One of the least understood aspects of sports betting is handicapping and the handicapping process. A number of people – many of whom are in the business of selling sports predictions – have tried to make handicapping sound much more difficult than it actually is. You’ve probably heard of technical or fundamental handicapping and one of my crusades over the years has been to get away from those terms and call handicapping techniques what they are: statistical handicapping, situational handicapping and trend-based handicapping.
Statistical handicapping: Obviously statistical handicapping is the method of coming up with your selections based on the stats that are available to you and you have relevant. Some will be rather mundane, such as points for or against, while others can be quite complete and creative. It’s up to the individual handicapper to determine which stats to use.
Just because two handicappers use the same technique doesn’t mean that they’re going to come up with the same plays. They could both be statistical handicappers and wind up on opposite sides of game. The key is what variables they both use in their handicapping.
Situational handicapping: Situational handicapping is a fairly broad term and different handicappers can use different criteria and both fall under the situational handicapping umbrella. It can be looking at how teams have done in past situations that are similar to one that a particular team is in today or it can also be looking at the additional aspects of playing a game, such as travel and time changes, letdown games, look-ahead games and plenty more.
Once again, different handicappers will look at different factors depending on personal preference. That doesn’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong, it’s more a matter of what each handicapper believes is important.
Trend-based handicapping: Trend-based handicapping share some traits with situational handicapping, but instead of looking at how all teams have done in a situation, trend-based handicappers are concerned with one particular team, although it can be expanded a bit to include a particular division or conference; pretty much any subset of the league.
Trend-based handicappers will be in agreement more than the other two types of handicappers since there are fewer variables to consider, such as how a particular team has done in a head-to-head match-up, as a favorite or underdog, etc. If expanded to include a particular division, a trend-based handicapper would think along the lines of AFC West home underdogs are 4-14 since the start of the 2013 season, which happens to be true.
There is no correct or incorrect of handicapping, which is why you’ll often hear the adage of it being more art than science.
Next, we’ll look more closely at each of the three techniques and how they can be used for particular sports, along with some of their strengths and weaknesses in those sports.