As you park you car in the lot a guy walks up to you with a large mallet.. He points to a few scratches on your bumper and says, "I'll fix those for you while you're in the store. I work cheap, but I'm an expert body man." He has no sander, no paint, no paint sprayer, no filler. Just a mallet. You know scratches can't be fixed with a mallet, and so you know immdiately it's a scam.
No matter whether you handicap on your own, or you purchase selections, or you get selections from reading forums, you need to know proper handicpping technique. Many people in this business will simply buy a book or annual full of trends each year, and poof, they're in business complete with claims of being professional sports bettors.
When Michael Kent, the handicapper for the infamous Computer Group in Las Vegas, sued the mnaging partner of the syndicate group, Dr. Ivan Mindlin, we learned the Computer boys contracted to pay the handicapper $700,000 just for the college football season. You don't think they would have agreed to pay $700,00 if they could have gotten anything close to the same results from a $19.95 book of trends, do you?
If you don't know what tools a handicapper should be using, you can't judge which handicapper to use. Without handicapping knwoledge, it is much more difficult to separate the charlatans, frauds, and pretenders from the true experts. If you know what tools must be used for success at predicting winners, and what tools are useless, you can spot many frauds instantly, and you will be less likely to be fooled by a lucky short term winning streak. If you can't recognize the charlatans before you pay them or bet their selections, you will learn more expensive lessons than necessary.
Trends are necessary as tools for the good handicapper to confirm a statistical handicap. Statistical handicaps use averages. Some handicappers may use full season averages, some may use shorter term averages. The shorter term the average, the more likely the average may be skewed by one or more aberrational games. The trends used must be valid and meaningful however. Most of the trends found in trend books and on websites are merely patterns in the clouds.
Both trends and a statistical handicap are necessary, because statistical averages can sometimes be skewed. The good use of trends will tell you when that may be the case.
In totals handicapping, for instance, the average may include games in which the highest scrorer was injured, or games that went into triple overtime. Those games can cause the average to be an inaccurate reflection of a team's scoring and defense. The average scores of both teams may tell us that, combined, they average 216 points/game. Assume today's total is set at 210. Further assume that when we look at the number of games for each team that have gone over 210, we find that less than half the games for each team have exceeded 210 points.
The difference between the trend and the stiatistical handicap alerts us to look further. We find that the reason the teams average 216 combined but have gone under 210 more often than not is that there were some games played against very high scoring opponents and some games that were played into multiple OT's, while the majority of games under 210 were still over 195. The averages were skewed too high by the few very high scores that were not balanced by extremely low scores. The trend of games over and under today's line alerted us to a statistical handicap that was inaccurate.
Note we calculated the valid trend against the total set in the current game, NOT against the random varying totals set in each prior game. We did not count how many times each team went over the total in general. For reasons discussed below, such a measure would be meaningless because the trend measure in constantly varying and also unknown.
Valid trends are an important tool for a handicapper. Meaningless trends are a danger because they don't predict or measure what they pretend to measure. .
The other day, I posted some trends I found around the internet. I stated up front that the trends are meaningles, and asked for thoughts from the forum about why the trends were useless for the purposes of handicapping or picking winners. I got very few replies. I don't know if that is because.people didn't know what was wrong, or they simply weren't brave enough to raise their hand in class. If the problem was the former, then this article in very necessary.
Congratulations go to Denver Money for giving the best correct answer and winning the contest.
Here are the trends and I'm going to add a few more. I had no time to search the web for the added trends, so I made up the numbers in the new trend for the purpose of example. The added trends themselves, however, are all of a type that I have seen used by sports services in the past.
Trends Posted in the Contest Thread
1. Under is 6-0 in NY last 6 vs. Eastern Conference.
2. TOR are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games overall
3. Under is 9-0 in SA last 9 games after scoring more than 125 points in their previous game
4. Under is 9-0 in OKC last 9 home games
5. Under is 8-0 in LAL last 8 home games vs. a team with a losing road record
Trends Added for this Article
6. The North Carolina Tar Heels are 6-0 in Final Four Games.
7. Minnesota Vikings are 9-2 against the Chicago Bears.
8. The Knicks are 14-5 ATS at home vs Western Conference teams on Thursday, after one day day's rest, when they lost the prior game by 10+ points and the spread in this game is between +4.5 and -4.5.
9. The winner of the game covers the spread 75% of the time in football.
10. The same team wins both halves of a double header only 37% of the time, so bet against the winner of
of the first half.
Here are the common problems with all the orginal trends and many of the added trends.
