The Myth of the Hot Sports Betting Handicapper

The most prevalent means of sports service marketing is some variant on the theme that so and so is “red hot” and you should therefore pay him your money and follow his plays. The crooked services do this by coming up with all sorts of confusing and contradictory rating systems and hyperbolic descriptions for their games. How many times have you heard a handicapper brag about being “16-2 on his 500 star MWC underdog plays of the month” or saying that his “Southern Conference total of the month is 60% lifetime”?

Basically, the bottom feeders of this industry can slice and dice their statistics all sorts of ways to make themselves seem “hot”. Or they can do what a lot of them do, and simply lie about their performance. When I was first starting out as a sports handicapper there was no such thing as the Internet (at least as it exists today) and I had to rely on a scorephone for line and score updates. This scorephone was sponsored by a group of touts not noted for their veracity, and you had to sit through a few pitches for their 900 numbers before you got to the scores. A bit of a Faustian bargain, to say the least, but it was an effective way of keeping up with scores in the pre-Internet dark ages.

So one night we’re at a party thrown by some kid that we didn’t like too much. My crew and I were racking our brains to think of some mean pranks to pull on the guy. Someone got the idea to rack up some 900# charges on our mark’s phone bill. Since there’s no such thing as 900# directory assistance, I resulted to the only 900# I could remember – one of the touts from the scorephone that had drilled his digits into my memory through the sheer force of repetition.

For the sake of argument, I decided to write down the tout’s NBA plays. I had less faith in his handicapping ability than I would in a prognostication based on a divining rod or Ouija Board, but since I wasn’t paying for the call I figured I’d just see how the guy did. I wrote down his plays and checked his performance the next morning.

To his credit, the tout went 5-3 on his 8 plays. By any criteria a 5-3 night is a solid performance. Later that day I called the scorephone and waited for the tout to start crowing about his 5-3 night. Much to my surprise, the tout didn’t say a word about his 5-3 night. That’s because he was too buy bragging about his mythical 7-1 performance the preceding day.

Now, I understand that the revelation that boiler room touts like about their performance is on par with “pro wrestling is fake” or “the games at the fair aren’t on the up-and-up” as self evident truths. The point I’m trying to make, however, is that the desire to be the “hot handicapper: is so great that the tout felt he had to embellish a solid performance the night before.

So despite the fact that some handicappers like about their performance, what’s wrong with trying to ride the hot handicapper? Plenty-it’s not only an ineffective way to evaluate a handicapper’s abilities, it also has a number of statistical and theoretical shortcomings.

The simplest way to explain what I’m talking about is to borrow a disclaimer that you’ll hear on every commercial for a mutual fund: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results”. The sports gambling milieu, like those of stocks, commodities and other financial instruments, is a marketplace and subject to a number of the same tendencies of other financial institutions (what economists call “market dynamics”).

The fact that a sports wager’s success or failure is dependent to a degree on the “whims” of a marketplace (of odds and pointspreads) and to a greater degree on other external events outside of the bettor’s control exacerbates what is already a matter of simple logic: what a handicapper does over a period of time (be it a day, week, month or season) has no intrinsic correlation between a handicapper’s performance one year and the next. In other words, the sports gambling marketplace and the random patterns of events that act upon them don’t care if I hit 60% last year. If I don’t do my work, crunch the numbers, get good prices to bet into, and catch a few breaks along the way I may end up beaten regardless of how well I performed in a subsequent period of time.

What is a Circled Game Mean in a Sports Betting Event?

Visitors to Las Vegas or online sportsbooks may come across some games on the betting board that will have special rules attached in the betting. Such games will be circled on the betting board. A red box means that the line is “circled” and subject to reduced betting limits.

Often time’s sportsbooks will circle games on the betting board due to injuries to impact players. NFL teams competing on Sunday’s must submit their injury reports on Friday and provide updates on Saturday. In recent years the NFL adopted a rule forcing teams to disclose on Wednesday through Friday who missed practice and who had limited work during practice. The best practice for sports betting professionals would be to browse individual team websites that post the injury and practice information about the health of their players.

The injury reports have been very accurate in recent years because the NFL wants to protect the integrity of the league because inside information on injuries could be exploited. So teams have been very forthcoming about the health of their players. Injuries to impact players like the starting quarterback, running back and impact wide receivers will cause Las Vegas and online sportsbook to circle the game on the sports betting board until their status come game time is determined. Sharp sports bettors follow the best practice of shopping individual sports books to shop for the odds that are best set on the side they want to bet on.

Sometimes Las Vegas or online sportsbooks may miss important injury information on teams and a smart bettor may bet into a good betting number that favors the bettor. Professional gamblers look for knee, foot and ankle injuries to running backs. A running back who is not 100% healthy and playing with ankle, foot or knee injuries will see their average yards per carry often fall well below their average. This puts the offense in second and third and long situations or what is known as obvious passing situations. Defenses who know the pass is coming can adjust into pass coverage creating less space for the wide receivers to run routes making a pass completion by the quarterback much more difficult which raises the possibility of a turnover. With a capable back up running back it is often better for a team to not play a running back that sports ankle, knee or foot injuries. Many professional sports bettors will look to play against a team who is starting an impact running back who is playing with an ankle, foot or knee injury.

If inclement weather is forecasted for the site of an outdoor game a sportsbook will circle the game and bettors will have betting limits reduced on the game up until about an hour until game time. Wind can factor greatly in the passing game and the best practice for professional sports bettors will look to play under in college and pro football if the betting line has not already been bet down. There are times when the professional has the inclement weather information before the Las Vegas or online sportsbook and this is a scenario when they make advantage bets.

Many sports bettors will find NBA games circled on the Las Vegas or online sports betting board. Often times an NBA team will report a mild ailment from a player in their rotation and list them as questionable or doubtful. Smart betting professionals will tune into NBA team’s pregame show 30 minutes prior to the start of the game to get specific injury information about teams impact players on their rotation. In the NBA if an impact player is lost to injury the replacement player will often step up and the team will have point spread success in the first game the team plays without their impact player in the lineup.

A line may be circled when factors other than game play (e.g., injuries or weather conditions) could affect the outcome of the game. As many bookmakers don’t have enough information on the game and can’t accurately balance the action as it comes in, circled lines can’t be added to a parlay. Some online or Las Vegas sportsbooks may have too much action on one side of the game and even with a line move they cant attract action on the other team. Most sportsbook business models are set to attempt to balance trade on all games and protect their bottom line. Most sportsbooks try to attempt to have all of their lines un-circled. The red box may be removed closer to the start of the game.