Football Handicapping Mistakes

Football Handicapping Mistakes: Faulty Practices

By Loot, Football Handicapper,

When betting on football, the amount of information can be mind-numbing. We are forced as bettors to hone in on the more important information and not waste time on the insignificant data that floods our ears. We need to be selective and look for real edges in areas where he actually have a chance of out-handicapping the book. Not an easy task.

A common pitfall is to try to outmaneuver the bookie along obvious lines. You can pour over team stats and injury reports all day and the chances are very slim that you will be able to detect something that the best minds in the business missed. You can look at home/away records, rushing and receiving rankings, defensive rankings, and all of that stuff until you’re blue in the face. If we’re trying to get an edge on the bookie, however, this is not the arena to do it.

True edges and value are found in-between the lines. They are less obvious and require insight and observation. In other words, true betting advantages are not found in the stats that sportsbooks post on the back of a game sheet. The bookie isn’t going to give you tools to beat them. The instruments we need to win are buried in the toolboxes of our mind–and are used in our analysis.

You’re not likely to pick up winning observations looking at the sports section of a newspaper. Not that you shouldn’t pay any mind to it, but any information that lies in team standings and offensive/defensive team rankings are not likely to yield winning results. For the precise reason that it has already been accounted for–and by handicapping minds whose skills likely surpass our own.

You’ll notice after betting for a long time that your best bets were placed when you were somehow able to tap into the mental make-up of the teams playing in a given game. Maybe you sensed a lack of urgency beginning to develop with a winning team that had the inside-track for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and they’re playing a team that is scratching its way into playoff contention. And you felt the disparity in mental states was not properly accounted for in the point-spread.

In that case, you utilized insight. It wasn’t something that you found in the newspaper or saw on the ESPN website. You didn’t see a 2-6 team at home against a 7-1 team and make a bunch of half-baked observations based on what you think happens to “bad” teams when they play “good” teams. You didn’t see a 27th-ranked run defense playing the top rushing team in the league and immediately place a bet.


Bettors sometimes make the mistake of accounting for things twice–with double importance. You might think a team is at an advantage being at home. And they are, but it’s already been meted out by the book. We shouldn’t then heap additional credit to a team when the line already reflects it. We might see a team is missing a key guy, so we knock down the spread in our head against that team. Again, we’re not noticing anything that escaped the attention of the oddsmaker. Maybe if we were at that team’s practice and saw a center blow out a knee, we could hop on the phone and place a bet against that team. Otherwise, we are not likely to find an edge that the bookie is sleeping on.

We need to find balance. Our observations and analysis, as well as our guttural inclinations and visceral leanings, are partially based on hard data. This is not meant as an indictment on pouring over numbers. That’s part of it. The risk is that when focusing on stats, we can lose our inner voice. It makes it so we are engaging the bookie along his lines, on the terms which he wants us to engage.

There is a lot of feel involved that can’t be accounted for in the box scores and team stats. While keeping one eye on the numbers, we need to have another eye on the spiritual component–the level of urgency a team has that points strongly to a performance that will either be better or worse than the form the spread indicates that they are in. The more you bet, the more feel you will develop and that will lead to a higher avoidance of overly-obvious information that is already reflected in the spread.