Working Smart

By Loot, Sports Handicapper,

Sports Betting Strategy: Working Smart

We’ve all heard some form of the expression that it’s better to work smart than hard. You can apply that to sports handicapping. Make no mistake, the work that goes into it for a successful bettor is not easy. It’s hard and it takes time and a lot of thought. It’s just that a lot of bettors waste time when they handicap, looking at things that aren’t so important, while neglecting to take into account the more pertinent data.

The fact of the matter is than none of us are as well-equipped at breaking down stats than the guys who set the lines and spreads. If we were, we’d be working for a line service or be a big shot at a major Vegas sportsbook. So we need to remember where we stand in the equation. We’re not in a position where we should be trying to do the work of the bookies and oddsmakers. We need to spend that time reading in-between the lines.

One way to do that is by watching games. We’re trying to hone in on the human element, which cannot be done by looking at stats, past box scores, or any other numerical data for that matter. When we watch the games, we start to develop an understanding of a team’s mental state. We want to take note of the overall spirit of a team, their vibe, aura, and whether they’re maximizing their potential or falling short. We want to see how urgent they are, their chemistry as a team, how well they play when a lot is on the line in a game, and things like that. Things that can help us gain insight for future wagers.

Instead of watching ESPN highlights and our local sports segment on the news, we should be spending more time on the local coverage of a team. Imagine how it was for sports-bettors of past eras and all the hoops they had to jump through to get the same information we can now have with just a few mouse clicks.


Regardless of what team sport you are betting, from professionals to college, there is ample local coverage on those teams. That news isn’t going to be on Sportscenter. If you are betting on a Creighton basketball game–look up some local stuff on the team. Maybe a reporter who was at practice saw the point-guard limping off the practice floor. Or that one of the players seemed under the weather.

Don’t rely on national news coverage for niche games you are betting. If you live in California and are going to bet on a UAB vs. Akron football game, you will need to delve to get pertinent information. The tendency might be to log on to some international website and start pouring over stats–how a team’s rush defense ranks or some other match-up quirk. That doesn’t work very well. Get into the local coverage and try to gauge where a team is from a more mental standpoint.

And when going over stats, never get too excited when you see a major discrepancy. You might see a team is number-two in the nation in passing offense. Then you see their opponent is ranked 117th in pass “D” and your eyes light up. The thing is that it’s already been accounted for in the odds. Don’t think the bookie didn’t notice that. The odds already include that information and then you come stumbling around thinking you found a golden nugget of information. All it’s going to do is get you in trouble.

Take that energy and put it toward something more useful. Look at specific match-ups. It’s not enough to merely say that a team with a good passing offense is going to slaughter the team that can’t really stop the pass. For all you know, the team with the bad pass “D” may have been crushing teams early in games, forcing opponents to throw on every down, hence the out-of-whack pass “D” statistics. Put that energy toward something more useful.

Over-obsessing on stats puts us in the unearned and unwarranted position of doing the work of the oddsmakers for them. And that’s if we’re even doing it right. For every time the stats help us form an opinion, they lead to us misreading a situation. You’ll be watching the game thinking how could you have been so far-off. The oddsmakers establish the lines of battle. Our job is to get in there between the lines and look for things that the bookie didn’t take into proper consideration.

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