I grew up listening to baseball games, collecting baseball cards, and tracking the statistics for as many baseball players as my mind would hold. As a sports bettor, I’ve always liked tracking statistics and trying to figure out how to use them to help me win more money. This started with baseball and expanded over the years to include other sports.
One of the things I learned over the years is that statistics are important as a sports bettor, but they aren’t the only thing I need to track to be a good handicapper.
Here’s a list of seven things that every sports better should track and use when handicapping games.
1 – Coaching Changes
One of the constants in sports is coaching changes. Head coaches are fired every year, and sometimes a coach actually retires before they get fired. Assistant coaches change jobs all of the time, sometime taking a different position with the same team and sometimes taking a position with a different organization.
Every time a coaching change is made, either at the top position or at the assistant level, it can change the way teams perform. The goal with every coaching change from the team’s point of view is to improve their record, but you know from experience that this isn’t always how it turns out.
It’s easy to track head coaching changes because they make the news. But you also need to track every assistant level change as well. In every sport there’s a hierarchy in the coaching ranks, with some positions being more important than others. But every assistant has a job and can change the way athletes perform on the field.
Sometimes the importance of certain positions changes over time. 20 years ago, no one seemed to be too concerned about the recruiting skill level of assistant coaches in college football, but today the top programs want assistants that can recruit well.
The important things to track for coaches are how well they get their players to perform and their coaching tendencies. Some coaches do a better job motivating their players than others, and this is a skill that carries over from one job to another. Every coach has tendencies, but sometimes they’re hard to determine and track until they get a top level job.
If you can identify the tendencies that assistant coaches have, it can help you a great deal when you’re handicapping games after an assistant moves up to a more involved role with a team.
One thing that trips up many handicappers is when a great offensive or defensive coordinator takes over a head coach position. The belief is that a great defensive coordinator is going to make the team a better defensive team when they take over as the head coach. The same belief follows offensive coaches when they take over the top spot.
But the reality is often not the same as the belief. Head coaches work more like managers, overseeing every aspect of the team, and leave the specific work on each side of the ball to their staff. Keep this in mind when a great coordinator takes a head job.
2 – Bankroll and Bet Sizing
You need to decide if you want to be a casual sports bettor or get serious about figuring out how to win. Winning handicappers have a bankroll for making bets and track it like their life depends on it. They also use the size of their bankroll when they’re determining the proper size bet to make on each game where they find value.
Winning handicappers also know that there are going to be winning and losing streaks, even if they make good handicapping decisions. This means that that you need to bet a small percentage of your bankroll on games to protect it from the swings.
Most sports bettors simply bet with money they have in their pocket and don’t worry about where their next bet is coming from. Smart handicappers know where their next bet and their next 10 bets are being funded.
A simple system is what I call the 1% bet sizing system. On most games you bet, you use 1% of your total bankroll. On games where you handicap a high level of value you can bet 2% or 3% of your bankroll, but never more. You need to understand that there are no sure things in sports betting, and a simple system like this protects your bankroll.
3 – Results
One of the big differences between amateur sports bettors and professional handicappers is that every professional tracks their results. They know exactly how much they make or lose and are always looking for ways to improve their results.
If you’re not closely tracking your sports betting results you’re not even going to know that you need to improve or be able to identify areas where you can improve.
When you track your results you can identify trends. You might be losing too many games where you bet on road teams, or home teams. Once you identify trends in your results you can try to figure out why you’re getting the results you’re getting. This is a powerful way to improve and win more bets.
4 – Hourly Return on Investment
Once you start tracking your results you should also start tracking how much time you spend handicapping games. When you have these two numbers you can quickly determine how much you’re making, or losing, per hour betting on sports.
If you spend 10 hours handicapping games and make $100, you’re making $10 an hour. If you spent the same 10 hours and only made $20, you’re making $2 an hour. It’s not extremely important to make a certain amount per hour betting on sports, but this information gives you a good way to compare how much you’re making to working at a regular job.
Another benefit of tracking your hourly return on investment is learning just how much time you spend every day or week on handicapping. I include the time I send watching games when I determine my earn rate, because I’m always looking at the games from a handicapping perspective.
5 – Injuries
I shouldn’t have to say much about tracking injuries, but I’m always running into bettors who make bets without checking injury reports. If you don’t track every injury in the sports you handicap there’s no way you can avoid making mistakes.
I check for injuries every day, and then I check again before I make any bet. Injuries and late scratches are why many bettors wait until the last minute to place their bets.
6 – Lines
Handicapping a game means nothing until you see the available lines. A game doesn’t offer any value if you can’t make a bet on a line that offers value on one side or the other. I don’t care which side of a game offers value, as long as there’s value on one side of the line or the other.
When you watch the lines closely you also can learn how the public money shifts lines. You can start seeing trends that you can use to make more profitable betting decisions. It’s valuable to know when a line might move and which way it’s likely to move. This can help you know if you need to place a bet early or if you should wait to try to take advantage of a line move.
7 – Late Breaking News
Late breaking news is somewhat like checking for injuries, and sometimes the late breaking news is about an injury. The fact is that if you don’t have all of the information you need to effectively handicap a game, you’re not going to make the best possible decisions.
Effective handicapping is about accessing and using the right information. This means that you need to be constantly looking for good information, and this includes any information that comes out right before a game. This can save you a great deal of money over the course of a season or year.
The most common example is when you bet on one side of a game and something changes at the last minute that makes the other side of the game more attractive. You can ride this out and hope for the best, or you can place a bet on the other side to minimize your losses.
The odds are high that you’re not tracking as many things as you need to as a handicapper. The more information you track and gather the better your chances of effectively handicapping games.
Start tracking the seven things listed on this page to improve your chances of winning.