Sports handicapping is a skill-based activity in which someone, given specific odds, tries to determine the winning bet. Handicapping is used for many different sports – a handicapper might be deciding between two teams, or considering one team over the course of the season. Handicapping can also be applied to horseracing, car racing, golf, boxing, or tennis. It is an activity with many applications.
Basics on Handicappers
When we consider professional handicappers in the sports betting industry, we find that they often work for sportsbooks, pick services, and other such providers. The term handicapper has, over the years, become associated with horse racing, but the fact is this activity is connected to all sports betting activities.
Most handicappers specialize in one or two sports. They are experts on the sport itself and how to wager on it, and they have access to the most recent developments. They are constantly engaged in the sport, and they either create the money lines, point spreads, totals, and other odds, or they analyze them in order to develop picks for sports bettors.
What a Handicapper Does
Sports handicappers engage in a range of activities. They really need to know as much as possible about a team, sport, and league. The following activities are common to a professional handicapper’s work.
- Know the rules of the sport thoroughly
- Be able to analyze and discuss
- Thorough knowledge of a team
- All players, including offense and defense
- The recruiting system and philosophy
- Coaches, including philosophy
- Front office and ownership, including goals
- Financial situation
- Trades and injuries
- Minor league prospects
- Intensity of fans and media
- The myths and reality of home field advantage
- Past and recent performance
- Matchup analysis
- Review of recent past meetings
- Point in season and importance of game to each team
- Weather influences
- What’s trending, flexible situations, and possible break through performances
Are You a Handicapper?
All sports bettors want to know if they have what it takes to be a handicapper. To be successful as a handicapper, you have to be detail-oriented and understand every aspect of the sport. Handicappers are connected to insiders in the game, know how the past affects the present, and are able to create and analyze extremely accurate lines.
Not all sports bettors are good at handicapping, which is why many will subscribe to pick services or even purchase picks. Professional handicappers prepare those sports picks. Many times sports bettors can greatly increase their profitability by purchasing picks. Although they must invest in this professional assistance, they often enjoy a lucrative return on their investment when they win.
Even if you pay for picks, you should still remain involve in the game. Study the teams and work on developing your handicapping skills. This will pay off in the long run. The more you know, the better your wagers will become. Eventually, you might be proficient enough to become an expert handicapper.
Five Common Sports Handicapping Mistakes
When sports bettors handicap games, they tend to repeat the same mistakes. Sometimes, even the best and most skilled bettors can forget about the basics of wagering, and instead overthink and overcomplicate the situation.
When you find yourself in a betting rut and can’t figure out why you are struggling to make smart picks, think about whether you are making one of these five common handicapping mistakes.
Thinking Only Offense Wins Games
Offense puts points on the board, but defense keeps them off – and in some sports, can actually generate points. Too often while handicapping, sports bettors forget that simple truth. In baseball, strong pitching can shut down big bats. In hockey, great goaltending can neutralize excellent shooting. In football, a fine defensive line can negate a talented runner.
Don’t forget the defense. They are often overlooked, but if they are not consistently excellent, then it will be nearly impossible for that team to win.
Too Many Meaningless Stats
It is true that statistics are important, but if you pay too much attention to the wealth of available information then you may lose sight of the game itself. How much is too much? Once a stat starts to obscure the overall picture of a player, unit, or team, then it is no longer valuable.
Be especially wary of statistics that indicate trends with little bearing on the actual game. A common example of this is a team that has not won in a certain stadium in many years. That type of record is irrelevant to the present game – in reality, the team is probably much different from the previous years.
Statistics can also be misleading if you look at them without considering any other contributing factors. As an example, let’s say a quarterback has been struggling for three straight games, and has tossed four interceptions in that time. On its own, that statistic can be a bad sign. However, you then discover that the team’s starting center has been injured but will return to the field for the next game. That can be a huge difference maker.
Statistics are there for your benefit, but only if you can keep them in proper perspective. Be sure to evaluate all matchups, possible game plans, and contributing factors. When you handicap games, the key is to use relevant statistical analysis.
Focusing on a Team’s Most Recent Performance
You might get excited because a poor-performing team recently dominated a powerhouse. However, this does not mean that the same outcome will occur next time. A win in one game has no effect on the next game.
The only time there might be a connection is if a strong team loses because of an injury or coaching adjustments. If the coaching staff is tinkering with the lineup, then that team might be more likely to lose. However, it is critical that you consider all contributing factors. Simply because a team has lost a few games does not mean they are guaranteed to lose again.
Neglecting Coaches or Management
Coaching is extremely important in any sport and it needs to be considered when handicapping games. Sometimes the coach or manager is what separates two teams where the talent is evenly matched.
Coaches can get the team focused, call a play for a specific moment in the game, make a key substitution, get the official to review a play, stand up for his team, make major adjustments during halftime, and rest guys at the right time. There’s a reason why some coaches always have teams in contention. Part of it is the talent of the team, but a major factor is the ability of the coach.
Ignoring the Best Team
It’s very easy to play hunches, focus on one individual or consider how great an upset would be. When handicapping a game, you must give the better team due consideration. If a team is clearly superior, it does not guarantee them a win but it does put them at an advantage. Of course, you’ll have to consider the spread, run line, or puck line when making your pick. And that can certainly change which team, and even which game, you choose to play.
When you’re handicapping any game, it really comes down to keeping your perspective. You can’t make things occur in a game, so you can only do your best to weigh the evidence and predict the outcome. That’s the simplicity of sports handicapping. Don’t overcomplicated your decision, and don’t lose sight of these important factors.