Study: Sports savvy won't help your bracket

By Celeste Tholen Rosenlof | Posted - Mar 23rd, 2013 @ 8:33am

SALT LAKE CITY — Your careful calculations and configuration of your March Madness bracket don't mean you have a better chance at winning than someone without any sports knowledge, researchers claim.

Though you might think your repertoire of team and player stats might put you ahead of your clueless co-workers in the office bracket, Tel Aviv University Professor Pinhas Dannon's research shows it makes no difference.

"Sports gamblers seem to believe themselves the cleverest of all gamblers," Dannon said. "They think that with experience and knowledge — such as player's statistics, manager's habits, weather conditions, and stadium capacity — they can predict the outcome of a game better than the average person."

Unlike casino gamblers, who rely on Lady Luck and admittedly do it for the thrill, sport gamblers cognitively deceive themselves that they have control, Dannon said.


"Casino gamblers are more appropriately characterized as obsessives because they have less belief in themselves, and know that they will lose sooner or later. But they gamble anyway because they feel they need to," he said.

Researchers looked at soccer betting, enrolling 53 professional sports gamblers, 34 knowledgeable soccer fans who hadn't gambled before, and 78 non-gamblers without soccer knowledge. Each participant was asked to place a bet on final scores of 16 second-round matches of the Champion's League.

The overall results, which researchers expected to favor the group without prior knowledge, showed no difference between the three groups. The two most successful participants, however, had no soccer knowledge before the experiment.

"The outcome exposes the myth of knowledge as a powerful betting advantage. The sense of control that encourages sports gamblers in their betting is just an illusion," Tel Aviv University representatives said.

So go ahead, carry your lucky rabbit's foot through this year's tournaments. Next year though, you might have a better chance if you fill out your bracket by jersey color and design.

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