What the Professional Handicappers Do

College Football Betting: What the Professional Handicappers Do

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Knowing how professional handicappers act is useful information for even casual bettors. Sure, most of us have jobs and other life obligations that prevent us from having the same devotion and single-mindedness shared by the professional sharps in this game. But when we take a few bits and pieces from the real pros in this business, it certainly can’t hurt.

In college football betting, the market is more turbulent than NFL football, where the lines are a bit stronger. Sure, there is movement in NFL lines, but you could say there is a bigger consensus. In college football, we’re working with 120+ teams and those lines can move quite significantly throughout the week.

This allows the pros to do what they do best–play the numbers game. Picking winners is only part of it. Most bettors see a game and a point-spread or total and they handicap the game and pick a winner or an over/under. Then they are ready to place their bets. The pros are more caught up in the movement of the lines and how they can secure good value.

The pros are the guys in the sportsbook who have Oklahoma at -2 when most everyone else in the book has them at -4 or -5. How did they manage that? Well, over the years they have become adept at knowing where lines move. Accordingly, they get the best deal on their bets. They know when to strike and have the moxie to pull the trigger right away.

If a pro bettor likes a team, he will have a good idea if the line is going to move up or down. For example if Michigan is facing Illinois and going off at -6, the pro capper would snatch that up quickly if he liked the Wolverines in that game. Michigan is a team with far greater betting support than Illinois. The number is right next to 7, so laying 6 is a a lot better than laying 7. So they jump on the 6. Later in the week, Michigan is at -8.5. Over the long haul, getting edges like that is what can separate the winners from the losers.

Another key trait among the pro handicappers is their ability to focus on crucial data, while disregarding the nonsense. They look between the lines, as opposed to obsessing on the same stats and figures that the average Joe looks at to decide his picks. Here’s a good guideline: If the book itself is giving you information, it is probably not very worthwhile. Would you, as the “house,” ever give anything to the players that could beat you?

So when you grab one of those betting sheets at the book and see all those stats on the back, things like rushing yards per game, ATS records, and so on–you can be sure that’s not the best information. What decided whether a bet is a winner or not is not held in those stats and relatively meaningless figures.

The pros don’t rely on stats as much as they depend on feel–an almost sixth sense-like handle on the emotional component of football that leads to good and bad performances. For example, when a team dominates in a big televised game, the general betting public takes some things to heart that professional bettors don’t do. The amateur bettor think that team is great and they accept that as truth. A pro is not so quick to accept everything they see as being absolute truth. In fact, the savvy bettor might go the other way, figuring a team is due for a letdown after a great game against a big rival.


The pro understands the connection between emotions and a team’s play on the field. Oklahoma will likely be up for the Texas game, but then they play a team like Ball State, followed by a game against Oklahoma State. Which games in that 3-game stretch will Oklahoma be more up for?

A pro will also take past events and see if they provide a clue for the upcoming game. Maybe a team ran up the score on another team the previous season. Late in the 4th, they were throwing deep up by 31 points. Now the team that got beaten up is better and playing their tormentor from the previous season. You can expect they will have a fire lit. Little things like this can make a big difference in whether or not you win when wagering on college football.