By William D. Foote
“No enemy is worse than bad advice”- Sophocles
With an ever increasing amount of sports handicapping services available, it is getting harder and harder for the novice to find and trust a reputable advisory service. We would not be going out on a limb by saying that at least 90% of the outfits in operation are doing their clients more harm than good. There are several reasons why this is the case.
Each service has its own way of doing business. There are innumerable different fashions in which they bend the rules of candor. While we do not have the time or the willingness to detail the many types of duplicity present in this industry, we will illustrate three of the more common scenarios we see. Each has their own distinctive impact on the reputation of the sports handicapping trade.
Let us present you with Service A. These guys are the real bottoms of the barrel. These are the ones that advertise in the newspapers and on the local sports radio stations. They are always giving out a free game of some sort.
Here is how it plays out. You, the amateur sports bettor, call the toll free number in search of the game that will bail you out of your unlucky weekend. Some guy who knows nothing about football and everything about oppressive salesmanship answers the phone. He tells you that their 100,000 star game of the year is going and it will be money in the bank.
Lucky You!!! The exact day you need it most, these guys have their Game of the Year. What an utter coincidence. This guy convinces you to pay him a couple of hundred dollars for this info. After much haggling, he wears you down and you decide to pay him. After all, it is their Lock of the Year and you do need a winner.
The game more than likely loses. Now, you are in a real predicament. Not only are you down the amount that got you to call this guy in the first place, but you are also out the couple of hundred bucks you spent purchasing the game and the ungodly amount you bet on the game. Now it is true panic time. You have to worry about what you are going to tell the wife and what you are going to do about the mortgage. You wish your misery ended there. But it has just begun!
Unfortunately, you gave your phone number to this con artist and he has not finished with you yet. He will now trade or sell your name to every other con artist in the book. You will be hounded by oppressive phone calls night and day until you change your phone number. Sound extreme? You don’t believe us? Call one of those numbers and find out for yourself. The scenario described above happens all the time. These cases have been well publicized by the media. The term “Scamdicapper”, coined in the February 1990 New York Post article, is now a common phrase is the industry. This term and its inferred meaning, is a direct result of the brand of service just described.
Then there is Service B. Service B does not participate in cold calling unsuspecting customers and harassing them into submission. No, what Service B does is maybe even worse. Service B just out and out lies about their win/loss percentage. You are probably thinking to yourself; how can fudging on a win/loss percentage constitute a more deplorable act than what Service A does. Let us explain.
When Service B sells their customers on a 70% win loss ratio, two bad events will inevitably result. Follow the Service B scenario.
The unsuspecting customer will sign up and start receiving games. In all probability, they will not be winning 70%. In most cases, they will actually be losing money. Now the customer will be thinking back to the 70% claims. In all likelihood, he will over extend himself by logically believing that the worm must turn. “After all, they have only won 45% of their games so far. To get back to 70% they will need to pick 95% here on out.” Problem is, Service B does not pick at 70%, and probably does not even pick at 50%. This pattern goes on and on until the customer has lost everything. The harm these outfits cause does not end here.
Because of all the ridiculous claims made by these unscrupulous services, the casual sports bettor has a warped expectation about success. Most of the betting public believes it is possible to attain a 70% winning percentage over the course of a season. Let us dispel that myth right now. It is not possible! We will get into winning percentages later. The problem then becomes that the average uninformed bettor only joins the services claiming 70% winners. Ironically, these are the very services that will put them in the poorhouse. It becomes a vicious cycle. No way is Joe Public going to join an honest service, because the honest services are only claiming 55% winners. What we have now is Joe Public avoiding the services that can turn him a profit in favor of the ones that will get him cleaned out.
That leads us to Service C. Service C is a completely legitimate group that is very good at what they do. They are usually seasoned gamblers themselves, and most times are not as aggressive as their more obnoxious counterparts. This brand of service is few and far between. Since they shoot straight about their records, they do not have a huge amount of clients. (After all, who would want to win 57% if they can win 70% down the street?) What these services usually do have is a sophisticated and very loyal following. Their clients know the reality of sports betting and are ecstatic about a 57% win loss record. Their clients also understand that success is not measured on a daily or even weekly basis. They know success is measured in the long run. From the service’s perspective, this is exactly the type of clients they want. The last thing a service wants is to spend a bunch of their time defending their 0-4 day. Sophisticated clients grasp the premise of percentages; they understand that percentages will dictate a 0-4 day every now and again.
There is another form of service we should discuss. It is called a consensus service. What a consensus service does is utilize a number of different handicapping services. They claim to sign up for the very top handicapping services in the country. They then compile all of the picks from each of the different services and hand them out to their own clients. Consensus Services use one of two different kind methodologies.
The first methodology is to release each and every selection from each and every service they subscribe to. You the customer now have access to the selections of five top handicappers. You can either bet them all, or you can play the games that they match up on.
The second methodology a consensus service will use entails monitoring each of the handicapping services they have subscribed to. They will then release to you the picks from the “hot” services and withhold the picks from services that are running “cold”.
Quite simply, each of these methodologies is significantly flawed. The first and most glaring issue when it comes to a consensus service is the choice of handicappers they use. Odds are; they have five services that all are picking losers. Over the course of the years, we have run into many people who have subscribed to consensus services, confirm our notion. Most of them say some thing like, “It was liking having one bad service multiplied by five. None of them won. In fact, I have never lost so much in my life!”
Even if you stumble upon a service that has 5 winning handicappers (which is highly unlikely), this is still a markedly unsound theory. A group of 5 handicappers’ selections can never exceed the winning percentage of the top handicapper in the group. Let’s say service A picks 50%, service B picks 53%, service c picks 55%, service D picks 57%, and service E picks 60%. You would end up at 55%. Therefore, you would be better off by just using service E or service D.
The last part of the consensus methodology that will assuredly lose you money is the “hot and cold” theory. A hot streak can go cold and a cold streak can go hot in a nanosecond. No one can knowledgeably predict these cycles. As a matter of fact, the opposite would be an improved thought process. While we would not recommend this either, it stands to reason that the service you would want to follow would be the one that has been running cold.
Let’s say both service A and service B pick at 55% over the course of a season. Service A has been killing it the first half of the season and is at 70%. Conversely, Service B has been in the dumps and is only picking 40% in the first half of the season. Which service would you want to jump on? If each service were to end up at 55%, then you sure as hell would hope to be on service B.
Expectations are what kill most consumers when it comes to choosing an advisory service. It is hard enough to find a reputable service capable of winning, but the matter becomes even worse when you are looking for the wrong attributes. Don’t buy into outlandish claims, don’t buy into false theories and don’t believe everything you read. What you should do is, find a service that picks 55% or better and stick with them! Be smart enough to know that 55% winners over the course of a season or two can return a huge amount of profits.
Or of course, you can take the time and learn to win on your own. This is probably your best bet. What is that over used cliché? “You give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day, or you can teach a man to fish, and you will feed him for life.” It goes something like that anyway.