5 Sports Emotional Gamblers Should Avoid Betting On

| December 8, 2019 8:03 am PDT

The date was July 8, 2014. I was sitting in a small apartment in London, England, with a good friend of mine, who we will call “Mike” for the purpose of this introduction.

Mike, wearing an old Brazil replica shirt, was treating his fingernails like an all you can eat buffet. While I sat there, still nursing my first beer, he had already thrown three of them down the chute. He was as fidgety as an opportunistic bank robber, jumping up and down in his chair like a jack in the box.

I know you probably won’t remember the relevance of the date above off the top of your head. Well, it was the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi-final between the hosts, Brazil, and Germany. A pretty big deal, all things considered.

Now, the reason why my buddy was acting erratically was that Germany’s Thomas Müller had opened the scoring in the 11th minute. It sounds like a pretty innocuous thing to be upset by, I agree.

But when you factor in that this friend of mine had placed three grand on Brazil to win that game in the heat of the moment, you can probably have a little more sympathy for his plight, am I right?

Well, prepare for your sympathy to disappear faster than a fart in a thunderstorm when I tell you the reason why he placed so much cash on Brazil to beat Germany.

It was because his girlfriend was from Rio, and he met her two years prior, on July 8. He said it was “a sign.”

Yup. Stupidity in its greatest form.

The Dangers of Emotional Gambling

Yes, Mike’s erratic behavior quickly turned from moderate anxiety to full-blown horror by the 29th minute of that game.

Unfortunately for Mike, Germany decided to run absolutely rampant on Brazil and had clocked up an unbelievable, unprecedented score of 5-0 before the half-hour mark. I would have laughed uncontrollably, like the great friend I am, IF it hadn’t been so unlucky.

Brazil went on to win 7-1. Oh, and not before Mike had lost the equivalent of another $500 trying to guess the next goalscorer.

Classic emotional gambling, sure, but it was not as though he would listen to what I had to say.

Looking back, I will admit that my laughter was somewhat contained by the fact that I would be picking up the tab and buying the beers for Mike until he climbed out of the hole that he had dug for himself, figuratively speaking.

How Not to Gamble

Now, I know we all have several stories of when bets go wrong. For the most part, these bets are — like the ones that Mike placed on Brazil — placed for visceral reasons, rather than on logic.

There is always that weird relationship between gambling and emotion that some punters just can’t seem to separate. We know what makes us tick, sure, but is there more to plunging stupid money down on silly bets than meets the eye?

I remember Mike’s Brazil bets as an example of how not to gamble. But something occurred to me recently — Mike would only ever screw up majorly when betting on particular sports, especially soccer.

Could there be some sports that are just all wrong for emotional gamblers? Or even some that emotional gamblers should be extra careful when approaching?

I think there are some sports that could certainly fit into that category. Here are five that you should probably avoid betting on if you can’t keep your emotions in check.

Horse Racing

Ah, horse racing. You just knew that the “sport of kings” was going to feature on this list at some point, didn’t you?

Well, how could it not? For many, romance and nostalgia are two of the big factors that make this one of the most beloved sports to gamble on in the world. When you look at places like the UK and Ireland, horse racing is so deeply embedded in the culture that it breeds a particular fascination.

Sure, some might be able to pop into their high street bookmakers once a year to bet on the Grand National, but for others, it is a part of life. Having watched their fathers and grandfathers fall in love with the sport, they too get sucked in, going as far as to inherit their bad habits of emotional gambling.

Some who bet on the horses do so by studying form and applying measured and stable methods when putting their money down. Others bet on a whim, simply picking a horse with a name they like or backing a grey horse regardless of its talents.

All around the world, horse races are often rapid-fireand readily available to punters, too. This means that you can lose a lot of money on a few races within the space of minutes.

Losing a lot of money in such a short time period can lead many to chase their losses. This is a common mistake that many emotional gamblers find themselves committing, and one that is almost sure to land them in a lot of trouble.

So, my advice to you emotional gamblers with a penchant for the horses is this — start betting with your head rather than your heart.


When trying to stay north of being pulled into an emotional gambling quagmire, another sport that comes to mind is MMA.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is the fastest-growing sport on the planet and has been enjoying major commercial success over the later part of the 2010s.

The most popular brand on the planet right now is the UFC, which — unlike Asia’s ONE FC or, to some extent, Bellator MMA — places a huge emphasis on drama and personal gripes between fighters.

After all, this tends to sell pay-per-views, which means big money for the business and the fighters that excel in this field. The perfect example is Conor McGregor, who has just about managed to piss off every fighter on the roster.

So, when it comes to building a character like McGregor, fans will either love them or hate them. The ones that love them will buy pay-per-views to watch them win, while those who hate them will buy pay-per-views to watch them lose.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

After all, there are numerous intriguing odds and markets available on UFC betting sites these days.

Many MMA betting fans will place huge bets on fighters based upon how they have been promoted by the UFC, for example, with the likes of McGregor leading fans to bet on him or against him in their droves every time he fights.

