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Three ways to handicap football like a sharp

Let’s face it. You’re not the best handicapper in the book. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start wagering like the wiseguys do. There are some simple practices that the professionals follow to keep them one step ahead of the bookies, and we’re spilling the beans to help you “sharpen up” this NFL season.

Make your own lines

The next week’s NFL odds usually come out in the hours after the late afternoon starts wrap up, pretty much around halftime of the Sunday nighter. That means you only have a few hours to size up the incoming contests and create your own set of pointspreads to measure against the actual opening numbers.

Many professional handicappers build a power ratings system, ranking all 32 NFL teams, and derive their own opening odds from those rankings. They then take their spreads and totals and put those up against the oddsmakers’ lines, seeing which games have the biggest differences.

From there, you can explore why the oddsmakers differed from your numbers and if you don’t agree with it, wager the other way. Chances are all the other sharps are doing the same, so any value in the weekly opening NFL odds dries up very quickly.

Move fast, think faster

As mentioned above, the value gets sucked out the opening lines at the speed of light so you’ve got to be ready to pounce on any weak number the bookies hang. The lifecycle of a NFL pointspread sees all the changes coming in the few hours after opening and in the few hours before close – there’s not much action from Tuesday to Saturday.

With that said, the best bettors anticipate the line movement – either off the initial push from wiseguys or due to one-sided public money. Knowing which games are going to move where and why, and grabbing the best line either early or late, is a matter of points on the spread most times.

If you laid the favorite at -7.5 earlier in the week, you can bet your ass the sharp guys have that same fave at -6.5. And, what do you know? The favorite just won by seven points. Many times it’s not about betting on the right side, but betting on the right number.

Have plenty of options

The wiseguys don’t just bet at one book. They have multiple accounts – online, in Vegas, with PPH bookies – and scour those sportsbooks to get the very best bang for their buck. They know the tendencies of certain sportsbook operators and can get a feel for where the action is landing and where the lines are moving.

On top of that, wiseguys will also look for a chance to arbitrage bet or “scalp” lines from different sportsbooks, playing one side at one book and the opposite at another book.

For example, if one sportsbook opened the favorite -4.5 early on, the sharp bettors may scoop up that slim spread knowing the money is going to come in on the chalk and raise the line. One of their other accounts may have opened later a posted the favorite at -6 and then took action to move that spread to -6.5, triggering the wiseguys to buy back the underdog at +6.5. On game day, if the favorite wins by a margin of five or six points, the sharps cash both bets.

Mange your money

The wiseguys win because they’re disciplined. They don’t chase losses, and they don’t bet more than they can afford to lose. They rank every possible play and assign a designated bet size depending on how confident they are in that pick.

Each wager is a sliver of their overall bankroll and they’re in it for the long-term investment – not looking for a big, quick score. So, forget those 10-team parlays. Remember, overall 53 percent betting winners will yield a profit but that takes time to build up.

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