The Systems Vs Gut Feeling Debate

Updated: 1588 Other

There are various debates that go on amongstpeople involved in the betting world and which will probablycontinue indefinitely into the future. Some of them are fairly easyto understand, in horse racing for example is it better to bet towin or

The Systems Vs Gut Feeling Debate
Darren Brett Tipster Competition Manager

Horse Racing, greyhounds and snooker specialist with thirty years experience of writing about sport across multiple platforms. A QPR and Snooker fan

There are various debates that go on amongst people involved in the betting world and which will probably continue indefinitely.

online betting

Some of them are fairly easy to understand, in horse racing for example is it better to bet to win or each way?

Another classic is the “value v winners” argument, these questions we always attempt to answer at the betting school.

I thought I would look at in this blog at those who bet via a system or gut feeling” or maybe I could call it quantitative v qualitative selection methods”

Perhaps neither of these adequately explains the argument but what is meant by each side should become clear when reading these two opposing points of view.

How do you select?

Do you go with Instinct/Gut Feeling or Analysis/Opinion?

Trust The System/Quantitative Selection Methods

Some bettors insist that it is only by following a set process that manipulates information in a set way to arrive at selections, that bettors can consistently make a profit. 

online betting

In other words, if a different person followed the same method with the exact same information, they would always get the same answer.

These winning systems, by their nature, will only work while the bookmaker doesn't know about them, so people subscribing to this view are often very secretive about the system that they use. 

There is no betting system that can give 100% winning bets in the long run on any sport, 

But the argument goes that it is possible to find a system that can say with a known degree of certainty, what the outcome of an event will be. 

System Betting

No System will ever give 100% winning bets.

The odds offered by a bookmaker imply a certain chance of an outcome occurring, so it is possible to pick out bets where the real chance of winning is better than that implied by the odds which will result in a long term profit if bets are only placed on these selections.

Trust Your Gut /Qualitative Selection Methods

Some betters believe that those who try and apply some sort of rigid system to their betting are bound to lose. 

Many of these people are not sticking pins in newspapers, they will read the form, examine league tables for football teams, and find out a wealth of other relevant information. 

This information will have an influence on the action that they take, but there is not a systematic way that they use certain information in order to come to the bets that they will make.

online betting

They see all situations as different and feel that the only way to make a sensible decision is for them to be aware of all the relevant information, but at the end of the day to make a call. 

Different people who subscribe to this view might come to different conclusions about what to bet on, even if they have the exact same information. 

Bettors subscribing to this view trust in their own abilities that their decision making will lead to long term profits.

What is certain is that there are some people on both sides of this argument who are completely wrong. 

Many people take in information that they see as relevant and then come to their own conclusions which over a period of time are proven by their bank balances to have been wrong too often.

Similarly, there are many examples of people who thought that they had developed the perfect system that was sure to make them a millionaire, but few of them ever do well enough from betting to consider it any more than an expensive hobby. 

Of course, the people who are wrong, do not really concern the aspiring profitable bettor. 

The information that is needed, is on which side of the argument are the people who are right? 

Both Options?

Maybe a mix of gut and analysis would suit most punters?

The problem is that the answer is both. 

There are some people who would subscribe to the first view who have been very successful in betting and are able to make a comfortable living out of it, albeit a small number. 

There is, however, also a small number of people who make a living from betting who are on the other side, so this information doesn't really settle the argument. 

The main points that would be made by people on both sides of the argument are as follows:

Pro Systems/Quantitative Methods

  • It's Cheap to Test Out if a System Works
  • Gut Feeling Much More Difficult to Back-test
  • Systems are More Likely to be Transferable

Making calls is something that everyone can do, but not everybody can do well. 

We don't know if we can do this profitably until we try, and it is very difficult to look back at old results and be honest about the calls we would have made when we already know the results.

online betting

It requires a lot of discipline to make calls on outcomes over a long period without betting, in order to check if we are able to do so profitably and to simply start betting without knowing our abilities at making calls can be very expensive. 

With a rigid system where there is no emotional input, backtesting can be done much more easily.

If this is done properly then by the time money is staked on selections a bettor can be reasonably sure that money will be made in the long run, or at least that large amounts won't be lost. 

If a system works for a certain division in a certain sport, it may easily be changed to work in a different division of the same sport, or even in a different sport.


You need to always check how the system or selection process has performed - in many cases without risking any cash.

Gut feeling relies on the person's understanding and knowledge of a sport and division, so gut feeling much less likely to be transferable.

Anti Systems/Quantitative Methods

  • Systems can take up a lot of time and require a lot of information
  • A gut feeling can evolve
  • A system “would have worked” in the past isn't guaranteed to work in the future
  • Some systems are complicated and might need a computer to use them

The process of making a call is a lot quicker and so the gut feeling bettor doesn't need as much time to make his picks. 

Systems often need a lot of information, not all of which is readily available, a system user will miss a bet because of missing information; someone who is able to make a judgement based on the information available may not. 

online betting

Also sometimes detailed information can only be accessed at a cost that will reduce winnings.

By definition someone who is making calls on their bets will not be following the same rigid process each time; this means their process can evolve.

Even with back-testing, it can never entirely be ruled out that a system worked in past because of luck, or that it won't work in the future because of bad luck. 

Complicated systems often need the use of a computer, but sometimes people want to bet in a situation where it is not practicable to have use of one; also computers are only as clever as the instructions that they are executing. 

A bettor could have the perfect system that is very complicated, but if a mistake is made with the information they put into a computer, there is likely to be a problem with the picks they get out of the computer.

This is a debate that will run and run, but it isn't necessary to be on one side or the other. 

Some bettors have a system that makes selections for them but they will check these selections manually and sometimes will decide with gut feeling not to back them. Having made a system it could be argued that to overrule it is wrong. 


Whatever system you decide on you need to build in a degree of flexibility when circumstances change.

However, a bettor who has a good understanding of the assumptions on which a system is built should recognise that there will be times when these assumptions do not hold. 

For example, a system for football that didn't take into account changes in team selection is assuming that the teams will field similar teams in future games than they have in the past.

If for some reason a team is fielding a massively weakened team, then it is quite normal to ignore that game for betting purposes because the assumptions of the system do not hold. 

There are probably as many systems for predicting football matches as there are people who bet on football, in this series of blogs, some of the most common ones will be explained. 

Whichever side of the argument readers are on, I hope it will be interesting for everyone to read about these systems and to see how they fare when they are tested out.

No Comments

There are no comments here. Be the first to comment...

Keep Reading

By using this site you confirm you are 18+ and consent to our use of cookies and processing of personal data as set out in our Privacy Policy
Got it!