Controversies and Scandals Have Lessons in Handicapping

Recently sports have seen minor controversies to major
scandals that all have direct or indirect handicapping lessons. In short, they
can be summed up in what we preach time and time again. The key to successful sports betting is
getting an edge as often as possible.

This is exactly why coaches are notoriously secretive
about the injury status of key players and also why we sports bettors exercise
every source to get the accurate lowdown.

Coaches believe the more he knows about the injury status
of his and his opponent’s key players, the more of an edge his team will get.
It’s the same way with gamblers against their sportsbook opponent.

It’s precisely the reason the now infamous scandals of
disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy and likely soon-to-be former Texas A&M football coach Dennis Franchione are so significant.
Investing is sports scores is much like Wall Street betting. “Inside
information” that coaches and refs have access to is the sports broker’s
version of insider trading.

So is the lesson for the sports gambler that if we don’t
get the state’s evidence directly from a coach or referee that we are out of
luck? The answer is absolutely not. “Inside” information is far from the only
way to get the upper hand on betting the odds.

A lot of valuable insight is out there. Just because
information is public does not mean it’s widely circulated.

So often the keenest intelligence comes to light after the
odds have been posted, often somewhat limiting how sportsbooks can act in
response. We’ve long touted Google News as our favorite aggregator of sports
betting information such as injuries, expert analysis on how teams match up,
motivation recognition and other very useful bullet points.

However, Topix and ESPN have also teamed up to try to
compete with Google News. Replacing their “Sitelines” section, ESPN has
partnered with Topix to create “ESPN local”. This new feature aggregates
articles of interest to the sports fan and gambler. That being said, Google
News still reigns supreme, but the ESPN/Topix synergy has potential for the

We move on to a minor controversy, but certainly an
example of a coach pulling out all the stops to get the leg up on the
competition or more accurately to counter the eminence of their foe.

finally ended Florida’s series
domination in college football. In said game, the Bulldogs had a choreographed
excessive celebration penalty after their first touchdown. Head coach Mark
Richt admitted he told the team, “I expect you guys to celebrate to the point
where the official will throw a flag for excessive celebration.”

Richt said his instructions were intended to fire up his
team because he felt they needed to play with more passion. He did not
specifically verify, but we strongly suspect that the fact that Florida
had won 15 of the previous 17 meetings was motivational factor No. 1.

The handicapping ramifications are to never underestimate
the importance of emotion and the psychology of sports. Of course most players
on both Florida and Georgia
were being potty trained when the domination started. Each team has gone
through several coaching changes during the era. Despite all that, clearly
Richt knew that a well publicized one-sided rivalry leads to swagger from one
team and a “culture of losing” from the other.

Sports bettors should not completely disregard historical
data even if the period precedes every player and coach who will affect that
outcome of the game being handicapped. I honestly believe if Georgia
had the 15-2 series edge, Richt would never have felt the need to manufacture boastfulness
and confidence.

Then there was the short-lived, though periodic
speculation about the Indianapolis Colts piping in crowd noise during home
games. For our purposes, the veracity of these accusations is not as relevant
as the fact that there is a reason why opponents care if the Colts are bending

Again, crowd noise can give a home team—we will say it
again—“the edge”. Few coaches or players will dispute the affect of the “12th
man” in football or the “6th man” in basketball.

This is why we love it when we read that a team has for
example “only the third sellout in two years” or that the small town mayor held
a noon pep rally the day of a big

Not that a game or pointspread is necessarily going to be
affected by a pep rally, but such seemingly innocuous events are symptoms of
how significant a specific game is and how passionate the hometown crowd is going
to be.

In college, we always keep an eye out for when the
non-elite college basketball teams are playing home games while the student
body is on winter break. The level of home court and home field advantage is
fluid and will vary game-to-game, especially with lower profile schools where
sellouts are far from a given.

What the average gambler takes for granted, the sharp
player yearns for. No edge is too banal for smart money players. Best of all, one
need not always have access to a private booster newsletter or collude with a
rogue official. So often the most indispensable information to the gambler can
be in the fourth paragraph of a squad’s hometown newspaper or within the official
team press release.

Joe Duffy’s sports betting selections are at He is former General Manager of the
Freescoreboard scorephone network and CEO of,
the premier hub of world-class handicappers and free sports betting

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