The Mental Aspect of Handicapping

Good Amateur Psychologists Make Great Handicappers
Joe Duffy (
Long-time clients know when I mention the name Yogi Berra in our game breakdown, we have a good likelihood of winning. We often quote his “90 percent of the game is half mental” malapropism. Very often teams are playing two opponents—the guys in the other uniform and a mental whammy.
Several illustrations have applied very recently. The most high profile would be the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs falling prey to billy goat and Bambino curses. Also Florida and Godspicks again cashed in against Georgia in the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. Going with Michigan against John Cooper’s Ohio State teams was free money.
Regular clients know that this is not a case being a hindsight genius. There was no reservations that the Chicago Cubs should have been heavy favorites “on paper” in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS. They were playing at home with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior on the hill with the 3-2 lead.
With Pedro Martinez on the pitcher’s mound, the Red Sox “on paper” was justified in being a road favorite in Game 7.
One need not believe in Voodoo or witch doctors to subscribe to “jinxes”. But regardless of the origin of the alleged hex, one need only to acknowledge that the brain is the most forceful muscle in an athlete’s body.
Natalie Newton is a former athlete and well respected sports psychologist. She articulates, “What you have to realize is that any time you put two losses or errors or mistakes or any negative experiences back to back, then the anticipation turns into expecting a third loss,” Newton eloquently explains a theory that I subscribed to as a handicapper for years. “So if you’ve lost to a same team or same person or had a same similar error occur two times in a row, then the expectation is for it to occur the next time. Some people call it superstition. Whatever you want to call it, that is a natural human expectation.”
The more I hear and read about coaches and players denying a jinx or “curse”, the more I take into account that it becomes increasing inescapable for a team to not bear this mental weight.
Dr. Newtown fluently expresses why we think it is no coincidence that both the Cubs and Red Sox were five outs from a World Series birth before imploding or that Florida again beat a more talented Bulldog team on the last series of their 2003 football contest.
In times of pressure one team’s subconscious reminds them that history tells them they will win, the other team…well this is from a website “If you look at voodoo or Santeria, psychologists will tell you that the curses work because the people truly believe in it. Neurology is full of cases demonstrating the power of our own minds, consciously or unconsciously, over our bodies.”
Sports psychologists and coaches will tell you if a player believes his lucky socks make him perform better, chances are they will. When I read that coaches have found something mechanical that a slumping player had been doing wrong, I realize believing there is a corrected flaw is every bit as effective as there actually being one.
The fact that professional and college teams have hired sports psychologists or that coaches believe in “bulletin board material” is beyond corroboration that elite handicappers have to recognize when black magic is one teams opponent of the psyche.
When foretelling the outcome of games, a team’s mindset is a terrible thing to waste. Those who pooh-pooh such will curse themselves.
Duffy’s plays are part of the Dream Team at He is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, Gamblers Zoo national radio show, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Pro Fantasy Sports Internet radio and Grogan’s Fantasy Football show.
His Wise Guy Plays available exclusively at where daily sports handicapping information is available to crush the sportsbooks. is the top source for NFL picks, college football winners and more.

