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Philosophy from Gambling: Psychology & Personal Development in ‘Sports Betting Pure’

A philosophical discussion about sports betting and gambling, based on my e-book Sports Betting Pure: The Educated Bet, which is now published here for free download.

Pure: free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind; free from extraneous matter.
Philosophy: a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs. an attitude of rationality, patience, composure, and calm in the presence of troubles or annoyances.
Sports Betting Pure: A CHALLENGE…

The Dolphins score a touchdown and Homer celebrates (spilling his Duff beer in the process) while Lisa copies his cheering. Homer lets it slip that he bet $50 on the game, but Lisa doesn’t understand why.
Homer: [Gambling is] a little thing daddies do… to make football more exciting.
Lisa: What could be more exciting than the savage ballet that is pro football?
Homer: You like ice cream, don’t you?
Lisa:  Uh huh.
Homer: And don’t you like ice cream better when it’s covered with hot fudge? And mounds of whipped cream? (getting carried away) And chopped nuts? And, ooh, those crumbled-up cookie things they mash up? Mmm, crumbled-up cookie things.
Lisa: So gambling makes a good thing even better?

The Simpsons, ‘Lisa the Greek’

Sports and Gambling: An Inevitable Match

The lures of both sports and gambling are apparent and ancient: throughout history, sports has served multiple functions considered essential to society; while gambling has had rising and falling prominence in societies of every place and age*. Given the excitement and the stakes common to both, it’s inevitable that the combination of sports and gambling would appear to many as a perfect match (as Homer explains simplistically), particularly during an age in which both are prominent.

*See The Social Function of Sports and The Ups And Downs Of Gambling for concise articles on these two themes.

During adolescence, following sports was one of my main sources of entertainment, primarily in a social context but with an intellectual aspect as well. Meanwhile, gambling in various forms became a growing source of fun, sports betting being a unique favourite of mine. Notably, a bridge between these two activities formed in secondary school, where a few of my friends and I (being in relative safety at the back of the classroom) started a tabular contest to see who could best predict Premier League football matches. Despite there being no stakes involved, just pure kudos, our little prediction league was fun, satisfying, and a challenge looked forward to every week.

Betting on Sports: An Intellectual Challenge

The above anecdote highlights the essential basis for my enjoyment of sports betting, which in hindsight I can state as the reward for accurate prediction in events determined more by observable behaviour and conditions than by structured (and skewed) chance. Crucial for me, however, is that this enjoyment is based on and combines with that inherent to watching the relatively organic contests generated by sports, which – especially when following the wider drama of the seasonal competitions – are generally exciting and captivating even without any personal investment involved. Since I already followed sports with an interest in casual analysis and prediction, it was then a natural step to also ‘put my money where my mouth is’, so to speak; for above Homer’s simple motivation – ‘it makes football more exciting’ – is the unique intellectual challenge formed when applying sports knowledge to sports betting, its reward surpassing the pleasure of money or kudos obtained.

Thus, in my book (literally and figuratively), sports betting offers the sports fan an opportunity to utilize his knowledge and judgement for a more sophisticated form of gambling. Indeed, sports betting provides an arena for making intelligent wagered predictions with a depth that can even be approached philosophically as well as strategically—although it was only later that I would fully appreciate this dimension.

Priorities in Sports Betting: Desire and Motive in Habits and Routine

My early years of sports betting were characterized by a routine formed to suit my basic desire, which was to have frequent chances of winning a decent sum whilst betting small amounts of money. This desire is only clarified in hindsight, however, as I had not examined the essential motivation behind my sports betting habits during that time.

Eventually, I realized that my underlying priorities were not in order and that, crucially, there was a fundamental discord between my betting habits and my character. Specifically, it was the acknowledgement that I was routinely precluding my best judgement merely by allowing the odds to factor in my betting selections, that is, even though I wasn’t chasing large payoffs. In effect, I was spurning the very aspect of sports betting by which it offers the potential for the greatest gambler satisfaction: to earn rewards via insight and discernment to predict organic social contests.

