Evaluating a Handicapping Service/Tipster

We sell picks here but understand many people may not be interested in purchasing picks from this site in particular. Perhaps they don't trust a newer site, don't like betting on hockey or college basketball, don't bet enough to justify the cost of the service, or just don't like money. In any case we would like to advise people on what to look for and how to choose a tipster, so that they can properly invest their hard-earned money rather than waste it on useless plays while losing to the vig at the same time.

The first and most important thing to understand when buying plays is that almost no one wins. Even if you only pick tipsters with great records AND their records are not faked somehow (there are tons of ways to do this which we will discuss later) it is overwhelmingly likely that the tipster is still a loser. There are two main reasons for this. One, 99% of sports bettors lose. Of the 1% that win, something like 90% of them win by betting steam/props or having info from other handicappers, meaning that only 0.1% of people actually win by handicapping themselves. Two, of the 0.1%, there are relatively few reasons why they would want to sell plays - yet there are plenty of good reasons for the 99% who lose to sell plays. As a result, you should assume that anyone who sells plays is a loser without overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Knowing that almost everyone loses, how can you pick a winning tipster? There are two things to look for. The first is a strong record based on winning against real lines, preferably combined with getting closing line value. There are plenty of sites posting records of tipsters, and good sites like pickmonitor will give you a rating. What you are looking for is a good z-score suggesting that the bettor's results are unlikely to be due to random chance. As a result any record based on 500 plays or less is basically useless. Anyone can win over a couple hundred plays, especially since it is pretty easy to make multiple accounts on these sites. A good ballpark estimate to look for would be better than a 5% ROI over 1000 plays, assuming the bettor always bets 1 unit per play and does not bet plays greater or less than -200/+200. You also want to look for strong closing line value, which often will have to be done manually. Ideally the handicapper in question would beat the closing line at least two-thirds of the time; if they released all their plays right before the game one should question their reasoning for doing so.

Of course, the problem with this is that the easiest way to get both a good record and good line value is to post plays at fake or stale lines. Furthermore, there are so many lines available out there between square Vegas and offshore books that it is completely possible to win by posting lines that actually existed at the time of the play, but would not be possible to bet for the majority of players. Even legitimate documentation sites like pickmonitor have ways to fake a record. One way is to bet second half or live lines, where a lot of times it is possible to past-post. It is also easy to do things like bet 5 correlated plays on the same game, or open 100 accounts and bet big money line dogs at max units, then make tiny bets afterward on the accounts that win to fool the rating algorithm.

The best way to deal with this is to check the documented lines by doing your own research. Any accounts using obvious techniques to fake their record should be avoided. One note, if it isn't possible to check if the lines are real due to how the plays are documented, you can safely assume that they are just posting stale lines and move on to the next capper to evaluate. SBROdds and oddsportal both allow you to check lines as of a given point in time in history. Do the lines they post actually exist at major sportsbooks at the time they posted the play? Are they just steam bettors who post right as the line moves? It is usually not necessary to check every play for a given tipster, 10-20 plays will be enough.

The second important thing to look for is the methodology the tipster uses to come up with their plays. Unfortunately this usually requires contacting the tipster directly, but in my experience most tipsters are glad to comment on their methods in an effort to bring in new business. No one who wins is going to tell you exactly what they do, but a description of how they handicap is good enough.

While there are many ways to win we would be highly suspicious of anyone not using some form of mathematical methods or statistical modeling to pick their plays. Knowing many winners personally, there just aren't many people who doesn't use statistical models in some fashion. Even people we know who are more subjective and get an edge by watching games, or bet sports like MMA or NASCAR that aren't as math-based, still use some kind of model as a starting point. As an example, we know of an NFL handicapper who has a massive edge in the NFL coming from careful watching of games by a team of people and generating custom stats on every play, along with an incredible assessment of injuries and team game plans. This handicapper still uses statistical models as the basis for all their plays, only using this subjective info to adjust off of what their model suggests. 

What you definitely also want to avoid is anyone who claims to bet plays based on some kind of "system" following trends, or line moves, or anything similar. Usually these fall into two categories and both are no good for you. One type of system, and this type of system actually wins, is usually just a type of steam betting system that calls for bets at square sports books such as Bovada or Stations in Las Vegas when the line has moved at larger books. They may claim it is based on "public money percentage" or some other kind of indicator but the reality is that this is basically steam betting and there is no point paying for these types of plays. Just buy the Don Best service and bet them yourself.

The second type of system player uses trends such as day of week, home/away favorite/dog, line ranges, etc to find winning subsets ATS based on historical data. Most of these systems are completely fake and only won due to variance. A few of these systems may have legitimately been big favorites way in the past when stuff like home dogs in the NFL won without handicapping, but sports betting is not that soft these days.

Personally, there are only a few tipsters we have seen that we are sure actually win - note we have no affiliation with any of them. Probably the best one publically available is DrH who has beaten MLB for several years getting substantial line value in the meantime. The biggest challenge with DrH is getting the lines he posts - he posts overnight and the lines always move 20 cents within two minutes of release - but even betting his plays at close would have been a big winner over the past couple of seasons. Note one interesting thing about DrH is that while he crushes MLB, his results on NCAAB were not that great, which is shocking given that NCAAB is much easier to beat than MLB in general. Probably he has run a little hot at MLB, but you can't argue with the results or the line value he gets.

Right Angle Sports used to be really good, in fact they were legendary at one time with the biggest issue being that it was very difficult to get any of the numbers they posted. They probably still win to some extent, but are now a private-only service and from what we have heard, have not been running well as of late.

On pickmonitor custom2006 has shown a nice edge in MMA for many years, although many of the plays are on smaller MMA leagues where it is difficult to bet big. While he has not been super hot as of late, we still believe he is likely to win going forward.

The top of the leaderboard at sites like pickmonitor or pyckio tend to have some legitimate winners as well. The problem with pickmonitor is that a lot of the biggest winners fake their records (although they have cleaned up many of these). On pyckio almost all the winners/paid tipsters post plays literally right at the very open of Pinnacle, often on smaller soccer/tennis leagues when the limits are $100-250, and it is almost impossible to get down at the numbers they post. Still if you are very quick and these amounts are worth it for you, this could be a great option.

At the end of the day it is almost as difficult to find winning handicappers selling plays as it is to win oneself. We win, and the people above win, but the reality is, almost everyone loses, and no one is guaranteed to win going forward. Even those tipsters who won in the past (and by good handicapping, not just luck) must constantly evolve and improve their methods to keep winning.