Advanced News and Notes in College Hoops For Feb 4

Updated constantly. Keep checking back to The top sports service plays are available at the Center of the Handicapping Universe These are advanced news and notes available before the opening lines. They are updated often, so keep checking back. Joe Duffy’s private clipboard begins with games of February 4, 2006
Miami (Fl)-Georgia Tech
Press Notes
Hoping to snap a six-game losing streak, two of which have come at home, Georgia Tech returns to Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Tech (9-10 overall, 2-6 ACC this season) has lost consecutive games to No. 18 NC State, Wake Forest, Clemson, No. 18 Maryland, Boston College and Virginia Tech. It is the Jackets’ longest losing streak since the 2001-02 season (also six games), and Tech is under .500 overall for the first time since the end of that season. The Jackets, tied for 10th place in the ACC standings, are 8-3 at home this season. Miami (13-8 overall, 5-3 ACC) has won six of its last eight games, including two straight over Florida State and Wake Forest. The Hurricanes, in fourth place in the ACC standings, come to Atlanta having made more three-point field goals in ACC play (67) than all but two teams in the league. The Yellow Jackets’ last two losses have occurred by a total of three points, 66-64 at Boston College Sunday and 63-62 at Virginia Tech Tuesday. Tech played well defensively, holding those two teams to 40 percent shooting from the floor and 30.3 percent from three-point range.
San Diego-Pepperdine
Press Notes
The USD Toreros (14-6, 4-3 WCC) will put their three-game winning streak on the line. This is the 75th meeting between USD and Pepperdine with the Waves owning a commanding 52-22 advantage. earlier this season the Waves held on for a 55-54 win at Firestone Fieldhouse on January 9th. last season the Toreros won 2 of 3. The USD Toreros earned solid back-to-back WCC road contests this past week with wins over Saint Mary’s (86-78) and Santa Clara (81-66). USD has now won 4-of-5 heading into their 3-game homestand. San Diego has gone 4-1 in league play after starting with tough back-to-back road losses at LMU and Pepperdine. USD’s three WCC losses are by a combined 4 points. USD is off to a 7-2 start in games played at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. the two losses are by a combined 4 points (94-91 to Texas-Arlington in overtime; 64-63 to then No. 6 Gonzaga). USD is averaging 83.1 ppg and 35.6 rpg while limiting opponents to 68.0 ppg and 35.1 rpg. Waves finished the first half of WCC play with a 3-4 mark and 7-12 overall record. Pepperdine comes to USD with a modest two-game winning streak after home wins over Santa Clara (65-45) and LMU (70-62).
Wake Forest-Virginia
Press Notes
Wake Forest is 12-9 overall and 1-7 in the ACC after a 78-69 loss at Miami Tuesday night. Virginia is 10-7 and 4-3 heading into Wednesday’s game at NC State. Wake Forest, which won just two of eight games in the month of January, hopes for a fresh start in February as the Demon Deacons embark on the second half of the ACC schedule beginning Saturday at Virginia. he Demon Deacons, 12-9 overall, 1-7 in the ACC and owning a four-game losing streak, have a lot of ground to make up. Wake is in last place in the ACC standings with eight league games and one nonconference game left. Wake Forest’s last two losses — 78-69 at Miami Tuesday night and 76-70 against Virginia Tech last Saturday — have been especially dis- appointing. The Deacons led Miami at halftime and they held a 12- point second-half advantage in the Virginia Tech game. Wake Forest swept the regular season series last year, breaking a streak of seven consecutive years that the Deacs and Wahoos had split two regular season meetings. Wake won 90-68 in Winston-Salem and 89-70 in Charlottesville. Last year’s win in Charlottesville snapped a streak of four consecutive Deacon losses in University Hall. Virginia leads the series in Charlottesville, 35-20, including a 29-10 advantage in University Hall.
South Carolina-Arkansas
Press Notes
Doubtful is Gamecock Renaldo Balkman who leads the team with 6.3 rpg and is third in scoring with 10.3 ppg. He has played in all 20 of USC’s games this season, starting 13. USC is 11-9 and 2-5 in the SEC.
Utah State-Louisiana State
Press Notes
Louisiana Tech is 14-7 on the season and in first-place in the Western Athletic Conference with a 7-1 league record after defeating San Jose State (75-55) and Fresno State (68-66 ot) on the road last weekend. The Bulldogs, who are 7-0 at home this year, have won seven of its last eight games, losing only at Utah State 64-55. Utah State will be making its third appearance on ESPN this year against Louisiana Tech Saturday afternoon. The last time USU appeared on ESPN it defeated Hawai’i 63-52 in Logan on Mon., Jan. 30. Overall, USU teams have won 18 of its last 20 games that have been televised by ESPN.
Miami (Oh)-Buffalo
Press Notes
After averaging 47.0 ppg over the previous three games, Miami regrouped and has had its best offensive efforts since scoring a season-high 80 points at Michigan on Dec. 22, amassing 73 points at Ohio on Jan. 29 and 77 points against Bowling Green on Feb. 1. Miami rounds our a four-game stretch where it plays three on the road. After road games at Akron and Ohio last week and a home game with Bowling Green on Feb. 1, the RedHawks again take to the road for a 7 p.m. contest at Buffalo on Saturday, Feb. 4. Miami leads the all-time series 11-3, but Buffalo has won two of the last three match-ups. At Alumni Arena, Miami has a 5-2 edge, however, the last time the RedHawks were victorious in Buffalo was in 2004, 72-62. A hallmark of Miami men’s basketball in recent years is a strong emphasis on defense, and the 2005-06 RedHawks are continuing the trend. Miami ranks 18th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 59.1 ppg. In Mid-American Conference play, the RedHawks rank first in scoring defense (55.7), rebounding defense (27.9), defensive rebounds (25.00) and field goal percentage defense (.397).
UAB-Central Florida
Press Notes
The Golden Knights enter the game with a 9-9 overall mark and a 3-2 league record and will be looking to for their eighth win at home this year. UAB (15-4, 5-1) has won 11 of its last 12 games. Dating back to the start of the 2001-02 season, the Golden Knights are 50-13 in games played at UCF Arena. In 2004-05, the team went 12-3 at home, the second-best home win total in program history (14 in 1993-94). This season, the squad is 7-3 in Orlando.
Folks I’ve been in this business long before offshore books became popular. I have yet to hear ONE complaint about MVP Sportsbook. That’s why it always has been my preferred house and it SHOULD be yours too.
Joe Duffy’s Wise Guy Plays available exclusively at where daily sports handicapping information is available to crush the sportsbooks.

