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Basics of Basketball Handicapping
 
by Ernie Kaufman

Step 1: Finding a bookmaker
Before you start your basketball wagering you will first have to find someone to take your action; hence, enter the bookmaker!

If you live in Nevada, England, Mexico, Australia, or any one of many other jurisdictions throughout the world, you can do it legally. The rest of us, if we want to stay within the law, will have to go with one of the many offshore betting establishments, and there are many to choose from. However, and this is a big however, be careful! This is an unregulated and therefore somewhat chancy industry with a bevy of scam artists out there. Find a bookmaker that’s been around for a while, hopefully one that comes recommended to you from someone you know. If you’re having difficulty you can contact me or note the fine establishments advertising in Gambling Times.

Step 2: How does it work?
The standard cost (vigorish) for betting on basketball is roughly 4½% for the house. You may find some variations both ways if you shop around. Generally speaking, the online bookmakers give the best betting prices to the public.

For the novice reading this article, when you bet on basketball games with a bookmaker you will have to win by the pointspread. The pointspread is a value system assigned to the teams playing, based on which team is perceived to be the better. For example, if the Lakers are playing the Kings the odds may be around seven points. The Lakers laying seven points means that if you bet the Lakers you must win by more than seven points. Conversely, if you wager the Kings you will get seven points given to you.

The pointspread is the big number for the sports bettor. This is your real opponent, not the team, nor the bookmaker.

You can call the bookmaker or go online when you want to bet, but you should bet only what you are comfortable with, bearing in mind that you can always lose. If you find yourself nervous about the outcome, then you’ve probably wagered too much. Betting the same amount on all of your wagers is probably the best way to start. Note: you are going to have to win 53% of your wagers to break even. Obviously anything above this will be profit.

Step 3: How to handicap (select) the games
You will need a method to pick the games you bet on. A mere understanding of basketball, even at the most professional level, will not be enough for you to win.

There are many ways to handicap the game. You can establish “Power Ratings” on the various teams by assembling critical statistics on each team. All of the information is available in most big city newspapers. If you don’t care to do this kind of research, there are many companies that market these statistics. You can look for established betting trends and bet accordingly. For example if a basketball team pulls off an upset it will generally demonstrate a tendency to experience a “let down” in the next game. And, the longer teams stay on the road, the less chance they have of covering the pointspread. There are hundreds of such logical and profitable betting trends available. Get your hands on as many as possible.

This story was first published in the Winter 2002-2003 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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