7 Steps to Better Handicapping Results for Sports Bettors

Mixed Image of an MLB Batter an NHL Player and a Sportsbook Board

It’s hard to be a winning handicapper, but the good news is you can learn how to improve your skills over time. If you aren’t a winning sports bettor yet, I’m going to share seven steps that can help you improve your results.

Improving your handicapping results isn’t magic. It just requires some work in the proper direction. Use this step-by-step guide to get started on the path to improved handicapping results.

1 – Work Longer and Harder

It’s not what you want to hear, but the only way to improve your sports betting and handicapping results is to work longer and harder. The sportsbooks invest more time and energy and manpower into setting profitable lines than most sports bettors invest in handicapping. Until you change this ratio you aren’t going to have much luck improving your results.

One important thing you need to understand is that you still need to be smart. You need to work smart and hard. This doesn’t mean you should watch more games, but sometimes this can help your handicapping. But too many sports bettors think they’re working hard by watching more games.

When you watch games you need to watch them as a sports bettor, not as a fan. Are you cheering and enjoying the action or are you tracking something to help you become a better handicapper.

The sad truth is that if you want to be a better handicapper you need to stop being a fan. I handle this by not betting on games that involve my favorite teams. I’m a fan of a MLB team and an NFL team. This means I still have plenty of games to bet on and can still be a fan.

2 – Track More Stats

One of the best ways to improve your handicapping skills is to invest more time in tracking statistics. New ways to look at and evaluate stats are being introduced all of the time. And more stats are quickly and easily obtained than ever before.

I’m a big believer in evaluating teams and athletes by watching games, but I still use many statistical models to help me handicap games. I use a series of spreadsheets to help me track statistics, but I know some handicappers that write their own programs to utilize statistics.

College Football Player Running the Ball

It doesn’t matter how you’re using stats now, the truth is that you’re probably not using them enough if you’re not a profitable handicapper. Start by making a list of all of the stats you use now, and then make a second list including all of the available stats that you aren’t using.

Start using a few more stats, and keep adding over time. As you learn which stats are helping and which ones aren’t, you can eliminate some and add others.

3 – Build More Models

A sports betting model is a way to predict the outcomes of upcoming events using statistics. If you’re not using sports betting models to help you handicap games now, the odds are good that you’re not winning.

If you’re not using sports betting models now, it can be a daunting task to get started. Start by building a set of simple models and build on them over time. A simple statistical model isn’t going to be a long term winning model, but every model starts with a few simple steps.

Identify a small group of statistics and develop some models using them. As you learn how accurate your models are, add new statistics and eliminate ones that aren’t helping. Keep improving the models you have and keep building new ones.

Eventually you’re going to be able to combine your best models to see how they work together. The goal is to build a set of models that consistently help you find games with lines that offer value.

4 – Test Constantly

If you want to improve your handicapping results, you have to test everything you do constantly. This is true for building good models like I explained in the last section, and evaluating teams and players by watching games.

Keep track of everything you’re doing when you handicap games, and keep testing new variable. I always start by looking at underdogs, and then look at different variables from there. Over the years I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t. But I still test everything constantly.

The sportsbooks are constantly evolving, yet they still make mistakes. The only way I can keep identifying and profiting from these mistakes is to make sure that I’m constantly evolving too. I’m always testing my models and building new ones and eliminating ones that don’t work. This is the only way I have a chance to continue making a long term profit.

5 – Bet on Fewer Games

One of the biggest turning points in my handicapping career was when I learned how to quickly eliminate games that didn’t offer any value. I stopped trying to force value on unprofitable games and started concentrating more time and energy on fewer games. This allowed me to do a better job handicapping fewer games, which made my results better.

Now I don’t want to bet on five or 10 games every day. I want to find the best one or two games and bet more on them. Some days I don’t find any games that offer enough value to place a bet, and I’m fine with this. I’m more interested in finding profit than making sure I have action down every day.

I still like the action, but I’m not addicted to it so bad that I have to have constant action. I know too many sports bettors who’re hooked on the action. They have to have action or they can’t even watch a game.

Take a close and honest look at why you’re betting on games. Are you an action junkie or are you doing everything you can to try to win?

Focus on finding the game that offers the best value every day. You can start making more by betting on fewer games.

6 – Master One Thing First

At this point in my sports betting career I bet on many different sports. I bet on the NFL, NCAA football, MLB, the NBA, and some on college basketball and the NHL. But this is a dangerous way to be a sports bettor if you haven’t figured out how to consistently turn a profit.

If you’re not making money handicapping yet and you’re betting on many different sports, pick a single sport and figure out how to turn a profit. Once I figured out that I needed to specialize, I picked a medium sized college conference and only bet on football and basketball in that conference.

This allowed me to learn more than the sportsbooks setting the lines and it became easier to find profitable lines. Only after I become a profitable handicapper did I start betting on other sports. And the truth is that I still bet on too many sports today. I should stop betting on the NHL and the NBA if I want to maximize my profits.

7 – Shop Lines Constantly

This doesn’t have much to do with the process of handicapping, but it’s something that every sports bettor can do starting immediately to improve their results. You should constantly shop betting lines. You need to make sure you’re getting the best possible line every time before you place a bet.

The internet makes it easier than ever to shop for lines, but most handicappers who shop for lines don’t do it until they’re ready to place a bet. You need to look at opening lines, mid-week lines, and the lines available right before a game.

NBA Player Posting up With a Defender

Many times I’ve placed a bet on an early line and then seen the line move and placed another bet before the game. I always make sure that the line is moving because of the public and not because of an injury or suspension. But if I do a good job handicapping a game and place a bet and then the line moves in my favor, it’s profitable to place another bet.

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally this turns a loss into a close to breakeven situation. If I bet an early line on a dog at +6 and place a late bet on the same dog at +8, if the game ends with a seven point differential I turned a loss into simply losing the vig on one side. This isn’t possible unless you’re constantly line shopping.


Use these seven steps to start making more money by learning about sports betting. It all starts with hard work, but when you combine hard work with the other suggestions on this page you’re going to start seeing results quickly. Use statistics, models, and testing, and keep building until you’re making consistent profits.