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 14

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 14
Joe Duffy (
This is the latest in a serious of a Godgepodge of gambling strategy and thoughts.
Great Read
The best gambling related magazine I’ve seen is Highroller ( It covers ever aspect of gambling and is certainly a must read for all poker players. My understanding is it is very commonplace at newsstands. It gets the much sought after Godspicks seal of approval.
The next time you head out for some Doritos and brew, pick up a copy.
Bulletin Board Material
There is some value to handicapping the intangible of so-called “bulletin board material”. That is one team with a player calling out the other team. However sometimes it can benefit the trash talking team, other times a detriment. There is a certain physiological warfare and we find a veteran player questioning the big game capabilities of a key young player on another team is does rather a player when things are going well.
Ironically the other extreme is that a well disciplined team can also be flustered. The famed guarantees of Mark Messier, Joe Namath, and Jimmy Johnson are examples of the consistent and superior teams being taken off their single-mindedness.
One of the best assertions I’ve heard is from someone who believes handicapping the effects of such can have great value in football. He believes practice preparation is much underrated—we do too as we’ve previously spoken of what great precursors “great week” or “poor week” of practices are. He believes “bulletin board material” increases focus and determination during the week more than having a direct affect after kickoff.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s worse to call out underachieving teams or players that need a wake-up call. Why light a fire under Randy Moss? It’s the old why wake up a sleeping dog syndrome.
Conversely a top shelf team didn’t become that good by waiting for some blowhard on the other team to provoke them. From a “face saving” standpoint, there are risks to calling out a much more exceptional opponent However in 1994 when the Cowboys Jimmy Johnson took his dog Pokes to Candlestick Park and proclaimed “put it in three-inch headlines. We will win” he proved correct. As Johnson correctly stated years later, he believes he got underneath the skin of the usually clearheaded collection of veteran future Hall-of-Famers as they engaged the Cowboys in a pre-game near brawl.
Thriving teams are more likely to be distracted by being on the giving or receiving end of calling out. Struggling teams are more likely to be awoken. In short, a big favorite does not need to have the boat rocked by a braggadocio on either team.
The Dictionary as a Handicapping Tool
With conference tournaments followed by the Big Dance upon us, it is imperative we warn you against yet another dunce assumption that gamblers make about neutral site games, be it in football and basketball. Neutral according to the dictionary means “Not aligned with, supporting, or favoring either side in a war, dispute, or contest.”
The dumb cluck investor overplays road statistics when weighing performance to date. This is a gross misapplication. A road game is a game on the opponent’s court. The oddsmakers absolutely are prepared for this common delusion. A neutral court is just that—it’s no more a road game than a home game.
Of course we consider if one team has to travel much further or is bringing along a much larger supporting section, but that’s part of the research. And under that circumstance one team’s neutral game is more like a home than a road battle.
But the presupposition that one should handicap each team’s road performance disproportionately is not based on any factual historical data or simple common sense. Wise men handicap neutral games like the dictionary defines them, not as if each team is playing a road contest.
Duffy’s plays are part of the Dream Team at He is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, Gamblers Zoo national radio show, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Gridiron Gamblers, Pro Fantasy Sports Internet radio and Grogan’s Fantasy Football show.