As Denver Money pointed out: ALL THE TRENDS ARE FOR A SINGLE TEAM
There are two teams in every game. Trends and statistics regarding only one of those teams tell us nothing about the opponent. What difference does it make that the "under is 9-0 in OKC" if the opponent is 20-0 over on the road and the two games played between these two at OKC this season both went over the total?
RULE: You can't win over time by using a trend or statistics for only one team as a basis for handicapping a game involving two teams.
Sometimes I see trends for both teams, but the trends are not sufficiently similar to form a basis for comparison. When you see that, you know immeidately that the sports service is using a trend book, and simply looking for reasons to support his best guess when he gives the pick to the suckers.
For example, let's say the Knicks are playing the Lakers in New York. The Knicks are the favorite. The handicapper tells you:
The Knicks have won their last 6 out 6 against Western Conference teams when the line is between +3 and -3, and they scored more than 100 points in their last game.
The Lakers are 0-3 in their last three games overall.
The handicapper has given you trends for both teams, but they are really single team trends because they don't allow for a valid comparison. To be meaningful, there must be a trend for each team that compares exactly the same parameters. If the Knicks trend is against the Western Conference, then the Lakers trend must be against the Eastern Conference. If home games are used for the Knicks, then road games must be used for the Lakers. If the Knicks trend is limited to games when the line is +3 to -3, then the same for the Lakers. If the Knicks trend involves the number of points the Knicks socred in their last game, then the Lakers trend must include a similar parameter that makes sense proportionally to the points scored in the Lakers last game.
RULE: To be meaningful, there must be trends involving both teams that make a valid comparison between the teams.
As RJ pointed out: ALL THE ABOVE TRENDS ARE VERY SHORT TERM
General trends such as those above must be very long term to be meaningful. Short term trends are meaningful only if they are trends in games played between the same two teams in the current game.
When team A beats team B straight up two or more times in the same season, there is a high likelihood that the wins occurred because Team A matches up well against Team B. Unless the games were played very close together, it is unlikely that all the games were decided by injuries, or bad referee calls, or other aberrations that can occur in a single game. If the three games were played in close promiximity to each other, however, you do need to check for injuries that may make the games non-representative.
If you have a general trend, on the other hand, yoy are measuring straight up wins against any team, not today's opponent. Becaue there is no direct relationship to the current opponent, a 3-game, or even a 10-game trend means little. Unlike the matchup between the same two teams,. a trend indicating that a team is on a 6-0 winning streak could easily be created by the luck of the draw. We don't know anything about the opponents in the general 6-0 win streak. Were those 6 games all played at home? Were the six opponents all teams that were much weaker than today's opponent? Were all six team weak sisters in general?
The short term 6-0 general trend tells us very little about the ability of the team we are trying to measure with it, while the 3-0 trend involving today's two opponents can be used to confirm that Team A matches up well against Team B. Be careful, though. You still need to examine inside the trend to be sure that at least one of the three prior wins was on the road, if the winner in the prior games is on the road today. If Team A is on the road today, you need to be sure that the dominance of Team A over Team B was not caused solely by Team A being at home in all three priot games it won.
The above problems are not the biggest, however. The biggest general problems are:
ALL TRENDS (except the new ones I added) ARE MEASURED AGAINST AN UNKNOWN SPREAD
RULE: General against-the-spread (ATS) trends are always meaningless.
ATS trends are a fleeting propostion. They are completely dependent on the decisions of the linemaker, big money play, and the quality of the public opinion. They are NOT a measure of the quality of a team. They measure only whether past lines were good predictors of the game outcome. Since lines are set based on public opinion, spreads really only measure the quality of past public opinion. Who cares? Public opinion changes for all manner of reasons, including sports service picks, amount of wise-guy action compared to square action, amount of hype on the game, and whether or not the game is televised. Public opinion may be excellent for this game. The accurcy of public opinion in the past games is not useful when handicapping a game.
There is another problem. The job of the linemaker is to split public opinion. If some bias starts to exist in the spread, the spread will be adjusted until that bias disappears. Finding a bias in the spread signals that it will soon disappear, and even roll over the other way.
The thrid problem is that ATS trends measure against a varying standard, and worse, we don't know the standard being used. As further discussed below, you need to measure from some logical and constant point. For instance, when betting totals, you are trying to measure whether a team will go over today's total. You can't do that with a measure of how many times the team went over any old unknown total in the past. You need to measure how many times a team has gone over today's total and subject to today's circumstances such as home and road. That leads us to the next problem.
