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    Handicapping can have many meanings in sports, but when it comes to betting that’s exactly what it means. Any time you hear handicapping, handicapper, or handicap it typically refers to wagering on a sporting event. 

    Handicapping can also refer to sports contests and pools, such as the ones RYP has! Handicap games and events with friends and family instead of the books by joining or creating your own pool with your own rules! 

    This article will break down how handicapping in sports works, along with experts to potentially follow. There are various sorts of handicappers, which this article will also go over. Let’s go through how to handicap sports, the handicapping process, and handicapping tips to follow.

    What is Sports Handicapping? 

    Sports handicapping is the art of betting on various sporting event outcomes with the main goal of building a profitable margin. Despite professional handicappers existing, sports handicapping is for everyone – regardless of experience. 

    Casual bettors and pro bettors both handicap in sports, both seeing profits and losses along the way. Most bettors are casual bettors, simply betting for entertainment purposes with no serious goal set. Professional handicappers are much different in this regard.

    Sports handicapping professionals bet for livelihood, whether it’s selling picks to customers or actually wagering money for a living. Handicappers have their own methods of research for picks to be made, along with track records for current and future customers to follow. 

    Types of Handicappers

    As mentioned, there are various research methods handicappers use when suggesting picks for customers. There are trends, statistical models, line movements, and plenty of other factors handicappers can use when researching picks. 


    Sharp bettors are handicappers who have a long successful history of making picks, but it’s very rare to find a sharp bettor. Only 2% of professional bettors are considered sharps, but oftentimes sports handicappers will see who the ‘sharps’ are betting on before wagering a game. 

    League Experts

    Betting is very different from league-to-league, as soccer differs from football and hockey differs from auto racing. The world of sports betting is broad and encompassing, so it’s important to find a league that you are comfortable handicapping in. Not only that, but equally as important is finding a professional handicapper who is considered an ‘expert’ in a certain sport or league.

    Michael Rosenbaum is an NFL expert who gives NFL picks on television. However, he also gives baseball plays in the summer despite having no successful track record or relationship with the sport. Handicappers might consider Rosenbaum an expert NFL handicapper but not an expert MLB handicapper. 

    Survivor Experts

    Many handicappers participate in the Circa Sports Survivor Pool, which RYP has a similar format for everyone to participate in! In survivor contests, a handicapper must select one team each week to win but can’t pick that team for the rest of the season. If the team wins the handicapper advances to the next week. If the team loses then the handicapper is eliminated. 

    This is very popular content with both RYP and in Las Vegas, so many survivor pools contestants follow survivor handicappers for picks to play. The margin for error in this contest is razor-thin, so picking a handicapping professional should be selective. 

    Total Experts

    Some professional handicappers thrive in point total picks, mainly because it deals with team averages and not necessarily who will win or lose a game. Mathematicians love this market because it deals with numbers and finding the average of two teams’ scoring.

    If you notice a professional handicapper is just 5-20 when making picks against the spread, but is 20-4 when picking the point total market then it would be wise to follow the cappers’ total picks. Some professional handicappers only pick point totals, while others vary picks depending on the comfort level for a certain game. 

    Trend Followers

    Some handicappers research trends before wagering, these handicappers are also known as researchers. Researchers look for every ounce of data for every market in a game. A trend sports handicapper will look at a game’s moneyline (SU) trends, point total (O/U) trends, and spread (ATS) trends to find the best possible bet. 

    Because these handicappers cast a large net around all markets for any event in terms of gathering data, they are typically your best bet to follow if looking to bet broadly. If you are handicapping certain sports or markets in your comfort level that’s fine and actually recommended, but then following these professionals is probably avoidable for you.

    Prop Expert

    Prop handicappers are becoming increasingly popular over the last few years, as prop markets have taken off. With prop handicappers, they are specifically making bets revolving around individual player performances and not the outcome of the game. 

    Many prop experts come from fantasy football or DFS backgrounds, as prop betting is a style similar to fantasy sports. These experts follow player stats, performances, key data, and other information regarding player performances. 

    AP Photo/John Locher

    The Handicapping Process in 5 Steps

    There are certain steps to consider when handicapping a sport or sporting event. 

    Beware of the odds

    This should come as no surprise, as the odds are a big part of the handicapping process. If the odds are very expensive it’s probably best to avoid the bet. Understanding how much you could potentially lose is more important than understanding how much you can win with a bet. 

