Sports Gambling Myths: Handicapping Pitfalls to Avoid

Here are the biggest myths in sports betting, mistakes made by the sucker player. We expose the falsehoods and educate sports bettors on the truth.

Won-loss record, offensive and defensive rankings are the most important stats. There is in fact no statistic more overrated in sports betting than a team’s straight up winning percentage.

There are comparable stats in basketball but as an example, as stated in a recent spread betting article, “we use net yardage record (a team that gets more yards “wins”) where others use straight up won-loss record. We use net yards per game comparisons where the squares employ points per game.”

We continue, “Others rank teams by total yards per game in passing, rushing and overall both offensively and defensively. In lieu of that, we use the more reliable yards per rush, yards per pass and yards per play relative to the cumulative average of their opponents to date.” Sports betting myths video

The distinction among ratings, rankings, and raw numbers is overlooked by so many sports bettors.

Just pick the team that is going to win outright and you will bet the spread winner. It’s not so much a fairy tale as it is a blatant case of inductive rather than deductive reasoning. Of course if one could pick the team that will win outright 100 percent of the time, one could get the spread winner. And if one could pick the lottery numbers right, one would be a millionaire.

The sharpest bettors exploit losing teams that cover or winning teams that fall short of the number. It’s our famed dichotomous straight up and against the spread theory.

Bet on the better defensive team. In point of fact, the team with the better defensive statistics in basketball or football isn’t necessarily the better defense, but the squad that is more efficient on offense and dominates possession.

In football or basketball, bet on the team with the best offensive players, which often is not the squad that scores the most points. An ESPN study confirmed efficient offenses win in the Big Dance.

Wager on the teams that are in must-win games. We define “must-win” not necessarily as a team that is eliminated from playoff contention if they lose, but certainly a squad that has little margin of error to make the playoffs. Teams proficient at winning big games are not playing “must win” games late in the year.

We prefer actually betting on spoilers late in the season, especially in the NBA. They are undervalued, have nothing to lose, and no also-ran wants another team celebrating at their expense, so motivation is not an issue even those squares think they have “nothing to play for”.  Ironic, since an also-ran generally has more players fighting for their professional careers.

Bet on teams with the best guards in the NCAA Tournament. This is another case of inductive thought. There are more quality guards than forwards or centers, so of course among the Sweet 16, there will be as well. Then again, find the first round upsets or teams that failed to make it to the Big Dance and you will see squads that are disproportionately guard heavy.

From the greatest dynasty of them all UCLA led by Lou Alcindor and Bill Walton, to the recent back-to-back champions of Florida with Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer to Duke in the 1990s with Christian Laettner, it’s the teams with the rare commodity of big men that go further in the postseason.

Avoid betting on games involving inconsistent teams. This is in fact the polar opposite of the truth. We always bet on unreliable squads to continue to be erratic. Teams that are tough to get a handle on are an oddsmaker’s nightmare and a boon to the sharp player. “Predictably unpredictable” teams are what squares and oddsmakers equally avoid with extreme trepidation, while the wise guys welcome with open arms and wallet.  

Neutral games are road games. Why sports bettors are oblivious to this when it comes to March Madness betting and NCAA bowl handicapping is beyond us. Road records should never outweigh home records when it comes to handicapping games on a neutral field or court.

In fact, the oddsmakers know a majority of gamblers overplay road statistics, so sports bettors who evaluate overall performance are those who beat the sportsbooks in NCAAB and NCAAF postseason betting.

Betting preseason NFL is a total crapshoot. No, actually that mindset is total crap. This gets back to our point: there is too much uncertainty and that hurts the oddsmakers. Much information is revealed between the time the sportsbooks release odds on NFLX and the time the games are played. The data is invaluable and advantageous to the gamblers; hence preseason NFL betting is a boon for professional bettors.

Handicap pitching and defense first and foremost in MLB betting. The list of teams that has proven this theory wrong, especially in sports betting is endless. A shocking fact is that oddsmakers exaggerate the importance of pitching in making the line. Because of this, baseball is the only sport where one can regularly bet on the superior team as an underdog.

Being the more rested team is a good thing. Our Golden Rule is teams playing well are hurt by rest, while teams playing poorly need the extended vacation. So many NBA bettors falsely fade teams playing their fifth road game in seven nights against rested home teams.

The same fatal assumption is made in betting NFL bye weeks, that somehow the more rested team is better off. The fact is many overachieving teams return to form with unwelcome prolonged time off.

College bowl betting sees many who fall into the aforesaid trap. This is why those who simply bet on bowl teams that finished the season strong get crushed. The weeks off nullifies a hot teams’ recent form.

This is why when handicapping recent form we compare the recent form of each team relative to the same time period, not number of games. Example: how has each squad done over the last x-number of days, rather than x-number of games played?

The author Joe Duffy is CEO of He has also written the eternal tome on sports betting, “The Most Important Sports Handicapping Article Ever Written”.


About the Author

Grandmaster Sports Handicapper Joe Duffy got his start in the sports handicapping industry with the Dial Sports (Communications Team) audiotext network. It was owned by sportswriter, broadcaster and handicapping pioneer Mickey Charles. Dial Sports was the sister company of the popular Sports Network Wire Service. Upon graduating California University of PA, where he was a play-by-play announcer on student radio station WVCS (now WCAL) and cable channel 29 (now CUTV), he became a full-time sports announcer and handicapper for the Sportsline scorephone network. He learned from NFL legends coach Hank Stram and broadcasting icon Ray Scott the ins and outs of the sports betting world. His Amazing Cadillac Club became the most successful 900-number in sports betting history. He left to become the first General Manager of the Freescoreboard scorephone network broadcast all over North America. His articles have appeared on several dozen websites and hard copy publications. He is now CEO of, the top sports betting site in the world. Email:

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