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 13

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 13
Joe Duffy (
Inconsistency is Your Friend
Here is another Golden Rule of handicapping. As Schneider from One Day at a Time used to say, “Always remember and never forget” what is bad for the oddsmakers is good for you. What is good for the oddsmakers is bad for you. The linesmakers and square players loathe uncertainty. That’s why books love the square player; they play to linesmakers’ strengths while the sharp player will exploit their weakness.
Games are circled or off-the-board because of ambiguous injury information to a key player, severe weather or sometimes pending motivation factors late in the year concerning playoff ramifications, coaches resting healthy key players, etc. Why? The sharp players use equivocal information as a resource not a liability.
I hear bush league punters (as they call them in Europe) all the time say something along the lines of, “I just can’t get a handle on that team. I avoid their games altogether.” I’ve spoken to most of the big name oddsmakers and sportsbook directors at one time or another and every one of them will bemoan that the haphazard teams are the ones they despise the most. “Predictably unpredictable” teams are very high percentage plays. Such teams are box of chocolates–you never know what you will get. That’s why taking a large pointspread number in a game in which the oddsmakers struggle to cipher is a good venture. There are many teams that will on a predictable basis follow up a great effort with a dud and visa versa. This is typical of young teams or those with erratic star players, and talented but poorly coached teams.
Hence contrary to what Joeybagodonuts thinks, it’s actually better to go against “predictably unpredictable” teams when playing well and with them when they are playing poorly. Combining the two, inconsistent big dogs are good percentage plays to bet on and inconsistent favorites playing well are go-against plays. In short the same teams that seem to loathe prosperity also are the most dangerous once essentially counted out. When it comes to bettors, winners are proactive, losers are reactive.
That’s a Bowl of Crap
There are not many givens in gambling. One that’s almost etched in stone is the books make a windfall during the bowls. The square players come out of the woodwork for the bowls and March Madness. One of the biggest groupthink falsities is those who believe in betting the teams that enter bowl season the hottest. While we do find that true for March Madness, in both the conference tournaments and the Dance, not only is it not true for football’s postseason, actually more times than not it’s the opposite. But that’s why there are not many bookmakers in the breadline. Conventional illogical separates the fool from his money.
Which team needs 20-30 days off the most—the team playing their best football at the end of the year, or the one playing their worst? Rest can often take a team out of their rhythm, be it good or bad pulse. Three weeks is a lot of time for mentally and physically tired teams to regroup. Also it’s the perfect trap for a peaking team to lose their edge.
Be a Fan of Fan Attendance For Bowl Games
Not all widely held conventions are based on illogic, though in many cases there is still more that meets the eye and the pocket. A great example is most gamblers sharp and square realize if there is a huge difference in fan contingencies one team brings to a bowl game, there is without debate an advantage to the team that will have more partisans on a neutral field. But this advantage is exploitable when it’s actually a symptom of a greater truth. Especially when it comes to minor bowls, one of the biggest x-factors is analyzing which teams are truly interested and which are playing in a consolation game.
In that sense the fans and the players are congruent. If there is less fan interest, there is less player interest and visa versa. There’s a chicken/egg scenario in there somewhere. However if the dichotomy is better explained by one school being much physically closer to the site of the bowl or a larger school with more alumni then the advantage is lessened. However if one school is transporting a much larger contingent despite a geographical inconvenience, there we have an angle. That’s a strong indicator one team considers the bowl a major contest while the other is in the proverbial kissing-your-sister game.
Media reports and the teams’ and bowls press releases are sources for accurate information on which teams will have the bigger cheering sections.
Duffy’s plays are part of the Dream Team at He is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, Gamblers Zoo national radio show, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Gridiron Gamblers, Pro Fantasy Sports Internet radio and Grogan’s Fantasy Football show.

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 12

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 12
Joe Duffy (
Listen to the Oddsmakers
When I first got into the handicapping business years ago, I was a knowledge sponge. I’d seek out advice from tested, proven, battle-scarred high rollers. One nugget that applied decades ago and still does in the modern offshore line era is “the oddsmakers often tell you something”. We’ve discussed numerous examples of using the oddsmakers’ knowledge against them. A huge case in point is when a team has a long winless or undefeated streak and the posted line contradicts the donut. There have been three screaming examples this year of as Oscar Dooley likes to say “there has got to be a reason why”, two in consecutive days. Despite having the nation’s longest road losing streak at 24, Baylor was a road favorite. That would qualify as a major proclamation by the line chefs. Were you listening? Baylor wins by five and covers.
Michigan ranked No. 25 in the nation was a three-point road favorite to Northwestern ranked No. 21 at the time. They destroyed the higher ranked home dogs 33-17. It is very rare a lower ranked team is ever a road favorite to a higher ranked team, much less a field goal. Another statement by the books and we were all ears. Our worst non-pick of the year was the next day when the Houston Texans, the NFL’s last winless team was a favorite to Cleveland. They win and cover. We learned from our huge mistake. Bad handicappers whine how their losers were “right plays”. Good handicappers consider loses valuable lessons.
The big exception is teams as a favorite trying to snap a huge series slide, especially in college sports. We’ve discussed numerous times about teams having mental whammies over their foes and that supersedes the above theory. But an overwhelming majority of the time the oddsmakers tell you a drought or prosperity will end, chances are the almost always small favorite will cover.
To paraphrase an old commercial, when the oddsmakers talk, wiseguys listen.
Upside Down You Turn Me
Two magic buzzwords in handicapping are “upside” and “downside”. The deeper a team goes into the season, the more the odds are based on their performance to date. Teams that have underachieved are generally good spread teams for the remainder of the year. On the other hand, underachieving teams are by and large great fades. However this is merely a part of square one in handicapping and far from a lead pipe rule. In our popular essay, “It is Good to Pick Bad” we discuss how the public has a lot more comfort betting on good teams rather than poor teams. In addition to the reasons discussed in that article, simply put a team with a .800 winning percentage has a lot more downside; while a team with a .200 winning percentage has the upside. Again one must analyze each team individually, but these are very good rules of thumb.
As an example I am a big fan of running games in the NFL. I believe it sets up the pass more than visa versa, though the other is true. Furthermore a running game keeps the defense off the field. There is no question Jamal Lewis is a much better running back than he’s shown this year. Baltimore’s running game would be a perfect example of an upside.
Duffy’s plays are part of the Dream Team at He is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, Gamblers Zoo national radio show, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Pro Fantasy Sports Internet radio and Grogan’s Fantasy Football show. Today’s free winner, news, notes, articles, sportsbook bonuses and more are at

