The third part of our four-part series on handicapping techniques deals with situational handicapping. Situational handicapping is fairly self-explanatory in that you look at the situations teams are in and compare that to how teams have fared in that situation in the past.
Situational handicapping methods are measurable, meaning you can tell exactly how they have performed in the past. If you were to specify “NFL road dogs who lost their previous game as a home favorite by at least 28 points are 18-7-3 dating back to 1990,” that is something you can measure precisely.
Some people will refer to situational handicapping as system handicapping, which is fine, just as some people will refer to certain intangibles, such as travel, time changes, etc., as situational factors, which is perfectly acceptable, as well. There’s really no need to get into semantics, which just takes away from the primary goal of handicappers, which should be to come out ahead of the bookmakers.
The one requirement for any situational play is the premise behind the method has to make sense. That’s open to a bit of interpretation, but if you use a bit of common sense you should be OK.
Baseball: Situational handicapping isn’t used extensively in baseball for the reason that baseball is a sport that lends itself to statistical handicapping almost exclusively, as well as the fact that players expect ups-and-downs over the course of the season and know there will be days they blow out teams and days where they are blown out. You don’t see the emotion that you often do in other sports.
Basketball: Situational handicapping can be useful in basketball, particularly college basketball where the players are a bit more emotional than their professional counterparts. The NBA is also a good sport for attacking from a statistical basis, while there are fewer games in college. Like baseball, it’s a bit of a chore to try and dig for situational edges when there are games played every night.
Football: If there was one sport that is tailor-made for situational handicapping, it’s football. You have a week in between games, which gives you ample time to look for spots, study line moves and more. I’ll frequently try to find situations where I’m on the opposite side of the betting public, but don’t really make it a requirement. There is also the fact that the season is so short it can be tough to build an accurate statistical base.
Hockey: Situational handicapping is probably more helpful in the NHL than it is in the NBA just due to the difference in scoring. You can get more accurate statistical projections in the NBA than you will in the NHL because of the numbers. If you have a projection of 102.5 in the NBA, it doesn’t really matter if you round up or down, it won’t make that much of a difference. But if you have a projection of 2.5 goals in the NHL, you’re talking a huge difference between two goals or three goals.
Fewer people bet the NHL, so you’re likely to find a couple of decent situations. One I found in a couple of minutes while writing this section of the articles was teams who have won their last two games as home underdogs are 25-59 if they are road underdogs in their next game. Betting on these teams would have yielded a $1,770 loss, while betting against them would have netted a $1,366 profit and an ROI of 8.8%