any environment where the goal is to win.

So, what can bettors who want to make money learn from Leading? We did the reading for you and summed it up into four key lessons.

1. Obsession to win

Sir Alex Ferguson did not just want to win, he was obsessed with it. The famous manager states that for 26 years he was married to Manchester United.

"My wife was prepared to accept that sacrifice, she was great. I know not every wife would do that, obviously, but she understood my obsession,” he admits.

Finishing second was not an option for the Scot.

“At some point in my life, the desire and need to win outstripped my fear of failure. Winning was a matter of pride," he writes.

The outcome? During his reign at Manchester United the Red Devils finished as runners-up on five occasions, yet ended up as champions the following season in each of those five. That is how much Ferguson detested losing. 

Let’s see how that applies in betting. If you are to make money in betting, you must want it obsessively. But which bettor in his right mind does not want to make money, right? Well, wanting something and being obsessed with it are quite different.

Behavioural studies indicate that most bettors bet for entertainment, for social acceptance or out of boredom; with winning being a part of wishful thinking rather than a clearly defined goal. It is those who are obsessed with making money in betting who are more likely to build a betting model, apply risk management techniques and appropriate staking methods that can lead to consistent betting profits.

2. Admitting mistakes

Despite having an image of a tyrant, Ferguson does not refrain from admitting his regrets - the selling of his son to Wolves, the ferocious bawling-out to Mark McGhee for celebrating Aberdeen’s European Cup Winner’s Cup over Real Madrid in 1983 and announcing to Jaap Stam that he is being sold to Lazio in a petrol station are just a few examples cited in the book.

Although it is tempting to think that the recipe for success doesn’t include mistakes, Ferguson makes it clear that it was his failures that taught him the most.

Although it is tempting to think that the recipe for success does not include mistakes, Ferguson makes it clear that it was his mistakes and failures that taught him the most. What does that mean for bettors who are determined to make money? 

In the article How to build a betting model, we emphasise the importance of testing your strategy and monitoring results. It is important to remember that a profitable model needs to be maintained as time progresses and this is only possible if a bettor keeps an open eye for possible errors.

3. Think long-term

One issue that Ferguson is highly critical of in Leading is the prevailing tendency of soccer clubs to replace managers on a frequent basis.  

When he took over Manchester United, Liverpool was the dominant force in English football. Ferguson kept his focus both on the next game and on setting the building blocks for long-term success. In his attempt to create the most powerful team in Europe, he admits that he would rather lose a player than sacrifice the principles that contributed towards his long-term vision.

The same applies to betting. If it is all about making money this weekend, a series of losing bets is likely to entice you to bet bigger in order to recuperate losses. If, however, losing bets are seen as the normal variation of random outcomes, a series of unlucky results will have zero impact on your strategy and therefore on your overall winnings.

To learn how to avoid the pitfalls of short-term thinking, go straight to the article How does luck influences short-term betting.

4. Discipline is key

Last but not least, Ferguson attributes his success to discipline.

“I always felt that our triumphs were an expression of the consistent application of discipline," he writes.

In the book, he admits that his tough approach with players might have cost United some silverware. His famous fall-outs with players like David Beckham, Roy Keane and Ruud Van Nistelrooy are the most high-profile examples.

"I place discipline above all else. It might have cost us several titles, but if I had to repeat things I'd do it precisely the same”, the Manchester United boss adds.

But what does discipline mean in betting? In the article The dangers of weighting probability from intuition we explain that the key to consistent winnings in betting is expected value (i.e. how much we can expect to win on average per bet).

With most bettors measuring the value of a bet based on one's perception of the potential returns, we strongly recommend that if you choose to take away only one thing from Ferguson's book, may it be the importance of discipline in calculating the expected value of your bets.

As with all good advice, however, the trick is not in knowing, but in implementing. Whether or not you decide to apply Ferguson’s advice to your betting is up to you. One thing is for sure though; Leading is a must-read book for all soccer fans. It is simply impossible not to enjoy being in Ferguson’s company. 

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