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Essential Tips for Football Handicapping

We have noticed some hesitation from football bettors who are interested in learning more about handicapping, because they view it as an incredibly complex subject that’s too difficult to understand. As we explained in our introduction to football handicapping, this isn’t really the case. Yes, the more advanced techniques can be complicated, but the basics are relatively straightforward. Once you understand the purpose of handicapping and what’s involved, getting started doesn’t seem so strenuous.

However, there’s a huge difference between understanding what handicapping is and actually being able to handicap football effectively. Although there are many simple techniques that are fairly easy to use, applying them in the right way and making consistent profits is far more challenging.

The journey to becoming a successful football handicapper is neither quick nor easy. There are no shortcuts or substitutes for commitment and hard work. If you want to make money from handicapping football, you MUST be prepared to dedicate the required time and effort.

Please don’t think we’re telling you this to deter you from trying to become a successful handicapper. That’s not our goal at all. We positively encourage ALL football bettors to learn as much as they can about using handicapping to improve their betting results. We just don’t want anyone thinking that this is some easy route to untold wealth, as that kind of thinking will almost certainly lead to failure. By making you aware of the challenge that lies ahead, we hope to inspire you to do what’s necessary to be successful.

In this article, we’ve provided some very useful advice to follow when starting out as a football handicapper. Although it’s aimed primarily at beginners, there’s a lot here that even experienced handicappers can benefit from. If nothing else, it will be a good reminder of what’s truly important.

Prepare to Lose

We made it very clear in the introduction to this article that successful football handicapping is not easy. So, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that you’re almost guaranteed to lose money when you’re just starting out. Even if you study handicapping and betting strategy extensively before putting any serious money at risk, it’s still going to take you a while to become a proficient bettor. It takes experience as well as knowledge to be successful.

Mentally prepare yourself for the losses you’re likely to incur. We often see bettors give up too quickly because they view early losses as a sign of failure. Instead, they should view them as a necessary evil, as it’s just not possible to learn how to handicap football effectively without making some mistakes along the way.

IMPORTANT
Don’t make the same mistakes over and over again!

Making mistakes is not a problem in itself. If each mistake you make is a new one, then you’re at least making some form of progress. You only have a reason to worry when you make the same mistakes time and time again. If that happens, you need to spend some time assessing what’s going wrong.

To summarize, there’s no need to worry too much about losing money while you’re still learning. It happens to everyone, and it IS going to happen to you. Don’t let this discourage you; keep moving forward. Try to remember that even the most successful handicappers in the world lost in the beginning. In fact, they probably still have their occasional losing streak. No-one wins every single wager that they place, and losing is simply an integral part of betting that everyone has to accept.

Learn Proper Money Management

The fact that losing money is an integral part of betting highlights the importance of learning how to manage your money correctly. This is actually something that all bettors should learn, regardless of whether they’re betting for fun or taking things more seriously. Anyone who fails to employ proper money management risks allowing their losses to create bigger problems than they should.

So what does proper money management entail?

For recreational bettors, proper money management is very straightforward. It involves deciding how much they’re prepared to lose and making sure they don’t exceed that amount.

For example, someone might decide that they’re willing to spend up to $250 a month on their football betting. This amount basically forms their budget. If they ever lose that much in a single month, then they should stop betting until the following month. As long as they’re disciplined enough to commit to their initial budget, this should prevent them from gambling with money they cannot afford to lose. The budget they set depends on their own personal finances.

Serious handicappers need to put a little more thought into their money management.

They need to set aside a sum of money that only will be used for betting purposes. They also must be prepared to lose this money, as that’s a very strong possibility.

This sum of money forms their betting bankroll. It should no longer be viewed as money per se, but rather as a tool of the trade. This makes it easier to make betting decisions for the right reasons. No serious handicapper should be thinking directly about how much money they might win or lose on a single wager. They should be thinking solely about whether it’s the right wager to place.

Once a bankroll is allocated, the next step is to choose a staking plan. Staking plans dictate how much should be staked on any given wager, and they can be either fixed or variable. A fixed staking plan involves staking either a fixed amount on each wager, or a fixed percentage of the bankroll. A variable plan involves sizing stakes based on certain criteria.

This only really scratches the surface of what’s involved in bankroll management. If you’re not familiar with how to properly manage a bankroll as a serious bettor, we strongly recommend reading the following article.

When we say that bankroll management is a skill that should be mastered as quickly as possible, we mean it. It’s a skill that you’ll ALWAYS need to rely on, regardless of how good your handicapping abilities become. There have been many excellent football handicappers who have failed to be successful purely because they were unable to manage a bankroll properly. Don’t let that happen to you.

