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Different Styles of Handicapping

Football Betting: Different Styles of Handicapping

By Loot, NFL Handicapper,

When we’re picking football games, we likely use a variety of different styles without even knowing it. In some cases, certain styles are utilized more than others, but for the most part--we use a mix of different perspectives. Let’s spell out some of the different ones and see if there are areas where we we need more or less.

The Numbers Game: This revolves around crunching numbers--looking for advantages that lie within the stats. Looking at individual and team stats can sometimes suggest major issues within certain match-ups within a game. Those who play the numbers game scour the stats looking for things that jump out, for example a team with a poor run-defense playing a team that excels in the area of rush offense.

Hazards: Handicappers who set the lines have already sorted this out and probably on a more expert level than anything we can come up with. In addition, relying on stats tends to remove the the vital human element from picking winners, as it can lead to bettors failing to read between the lines.

Situational Handicapping: This is when bettors try to tap into the emotional feel of a team--whether they will play better or worse in specific situations. Some games are more important than others. A team might be flat coming off a grueling game against a division or conference rival. A team might look weary on the tail-end of a draining series of road games. There are any number of different circumstances that pop up during a team’s season and bettors try to gauge how well a team will perform based on that particular situation.

Tip: Not only should you consider different styles when handicapping, you should consider different sportsbooks when betting! Not all point spreads are created equal! Shopping for the best line will increase your winning percentage by up to 3%! This would turn many losing bettors into winners! Here's a list of (3) betting sites where you'll often times see completely different lines on the same sporting event!

1. 5Dimes - Many consider their lines to be the sharpest on the net. Offers reduced juice -105 betting on sides and totals!
2. Bovada - A sportsbook that dances to the beat of their own drum. I've seen lines there that varied as much as 3 points from those at other books!
3. GTBets - Offers a 100% bonus up to $150!

Hazards: Again, there is nothing situational that we are likely to ascertain that hasn’t already been meted out by the almighty bookmaker. The line is usually adjusted accordingly. If this strategy worked, you would be able to bet NFL games on week 17 and take only teams with playoff ramifications against teams with nothing to play for. That won’t work. Maybe if we were picking games straight-up it would, but the line is always tough to beat and teams with more to play for don’t cover the spread as much as one might think.

Line Movement: Should be part of every bettor’s profile. Bettors hone in on the spread and try to sense which way it will move in an effort to extract maximum value from their wagers. Others try to find more meaning in the point-spread itself, like where the smart money is going or when the bookie seems to be enticing you to pick a certain side. Bettors who heavily focus on this style of picking games might handicap the game minimally, as they are more interested in what the movement a lines might suggest in a given game.

Hazards: It takes you out of the equation to a certain extent. While it forces you to astutely follow and understand line movement, your actual opinion and insight into a game gets drowned out to an extent. Also, groveling around looking for moving spreads and trying to read between the lines simply isn’t a very fun way to bet football.

Form: This simply boils down to betting on teams that are apparently playing well, while avoiding and betting against teams that are visibly struggling.

Hazards: The nature of football makes it so very few teams are stuck playing a certain way for very long. A few teams might be up or stay in the dumps for an entire campaign, but most fluctuate wildly up and down the scale. And not to belabor the point, but yes, the oddsmakers are privy to the same information you are, making it really difficult to use your observations in this area to yield particularly good value to your wagers.

Feel: This is like the wise old Native American shaman who can tell if it’s going to rain on Sunday by sniffing the air outside. A wealth of experience in watching and wagering football will give way to a sixth-sense, a set of antennas that tells us when something is up. It can lead us to sense a team is “due.” It can tell us a team is liable to have a letdown. When this part of our handicapping is refined and tempered with experience, we can see things that can’t really be captured in stats or even explained with words.

Hazards: Relying a lot on feel can be dangerous. It is hard to tell the difference between a worthwhile thought and when we’re just throwing stuff against the wall to see if it sticks. There will be times after losing a bet you placed based on “feel” where you’ll ask yourself “What was I thinking?”

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