Frigid in Hell: How do I break a cold streak?

James Harden heads to the charity stripe with the usual amount of bearded bravado. His gait resembles a cake-walk considering his career FT percentage hovers around 85%. These ‘gimme’ points are crucial since I have the 1H total over 113.5 for the Rockets-Jazz. With 1:44 left in the 2nd, I’m nervously sitting at 102. The bearded-one has been bricklayin’ from beyond the arch since tip-off. Now there is no Rudy Gobert and his Stifle-Tower-frame clogging the lane. These two points are a certainty. Harden takes some gratuitous dribbles and raises his arms for a freebie. 

Calm, Cool. Collective. Clank! 

I yell a few things that would shame my mother. I take a deep breathe and tell myself one out of two will have to do, and we still have a shot at covering. Harden again toes the line for what is now a guaranteed point. Slow. Steady. Smooth. “Son…of…a…brick!” 

I’ll spare you the remaining histrionics but if you’re an avid sports bettor, I think you can guess this wager didn’t come through for me over the next two, excruciating minutes. And, of course, it lost by 1.5 points! Just one of those free throws would have gotten a lot of degenerates a push and both of them would have sent us all to the window. These are the types of gut-wrenching losses that come repeatedly when you’re on a cold streak. 

This was just one of the many close losses during my last frigid stretch. I promised myself that during the next cold streak, I would finally write a blog about it. I would document what ‘hell on earth’ is like for a sports bettor.. So here we be, boys and girls – welcome to my lowest point. When you’re on a cold streak, all of a sudden your usual capping methods blow-up in your face. You try to tweak it this way and the wager goes that way. You try to go that way and the wager would have went the way it usually goes. The ol’ ‘reverse-reverse’ is going on. You’d think that would put you back in the right direction, but not during a cold spell. Seasoned sports bettors know precisely what I’m talking about! Nothing is working! 

Sports wagering will bring the toughest man to his knees. It will have you believing in magic, superstitions, curses, and most of all it will have you convinced that God hates you and you’re just not meant to ever win again. While it may be true that God actually hates you, I promise he doesn’t have a wager lose specifically to smite you. There are too many other people involved, and unlike you, some of them are probably decent human beings. 

So why? Why the hell do we keep picking games that leave us agonizing, infuriated, face-palming, and above all else—broke? How do we break the ice and at the very least just get back to grinding small profits? Hell, even some break even days would be, in fact, a god-send. 

We would kill for a break even day at this point so like Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation, you can at least say, “I didn’t lose.”

That would be righteous.

Here are some helpful tips that may guide you to such nirvana. Let me preface them by saying that I consider anything over three straight losing days a cold streak. After those three days it could last anywhere from another few days to up to a month. We’ve all had bad months but if you continue to lose almost every day, for over a month (six weeks at the most!) you’re in the wrong business and read no further. Most professional bettors are prone to at least one awful month out of the year, two at the most. We all have our break even months mixed in there but we should really only have one to two stinkers in a calendar year.

Without further ado…let’s get to some solutions.

  1. This is extremely difficult to do but you have to take time off! There will always be more wagers waiting for you when you’re not cursed. That is the absolute beauty of sports betting. Omitting this coronavirus and these strange days upon us, there are only a few days each year where the most popular sports aren’t in action – MLB’s all-star break. Many sports handicappers are competitive by nature, so when they start losing, they want to keep playing until they win. It’s not like a traditional job when you have the weekends off. In fact, the weekends are generally the busiest times. But like any job, and especially during a frigid stretch, you have to take a beat, recharge and refocus. A common mistake is only taking a one day reprieve. I promise that if you only take one day off you are very likely to pick-up right where you left off by losing the following day. You must take at least two days off and even more if you can manage. It doesn’t matter how great those wagers look and how convinced you are that you will turn it around on that next game – you’re almost certainly dead wrong.  The gambling gods laugh at your certainty. 

  1. This is as unorthodox as it gets but I have a long-time gambling buddy that swears by this method. He refuses to ever take a day off so when he is on a cold streak he has trained himself to fade himself. It’s completely insane but he will go through all his capping steps as usual, come up with his plays, then he bets the opposite side. Any capper out there can attest to how hard that is to do and just about nobody has that sort of self-discipline (if you could call it that). If you notice that your cold streaks are coming more than they used to, maybe see how you can adjust your strategies. It’s possible that your full games haven’t been doing well but maybe your first halves are showing ROI? First quarters? Keep track of your records in all sports and start to hone in on the ones that do better for you year after year. The ones that don’t continuously show ROI should be minimized or punted, all-together. In my case, I’ve never done great at the NFL or NCAAB, so in the last couple of years I’ve done less than half of the action that I used to but my ROI in both sports has gone up almost 10%. Less is more.

  1. Reduce unit size. If you are doubling and tripling down on a cold streak, you are going to martingale yourself right into the poor house. A martingale (chase system) has its’ place, but a cold streak is not that place. While I consider three straight days of losing the beginning of a cold streak, you’re not in ice cold territory until you’ve lost every day for about a week straight. And if you think it can’t get worse, it can, and almost definitely will. Cut your unit sizes in half or into a third of what you usually do. Just like it takes three days to begin a cold streak, it takes just as many winning days to get out of one. So if you’re starting to turn things around a little bit and have finally, miraculously, won three days in a row at reduced unit sizes, you’re now ready to go back up.