Understand the Emotions & Psychology Involved

The most successful handicappers share several common traits. One of these is the ability to think objectively and rationally at all times. This is a big part of why they’re successful.

Objective and rational thinking invariably leads to making solid betting decisions, but it’s a lot harder than you might imagine

Although we’re all CAPABLE of objective and rational thinking, doing it consistently is not easy. This is because of the many emotions that can affect us when betting, and the fact that our minds can work in ways that sometimes prevent us from processing information the way that we’d like to.

Very few guides to football handicapping focus on the emotions and psychology that are involved because the people who write them don’t really understand that aspect of betting themselves. Although we don’t exactly consider ourselves experts on the human mind, we do know a lot about how it works when betting on football.

This is partly because we’ve extensively studied the emotions and psychology involved in betting, and partly because we’ve spent many years betting and analyzing the way that we think. We know first-hand all the different emotions that we go through when betting on football, or any other sport, and we’re fully aware of the tricks our minds can play on us. This information has helped us become better handicappers, and it can help you too! Read the two articles listed below for more details on this subject.

In the first article, we offer some useful advice for building your resilience to the emotions that can affect you when betting. We also explain how the simple act of trying to think positively can help keep your emotions under control. There are some tips to help you deal with the inevitable highs and lows that you’ll experience too, and we discuss how sentiment and passion can get in the way of rational thinking.

The second article is one of the most valuable articles in our entire football betting strategy guide, despite the fact that it’s not directly related to football betting strategy. It’s all about how your mind works, and the various cognitive biases that can dictate the way you think without you even knowing. Understanding these biases will go a long way to improving your ability to think rationally and objectively, which will in turn increase your chances of being able to handicap football successfully.

Know the Power of Information

It’s absolutely vital that you understand the power of information when handicapping football. Just about every single handicapping technique you can use relies to some extent on having useful information at your disposal. The more information that you have, the more effective those techniques will be.

The constant need for information is the main reason why football handicapping is so time consuming. By dedicating many hours to research and analysis, you’ll be guaranteed to know as much as possible about the teams and players that you’re betting on. There’s simply no point in trying to assess the likelihood of potential outcomes unless you’re fully informed about what might affect those outcomes.

Below is a list of four actions you can take to help get the information you need.

  • Watch games
  • Study game reports
  • Analyze the stats
  • Read forums and blogs

Each one of these actions can provide you with very valuable insight. We personally think that actually watching games is the best thing you can do, but not everyone finds this as useful as we do. Some handicappers like to read multiple reports of each game, to get different viewpoints on how they played out. Some rely almost solely on statistics, while others see real value in reading forums and blogs and assimilating all the different opinions they find there.

While there’s not one correct approach here, we see the advantage in completing every action on this list. By doing this, you’ll have access to a nearly endless supply of useful information. Feel free to focus your attention on which action will benefit you the most. Just try to bear this important point in mind.

Quality of information matters more than quantity.

Although you want as much useful information as possible at your disposal, always remember that information is ONLY useful when it’s accurate and relevant. Be careful about which sources you choose to rely on, as bad information will inevitably lead to bad decision making.

Before we move on to the next tip, there’s one more piece of advice we’d like to give here. Most handicappers understand the importance of carrying out research and analysis on a regular basis during a football season, but many of them spend little or no time doing so during the offseason. This is a MAJOR mistake.

The offseason is arguably the most important time to carry out research and analysis. There’s a lot to be learned by looking back at the previous season as a whole, and trying to understand why teams and players performed the way they did. And, of course, the offseason is when teams undergo all kinds of changes. Staying up to date with these changes, and thinking about the impact they’ll have on the following season, is an extremely good use of your time.

On a related note, there are actually several things you can do during the offseason to ensure that you’re fully prepared for the upcoming season. Take a look at the following articles to find out more.

Take a Flexible & Balanced Approach

There are many different ways to approach handicapping on football. Some bettors like to take a very rigid approach, where they follow a strict set of rules. They make all their betting decisions in exactly the same way, based on a specific set of criteria, and generally rely on a small number of similar handicapping techniques.

We would never criticize those who approach things in this way. We’ve said many times that there’s no one correct way to bet on football, or any sport for that matter. There are certain things that we absolutely should do, and some that we absolutely shouldn’t do, but for the most part it’s down to the individual to do whatever they think will produce the best results.

With that being said, we encourage our readers to avoid taking a rigid approach to football handicapping, especially while you’re still learning. It will hinder your ability to learn, as you won’t actually be thinking for yourself.

