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The Myth of the Hot Sports Betting Handicapper
The most popular way of marketing sports services is a variation on the theme that so and so is “red hot” and so you should pay him your money and follow his games. To do this, rogue services come up with all sorts of confusing and contradictory rating systems and hyperbolic descriptions for their games. How many times have you heard a handicapper brag about being “16-2 on their 500 MWC star underdog games of the month” or say that their “South Conference total of the month is 60% lifetime”?
Basically, the low end of this industry can slice and dice their stats in all sorts of ways to pass themselves off as “hot”. Or they can do what a lot of them do and just lie about their performance. When I started out as a sports handicapper, the internet didn’t exist (at least as it exists today) and I had to rely on a scorephone for line and score updates. This scorephone was sponsored by a bunch of touts who weren’t known for their veracity, and you had to skip a few slots for their 900 numbers before you got to the scores. A bit of a Faustian bargain, to say the least, but it was an effective way to track scores in the pre-internet Dark Ages.
So, one evening, we are at a party organized by a kid that we didn’t really like. My crew and I were racking our brains to think of mean pranks to pull on the guy. Someone came up with the idea of piling a 900# charge on our brand’s phone bill. Since there is no 900# directory assistance, I ended up with the only 900# I remembered – one of the scorephone beaters who had drilled his digits into my memory by sheer force of repetition.
For the sake of argument, I’ve decided to write the NBA reel games. I had less confidence in his handicapping ability than I would in a prognosis based on a dowsing rod or Ouija board, but since I wasn’t paying for the call I figured I’d just see how the guy was going to. I wrote his plays and checked his performance the next morning.
To his credit, the tout went 5-3 on his 8 games. By any standards, a 5-3 night is a solid performance. Later that day I called the scorephone and waited for the tout to start singing about his 5-3 night. To my surprise, the tout didn’t say a word about his 5-3 night. That’s because he was too ready to brag about his legendary 7-1 performance the day before.
Now, I understand that the revelation boiler room touts love about their performances is on par with “pro wrestling is fake” or “games at the fair aren’t up” as self-evident truths. The point I’m trying to make, however, is that the desire to be the “hot handicapper” is so great that the tout felt he had to spruce up a solid performance the night before.
So despite the fact that some handicappers love their performance, what’s wrong with trying to ride the best handicapper? Many – this is not only an ineffective way to assess the capabilities of a handicapper, it also has a number of statistical and theoretical shortcomings.
The easiest way to explain what I’m talking about is to borrow a disclaimer you’ll hear on every mutual fund advertisement: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” The sports gambling environment, like that of stocks, commodities and other financial instruments, is a market and is subject to many of the same trends as other financial institutions (what economists call “market dynamics”). market”).
The fact that the success or failure of a sports bet depends to some extent on the “whims” of a market (odds and point spreads) and to a greater extent on other external events beyond the control of the bettor exacerbates what is already a simple matter of logic: what a handicapper does over a period of time (whether it be a day, a week, a month or a season ) has no intrinsic correlation between a handicapper’s performance from year to year. In other words, the sports betting market and the random event patterns that act on them don’t care if I hit 60% last year. If I don’t do my job, calculate the numbers, get good prices to bet on, and catch a few breaks along the way, I may end up being beaten no matter how well I perform in a later period.
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