NONE OF THE TENDS MEASURE BASED ON A SPECIFIC SPREAD OR TOTAL
What difference does it make for any purpose, valid or invalid, whether a team has won 20 in a row against the spread if you don't know the average spread against which it won? Suppose both teams in today's game are 20-0 over the total. Would you bet the over in this game? If you think you would, suppose the average total in the prior games for each team were 180 points and 186 points respectively, and the total in today's game has been set at 230? Still think it matters that the the trend says the teams exceeded average totals of 180 and 186 in every game? They may have never come close to going over a total of 230.
When considering whether a trend is meaningful, try to apply the logic of the trend to something else you understand. For instance, if I won 6 sprints in a row, it matters a great deal who I ran against then, and who I am running against today. If a high jumper cleared the bar 8 times in practice, you need to know where the bar was set. What difference does it make in handicapping the Olympic Pole Vault that an athlete could clear the bar 100% of the time in practice with a bar set at only 6 feet. It might matter if he didn't clear the six foot bar, but the 8-0 trend doesn't tell you where the bar was set. In fact, with 8-0 trends in team sports, the bar is set at a different unkown level in every game in the trend.
Here's an example of a meaningless and a meaningful trend:
Meaningless Trend: The Knicks at home are 16-9 over the total this season, and the Lakers on the road 17-8 over the total this season. This is invalid because it simply uses ATS performance without any comparison to the total set today, or even mentioning the average total at which the trend was set.
Valid Trend: Knicks games have exceeded today's set total of 185 ponts in 18 of their 25 home games this season. Lakers games on the road have exceeded today's total of 185 14 times in their 25 road games this season.
Today's line of 185 points is what you are trying to measure against. The valid trend uses that total and counts the number of times that bar has been exceeded by both teams in today's circumstances.
Valid trends need to have a fixed number for comparison purposes. General ATS and over/under trends are meaningless, in part, becuase they attempt to measure against a constantly varying number -- the spread in each past game. To make matters worse, we don't know what that comparison number was in each past game.
RULE: Trends must always include a fixed comparison number, and that number must logically relate to the what you are trying to determine. Normally you are trying to determine whether a game will go over a particular total, or a team will or will not win by a particular margin of points. You are not trying to measure whether it will go over any old unknown total set in the past, or how many times it exceeded any unknown game margin at all.
ALL THE ABOVE TRENDS ARE MEASURED FROM RANDOM POINTS IN TIME
To be valid and meaningful, all trends must be measured from a fixed and logical point in time. When a handicapper tells you that Team A is 7-0 in the last 7, and Team B is 3-6 in the last 9, it is sure sign he is simply looking for any pattern he can to support some guess.
Why use 7 games for one team and 9 games for the other. The likely reason is that with the first team, it begins to lose if you look 8 games back. With the other, it begins to lose if you look 10 back.
There are some sports services that are quite adept at finding after-the-fact patterns to feed to the customers in support the sports service guesses. They do it by never staying consistent in their measure. Within every record of coin flips there are always patterns in which heads predominate, and patterns in which tails predominate. The sports service creates a winning trend finding a winning 7-2 pattern in the past 9, and when that stops working, he finds a 6-2 in the past 8 Eastern Conference games, and when that stops working he finds 5-1 in the past 6 games played on the road or maybe on Tuesdays or maybe on the road on Tuesdays, and when that stops working he may be able to go back to the past games without qualification, and use 4-0 in the past 4 again.
The point is there is no consistency or logically reason for the time period and parameters of the trend for each individual team among all the handicappers picks. One team is measured based on the last 6 anywhere, and tomorrow the next pick is measured based on the last 10 on the road. He might just as well be telling you about the patterns he sees in the chicken entrails or the rocks in his garden.
If a handicapper consistently uses a logically set time period for all his trends, then the trends can be useful. All his measures might start at the beginning of the season, or the all star break, or the last month, or the last 20, or for the week. Anything that makes logical sense and is used consistently for comparison purposes. Unless you are gicen some logical reason for an apparently random starting point, such as the return of a star player from the injured list, when a handicapper tells you that the over is 12-4 in the past 15, be suspicious. The sports service, knowing that his clients like to bet "overs" better than "unders," is simply gave the suckers what they want, a pick on the "over" complete with some random pattern for support. You want the pattern, good or bad, to be used as a tool by the handicpper for confirmation. You don't want a handicapper trying to find a pattern to support his favorite team. There are patterns to support every team. The 15-day time period might be valid, even if random, if the handicapper uses 15 games for every trend he uses. That, however, never seems to be the case
That completes the discussion of the general problems with trends that make them meaningless. In my next blog I'll discuss problems applicable to speicific trends individually.
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