For big sports fans, chances are good that there is some interest in sports gambling – the two easily go hand in hand.  You can enjoy the game and also profit from it at the same time, but a lot of people get into sports gambling without putting much effort into understanding it.  Some assume they can just wing it, or that their knowledge, without doing the much-needed homework, is good enough to win.  That’s not the case, though, and developing a strategy is imperative to success.  Understanding the nuances of handicapping will help. 

The basic understanding of handicapping in sports is where the oddsmakers provide bettors with a spread or line to wager with.  Sports betting isn’t technically a race or contest, but sportsbooks give gamblers an edge by issuing point spreads for any given matchup.  

A great example is trying to pick a tough NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Chiefs are yearly title contenders, while the Bucs, historically, aren’t.  Oddsmakers know that the Chiefs will be the obvious favorite, and because of that, few will bet on them straight-up. Sports gamblers won’t have that much interest in betting on the Bucs, either, seeing as they’re unlikely to win.

Oddsmakers handicap this contest by issuing a point spread, like this:

Chiefs -3

Buccaneers +3

This handicap allows you to bet on the Chiefs and obtain value in the same breath.  A game like this might carry something like a -325 moneyline or greater in favor of Kansas City.  If you bet on this game, you would need to wager $325 just to get $100 back on top of your bet.

There isn’t a whole lot of upside to that, so gamblers are drawn to the point spread.  In this case, they need to decide if the Chiefs are such a safe bet that they can cover the spread (the difference in points scored by both teams). If so, they can bet, for example, that the Chiefs will win by four points, effectively covering the 3-point spread at hand.

However, those gamblers who believe that the Bucs might either win, or at least play a close game, can bet on them to beat the spread.  In this case, the Bucs would simply have to lose by three points or fewer, which would make a spread bet on Tampa Bay a winner.

That’s why the handicap the oddsmakers give you is attractive.  It may not always work out, but it puts underdogs in play and, in theory, helps make every single contest a viable option.

The second way to look at sports handicapping is where the gambler does all he or she can do to take advantage of any potential edge oddsmakers give.  Sportsbooks always believe that their lines are right and that they have the edge, but, if gamblers do the necessary research and make the right pick, they will profit.  It’s important to point out that this doesn’t always mean you’re going to come out on top, nor does it mean that oddsmakers need to be wrong for bettors to win.  It also doesn’t mean that when gamblers win, they will always win big.

Many gamblers talk about “the grind” of sports betting.  It isn’t about one big win or beating oddsmakers; it’s about handicapping each individual wagered game and emerging with as many wins as possible on a daily, weekly, and even monthly basis.  

Handicapping games can be something to look at, but the idea of sports handicapping is an idea all by itself.  It involves research, details, explanations and a prediction that the pick can/will be correct.

How to Handicap

It’s possible for anyone to handicap any game in any sport.  There isn’t a single strategy or process, but the idea of combining strategies, narratives, data and betting value is sports handicapping put simply.  The bottom line is that gamblers are trying to get an edge against the sportsbooks so they can profit. This implies not giving in to the first line you see, but working hard to maximize the money at risk.

Step 1

Do The Research

The first step to proper sports handicapping is realizing that the knowledge you may already have isn’t good enough to win consistently.  Each day brings new matchups, depending on what sport you’re trying to handicap, and injuries and rotations can drastically impact the way we perceive games.  Staying on top of the specific sport you plan on betting on is fundamental to better betting success.

Step 2

Track All The Data and Trends

This is similar to research, but needs to be covered separately.  There are a lot of basic statistics you can come across, but hard facts and trends can help uncover hidden quirks in the betting world.  What data you consider useful will ultimately be up to you, but it’s important to consider things like home/away records, matchup history, against the spread data, team and player stats, winning/losing streaks, individual positional matchups, refereeing and coaching changes and game plans.   The more you know, the better the edge will be when it comes time to place the bet.  

Look for Value

A huge part of sports handicapping is understanding value when it appears, and searching high and low for it until it is found.   It’s often difficult to really define betting value, as it comes down to personal conclusions based on the data.  However, the perception of value should be dictated by two things – how the matchup is viewed and how gambling sites compete against each other.  

The latter is particularly beneficial.  If you love the Celtics to take down the Warriors on a given night and their moneyline is different on two websites, you will want to bet on the site that gives a higher return if backing the Celtics.  This works with point spreads, totals, and any other possible bet. Find the matchup you think you can work to your advantage best, and run through the online betting sites until you land on the best one to place that bet.

Handicap Experts and Resources

Beyond understanding what sports handicapping is, there is also outside assistance that can be beneficial.  There are sports betting experts that know what they ae talking about, and the best can help you win consistently.  

These experts cover sports activity for a living, not just as a hobby, and tend to know how to produce consistent wins.  They are also professional gamblers and some of them place similar bets based on their own suggestions.  However, while expert advice can be useful, it shouldn’t be the only path to success. One of the biggest problems with expert handicappers is that some will try to sell their picks. Everyone has highs and lows in the sports gambling space, and there are plenty of sites that provide awesome picks for free.

Another good idea is to make sure you’re following experts and writers on social media, especially Twitter, that specialize in one specific sport.  This is a good practice as a gambler, but can also be useful for the information you’re getting.  There are a lot of sports gambling writers who do nothing more than regurgitate content, but who don’t really know what they’re talking about.  Weed out those useless options and narrow down your list to just a handful of experts that can be trusted and used on a regular basis.

Gamblers should never feel obligated to do anything more than listen to experts.  Even the best sports gambling handicappers are wrong sometimes, and their opinion can be skewed for any number of reasons – perhaps they went to the college that is listed as an underdog, which is why they’re telling you to bet on it, not the favorite.  Take in all the data you can, consider other people’s opinions and find the best value.  In the end, all of that together will develop your own sports handicapping strategy and, hopefully, deliver consistent returns.