Why do good handicappers lose? Or more correctly, why do good handicappers make wrong calls? The answer to that is “Why not?” Handicappers are only human. They, like the sports teams or athletes they predict outcomes on, also have their “off days.” “You win some, you lose some,” as the saying goes. But if you think that explanation is too flippant, let’s go mathematical.
Handicappers know from experience that the more games or contests they call, the greater the chances that they will call it wrong, or even worse, have a losing streak. In other words, handicappers may start out with a hot hand but, along the way, they will make a wrong call. You see this happening in pro sports. A team starts hot winning 10 straight, then skids and loses a few. Finally, it coasts along playing .600 ball along the regular season en route to a play-off berth. Ditto for individual athletes. You have big-league players starting red-hot and hitting .400 or even close to .500 in his first 20 or so games. Then he slumps a bit, picks his rhythm, plays .280 ball and finishes the regular season with a .320 average.
Having a losing streak follows the same route: the more games a handicapper calls, the higher the chances that he or she will experience a losing streak. The question for the handicappers isn’t “if”; it’s “when.” In other words losing streaks are inevitable. A handicapper who calls as many as 500 (or even more) games will definitely experience losing streaks. Nolan Dalla, a handicapper who normally calls some 500 games a season, states that the odd for even skilled handicappers experience a losing streak of from 2 to 5 games is 100%. The odds for having a 6-game, 7-game and an 8-game losing streak are 98%, 86% and 62% respectively – all better than 50% chances. The odds for calling 9 and 10 straight games wrong are 39% and 21% respectively.
What do the odds in the previous paragraph say? As per Dalla’s projections and experience, in the course of a 500-game season, even a seasoned handicapper will definitely have losing streaks that can stretch for as long as 5 games. In a protracted season, a handicapper can call it wrong for as long as 8 straight games. In fact, he still stands a good chance of having a 10-game losing streak.
In fact Dalla projects that, in a 500-game season, a skilled handicapper will experience losing streaks frequently. For example, he projects that a good handicapper will suffer 2 straight wrong calls 124.75 times. In fact, in his experience, a good handicapper will suffer a 7-game losing streak 3.86 times. Let’s just round that up to 3 times. Imagine a good handicapper having a 7-game losing streak 3 times in a 500-game season. That’s a total of 21 games. That doesn’t include the other losing streaks he has suffered in the course of a season. With all his losses, he still comes out on top with a .550 winning percentage.
You might wonder how this can happen: An experienced handicapper experiences several losing streaks but he still finishes on the money. Of course, that’s because you just saw the losing streak side of the handicapper’s performance. A skilled handicapper also experiences winning streaks. He experiences winning streaks of several consecutive games frequently.
The “Intangibles” and “Unpredictables”
Still, you’ll probably want to go beyond the mathematical explanation. With all the information that a seasoned handicapper has gathered over the years, you would expect a much higher prediction percentage from the good handicappers. You know, somewhere in the area of 80 or 90%.
The information that a handicapper has will be sufficient to enable him to make “educated” forecasts of every game. Information like win-loss records, players’ stats, and performance at home and on the road, players on the injured list, trades and other such data will help a handicapper come up with a pick. But there are several “intangibles” and “unpredicatables” in every game. Some of these are the following:
- Player injuries. A healthy star player may be injured in the middle of a game.
- Bad calls. A referee or umpire may make a bad call which can affect the result of the game.
- Players’ reactions to calls. How players react to a call – good or bad – can affect the game. Good handicappers factor in the effect on temperamental players. But sometimes even the most level-headed players can react vehemently to a call – and be slapped a technical. Or worse, be thrown out of a game.
- Bad weather. A game which started under fair weather may be aborted or abbreviated because of a sudden downpour. Or the intermittent showers may have made the playing field soggy and changed the complexion of the game.
In other words, there are still many aspects of a game which are beyond the control and “crystal ball” of even the most seasoned handicapper. These occur in almost every game. The occurrences are what make the games unpredictable. With these possible occurrences in mind, I can say that no game can be predicated with 100% certainty. These unpredictable occurrences however are what make sports betting – and handicapping – fun.