So what defines success in sports? Taking some of the biggest sporting stars like Leo Messi, Floyd Mayweather, Anthony Joshua, Novak Djokovic, and many others as an example, what do you think was the decisive factor in their edge over equally talented and skilled opponents. Do you think they worked harder than others or were naturally more talented, or was it simply just luck?
Coin toss example
We have to simplify our model & remove the personal preference factor from it, in order to make it straightforward & transparent. An ol good coin toss will help us achieve this. Take any results and replace wins & losses with tails & heads. This will help us better understand the nature of winning steaks and, moreover, show us how our perception of it is already biased.
So, statistically speaking, our chances of witnessing a 6-head (or -tail) run in a set of 100 tosses is approximately 75%, which is quite high. However, increasing the streak up to 10 will cut the probability chances down to 10%. If you take any 100-toss record and try to examine it, you will find out that your brain is automatically picking out the most easily definable patterns. Drawing your attention, do these patterns actually tell you anything about the period during which they occurred? Does that mean that head or tails had an edge during that time or were more skilled or even luckier? Well, considering it was just an old school coin toss - NO! According to the probability, something like a consecutive occurrence of the same outcomes just happens, without any special outside force affecting it.
Hopefully, this helps you understand the topic a bit better. Moving on, the same concept applies to professional athletes, however, the way we comprehend them can (and most likely will) affect our decisions and bias our estimations. This phenomenon of intuitively leaning towards irrational pattern continuation is tightly related to The Gambler’s Fallacy.
The role of skill
How can we talk about sports and not mention the skill factor? While thousands of sports betting experts and analysts cannot find a universal formula, let’s try to figure out what role does skill plays in achieving success. Speaking about the best professional athletes in the world it is hard to make a strong claim that skill has nothing to do with their tremendous and sometimes exceptional achievements. Using the concept of the coin toss, we can treat skill as a weighted side of the coin. Thus, being a decisive factor during the performance (or coin toss). However, having a «weighted side» never guarantees you anything, just leaving the question about the role of skill open.
Moving on, in reality, there is no definite answer about what share of skill or luck is in the mix. Winning (and even losing) streaks are nothing else but a sophisticated combination of factors, among which there is skill & luck. Simply ignoring either one will affect our assessment and make us over- or underestimate the team’s or player’s chances of winning or keeping their streak alive. Let us also not forget about the specifics of some sports and leagues. There are plenty of examples that American sports are more balanced than European ones, in order to bring a more even competition. Knowing that, we can make an assumption that luck has a bigger role in their proceedings.
We hope this information found you well and answered at least some of your questions. While the above information is important, we would also like to make a stress on one more thing. Regardless of the share of luck and/or skill in any of the winning streaks, please, DO NOT treat any form of guides as a definite indicator. In other words, do not overestimate the winning chances of a 3-game winning team over the team that lost 2 of its last consecutive matches, and vice versa.
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