Monday, September 1, 2014

Win Percentage

What percentage of bets should a handicapper expect to win during an NFL season? When I first started out 18 years ago on, I asked friends and family that question. The answers I got most typically were around 70-75%. Even to this day when I ask people, that’s about the response I get. That’s way too high, of course. In fact, 60% is too high, which surprises most people. 60% is very hard to achieve on a regular basis. In all my years of handicapping, I’ve hit over 60% twice. The truth is, if a handicapper is winning at a rate of 60%, he’s probably not winning enough. That may sound confusing, but I should be able to clear it up by the end of this article.

 There are two ways to judge how someone is doing with their picks. The first is win percentage, and the second is how many units they’re ahead. Units are used as a measure and not money because people have different bet sizes and it’s difficult to compare directly with different amounts of money in play. When calculating units won, add 1 unit for every pick won and subtract 1.1 for every losing pick.

Let’s look at two gamblers and see how they did. The first person goes 4-2 has a fantastic win percentage of 66.7%. Another person goes 7-4, which is a 63.6% winning rate. A very good winning percentage, but not as good as the first one.  Of course, the fact that the second person won almost 50% more units gets lost in the shuffle.  4-2 wins 1.8 units versus 7-4 which wins 2.6 units.

With that in mind, which of the two gamblers above did better? It depends on how you look at it. The first had a higher win rate. The second won more units. It may not be that the first person was better at picking winners. It might be that the second person bet on every game he thought he could win.

The breakeven point on betting in the NFL is 52.38% (You have to win 11 games for every 10 you lose. 11 divided by 21 equals 52.38 %.) If you’re presented with two games to bet on, one that wins at a rate of 60% and another that wins at a rate of 55%, how should you bet? If you’re trying to play it safe, minimize your risks, and have the best chance of winning, you’d go with the 60% bet. However, the best play to win money is to bet on both games. While we’d all like to have a 60% chance of winning all our bets, those situations don’t come around all the time. To really make money in NFL betting, you need to bet every game you have an advantage on. Any game above say 54% makes you money in the long run, and if winning money is the goal, you should be taking advantage of every winning situation you can find.

So what’s the answer to what should a handicapper’s win rate be? It depends on the amount of bets. If he’s making just one bet, he has to hit 100% to make money. If he’s making 200 bets, 56% makes him a nice profit. As a general rule, the more bets you make, the lower your win rate. But if you make enough bets, you will win money. The more bets that are made means the handicapper is using every advantage he has, even those plays that might only win at a rate of 55%. It still wins units, but it hurts the win rate. My goal is to win as many units a possible, not get a high percentage of wins. Those are 2 very different things.

My goal this season is to see how many units I can win. Towards this end I’ll be taking every play that I see an advantage on. In the past I’ve tried to limit my bets to around 3 a week, about 50 per season, in order to keep a high win percentage.  This season isn’t about achieving the best winning percentage, it’s about winning the most units. Units won translates into money in our pockets.

 Your Bankroll is Our Business.

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