HOW TO SPOT WINNNING BETTORS
There are key differences between
successful sports bettors and smoke-blowers.
don't know what you do for a living nor what your favorite hobby might be,
but chances are there is something at which you are very, very good.
Maybe you're an excellent chess player, or horseshoe pitcher, or furniture
salesman, carpenter, upholsterer, cook...whatever. There is something at
which you have become very skilled...Right?
...And chances are, if a stranger tells you he is
also very good at your special thing, it will take you....oh....about
a minute and a half to figure out whether he's lying ...Right?
How can you do that? You can do it by listening to the guy. If he's
claiming to be a good chess player and says something like, "The
knights are more valuable to me than the rooks," you'll know
you've got yourself a ringer. If you're a good cook, and this guy says he
bakes biscuits at 200 degrees, you know this guy doesn't know biscuits from
baloney. Sooner or later, phonies always give themselves away.
It's the same with gambling. If you're a good blackjack player
you'll spot a know-nothing when he fails to split a pair of 9's against a
dealer's 9, or when he fails to hit a 16 against a dealer's 10 against a
negative deck, or when he splits a pair of 6's against a dealer's 10, or
whatever...Lots of screw-ups go unnoticed by novices, but they stand
out like blinking lights to experts.
...And it's no different with sports betting. Full time sports
bettors can spot a non-expert very quickly. The most obvious giveaway is
that phonies tend to make outrageous claims. If a guy tells you he
wins 65% of his pointspread bets, offer to lay 11 to his 10 that he won't
win 65% of his next 20, or 50, or 500 - or whatever - bets.
That's the closest you'll ever come to getting a 'lock' bet. (Better
have an honest third party hold the money, though.)
Another dead giveaway concerns money management.
Pseudo-experts usually think they can use the size of their bets as
some sort of pry-bar; that is, they are convinced they can make more money
than they deserve by using a progressive betting scheme. Quite often,
in fact, usually these progressive betting schemes seem to make perfect
sense on paper. You're probably already at least somewhat familiar with two
such ideas, the so-called 'Kelly criterion' and the 'star system.'
...But this article isn't about money management, it's about
handicapping techniques and the differences between the way winners and
losers handicap ball games.
There are only three general ways to handicap a football,
basketball, hockey or baseball game:
1. Get a hunch, bet a bunch
2. Use stats from recent games in
some sort of mathematical formula
3. Judge the motivational
and psychological factors affecting the teams
Most recreational bettors use only the first method, and we can
dismiss hunch betting without a lot of time talking about it. Those
corpses you've been stepping over to get to the ticket window are mostly
More serious gamblers usually use either the second method (stats)
or the third method (motivations).
There are lots of statistical handicappers. These fellows sometimes
have goatees and pocket protectors, and often use words like "yards-per-point,"
"megabytes" and "spreadsheet." A
psychologist might say that hard core statisticians have a need for the
solid feel of the predictions which their mathematical formulas produce. In
a strange way, the use of a mathematical formula can relieve users of the
responsibility of losing. Mathematical formulas can also relieve
handicappers of the obligation to think for themselves; - to make
judgments. Many statisticians don't trust judgments. They want solid
evidence in black-and-white. They refuse to consider things like revenge,
injuries, emotional letdowns, or other non-mathematical evidence. The
ethereal, intangible quality of such subjective considerations seems to
make them uncomfortable.
Subjective handicappers are the psychologists among us. These
fellows see a football or basketball game as a highly emotional affair,
usually won by the team best prepared on a psychological level. They are
convinced that whichever team is most motivated figures to cover the
pointspread. Their forecasts come from such factors as 'must-win'
situations, revenge, intra-team squabbling, player holdouts, injuries, all
manner of outside distractions or other emotional and subjective
considerations that cannot be defined by numbers. So far as these fellows
are concerned, stats are merely a reflection of past subjective factors. A
hard core subjectivist can be contemptuous of the unbending, dictatorial
aspects of mathematical systems.
So who's right, - statisticians or psychologists?
Well, they both are, part of the time.
Which brings us to a fourth group of handicappers, and I have
never met a successful handicapper who was not part of this last group. These
guys use both mathematical factors (stats) and psychological factors
(virtually everything but stats) to handicap a football or
basketball or baseball game.
That's not nearly as easy as it may sound. People are predisposed to
be either a statistician or a psychologist. Very few people can be both at
the same time. Most people find it extremely difficult - even impossible -
to mix mathematical formulas with judgmental considerations. It's a
left-brain/right-brain thing. It involves both the
logical/spatial/mathematical parts of our brain, and the creative/artistic/subjective
Those two don't mix well.
In short, a successful bettor tends to avoid hard, fast rules
concerning stats and/or motivations and/or anything else involved in
forming his opinions. He strives to stay open to all aspects of what might
affect the outcome of a game. Most losers become fixated on one aspect of a
sport, such as a football team's total yards gained or a baseball pitcher's
A Crash Course in
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