Have you ever looked at a slate of, let’s say, NFL fixtures and thought to yourself: I can see the Philadelphia Eagles beating the Dallas Cowboys this week?
You may have identified a list of reasons why you think that is the case, and that shortlisting process is known as ‘handicapping’ in sports betting circles.
Quite simply, somebody who performs this process of handicapping is known, unsurprisingly, as a ‘handicapper’.
Of course, the handicapper can work in both ways. Bookmakers employ their own team of handicappers to set their odds, calculate the money line and so on using their own in-house algorithms.
Meanwhile, your job as an ‘amateur’ handicapper, if you will, is to spot where the value wagers lie within those prices.
There are two ways in which we all handicap a game in any sport. The first is the conscious, deliberate act of handicapping – i.e. ‘doing your homework’ – while the second is that innate gut feeling we get about how we envisage the action unfolding.
Both have their uses, although of course, the tangible research you do ahead of a game is likely to be more effective than more cerebral handicapping, simply because we can have our opinions altered by psychological phenomenon such as confirmation bias, the recency effect and so on. But that’s a whole other discussion for another day!
Professional handicappers sit down with a pen and paper and jot down all of their thoughts regarding a game.
Let’s say we are handicapping an NFL game. What factors should we be considering?
The first thing we should do automatically is look at the standings, and consider the positions of both teams in their respective conference(s). Allied to that is a consideration of recent form: has either team been on a heater by winning three or four games in a row? Is either side in the midst of a losing streak?
That information gives us a foundation for our handicapping, but of course, we need more context.
Have key players been injured or suffered a loss of form? Have there been important roster changes? Has the team just been lucky/unlucky in their recent games? Has the weather been a factor?
Other factors then come into play. We can look at offensive and defensive strength, how strong a home-field advantage is, preparation time for the game, and so on.
Think of handicapping as like baking a cake. All of your items for analysis are the ingredients; you put them in the bowl, blend them together, stick the mixture in the oven and the proof of the pudding – your profit – will come in the eating!
Ultimately, sports wagering is a question of luck: you’re simply hoping that every aspect of your analysis falls into place on game day.
There’s that old adage in sport that ‘the harder I practise, the luckier I get’, and that certainly has some prescience when discussing handicapping, too.
You need to have a comprehensive understanding of all of the players and teams in your chosen sports. Just skimming the surface and looking at bare facts is rarely enough for sustainable, profitable handicapping, and that’s why professional handicappers utilize complex, underlying stats to further their opinions.
Another tip is to focus on niche sports and competitions to wager on. All of the sportsbooks employ seasoned handicappers to set their NFL lines, for instance, and so finding betting value can be difficult.
But what about college football? If you know the NCAA inside and out, you might just have an edge to exploit.
And do you know why the sportsbooks are so keen to promote parlays on their sites and apps? That’s because each time you add another selection, your probability of winning decreases exponentially.
So a tip that any seasoned handicapper will offer is to focus on single wagers. Yes, it will take a longer time to build a bankroll from marginal gains, but successful handicapping should be considered a long-term pursuit – not a ‘quick buck’ fix.
This cannot be stressed enough: a key part of your handicapping should be checking the various odds available out there with the dozens of sportsbooks covering your sport.
You can do hours of research on a particular game, but if the odds you take do not reflect the implied probability of an outcome then you will not be a profitable bettor long term.
And that's where OddsChecker comes in handy. You can compare odds from stacks of sportsbooks for thousands of events and markets at the touch of a button, and if you don't have an account with the best-priced then we are sure to have a fantastic welcome bonus to get you started with them.
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