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 11

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 11
Joe Duffy (
This is the latest in a series of articles in which we give you a Godspodge of sports betting tips, strategies and more.
Fair and Balanced
We have touted Foxsheets as our favorite commercial statistical source. However they are far from perfect. Their update times are extremely inconsistent and always dead last of the major sources to bring up to date their database. This is especially detrimental in getting an early start in sports like the NBA and especially MLB when teams play in back-to-back days. It’s principally excruciating when there is day baseball or March Madness conference tourneys when there are afternoon games involving back-to-back action.
Also several systems are poorly written where some can be counted twice, especially when dealing with totals. For example if an NBA system reads, and we will essentially rewrite their confusing algorithmic language, “If a team is off a double-digit SU win as an underdog, it goes over at a 173-76 rate”.
Occasionally this system would apply to both teams. The problem being with Foxsheets, they count the system as 0-2 or 2-0.
Selling Plays and Advertising Sportsbooks
A popular FAQ is whether or not there is a conflict of interest in selling plays and accepting sportsbook advertising. Funny how long-term clients never ask that question.
While I don’t know of any scientific number comparisons, the number of clients who bet at sportsbooks is enormously higher than the number that purchase sports service selections. The biggest sportsbooks are looking for volume. They can adjust the line to ensure that there is enough square money to balance the sharp money. Ideally a sportsbook would love to have 50 percent action on each side in every game. Hence half the money wins every game. To be brutally honest, there are a lot more crap handicappers out there than good ones and the crap handicappers send clients to help sportsbooks get balanced action.
There is a famous radio host who likes to say, “I am equal time”. Not that we want to sound too braggadocios but we are balance to the commonplace sucker play.
We always urge line shopping, but we would only recommend a sportsbook that we personally place bets. Having a reliable sportsbook that pays, helps our business not hinders it.
Truthfully, the ethical reasons aside, I don’t think there are realistic benefits to putting out a lousy product and somehow trying to “win for losing”. We have the largest number of repeat clients in the industry. We are paid on referrals by sportsbooks and would never, ever accept a commission on losses. Those handicappers that do accept commission on losses arguably have crossed the line.
And finally if anyone really thinks a sports service is giving away ruse plays to benefit the books, just bet against the plays. It will be fool’s gold if you do it with Godspicks, but ultimately we are only responsible for the plays we release, not how you bet them.
Key Numbers in Football
We always stress the importance of line shopping, but this so much more true when it comes to key numbers. Key numbers are in short a disproportionate margin of victory falls on that number. In football, the top two key numbers are three and seven. Historically about 1-of-6 games in the NFL have a margin of victory of three points. Hence the difference between getting or laying three and 3.5 is much more significant from a line shopping standpoint then 3.5 and 5.5.
However the aforesaid latter move is important too as four is a minor key number. In college the margins can be larger, but any numerator of three, seven and ten are key numbers.
This is why sportsbooks prefer to adjust juice on a key number, especially three in the NFL rather than move the line. In other words if most of the money is on a favorite of three points, instead of moving the line to 3.5 the books an overwhelming majority of time will move it to -3 (-120) instead.
An NFL move off of three points, except in the case of injuries, is now almost unheard of.
Sharp shoppers and players must be responsive to the ramifications of a line move that crosses a key number. A pure steam move (no injury or extenuating circumstances moved the line) that puts a game on or off a key number will effect the probability factor of a game covering. For us it often turns a bet into a pass or passing on a game into a play. But always shop so you won’t have to drop.
Duffy’s plays are part of the Dream Team at He is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, Gamblers Zoo national radio show, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Pro Fantasy Sports Internet radio and Grogan’s Fantasy Football show.
When it comes to beating the NFL odds, college football odds and the sportsbooks in baseball, college basketball and the NBA, is the nation’s premier sports service. Free spread winners daily are at