Following a strict set of rules can be very limiting.

Strict rules typically only work when they’re based on your own personal theories that have been developed over time. This is something you might be able to do with enough knowledge and experience. It’s not something you’ll be able to do as a relative beginner though, so it’s really not worth even attempting.

A flexible and balanced approach is far better in our opinion. You might prefer to narrow your focus once you’ve got some experience behind you, but until then we suggest using a wide range of handicapping techniques. Experiment with each technique and be willing to make adjustments so that they’ll become even more effective. This will enhance your handicapping knowledge and further develop your handicapping skills.

In the following article, we discuss the different types of football handicapping technique, and outline several specific techniques that we recommend trying. This will give you a great starting point to work from.

Five More Tips to Follow

We’ve already provided you with many different tips that we consider to be very valuable. Now we want to address the more straightforward tips that are equally as important to follow.

  • Always look for value
  • Pick your spots carefully
  • Consider all relevant factors
  • Trust your own judgement
  • Never stop learning

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these.

Always look for value

The primary purpose of any handicapping technique is ultimately to help you identify value in the betting markets. If you’re not considering value, then handicapping is basically just a waste of time. That might seem like an extreme statement, but it’s true. Betting for value is the ONLY way to make consistent and long term profits.

We really can’t stress this enough. Value should always be at the forefront of your mind, and there are very few occasions when it’s right to put money down without clearly identifying positive value. If you don’t fully understand the concept of value in the context of football betting, PLEASE read the following article before you do anything else.

Pick Your Spots Carefully

We love betting on football for many different reasons. One of the biggest is the sheer number of betting opportunities it presents. The NFL alone has over 250 games each season, and there are even more in a college football season. Each game offers several betting markets, with multiple types of wager available. There’s also live betting, and other wagers such as futures and outrights. We’re clearly spoiled when it comes to the number of options we have available to us.

This isn’t an excuse to place dozens of wagers each week though. It’s great that there are so many opportunities, but it’s not realistic to think you can take advantage of each one. Or even most of them. In fact, it’s important to be VERY selective. The best handicappers pick a few spots each week where they’re confident of making good wagers, and it would be wise for you to do the same. Trying to handicap too many games is a surefire way to lose money.

Consider All Relevant Factors

One of our earlier tips was to take a flexible and balanced approach to handicapping. This tip is really just an extension of that. Some handicapping techniques involve looking at just one or two factors that can affect the outcome of a football game, and in our opinion this is NOT a very balanced approach at all.

It’s fine to rely more heavily on some factors than others or to use just one or two factors to help identify potentially good betting opportunities. For example, we like to look for games between two teams that both have a tendency to start fast. These often present good opportunities to bet the over on the first half total.

However, we don’t want to make our betting decisions based SOLELY on these tendencies. That would be far too limiting. We still look at all the other factors that are relevant, to ensure that we’re making our decisions for genuinely valid reasons. The same principle applies for pretty much every single decision we make, and it should apply to all your decisions too. There are lots of factors that can have an impact on the way a football game is played out, and it’s important to give at least some consideration to the most relevant factors before putting any money down.

Trust Your Own Judgement

An earlier tip concentrated on recognizing the power of information, and ensuring that you take full advantage of all the information that’s at your disposal. This can include the opinions of others. For example, you might like to watch a lot of television coverage and listen to what the experts have to say. You might like to read newspaper reports to gauge the views of respected journalists. Maybe there’s a particular blog that you think offers some interesting points, or an active forum that features thought-provoking discussions between knowledgeable fans.

Considering other people’s opinions can be a valuable component of handicapping football, especially when those opinions are genuinely insightful and based on a real understanding of the sport. Still, it’s vital that you always trust your own judgement over anyone else’s.

If you’re doing the kind if in-depth research and analysis that successful handicapping requires, then you should be more than capable of forming your own strong views. Put faith in those views, or you’ll really struggle to make decisions for the right reasons. Factoring the opinions of others into your decision-making process is acceptable, but there’s a fine line between doing that and RELYING on what other people think. Don’t let the opinions of others drastically influence your own opinions.

Never Stop Learning

Our final tip here is the simplest of them all, but it isn’t any less crucial. No matter how skilled you are at handicapping football, please ensure that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’ve truly mastered it. No good will come of this.

You should ALWAYS be looking to expand your knowledge and improve as a handicapper. Even if you are very successful, standing still is the same as going backwards. Football is always evolving, and techniques that work one season may not work the next. You have to stay on top of things, or your success will be short-lived. Keep on learning, however, and there’s no reason why your success should ever come to an end.