This list of 10 fundamental concepts for sports betting success is primarily intended for those new to the discipline, but could be helpful to more experienced bettors. This list isn’t exhaustive or definitive. Your ‘mileage may vary’ but these are concepts that provide a good theoretical foundation for profitable handicapping and betting:

1) Educate yourself to how the line is made and why it moves: A common mistake of the inexperienced sports bettor is an erroneous understanding of what the pointspread represents. The conventional wisdom is that the pointspread is a prediction of who will win and by how much. There is predictive component to it, of course, but its primary purpose is to split the betting action equally on each side. This seldom works out perfectly with the opening number which is why the line is moved after it is made–to attract more money to one side or other. Understanding as much as possible about the art and science of pointspread formulation and movement is essential to successful handicapping.

2) Compile and Use Power Ratings: Successful sports handicapping is an aggregation of small edges that will add up over time to produce longterm profits. The key to consistent profitability is to exploit lines that offer wagering value on one side or the other. The first step in finding value is to compile and use power ratings, which are simply numeric ratings of each team. This provides an objective basis for comparison against the pointspread. You can either make your own power ratings, use the ratings from publications like The Gold Sheet with or without modification, or a hybrid of the two. Power ratings are typically a ‘starting point’ for more in depth handicapping but they’re essential when trying to work through a long card of college basketball or football.

3) Shop for the Best Price: Once you know how you want to bet it’s time to go shopping—shop around and find the most advantageous line at which to place your wager. On the surface a half point here and there may not seem significant but these small edges add up over time.

4) Look for opportunities to bet against ‘popular teams’: There are worse things to be in sports gambling than a ‘contrarian’ and more often than not its advisable to go against ‘popular’ teams. The public has a tendency to overrate the teams they like and underrate the ones they don’t care as much about. Furthermore, bookmakers often ‘shade’ the line according to this public popularity—in essence charging bettors a ‘premium’ for playing the popular side.

5) When handicapping football, understand the importance of “key” numbers, particularly 7 and 3: We’ll discuss key numbers in greater detail closer to football season but long story short—the most common margins of victory in football are 3 and 7 points along with multiples thereof. For that reason the corresponding pointspreads are referred to as ‘key numbers’. Moves on to or off of key numbers are much more significant than garden variety line movement.

6) If you can be objective, a “local” team can be a great advantage: The trick here, of course, is the ‘objectivity’ component. Assuming you don’t have an emotional investment in the fortunes of a local team it’s much easier to get in depth information that could be relevant to your handicapping. The Internet has leveled the playing field somewhat in terms of getting information once available only to ‘locals’ but you’d be amazed how much actionable information never makes it into the media. Here’s a tip—if you live near a college campus befriend a member of the campus police force. The information they have privy to—particularly at bigtime football schools—is incredible.

7) Require a greater ‘burden of proof’ for playing the favorite: Pretty much self-explanatory. In simplest terms, there are three things that can happen in any sports wagering proposition involving a pointspread: The favorite can win and cover, the favorite can win and not cover, and the dog can win outright. If you’re betting a favorite, two of the three possible occurrences will cost you your bet For that reason, it’s not a bad idea to require a higher standard for playing favorites. There are opportunities where a favorite can present a good value but more often than not you’re better looking at underdogs first. This isn’t to say that you can’t find value betting on favorites but don’t get hoodwinked into laying points just because mainstream sports media types label them as ‘superior’ to their opposition.

8) When It Comes to Sports Services, ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’: Here’s the bottom line: if a sports service says a game is a ‘lock’ or a ‘fix’, or if they say that a point shaving situation exists, or if they say that they’ve hit 70% or higher for a season, 99.9% of the time–if not more–they are lying. Plain and simple. I’m not going to naively suggest that situations of point shaving and fixing don’t exist, but when they do your friendly sports service won’t know about it until they hear it on the news like the rest of us.

Good sports handicappers and sports services are like good stockbrokers. They should be information resources–using their specialized knowledge and experience to do work that you don’t have the time to do Sports handicapping isn’t rocket science–it does, however, require a significant investment in time and good sources of information. Experience and contacts within the sports gambling industry are also helpful. This is what good sports services offer, but separating the wheat from the chaff is no small feat. Just remember the old saying ‘if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.’

9) Don’t ever think you “know it all” and don’t trust anyone who says they do: Sports handicapping is like any other discipline–exceedingly complex. The more you learn about it, the more you realize how much more that there is to know. The biggest mistake a handicapper can make–or anyone in any endeavor for that matter– is to think that a complex discipline is ‘easy’. Minds are like parachutes–they don’t function unless they are open. It is essential to remember that in sports handicapping, as in life, there is always more to learn.

10) Work to develop a disciplined, systematic approach to sports wagering: Simply stated, always do your work. Knowing when NOT to bet is as important as knowing what to bet on. If you haven’t had time to accurately handicap a game or games, just pass. Don’t make significant bets on ‘hunches’ or just to have action. Hard work and intelligent work are the keys to sports handicapping success.


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