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 9

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 9
Joe Duffy (
This is the latest in a series, a Godgepodge of sports gambling discussion.
Another Tool in Home Field Advantage
We’ve said many times that home field/court advantage is far from equal. “Good starting point” is the term that always comes to mind with the power ratings discussed in a previous Tid-bet. But the ability to look outside the box is imperative in all facets of handicapping and analyzing the extent of HFA on a game by game basis is high on the list. recently wrote an article with the not-so-original title from my favorite movie, “There is No Place Like Home”. Though the article is limited in scope, it’s one we’ve saved because it does have usefulness to the gambler in accurately saying which stadiums are the toughest to play in and most importantly why and under what circumstances.
They of course tout the popular theory about LSU’s home field advantage increasing at night because the fans love to tailgate and get more juiced, literally and figuratively by the time the sun goes down. The article brings attention to why the Wisconsin “Fifth Quarter” tradition keeps the fans into the game even in fourth quarter blowouts, something to consider in large pointspreads and betting 4th quarter lines.
We’ve always said there is no more important handicapping statistic in all sports than home/road dichotomy. The article brings into focus a perspective that goes beyond the useful but far from perfect power ratings and raw statistics.
Look-Ahead, Letdown and Sandwich Games
For the gambling newbie, the definitions of the above terms are fairly self explanatory. Look-ahead games are contests in which one opponent may not be totally focused on their current game because a bigger competition is on the horizon. Letdown games are when a team may not be emotionally ready after playing one of their biggest games of the year or perhaps following suffering a heartbreaking loss, stunning win or any circumstance that can have a team coming out flat.
Sandwich games are just that: a game that is in between a letdown game and a look-ahead contest. They are much more prevalent in college football and basketball at least percentage wise. However in the five-game-in-seven-nights drudge that can be the NBA, we’ve found under proper circumstances, pro basketball situations present themselves too. Most importantly because of the preponderance of games, those contests sneak under the radar, visible only the sharpest of players.
Far and away the most common parameter when an opportunity arises is a big favorite overlooking an inferior team. Sandwich games in college football are generally the games that most often hold true to expected form for the capper. A big favorite coming off a defining victory and facing a watershed game the following week is the exact set of circumstances that we exploit most often, pouncing on the live dog.
In college football, both winning and losing teams off of a multiple overtime game gets a long look from us as a possible go-against the following week in a letdown situation.
Stop Teasing
We often get questins about the viability of teasers. Teasers prey on the psychology of the square player who craves the (facade of) an extra security blanket. The only circumstance that sharp players consistently play teasers is 10-point teasers in the NFL. Thanks to so-called parity in the NFL, blowouts are rare and often it’s the dog that wins. So for example making a seven-point dog a 17 point pup is the one type situation that some sharp players have exploited on a consistent basis in the NFL.
We don’t like parlays either because—here’s a shock–the best handicappers don’t hit 100 percent. We simply win a lot more than we lose. But going 4-1 and losing in a parlay nullifies good handicapping. The lure of low risk/high return is yet another enticement the books create to help you lose money fast. Joey Bagodonuts pays Frankie at the office $10, picks four games and feels like he bet $100.
Do yourself a favor. Bet the traditional way to win money and have a totally separate entertainment bankroll of disposable income. Use that to bet $10-20 per week on office parlay cards to get that lottery ticket vicarious feeling, but stick to straight betting to experience the thrill of actually winning money.
Duffy’s plays are part of the Dream Team at He is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, Gamblers Zoo national radio show, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Pro Fantasy Sports Internet radio and Grogan’s Fantasy Football show. His Wise Guy Plays available exclusively at are widely respected as the biggest play in the handicapping abyss.

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 7

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 7
Joe Duffy (
Tip Sheets
I’m often asked about the value of tipsheets. For football handicapping they have some value as a starting point. Sports Reporter, the Gold Sheet and Northcoast are among the best and Doctor Bob has some good technical angles but I still rate them light years behind the hometown newspapers. First of all the hometown papers have writers who cover the team full-time and specialize. Secondly the tipsheets still make a lot of money from their hard copy publications. This requires early week deadlines as they don’t have the circulation efficiency of the daily rags to get their publication to the newsstands within hours of going to press. The sheets have their place, and have value for midweek bullet points, but a quality handicapper has so many other more ripely and particularized informants.
Be the Prosecutor, Defense Attorney, Judge, Jury and Executioner
I had a debate class in college. In said classes you are given an obscure resolution and are instructed to argue on its behalf. You then have another debate where you argue against it. Who said I was wasting my time? Okay I did. But little did I know that many years later I am using that same mechanism to consistently pick winners.
I’ve heard inferior gamblers claim intense research is a waste of time because if you look hard enough “you can find enough reasons to justify either side”. No kidding. If it were not true there would be such things as a “sure thing”. Hence using the legal analogy above I can’t argue any of my plays are “beyond reasonable doubt” but I absolutely apply the civil law standard of proof “preponderance of evidence” or as it’s often called “more likely than not”.
If a good handicapper could not present at least some type of evidence for each side, there would be true locks and in reality there would be a few teams that would go undefeated and I’m not just talking in a 14-game NFL season ala the Miami Dolphins.
But what we do is objectively present facts supporting each side. Any play in which the prevalence of facts points towards one side, it becomes a premium play. But anytime we can make a strong argument for both or neither side, we must pass on making a bet on that game.
The best handicappers are their own devil’s advocate. The only exception is our “competition consensus plays”. I will be blunt, there are only a very small number of handicappers whose opinions I respect. But if one does have a very strong play on a side that I leaned towards but could did not pass our empirical test, I will make a play on it. However these plays are few and far between as I must at least have already had a preference for said selection and the list of elite handicappers who can influence my opinion is very short.
Oh and one other thing. You must be a little more open minded than Nancy Grace.
Poker a Sport?
Clearly the line just keeps getting fuzzier between sport and game. While we agree with anyone who says the WSOP is not a sporting event it certainly is sport more than the dog shows, spelling bees and hot dog eating contests that are televised on the so-called sports channels.
But Texas Hold ‘em making a screaming ascension into the mainstream I believe will continue to allow gambling in the US to go from taboo to a vice and now to the accepted form of entertainment that is should be. For gambling to gain full legality closed minds must first be opened. The WSOP is a huge step in eliminating ignorance. When that happens then elected officials like John Kyl can stop worrying about controlling where you invest your money and worry more about oh say protecting our borders.
Duffy’s plays are part of the Dream Team at He is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, Gamblers Zoo national radio show, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Pro Fantasy Sports Internet radio and Grogan’s Fantasy Football show.
His Wise Guy Plays available exclusively at where daily sports handicapping information is available to crush the sportsbooks. has daily sports betting free winners, news, notes and trends. Media inquiries and all questions: There is no better source for sports handicapper free information to crush sportsbooks than

