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In a nutshell:

"...The player has a very big advantage: The player can pass. The player doesn't have to bet on every proposition. The house can't pass."  

- Sonny Reizner


How To Spot NFL 'Positive Universes'
R. J. Miller tells how to find winning NFL situations!


Legendary handicapper Jack Painter (right) was instrumental in the success of the first edition of J. R.'s book, How Professional Gamblers Beat The Pro Football Pointspread


Check these other articles:

A Crash Course In Vigorish - And It's Not 4.55%

Top 10 Ways To Lose Against Sports

Winning Percentages

Could YOU Be A Professional Gambler?

The Best Way To Gamble

Great Gambling Stories

Something I Learned From Sonny Reizner

Test Your Sports Betting IQ


NFL History
3,000 sequential games! 12 full years! All lines & stats!Build your own winning predictions!


Check this article

"What's your record?"


Check this book:

How Professional Gamblers Beat the Pro Football Pointspread!
Now in paperback!


Could YOU Be A Professional Gambler?
It's a great life, so long as you can call at least 55% winners!

Winning Percentages
Once and for all, what percentage of bets do professional gamblers win?

Top 10 Ways to LOSE
Have you been 'cleaned out,' 'wiped out,' or 'taken to the cleaners'? Did you ever 'take a bath' gambling? Better read this.

Test Your Sports Betting I.Q.
Fewer than 1 in 50 sports bettors can pass this test.


Professional Gambler Newsletter
Get picks every day by email! This is a great way to make money from each other!


There are key differences between successful sports bettors and smoke-blowers.


I 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 hunch-bettors.

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 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 parts.

Those two don't mix well.

These fellows in this fourth group will tell you that different parts of the season call for different ratios of importance between objective and subjective factors. For example, during NFL exhibition season, it is useless to regard past stats the same way they must be regarded during the regular season or playoffs.

In fact, preseason pro football games are best handicapped using virtually nothing but subjective considerations. Pro football exhibition games are determined to a great extent by coaches' motives, and keep in mind that the goal during exhibition season is not necessarily to win the game; - the goal is to get ready to win games in the regular season.

That's an incredibly important thing to remember. A coach knows that no one will care how many exhibition games he wins. In fact, during preseason he is likely to practice what he regards as his team's worst aspects. He might easily use least those players in which he has most confidence, he might easily use most those players in which he has least confidence. If a team had trouble rushing last year, they may do a lot of rushing during preseason. If a team had an excellent rushing attack last year, but a bad passing record, where's the logic in practicing their rushing attack?....Get it? Doesn't it make sense that a team will (and should!) practice what they're worst at doing?

During preseason, high-scoring teams can be low-scoring teams, low-scoring teams can be high-scoring teams, last year's 2-14 team can beat last year's Super Bowl winner. Everything can seem topsy-turvy in preseason to a statistician.

...But it's not topsy-turvy to a subjective handicapper who knows a team's weaknesses and who knows the coach's goals. Ask yourself this: If two good quarterbacks are battling for the starting spot on a team, isn't the coach likely to play all his offensive starters to better compare the two candidates?...And on the other hand, if the starting quarterback is already set in stone, wouldn't the coach tend use a backup quarterback to test new linemen, receivers, and rookie running backs? After all, why risk your starting quarterback behind a tryout offensive line?

Which of those above situations offer the obvious best chance of winning?

...Yeah, - you get it.

Ah, but the relative importance between motivations and stats shifts as the season progresses, sometimes even from game to game within the same weeks. By playoff time, the pendulum has swung to the other end of its arc. In playoffs, emotional factors even out. After all, everybody's top priority is a shot at the Super Bowl. Everybody's motivations peak. Every game is sudden death. Forget about revenge. Forget about jealousy. Forget about all the other motivations you've learned to watch for; - during playoffs, statisticians can make a killing.

That's right, - it's time to grow the ol' goatee and buy a pocket protector. Go with the stats.

...But that, too, isn't quite as simple as it sounds. There are pitfalls when comparing stats. For example, when two teams have similar stats, check their recent opponents. If one team clearly played tougher opponents, that's significant. Having built good stats against the 2004 Browns or 49ers is not the same as having built good stats against the 2004 Colts or Patriots.

In short, if you can establish which team in any playoff game truly has the best stats - remembering to account for their level of competition - you won't go far wrong by betting on them. Playoff season is that time of year when the best teams do, indeed, cover the spread an enormous percentage of times.

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 ERA. 

- J. R. Miller


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Successful Gamblers

How they live! How they began! How they keep winning! The "real" world of professional sports betting!
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How Professional Gamblers Beat the Pro Football Pointspread
- J. R. Miller
How to Profit from Parlays
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Successful Gamblers
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Education of a Sports Bettor
- Bob McCune
Revelations in Sports Betting
- Bob McCune

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