Should You Pay For Sports Picks?

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Seventh in a series on betting football written for Bettorsworld by Shawn

We bring together in this installment some comments on two different issues–getting talked into bets to make money, and getting talked out of money to make bets.

This week we look at getting good free advice on bets, and make the case against paying for advice under any circumstances. We divide All Mankind into two groups…fellow bettors who offer advice, odds analysis, and information free of charge, and people who ask you to pay money for their advice.


This comes in many shapes and forms. People you hang out with have their opinions that they’re usually eager to share. “Everyone” in the Office Pool is on the Cowboys this week. The columnist in the sports section of the newspaper has a capsule of information and a pick on the whole NFL board or the NCAA-F top-25. This web site has the “Bookies’ Hell” posting forum where Games are discussed, and B-World has no monopoly on sports gaming web pages! TV talking heads offer stats and opinions.

Should you even consider other people’s takes on Games? Sure! Many people work really hard at finding winners so why not take advantage of the expertise they’re offering? (In the Posting Forum scenario, you can also give something back by discussing your own plays.) We recommended that players handicap only the NFL (if the NFL interests you) and 2 or 3 college conferences themselves to keep the workload manageable–If you follow that advice, the only way you’ll even hear that any of over a hundred “other” college squads are worth betting on from week to week will be if someone draws them to your attention. (I don’t handicap PAC-10 football for instance…I never get to see the Games on TV, and in terms of geography I’m a long, long way from the West Coast of the US, even if I like to eat flatbread. It’s tough to get good information an hOur’s time difference east of New York in the land of three-down football. That said, if there’s a Game worth betting, I’d like to hear about it, thank you so much.)

The question becomes when to play a friend’s pick, and when to pass. Obviously if you can research a Game once you’ve been “tipped off” about it, research it and make an informed decision! Whether you can research any one play or not, once you start getting a steady stream of plays from somebody else, chart that person’s plays and see how they’re doing. It’s dangerous to leap aboard a somebody with a Four Game “warm streak”, but if this person has gone 16-11 over the last five weeks against the spread with the picks they’ve fed you, maybe you should give the next twenty picks a serious look. (Similarly, if they go 12-14, even though everyone hits losing streaks, don’t await their next three picks with baited breath.)

The one thing that becomes apparent reasonably quickly no matter what, whether it’s the guy you eat lunch with or some cyber-creature that you discovered online, is who is trying hard. Give some of your time to reading the analyses of Games written by people spending as much time on it as you are.


Somebody asked me the other day: “A financial advisor manages my investments. Shouldn’t I pay an expert a small percentage of my bankroll to pick NFL winners for me too?”

In short, the answer is “NO!”. There are two main reasons for this.

First, the analogy of comparing someone who sells his football picks (a “tout”) to a financial analyst is likely faulty. Many of us trust Our investment income to someone else to manage because we realize this person has more training and resources with which to make wise decisions than we do.

In terms of training, this doesn’t apply to football (or other sports for that matter, but these columns are sticking to football). While a person may need to take university and professional courses and accumulate years of experience to assess the growth potential of a stock, mutual fund, or derivative, if a team starts the season 0-5 and is averaging only twenty minutes of possession a Game, it doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to conclude that “maybe these guys can’t move the ball and don’t stop the run well”.

As far as resources are concerned, “resources ” here are sOurces of information. Within the financial community, the Internet has narrowed the gap between professional investors and individual investors in terms of the amount of information accessible to each. In sports betting, the information gap between the so-called experts and you and me is practically non-existent. Within the B-World site alone there are links to Games the sharp players are playing, posting forums where experienced bettors offer their picks for free, and links to daily newspapers’ sports pages in every NFL city. There are plenty of other web sites with free or almost-free access that provide bettors with all sorts of useful information. (A good starting point are the sites of TV networks with rights to NFL Games, the NFL’s own official page, and the pages of other national media outlets like USA Today. We discussed this at length in an earlier article.)

The second reason is that many touts (in fact, while there are a few honest ones, I’d venture “most”) are unscrupulous hucksters more interested in selling their picks than in picking right. (After all, if they can really pick 60-70% winners, why don’t they just play their own picks and become billionaires within five years?)

There are lots of scams out there. They include, but are not limited to:

–Labeling a Game that’s still a month away as the “Game of the Year”. How can anyone have an opinion on a Game before he sees the line on it?

–Offering a “guaranteed” Game that, if it doesn’t work out, gets you a “free” Game next week. OK, so you hit a sucker up for $100 for your pick and you pick wrong…now all you have to do is give him another pick next week and you’re all square?

–Advertising in the newspaper that a “free” pick is available by phone, but giving customers the hard sell when they call…”Oh, to get the free pick you gotta sign up for Four weeks, Bud.”

–Trying to send customers to a particular sports book, then feeding them loser and sucker bets because the book is giving the tout a cut of his customers’ losses.

–Giving half your callers one team in a Game and giving the other half of your callers that team’s opponent as the pick. Some places do this week after week. Here’s an eerie little example:

The first week this scam is run the “big Game” is the Packers and 49ers. Let’s say 200 people call in, and cough up $20, for the pick. The tout gives 100 people the Packers, and 100 people the 49ers as the pick. Say the 49ers cover. So 100 people are disgusted (and may never call again) but the other 100 call back next week…

The next week it’s Army–Navy and 50 callers get the Cadets as the pick, and 50 get the Midshipmen. Army wins. The 50 “losing callers” may call back, or may not, since they see the tout as 1-1. But 50 callers see the tout as 2-0 (they had both the 49ers and Army) and you can bet they’ll call in week 3…

Week 3 sees the same thing done. It’s the Big 12 Championship and 25 callers get the favorite and 25 get the dog. Dog wins. The losing callers can’t be too bitter because the tout is 2-1, but the “winning callers” think the tout is Moses! 3 winners in a row! This guy’s a genius! And the tout signs these 25 suckers up to a long term package at $25-$100 per week in tout fees. Nice work if you can get it…

To sum up, paying a tout is just not worth it. Do the research yourself so you have conviction in your picks, what advice you do take just take for free, and put the money you saved to good use…upgrade your Internet connection, get Direct TV or a pager, take your spouse out for dinners Tuesday nights to make up for ignoring same spouse for the Four days prior to Tuesday. The choice is yours.

NEXT : One last crack at the 2-Minute Drill

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