How to Handicap for Sports Betting

By Betmaker Team

The words “handicap” or “handicapping” have significant and multiple meanings in the world of online sports gambling. In Europe “handicap” betting means the equivalent of “pointspread betting” in North America.


The Path Towards Value

With that in mind handicap betting comes down to a simple evaluation. How accurate is the betting line in relation to reality and how much of that betting line is influenced by factors other than actual fact-based merit? When evaluating a wager, the sharpest players never take the betting line at face value. They will dig much deeper and determine what the actual line should be compared to what it is. And that is where the term “value” comes into play.


The “Vegas Thinks” Myth

For actual handicapping experts and those in the know there is an often-used phrase that can literally make their heads explode. When then media discusses a pointspread and game matchup they will constantly use the phrase “Vegas thinks.” And that right there is indicative of their unbridled ignorance. The line is NOT based on what “Vegas thinks.” Instead, the betting line is based on what Vegas thinks that YOU think!


The Purpose of the Line in Relation to Handicapping

When oddsmakers set the betting line it is most often in the attempt to draw equal betting action to both sides. That is because of the 10-percent commission known as “juice” or “vig” that they charge for each bet. As long as the sportsbook has 10,000 bets on each side, they win big with the juice! Therefore, the line is based on what will attract the public equally to each side. This means that team merit and ability is only one factor and not necessarily most important.


Ingredients of the Odds

Team ability, team branding, public perception, media hype and intangibles such as injury, revenge or other motivation, playing style contrasts, etc. are all ingredients used to set the line. This is how teams can become over or undervalued. And that is where smart handicapping comes into play. The best handicappers can isolate betting lines that don’t actually reflect reality.


Marquee Brands Equal Retail Prices 

Perhaps no team in all of sports is as valuable or famous as the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL. Indeed, they are a world wide brand. The media knows this and will give the Cowboys a disproportionate amount of coverage and hype that feeds into public desire to know all there is to know about, what has been known for over 40 years as, “America’s Team.” The media helps fuel the frenzy that “this is the year of the Cowboys.” Yet season after season Dallas flops. In fact, the Cowboys haven’t even been to the Super Bowl since the 1995 season! But you would never know this because of media and franchise branding.


This is reflected in the betting odds. Therefore, in most games Dallas offers less than full actual value because of the retail markup that the oddsmakers will charge in anticipation of public betting demand. The price on the Cowboys has to be raised high enough to attract equal betting action on their opponent. And when the opponent is as good or better than Dallas, they become a bargain. Gamblers get a superior price on these teams than what is actually warranted. It’s like a big discount on a luxury car.


What to Consider when Handicapping

There is no exercise that is better suited for a 30,000-foot view than sports handicapping. In fact, the most common mistake that many gamblers make is over-analyzing games. Needless work and overcomplicating the question only serves to cloud the mind and add to confusion. “KISS” (Keep it Simple Stupid) is the golden rule of successful handicapping. Many handicappers spend hours toiling with useless data. Or with trying to create “systems” that fail far more often than not. As if the oddsmakers aren’t already aware of these theories!


With that in mind a combination of organizational leadership structure, actual talent, recent form, and intangibles should all be weighed. Head to head trends and play style contrasts are also important. Compare these legitimate concerns with what the public thinks. More often than not the public is wrong and intoxicated with results of the last game or with media driven hype. From there you will quickly be able to assess true value and make a best bet.