    Beware of the odds because there might be better odds elsewhere. As a handicapper, you want to find the best odds available to play on. If you’re handicapping the Bengals game and they are favorites to win at -120 with sportsbook A but see they’re -115 with sportsbook B, it would make sense to bet or recommend a bet with the -115 sportsbook B odds.

    Take a look at the public betting action

    See where the public is leaning. This should be part of your decision-making process when handicapping, but it’s a good idea to see where the popular opinion lies when betting on a game. Some handicappers like to go against the public, while others side with it.

    Study the matchup

    Studying the matchup is crucial, and probably the most important step for trend handicappers. If you notice two soccer teams have seen a draw in three of four meetings, maybe lean towards betting the draw or the +0.5 spread for either team. 

    This goes beyond trends though, as stats are a crucial part of this step too. If you notice Mike Trout has four HRs against a certain pitcher in just 10 plate appearances, then perhaps wagering on Trout’s hit total going over would be the play.

    Take note of recent performances

    This is similar to researching trends, but it’s key to understand how clubs or players are entering a matchup. Using this information should be taken with a grain of salt because trends that include recent performances can shape one’s opinion of an outcome subliminally. 

    If a handicapper sees that the Lakers have won five straight games, the capper might insist the Lakers are hot and will win six straight games. Another handicapper might see that the Lakers are on a five-game winning streak and instead, insist that they can’t keep it up and are due to lose.

    Keep up with the news

    This is very important because it can actually impact the odds you see when handicapping. If the Lakers announce that LeBron James is out for the game, then the Lakers odds of winning will go down. If a handicapper takes a bet on Novak Djokovic to win a tennis match but it gets rained out, a capper needs to know if the bet is canceled or will carry over into the next day when they eventually play. 

    Handicapping Tips to Find Relevant Information 

    Where can you find relevant information for handicapping sports? There are so many sports and markets, along with styles to bet, that it’s tough to find a source. Here are the three main tips for finding relevant handicapping information. 

    Follow sports media and news

    Sports betting is becoming more popular in the media landscape, as there are various figures and shows to follow specified in betting on sports. Podcasts are also becoming a popular form of content for sports betting, so browse the media landscape and find shows you enjoy. 

    If shows aren’t up your alley, and you feel that you don’t need to follow any ‘experts’ then it’s a good idea to follow some news sources anyways. Social media is good in this regard, a source for quick-hitting news and information. 

    Study line movements

    It’s good to see how the line is moving before an event, such as the Super Bowl. Looking at line movements also allows handicappers to see how the public is betting leading into an event. 

    If you think a football game will go OVER 42.5 points but see the line is moving from 42.5 to 40.5, then maybe you wait longer before betting in case it drops more. Studying line movements is a great way to forecast where the odds are going and when the time to strike is.

    Listen to experienced bettors

    There are people in the sports betting industry that are worth listening to for various reasons. Some handicappers are great to follow for picks, while others are simply teaching you how to bet a certain way so you can make your own picks. 

    It’s important to listen to experienced bettors that are in your wheelhouse of betting. If you will bet on anything then find an expert who bets on all markets. Handicapping the NBA only would make sense for you to find experienced NBA bettors. 

    General FAQs

    How to make a sports pool?

    Starting a sports pool is easy with RunYourPool! We have fully customizable settings, dedicated customer support, and we make it easy to invite friends so you can compete against them.

    What is a sports pool?

    Sports pools are games to play with family and friends. With RunYourPool, all you need to do is pick your sport, pick one of our game types, set up your pool, and compete!

    How do I invite people to my pool?

    Inviting friends to your pool is easy with RYP! We provide you with a custom link that you can send out to anyone you would like. We also have a connections feature to allow you to easily invite members to join your pool.

    Who can play in a sports pool?

    Anyone can play in a pool on RunYourPool! With our array of game types throughout multiple sports, there's an option for everyone.

    How much does RunYourPool cost?

    Our pricing tiers are determined by how many members you have in your pool. We have three tiers; Amateur, Pro, and Front Office. Our pricing page provides a breakdown of all three options!

    Is RunYourPool legal?

    RunYourPool is 100% legal. We do not allow any illegal entry fees or gambling on our website.


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