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On Handicapping

Handicapping Odds & Ends

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It turns out the real world can really get in the way of a good handicapping season. I've always believed you can do about 50/50 while flipping coins but you do worse than 50/50 putting in a little effort, especially if you know the game. That sounds counter-intuitive, and I have no proof, but my feeling is doing a little homework lets you know just enough to fall into a bunch of traps. Busy people with real jobs who try to spend an hour or two per week handicapping are prone to this outcome, in my opinion. (I generally fall into this category.) Smart people who can spend 40 hours per week handicapping can, I think, have a positive expectation. Just one man's gut feeling.

I'll start with my good news - the Football-Neutral Pools Hedge Strategy once again had a profitable season. That makes 13 of the past 15 years and significant percentage gains over time. The strategy revolves around entering two different office pools with two different line sources and alternating picks, being sure to take the best side of both games when lines differ (i.e., dog +3.5 in one pool, chalk -2.5 in the other as often happens). Your overall result will be above 50% and, with some luck along the way, you usually win a week here or there or come top-3 in one of the pools. We lost a bunch of Monday-night tiebreakers but did come second in one of our pools, creating a 400% profit on our investment this year. Sadly, the investment isn't that great, but it does make money over time.

The other two adventures were less successful. I head a consortium that tries to win Ontario's Pro-Picks game which is a provincial lottery pool where you pick the straight-up winner of each weekend's NFL slate. The feds take 50% and then split the other 50% amongst everyone who ties for first. Tickets are $5 a pop. Why do I try this? Because the week the Chiefs and Colts won, one single individual took home $874,857. And there were only 14 games that weekend!!!! (Thursday/Saturday games do not play). We had no luck this year but it's still fun. I like the intellectual challenge and the big potential bang for the tiny buck.

We also stunk up the joint in the Hilton SuperContest, never going better than 3-2 and finishing below .500 and well off the pace. Despite the fact the three guys making picks hit at between 52-55% during the year, our formulas for breaking ties and ranking our picks detracted from our mediocre results, which would not have cashed in any event. It was a bit of a badge of honor to have actually entered this contest, but I doubt I'll be back given the commitment.

And, although he did not cash, I am impressed that Bill Simmons came in at 46-36-3 after cashing the year before. I've always liked his analysis and this adds true street cred, in my book. Given that, let's track his playoff picks in his continuing quest for the 11-0 playoff season - I'm going to go with them in one of my playoff pools just for the heck of it. He takes Houston -3, New Orleans -10.5, the Giants -3 and not only Denver +8.5 but the Broncos to win outright!!! Woo-hooo!!!

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  1. wxwax's Avatar
    I'm always interested in this, when it's other people's money at stake.

    I know you explained this before, but I've forgotten. How do you alternate picks between the two office pools? (I understand the bit about taking advantage of different lines for the same game.)

    Denver's becoming a sexy pick because the Steel has trouble with injuries on offense.
  2. wxwax's Avatar
    Never mind, I got unlazy and moved my mouse over to click your previous blog, which explains it in detail!
  3. Polishguy00's Avatar
    Your stuff is always a great read.
  4. Swami's Avatar
    Kind of hard to believe how popular Denver has become. Bill Barnwell even picked them at Grantland (which is excellent). I see Pitt flaws and believe center is the second-most critical position, so I get the anti-Pitt sentiment. Denver needs a Tebow injury or benching though.

    Each year, I look at records vs. playoff teams. Bal and GB 6-0, NO 5-1, SF 4-1. Then Hou 3-2, Pit 3-4 and the rest range from NE at 1-2 to Cin at 0-7. Maybe Ravens vs. whichever of GB SF NO escapes the NFC.