Football Betting and the Value of Reverse Handicapping

Reverse handicapping. What exactly is it supposed to be? Plain handicapping is about the analysis of various game–related factors and their influence on the possible outcome of the game. While absolutely necessary, straightforward handicapping is seldom enough to give a sports-bettor a lasting EV+ edge. All squares do straight handicapping. How good they’re at it is an entirely different question, but as far as the scope of this article is concerned, that is quite irrelevant.

The bottom line is that your straight handicapping is not going to take you far, and it will most likely only get you to post your money on the square side of each bet.

Successful sports bettors know that straight handicapping, the understanding of the vig and the ability to read the lines are not enough to make sports betting profitable. Something called reverse handicapping is also needed. Reverse handicapping consists in the tracking of the line movements, with the full understanding of the factors that lead to those movements. In order to understand why the lines move at all, one needs to understand the MO of the bookmaker.

Reverse Handicapping

The bookmaker is always looking to make a risk-free dollar, and towards that end, he aims to balance every single match-up it offers as close to perfection as possible. Why is this balancing act needed? Suppose an X number of players get their monies into the middle on one side of a match-up, and a Y number on the other. If X is approximately equal to Y, the bookie can pay all the winners with the money dropped by the losers and keep the vig. It’s as simple as that. Of course, a perfect balance is quite impossible to achieve, but there are limits which the bookie is willing to cover from his own pockets/the vig. Anything that falls outside of those limits prompts a movement of the lines. Because he’s moving his lines on account of square pressure and not on account of actual facts that modify the base data of the match-up, the bookmaker will leave extra value on the other side of the bet. Good sport bettors call this the “hidden value” and they’re quite adept at finding and exploiting it.

As you can see, the above theory is pretty simple. The actual tracking of the lines/reverse handicapping is much more difficult, I’d even go as far as to call it daunting. The problem is that a movement of the lines can result from a variety of causes. Side notes can be a reason. Side notes are injuries, travel issues, suspensions and a bunch of other factors that do indeed impact the performance of a team. Any line movements caused by such factors are fully justified and therefore they never induce hidden value.

Another reason for line movements is smart money. This is quite probably the toughest to spot. Smart money is obviously the opposite of square money: it is money coming in from gambling syndicates or groups of professional players and it too can cause movements in the line.

As you can see, turning your sports betting into a long term EV+ activity is not exactly a simple achievement. You need to pull out all stops to beat the vig. In online poker, the rake is pretty much the same as the vig in sports betting. Players can combat the poker rake through rakeback deals though and thus they don’t need to consider a hundred different variables when looking to beat the house’s share of the action.

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