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SPORTS HANDICAPPING METHODS

If you ask ten gamblers how to handicap a sporting event there is a good chance you will hear ten different answers. Some suggestions might be valuable while others will cost you money.

Traditionally expert handicappers considered all variables including power ratings, trends and angles, situational and match up analysis. We will discuss all these methods but it is worth noting that the younger generation of professional sports bettors tend to disregard approaches that are not quantitative.

Power ratings are statistics based calculations used to rank teams. Handicappers use power ratings to give them a baseline when analyzing sports teams.

Sports bettors who are adept at programming have the benefit of building their own databases and models. Fortunately for non-programmers there are numerous analytic websites that can be utilized .

Closing odds for major sports leagues are very efficient but not necessarily in the derivative and proposition markets. This is where programmers have a distinct advantage over traditional handicappers because they have the ability to collect, parse and analyze huge amounts of data.

Trends and angles are tendencies that repeat such as, NBA teams having a losing record against the spread when playing back to back road games with no rest. Trends and angles that have a small sample size should not be given too much weight when handicapping. Consider trends that have a statistically significant sample size or team trends that you are intimately familiar.

Do not bet random angles found data mining without back testing them first. This is an essential part of the process. Back testing may lead to a concept  being discarded. Ideally any system, trend or angle should be thoroughly tested before real money is wagered.

Do not back-fit your data. If you find a trend that has done well in the past than it should be tested against data from following years to prove it is valid. It is preferable to test trends and practice bet on games that have not been played. If a trend still holds water after back testing you may decide to use it if you are confident that the sample size is large enough. It may be necessary to review a statistical reference to determine if the sample size is sufficient.

Situational analysis measures the impact of outside influences. This may include the weather, injuries or a mid-season coaching change.

John Madden mentioned on Monday Night Football that passing teams had the advantage over running teams on a slippery field. The reasoning is offensive lineman and running backs cannot get any traction in the mud. True or not weather should be considered when handicapping.

In the 2007 Capitol One Bowl the Florida Gators were a ten point favorite but took one on the chin from the University of Michigan. The Wolverines had enough fortitude to win their Head Coach's last game. Meanwhile the Gators experienced a classic letdown game unable to defend their National Championship from the year before.

Match up analysis can be used to compare a teams' style of play against their opponent. For example comparing NFL teams using a 3-technique, interior defensive lineman aligned between the guard and tackle versus offenses with a high propensity to rush the ball. In the NFL, Head Coach Bill Belichick's Patriot teams are well known for exploiting the competition by forcing them to play away from their strengths.

It can be difficult to handicap games early in the season when so few games have been played and there is not enough statistical data to properly evaluate a team. During this time of the year it is important to include returning starters in the equation when handicapping college sports. Also consider NFL teams that performed better than expected during the previous season often regress the following year due to having tougher opponents as dictated by the leagues scheduling process.

Sports are year round entertainment for many fans. With national signing day, spring games, free agent signings, the draft and training camps it never ends. The crowning of the Super Bowl Champion is a reminder that March Madness and baseball season are not too far away. Now is the time to update your database and start crunching numbers because next season is just around the corner.


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