Philosophy in Sports Betting: A Constructive Attitude

The prompt to examine my behaviour and ideals in sports betting marked the beginning of what is essentially a philosophical attitude towards it. By a process of trial and error, I discovered the principles fundamental to ensuring that I always bet intelligently, as well as the methods to do so effectively and enjoyably. For the goal was not just to establish a rational and constructive betting practice, but to also discover the conditions necessary to achieve a continuous sense of satisfaction in sports betting. Soon enough, I succeeded in harmonizing these often conflicting criteria—a harmony that, in a sense, represents the underlying challenge of betting on sports.


Sports Betting Pure: The Educated Bet

Several years hence, having achieved a state of ultimate personal satisfaction in sports betting, I decided to record in writing what I considered to be wisdom that others may profit from. The end product of this endeavour is a book I have titled Sports Betting Pure: The Educated Bet, where ‘Pure’ signifies the philosophical essence and ‘Educated’ signifies the aspects of knowledge and strategy.

Psychology and Personal Development in Sports Betting

While the book is specifically about sports betting practice, the various discussions within feature themes and concepts that also apply to gambling in general. More significant here, however, are the themes and concepts that relate directly to psychology and personal development, which together form the philosophical dimension of the book.

The Fear of ‘Not Winning’: A Psychological Trap in Gambling

An example of the psychological aspect is in the book’s section titled ‘Banish the Fear of “Not Winning”’. The feeling of ‘not winning’ arises from a mindset in which the thought of a particular bet is irrevocably tied to the outcome, i.e. whether or not a bet is placed. Thus, at the moment of conception, the bettor feels that his fortunes are entwined with this possible outcome, hence compelling him to place a bet on it purely as insurance against this outcome becoming a winner whilst he has not wagered on it (in which case he would ‘lose’ despite having not wagered): this is a bet placed from the fear of not winning. In the subsection ‘The Lotto Trap’, I further expose this pitfall by illustrating how the lotto (national or state) represents a common and potent exploiter of this psychological mechanism.

Psychological Factors in Gambling: Revealing Scenarios

Sports Betting Pure is not meant to only advise sports bettors but to also explain how its principles were realized, to reveal and highlight various psychological factors common to gambling, sports betting, and self-improvement. Hence, the book frequently features both retrospective and hypothetical scenarios to help describe and explain the principles. The overarching intent is for the material to serve as an intellectual ‘stepping stone’ for the reader, affording him maximum opportunity to stimulate his thoughts and ideas in multiple contexts; whilst also providing a clear set of directives for improvement in sports betting that can be readily adopted as a template.

Society and Gambling: Environment and Compulsion

Note: Although not directly relevant to Sports Betting Pure or this article, this topic is significant enough to include a brief overview.

Since the predominance of mobile computing and wireless communications, allurements and opportunities for gambling have never been more pervasive in society. Occurring in an age of socio-cultural decline, these technological conditions within the post-millennial era appear to engender increasing degrees and forms of pathological gambling.

An indirect facilitator of this trend is the domination of video games and the proliferation of ‘gamification’ (essentially, the application of game design principles to everyday life). Since both of these influences (are admittedly designed to) target addictive pleasure mechanisms of the brain, as do many gambling games, video games and gamified media effectively form a societal gateway to increased gambling addiction. Indeed, it’s telling (and fitting, evidently) that in the age of online gambling, video games and social media, ‘customers’ have become ‘users’: a term originally applied solely to takers of drugs (excepting legalized drugs, of course) that’s inherently connotative of ‘addict(ion)’.

Ostensibly out of concern for the welfare of citizens and the integrity of society, officials and leaders often identify gambling as a social hazard that the state must therefore always keep under control. This social imperative is epitomized by the prevalent awareness-raising campaigns to warn of and counsel for gambling addiction; as well as publicized measures (being little more than gestures) to promote ‘responsible gambling’. Hypocritically, states establish and promote the most popular form of gambling, the lotto, which (perhaps even more ironically) is incomparably the least favourable to winning, in terms both of odds and the opportunity to improve one’s chances (i.e. by skill and strategy).

