Looking for Value.



The concept is universal: buy low, sell high. Stock traders, investors, business owners, E-bay junkies - really anyone who participates in market activities lives by the same motto. Sportsbettors are no different. We look for situations where teams are under or overvalued and try to use that in our handicapping. Every pick we make must take a team's relative value into account. Since lines are set primarily on the basis of power ratings and public opinion, finding situations where we can take advantage of value misconceptions can lead to a barrage of fairly easy winners.


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Most novice handicappers begin betting on sports with a simple concept in mind. "This team is great, I'll bet on them; this other team sucks, I'll bet against them." This mentality alone causes the financial demise of many beginning 'cappers. Good teams do not necessarily cover the spread more than bad teams. In fact, bad teams that compete and play hard are often the best choice for a wager. For example, the Chicago Bears in football and the Dallas Mavericks in hoops both had excellent records against the spread (ATS) during the 1999-2000 campaign. Meanwhile, very good teams like the Indianapolis Colts and LA Lakers had terrible ATS records down the stretch of their seasons. Let's take a look at various ways to determine and take advantage of teams with a misrepresented value at various points during a season.

During the early part of the season, look for teams that are playing much better or worse than expected. Many novice 'cappers concentrate on how a team performed the previous year, but in this era of salary cap constraints and constant roster turnover, teams NEVER perform at the same level in two consecutive years. In addition, teams that performed well the previous year are no longer a good value - you are laying a much higher price with them, especially at the beginning of the next campaign. For example, within the 1st two weeks of the '99 season, it was obvious that the St Louis Rams were a much improved team from their cellar-dwelling predecessor, while the Minnesota Vikings were no longer the dominant team they had been in '98. Thus there was significant value in betting on the Rams and against the Vikings, as evidenced by the Rams 6-0 ATS mark in the early season, while the Vikings were 0-5-1 ATS. Remember, these teams were playing at a different level than their perceived value, thus they were easy moneymakers for those who paid attention. As the season wears on, different teams begin to exhibit signs of being under or over valued. Good teams that got off to a rough start become excellent choices to wager on. For example, look for squads that faced a tough early season schedule, or had a few "bad beats", or have begun to jell under a new system. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Seattle Seahawks both enjoyed nice ATS runs in October and November as they adjusted to their new coaches' system, and they both had considerable value because of their slow starts. At the same time, look for teams that started off well, but were facing a rough scheduling stretch, a lack of depth due to injuries or just weren't as good as their early season results had indicated. Both the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys had 1-5 ATS runs in the middle of the season after fast starts. Again, the goal is to be betting on teams that are better than the public and linesmakers' perception, and bet against those that are worse than that same perception.

In the latter part of the season, the great teams rarely offer much value, as bookmakers adjust their lines upward. Similarly, those wagering on teams fighting for playoff or bowl berths are paying an extra price as well, and these teams often are just a step above mediocrity. Oftentimes these teams become 'bet-againsts' as the price you have to pay to bet on them becomes far greater than their actual value. At the same time, look for bad teams that seem to have quit - linesmakers have difficulty adjusting their lines far enough downward to fully compensate for a team that's just playing out the string - witness the LA Clippers or Golden State Warriors ATS records in March and April (not to mention the New Orleans Saints). With all these bet-againsts, there are places to find late season value. Look for bad teams that are still playing hard and good teams that are finally hitting their stride after some mid-season swings. The San Diego Chargers were an excellent example of the first group, covering their last 6 games, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tennessee Titans showed the kind of ball they were capable of playing down the stretch run, both covering 7 of 8 in November and December.

As we sit down to handicap every single game, value must be in the back of our minds at all times. Teams that are playing well eventually lose it, while the Chicago Bulls and Vancouver Grizzlies of the world offer extra value every time you wager on them. We can find value in other situations besides these, however. Injuries often offer great value for the bettor. Terrell Davis goes down, the line on the Broncos drops dramatically and whoops! Olandis Gary steps in and Denver covers 6 of 7. As long as the team has capable backups, big name injuries often result in the team playing harder to compensate for that injury. This combined with the additional value the linesmakers give these teams as they adjust for the injury (and the public's perception of that injury) offer the potential for excellent results. On the other hand, when little known key players go down (often on the offensive or defensive lines in football, or hard-working, energetic reserves in basketball), neither the book nor the public compensates enough!! Thus there is strong bet-against value in those types of situations, and a careful monitoring of injury reports is essential for any value determination.

Another place that offers added value for bettors, especially in college games, is when power ratings force a line to be in one place, while the favored team's heads are in quite another place. When a 2-0 Wisconsin Badger squad headed into Cincinnati to face the Bearcats last September, the linesmaker had little choice but to make the Badgers 4 touchdown favorites, considering their absolutely dominant performance the previous two weeks, and Cinci's 1-10 finish the year before. But Wisconsin had a huge revenge match against Michigan on deck, and the Bearcats viewed this home game as a chance for redemption. All the value lay with Cincinnati, and they not only covered, they won the game outright!! Marshall was asked to lay 34 on the road at Kent in November with the MAC title on the line the following week against Western Michigan - they won by only 12; Kansas St was asked to lay 16 against a tough, improving Colorado squad with Nebraska on deck, etc etc. These situations of extraordinary value present themselves each week during the college football and basketball seasons and educated 'cappers take advantage of them year after year.

One last place to look for value is in the line itself. Having multiple places to shop for the best lines offers bettors an extra ? point or point on many games. Bookmakers do an excellent job, and many games finish right around the number. A few extra wins that would have been pushes, and pushes that would have been losses can make a huge difference in a handicapper's bottom line at the end of the season. A few minutes of shopping around offer once last chance for additional value, which is all any bettor can ask for.



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[ Handicapping Injuries In The NFL. ]
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[ Why Betting with the Offshore Sportsbooks Has Its Advantages. ]



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