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Handicapping Recent Streaks

   by Bryan Leonard - 06/22/2011

One of the many great challenges in handicapping sports is the understanding that it’s not easy to predict the future. That’s essentially what oddsmakers and handicappers do in attempting to set/wager on a number regarding a sporting event. There are many different ways to analyze games, from matchups, to trends, to pure stats, to coaching, to situational handicapping. A successful handicapper over the long haul understands that, no matter how sound your analysis, anything can happen.
We saw some things this past month in sports that defies logic and predictability. The Miami Heat lead the Dallas Mavericks 2 games to 1 in the NBA Finals and should have been up 3-0, blowing a 15-point lead at home in Game 2 with 7 minutes left. It turned out to be a costly collapse as Miami never won another game, with the Mavericks winning 3 in a row and the NBA title. In game 5, bettors were all over Miami and the under, as Dallas went from a 2 point favorite and Miami close a one-point favorite. As often happens, the public was wrong as Dallas won a very high scoring game.
The red hot Red Sox lost four in a row, including a 3-game sweep at home to the White Sox, losing as chalk of minus-200, minus-170 and minus-125. I recall a few years ago at this time two great defensive teams like the Heat and Pistons met in the playoffs in Game 3 – and it turned into a shootout sailing way over the total.
That same weekend the slumping Red Sox took on the Yankees in a renewal of their rivalry – who could have predicted a 17-1 rout by one team? No one, of course, but things like that happen. The good bettor does not get bogged down doubting himself when a selection goes awry. You pick up the pieces, get back on your feet, learn something (if need be) from the game, and move on.
One of my selections at that time was the third meeting between the Yankees/Red Sox to go under the total. The public bet the over, as both teams have offensive reputations and it was a Sunday Night ESPN telecast. Novice bettors in baseball and football love to bet the over, sometimes regardless of the number or even who is playing!
The public also looked at a struggling Red Sox starter, then it was hefty David Wells, and saw a guy who had been pounded his previous three starts. That was true, but the public conveniently overlooked many other things that supported Wells pitching well: 1) He had also pitched consecutive shutouts before that poor stretch, 2) He had a strong season a year ago and has had a strong career, 3) He hadn’t “forgotten” how to pitch, 4) He’s a veteran pitcher with pride, 5) He was a lefty in Yankee Stadium, 6) He was returning to pitch in New York, where he’s had some of his greatest triumphs (including a perfect game), 7) He had a strong defensive team behind him, 8) The Red Sox bullpen, if needed, was well rested after that 17-1 win Saturday.
In the just completed NBA Finals, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was making all kinds of moves to help his team (utilizing speedy J.J. Berea to increase the tempo, going with three big men to offset Miami having a big first quarter edge in rebounding, and benching Peja Stojakovic because it was a bad matchup with Miami).
A good handicapper needs to look all across the board at the information available, not just at what happened yesterday or the previous few games. It’s true sometimes crazy things happen in sports that goes against what is expected to happen, but the successful handicapper knows how to not let this bother them and plow forward. Don’t get down if things don’t go as you expected in one game or one week. Results matter over the long haul, not just a few games.

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