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 8

God’s Tid-bets, Vol. 8
Joe Duffy (
This is the latest in a series, a Godgepodge of sports gambling discussion.
How Powerful Are Power Ratings?
Power ratings are certainly part of the equation but only, repeat only if one fully takes into consideration the means that are responsible for the ends. Power ratings do not take into consideration how injuries are reflected in past performance. As an illustration, let’s say Priest Holmes is leading the league in rushing and total offense but in the fourth quarter of game six goes down with an injury and misses four games.
In games seven through ten, the cumulative statistics of the first six games become irrelevant in and of themselves. Along the same token, if Holmes returns healthy for the 11th game, four of the previous 10 games are also tangential because the factors have changed immeasurably.
Even more important is by random chance KC’s opponent in their last four games played a much inferior Chiefs’ team than the fist six opponents did. Those results are included in the computer models of their foe’s power ratings but not filtered out when those players are back again.
There are just too many game results that are effected by injuries either to a team or its opponent. Assuming “they all even out” is a death knell for bad handicappers. We have emphasized the importance of home/road variables but perhaps by stroke of fortune played mostly healthy teams on the road and a lot more injured teams at home.
However the quality handicapper will make proper adjustments. So computer modules can be a valuable tool as so long as they are weighed against other essentials. Far and away the best source for power ratings is Massey Ratings ( In his “rankings comparison” the weaknesses of each reputable power rating can be canceled by the strengths of the others. Massey calculates both the mean and median rankings.
Again we give shout out to a competitor when it’s due and Jim Feist’s site has power ratings that can be directly compared to the point spread. As far as game simulators the Statfox Game Estimator is the pre-eminent model.
Tipsheets Followup
We did get a few inquiries from a previous Tid-bet about what specifically we look for in the tipsheets that we gave lukewarm recommendations to. To answer the most common question, no we do not pay any attention to their predictions. The breakdowns do have some helpfulness but the predictions are forced and are based on limited affirmation. To embellish on our legal analogy from a previous article, based on the early week information, we would disregard the predictions on inconclusive evidence. However “inclusive” does not render the sheets irrelevant. They can serve as an early week primer of what to look at for in the hometown newspapers.
Beat the Screen
Don Best’s premium odds service has become the alpha for sportsbooks when it comes to line move information whether it’s steam moves from the major books or breaking line-up and injury information. However frankly the books have become too dependant on Best and this opens up a window of opportunity for the sharp player. This is known as “beating the screen” that is getting steam, injury or weather information before the books do.
When Best comes out with their overnight injury report, they do not conceal the fact that their information comes from our favorite source of up-to-the-minute information: the hometown newspapers. It’s amazing how quickly and almost synchronously the odds are adjusted once Best sends out their initial report.
However the early bird get the worm simply by waking up nice and early and getting the injury updates from the same source before Best sends them out. Generally said resource sends out the compilation once completed at approximately 10:30 A.M. EST. This is hours after the same information is available to Johnny-on-the-spot bloodhounds.
I’m surprised at how dilly-dally the books are about football weather. The lines go haywire once Best sends reports altered weather updates. Yet this information is far from classified as one can get live weather radar on a number of sites such as or
Predicting line moves can be done by those who get their intel earlier.
If You Are So Good Why Do It For a Living?
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of blanket proclamations made about handicappers. The industry has more than it’s share of bad apples unfortunately, but all-inclusive statements about all members of any group be it a religion, race, gender or occupation should be categorically disregarded.
This single most preposterous rhapsody is when somebody bloviates, “If you are so good at what you do, why don’t you simply bet your plays instead of selling them?” This is so asinine for many reasons, but appears to be built on some nutty belief that betting plays and selling them are mutually exclusive.
I would normally not answer a question with a question, but when one amounts to “why do something for a living that you are really good at doing” can best be responded with “of all the professions, why would sports handicapping be the only one on the nine (or is it ten?) planets in which if you are actually good at it, you should not do it for a living?”.
Don’t let the bad apples blind you to the fact that you should take comfort not distress in the fact your handicapper is good enough to do it full-time. True there are more people who do it for a living than are actually good enough to do it for a living, but the only people who benefit from unconditional biases against adept handicappers would be the bookmakers.
Joe Duffy of is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Grogan’s Fantasy Football show, Radio Baseball Muse and Finn on Sports. Formally of the famed Cadillac Club 900 number, his plays can be gotten one and one place only: part of the Dream Team of Media inquiries and questions for future Tid-bets can be sent to