Given that MMA can be a very brutal sport at times, this only adds to the sense of excitement. Some can let that excitement get the better of them, which taps into their emotions and leads to silly bets.

And that is the last thing any smart bettor should be doing.


Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. In terms of global coverage, there is no other game that can quite match it.

When it comes to gambling, soccer is number one in terms of global gambling revenue. Whether it’s the English Premier League, La Liga, or Serie A, punters flock to place bets on soccer.

Now, I’m not saying that all soccer betting fans place their wagers without thinking them out first. But there are many who get caught up in emotional gambling when backing their favorite clubs or even their countries.

With cult-like fans who get caught in bitter rivalries between clubs and countries, we often see more trouble between soccer fans than any other sport known to man. Crazy soccer derbies such as Celtic vs. Rangers and Boca Juniors vs. River Plate are just two examples.

As a game that has enjoyed massive popularity for decades, soccer can lead to an emotional response that few other sports can match.

International tournaments like the FIFA World Cup and the Copa America can really get the pulses going. For many nations, bad blood and politics can get caught up in the mix, leading fans to take things a little more seriously than they probably should.

If you think that this emotional response to certain fixtures is lost when it comes to placing bets, think again. After all, many gamblers who are avid fans of the sport want to get involved as much as possible. One of the ways they do this is by throwing money behind their team winning a game, a group, or even a tournament.

Watch any major soccer match to witness the collective euphoria among fans when their team scores an important goal. That rush can often be felt tenfold if one of those fans has a lot of money riding on that goal or their team to win the game.


In the United States, soccer will always be behind American sports for the average betting fan.

By far, the most popular sport to bet on in the US is football. This sport truly grips the nation like no other, with sportsbooks taking millions of dollars in bets every week.

Whether it is college football or the NFL, many betting fans love nothing more than getting their money down. As with all the sports on this list, there is a massive portion of those gamblers that bet smart, but others just cannot help getting carried away.

Every year, the Super Bowl sees uncountable amounts of cash placed on the big game. A lot of money comes from casual bettors, who wouldn’t really be interested in betting on regular-season games or even the playoffs.

Sure, these casual bettors will, for the most part, bet on a hunch or because their city has made it to the promised land. Others will, simply enough, just get caught up in the occasion and want a piece of the pie.

Then, there are the ladies and gentlemen that just cannot help betting with their hearts over their heads. Whether it is on the moneyline, the spread, or a number of prop bets, they will throw their money around without a second thought for the consequences.

And getting burned is never any fun, whether you are betting on football, baseball, or any other sport.


Last but not least, we have boxing.

In its primitive form, prizefighting has always attracted a large number of betting enthusiasts. From its brutal early days of 40 round+ fights to the bright lights and glamor of world title bouts in Las Vegas, few sports get the heart beating as fast with gamblers.

It’s fairly easy to understand why boxing can send emotional gamblers running to the bookmakers faster than Usain Bolt being chased by a pack of wild dogs.

For example, the sport of boxing, by nature, can be wildly exciting. You have two fighters gunning to beat the crap out of the other guy, where possible, so picking your fighter is often the best way to enjoy the spectacle.

Some boxing betting fans have watched “their guy” rise up through the ranks, making a name for themselves through bloody battles and epic wars. These punters might have even won a lot of money backing this fighter and will throw even more money down on them to win their next fight without even studying the caliber of their next opponent.

This is emotional gambling in its purest form, and boxing just seems to attract this type of betting enthusiast.

Of course, there is more to this type of gambling with boxing. The promotional aspect of the sport often sees fighters built up as warriors entering the battlefield to fight for their cities or countries. Sometimes, even their continents.

These fighters engage in vicious pre-fight trash talk, even going as far as to get involved in brawls at press conferences. The media scoops it up before spoon-feeding it to the public, who can’t help but get as excited a young child on Christmas Eve.

Compelled by this lust for more excitement, those same fans — sure that this war between two fighters who absolutely hate each other is going to be epic — throw massive amounts of cash down on their guy.

Yeah… that doesn’t always work out well.

Rather than betting on boxing on account of how you feel, it is always a better idea to think things through. If you want to learn more, here are things I look for when betting on boxing matches.

It’s a much better way to go about things.

Final Thoughts

Imagine betting stupid amounts of money on a country to win a soccer match because you met a girl from that country and because the team was playing on the anniversary of that date.

I’ll be honest with you; it’s not the smartest move.

I’m sure some of you have your own stories that would make my friend’s one look remotely sane. Hopefully, you have all learned that emotional gambling is something to avoid.

For anyone looking for a little assistance in getting out of this habit, check out this guide to dealing with your emotions when betting on sports.

It might just save you from some embarrassing situations further down the line.

Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA and boxing.

A self-confessed sports fanatic, when Adam is not watching and writing about rugby, soccer, Gaelic Games, and F1, he can often be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a big fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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