  1. If you’re being stubborn and insisting on not taking time off, try wagering on winning teams. In my handicapping, one of my favorite strategies is trusting the upper-echelon of teams to win for me. I know their lines can be shaded and the dogs going against them have more value, but bad teams always seem to find ways to lose in the same way good teams will find ways to cover for you. One of my core beliefs in handicapping is ‘it’s better to pass on a winner than bet on a loser’. In other words, if you don’t put a wager on a bad team, and they cover, so be it. It’s better than wagering on a bad team and getting exactly what you deserve when the losers inevitably find a way to lose. If you insist on going into the poor house betting Kansas Jayhawks, +35, in NCAAF – you deserve to be in the poor house. You may lose your wager betting on Alabama, -35, just the same, but chances are you’ll feel different about the loss having trusted a good team. I mean, you’re still such a loser that you mushed the best team in College Football, but at least you tried to pair yourself with a winner. It’s a step in the right direction with your approach. Losers surround themselves with losers and winners associate with winners – it’s Science. 

Now that we’ve discussed a few traditional ways of breaking cold streaks, let’s get to the fun stuff. Where would sports and sports betting be without superstitions? 

So in the spirit of wearing women’s undergarments while trying to breathe through our eyelids, and having Jobu bless our bats, let’s talk philosophical and spiritual ways of breaking cold streaks. I have the belief that when you are on a cold streak, you are universally attracted to losers, no matter what. While it’s step in the right direction, it may not matter if you target the best teams – they are assured to have their worst game of the season. If you handicap 10 plays, nine of them might be winners but you will definitely go with the one loser. If this is where you are in your wagering, maybe it’s time to get other things back into balance. Life things.

1. Clean your surroundings. Cleanliness is Godliness. When you’re already miserable – looking around at dirty floors, a dirty car, dirty counters will make you even more miserable. In China, just before the New Year, the Chinese believe in thoroughly cleaning their homes to bid farewell to the previous year. You need to bid farewell to all the bad ju-ju surrounding you. Get your lazy ass up and vacuum, do some laundry and do some dishes. If nothing else, for a little while it will help take your mind off how dumb you were for betting Kansas to cover the 35, in Norman. 

2. You’re full of bad thoughts and bad energy. Get down to the gym and get in a good workout. Or if you can no longer afford a gym membership because you lost that money chasing all your losers – with the Hawaii game at 2 AM ET – drop on the ground and do the prison workout (push-ups, sit-ups). Standing on your head is another remedy. It helps the blood flow to your brain and you release the stagnant blood that’s been there. Your current brain has you wagering Jacksonville State +4 on the road at Southeast Missouri State. These are two teams that you have never watched and can’t name one player on. Heck, you might not have even known these schools played Basketball before submitting that bet. In other words, your current brain is F’d – get some new blood flowing to it. In Chinese, your life force is called xi, in Indian it’s called prana, in Japanese it’s called ki. Whatever the word in whatever the language, yours is broken and you need to get it flowing correctly. Mindful meditation can also help restore the balance to mind and body.

3. Shave your head and/or your body. There is a theory that your hair is an extension of your mind and that it carries your previous thoughts and emotions. Think of all the agony pent-up in your hair! The time you got cute last week by fading a trend that is on a 10-0 run because this is the time it’s going to lose and you’re going to be the man/woman to do it. On Saturday when you lost three games in a row by the hook. Or how about this past Monday, when the Cowboys were on MNF and the only thing you could parlay them with was British Snooker and a 2AM Cricket match in Afghanistan? Are you starting to see the problem when you’re wagering at 2 AM? Just like going to the ATM in the middle of the night, there’s probably not a brilliant idea behind it. As we can see, there is some pure horror trapped in your hair. Get rid of it!

4. Eat better. This goes hand-in-degenerate-hand with the theory on exercise that it will help you just feel better. While that Big Mac at 2 AM might help you forget about the Korean Baseball game you just lost in walk-off fashion, for a few blissful minutes, the pain of trusting the Samsung Lions’ bullpen will be with you again shortly. If you need the feeling of being full to forget how truly empty you are inside, I promise if you eat a cup of cottage cheese and an apple you will be more than satisfied before crying yourself to sleep. The purpose is that you will wake-up feeling better knowing that you went for the healthy choice instead of being ‘supersized’. It’s a step in the right direction and moral victories are the only types of wins you’re getting right now.

I have some other suggestions that include spider webs, putting salt in the corners of your room and facing your bed East, but we’ll save those for another maniacal column. 

Well, that’s all for now, boys and girls. I hope you enjoyed reading about my agony as much as I didn’t enjoy sharing it. Some of you may not agree with my methods of breaking cold streaks and you rely on your own strategies. I invite you to share them and I will compile another blog, from professional cappers, on how they break cold streaks. I implore us all to learn from one another. Please share your winning ways and we can all do what we’re supposed to do – beat the books together.

Until next time, stop wagering Russian Table Tennis and chasing the Rainbows.

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