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 5

God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 5
Joe Duffy (
How New is New?
There is a common belief among gamblers that first year head coaches are safe to bet on in the preseason because they are going to be eager to impress. There is a functional truth to it, but the oversimplification of this tenet can and is naive. We won’t argue as a general guideline new coaches might be more eager to get that “W” under their belt more than a senior counterpart in a inconsequential contest but the “newness” theory goes beyond the head coach. Even if the head man returns, new coordinators who are in charge of play calling, new schemes that do happen even with returning coaches and new key personnel are often more important to handicapping, however it’s not because of a desire to win a meaningless game.
When major changes are made from the previous year, key players will play longer in the initial preseason games and play calling will be much less vanilla. Basically the more changes made, the more the preseason is needed to evaluate even proven players.
The NFL coaches have their own website, appropriately that lists all changes from head coach, to coordinators to position coaches. However the ultimate source for how the changes will and will not effect the spread outcome is still the hometown newspapers which are extremely accurate for playing rotations and how sophisticated schemes and play calling will be.
The new coaches creed is not false, but much further inspection is required before blindly betting. Of equal emphasis is cognition that the theory does not begin and end with the head coach.
Handicapping Umpires
More and more databases are carrying sophisticated statistical analysis of umpiring statistics especially how they relate to the over/under. Backtracking I have found no statistically significant time tested value.
In fact, Baseball Prospectus does a breakdown from a different standpoint than many of the gambling sites. Too often we find that for example an umpire’s ball/strike ratio does not correspond into more or less runs. In other words, arranging a list of all umpires based on which call the highest number of strikes is much too dissimilar to that of which umpires games result in the highest number of runs, slugging percentage and batting average. Cross referencing with over/unders on the gambling sites, there is even less correlation. Random chance will have umpires behind the plate with unequal power and pitching matchups to their counterparts.
One must also realize that umpires are constantly evaluated with consistency topping the list of criterion. By no means would I suggest there are no variances among the umpires but they are much closer to being uniform than starting pitchers, bullpens, ballparks, defenses, weather conditions and other factors.
If an umpire were blatantly a pitcher’s or batter’s umpire, he won’t last long in the Show. Acknowledging they had been lax, baseball took corrective steps in 2001. According to Ralph Nelson, MLB’s Vice President, Umpiring, “Beginning with Opening Day there should be a recognized and consistent application to the strike zone, but it may not be as drastic as some may have anticipated.” He continued, “Major League Baseball does not feel that players or teams should have to adjust to individual umpires.”
Hence even if there was an edge to the gamblers in the early years, this advantage has been lost since baseball is taking extra steps to insure uniformity. Sorry folks after an in-depth and objective harmonic analysis we conclude trying to handicap umpires is pseudo science.
Waking Up is Hard to Do
We discussed in a previous Tid-bet how and why mid-season coaching changes more times than not have short-term benefit essentially because it lights a temporary fire under a team. Teams more and more often simply go through the motions and it takes some type of stimulus to put and end to it.
Though years of experience tells me replacing the coach is the ultimate short-term wake-up call, it’s not the only one. Kenny Rogers’ well publicized attack on a cameraman was followed by the Rangers ending a funk with an impressive winning streak. Making a few monetary units riding that streak ourselves, we knew it was no coincidence. The proverbial “players only team meeting” is another instance. Always keep an eye for falling teams to have something to rally around. It need not be positive, in fact often is not. Sometimes in baseball for example it’s a manager shuffling the batting order on in basketball a coach changing line-ups.
In basketball there can be major ramifications as often changes mean a quicker line-up that means more scoring or it could mean a defensively challenged team makes corrections in that area. As we’ve said intensity or lack thereof shows up more on the defensive end in hoops. Hence as another rule the rebirth generally makes evident itself in lower scoring games.
Joe Duffy of is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Grogan’s Fantasy Football show, Radio Baseball Muse and Finn on Sports. Formally of the famed Cadillac Club 900 number, his plays can be gotten one and one place only: part of the Dream Team of

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