Thus, it’s notable here that the societal conditions of the present era are cultivating behaviours adverse to the possibility of innocuous gambling; and thereby, to the intelligent combining of sports watching with sports betting.


Sports Betting Pure: The Educated Bet is an e-book based on personal experience, written to offer a philosophy and strategy for betting on sports with maximum efficiency and ultimate satisfaction. A free copy of the e-book can be downloaded via the link at the end of the article.

Philosophical Themes of Sports Betting Pure: The Educated Bet

Specifically for the context of this article, I have outlined the scenarios and concepts discussed in Sports Betting Pure that closely relate to psychology and personal development. While being directly associated with experiences common to gambling, the significance of these concepts and scenarios can also be appreciated independently of any gambling context, as presented thematically below.

Conditions for Authenticity

  • To recognize and correct discrepancies between one’s behaviour (overt) and values (underlying).
  • To acknowledge a subtle lack of moderation (in a habit) and its disproportionate significance (to congruent behaviour).
  • To accurately assess overall satisfaction and frustration (in a regular activity) and to determine the conditions (personal factors) for each.
  • To detect feelings of regret and to trace the cause back to a psychological incongruence (between personal ideals and actions).

Conditions for Efficiency  

  • To draw up a basic plan (directives) for the improvement of a complex routine activity.
  • To identify and consult relevant information so as to enhance judgement.
  • To refine capabilities of prediction by harnessing one’s unique intuition (knowledge embedded in the form of perceived patterns).
  • To determine one’s parameters of acceptability for the various types and degrees of undesirable outcomes common to a particular activity.

Conditions for Rationality

  • To NOT sabotage fair challenges in life by corrupting them with emotionally-driven behaviour.
  • To NOT prematurely discard ideas (for an improved routine) due to the discomfort of abandoning old habits (such as with the ‘comfort zone’, ‘selective memory’ and ‘self-deception’).
  • To purify judgement by grounding the decision-making process in one’s observational knowledge (as opposed to being oriented by appealing possibilities).
  • To recognize that feeling things ‘not obtained’ to be a ‘loss’ produces an underlying imperative (fear-based) to compulsively pursue (whatever is considered valuable).

Conditions for the Discernment of Circumstances

  • To recognize the divergence between the mindset engendered by the planning phase of an endeavour and that engendered by the phase of implementation (the diversion of enthusiasm and sabotaging of original intention).
  • To clearly distinguish between monetary reward and intellectual reward for an activity that involves both; to order one’s priorities and calibrate decision-making.
  • To discern and address legitimate circumstances in which personal rules could be modified appropriately, yet without compromising the personal principles behind those rules.
  • To critically evaluate the (implied) soundness of ‘expert’ advice or ‘popular’ trends, rather than being influenced by media opinion.

Sports Betting Pure: The Educated Bet (eBook)

Having finally developed my original notes for this book, Sports Betting Pure is written to allow other sports bettors to profit – figuratively, if not also literally – from what I had learned through experience. However, if you have an interest in sports betting and, in a context of general self-improvement, are also interested to explore the psychological and emotional factors common to betting on sports (as well as to gambling in general), this article was written to recommend the book on this account. In either case, download your copy of Sports Betting Pure: The Educated Bet to discover what you think.

Sports Betting Pure: The Educated Bet (eBook 2022)
Click to download the Sports Betting Pure e-book (PDF).

Questions and comments about the book or article can be sent via Leave a Reply (below), the Contact page of the site or the email address at the end of the book.


Author: Simon Kanzen

I value reading substantial literature, enjoy thought-provoking entertainment, and above all, I think every day. With Stepping Stones, I develop my thoughts in writing and share references to relevant media, intending for other readers and thinkers to find these writings useful.

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