Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gambling State University: The School of Sports Handicapping

With the NFL preseason nearing its midpoint, the news of Favre's return to the NFL breaking, and the pennant races heating up, another major life changing event is about to occur. The kids are going back to school. High School and College campuses will soon be flooded with students trying to register for classes in order to prepare for their future careers.

What advice would you give your son or daughter, whom you have invested years of hard earned cash and sweat saving for their education, came home and announced to you, "Dad, I think I want to study to become a professional Sports Handicapper?" We all love what we do. The thrill of the competition and the adrenaline rush that comes from watching the games with some action on them is incomparable. Nevertheless, when Jr. tells you his major is going to be Sports Handicapping, are you game?

What classes would you advise your kid to take? The most obvious choice would have to be Math. But specifically, what kind of Math would be the most beneficial? I would recommend a class on probability and statistics. Baseball is the most statistically based sport there is. Understanding the meaning of batting averages, ERA, and On-Base Percentage can be huge in determining and Over and Under play or picking the winner.

What about psychology? Knowing how human beings including players respond to life situations can be very important in handicapping a game. Realizing the tendency for teams to react with pride after a huge loss or to respond with overconfidence after a huge win can help you decide to back a team that was crushed on their last play or fade a time that's head has grown so large that it is about to burst. Yes, a course or two on individual and group psychology would come in handy for the budding sports handicapper.

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How would a history course help the development of a young handicapper's mind? All sports have history and historical trends play a huge role in deciding future events. If something has happened over and over again, the probability of the same thing happening in the future is greater. A pitcher who has never won in a certain stadium is not a good bet to win there in the future. If a certain team has a rivalry game with another such as the Michigan-Ohio State classic, there might be a tendency to treat that game as more important and "look ahead" to it the week before.

Would taking an English Literature class be a waste of time and money for a future professional handicapper? Of course not! Sports teams and seasons have storylines. Just as a fictional novel unfolds and a good reader makes predictions about what's coming in the next chapter, sports teams and players act out predictable roles that reflect human nature. The same skills of analyzing characters and predicting how they will respond to new conflicts transfer over to "real life" on the grid iron or diamond. If you haven't seen the similarities between the NBA and a soap opera you haven't been listening to ESPN. Last year, Rasheed Wallace's comparison between the NBA and the WWE did not get him fined but is so far fetched.

Wouldn't taking a couple foreign language classes help with the pronunciation of the names of players in all sports? It used to be mostly the hockey names that gave announcers and handicappers fits. Now it's all sports. The sporting word is a global village and the more languages and cultures you know about the more informed your pics are going to be.

Throw in a geography class while your at it. Travel schedules are key in knowing who will have jet lag. Knowing the climate and weather conditions can factor in as well.

Maybe that's why sports handicapping is so rewarding and so difficult. To be an expert you must be highly informed about a wide variety of topics. Anything subject helps your brain analyze, gather, store and retrieve information, and make predictions based on probability, historical trends, or an understanding of human nature has to be included on your reading list. Whether your goal is to use Sports Handicapping as a hobby, entertainment, or even a professional career, going back to school is a good way to gain the skills to be a success.

Written By Steve Saylor
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