Tom Barton is fighting the good battle in changing people’s opinion of professional handicappers known, not so affectionately, as "scamdicappers."
"The only call you will get from me is if you have a problem," said Barton, reached at his North Carolina home base near Cary. "I have over 100 clients now in a relatively new company. For $80 a month, we will offer about 50 games. I try to put up at least one a day."
Barton can be heard locally on AM 1400 radio Friday and Monday at noon and at 10:30 p.m., Saturday nights on AM 920. Thankfully, he is not one of those screamers too often heard offering "can’t miss locks" and guarantees of "making you rich beyond your wildest dreams" if you just invest several hundred a week.
"Handicapping today is much like poker was 15 years ago when it was looked upon as a shady business," Barton said. "I was a producer on Madison Avenue and one of the first employees hired at 1050 ESPN radio in New York City. My picks now are documented by cappersmonitor.com and I’m in the national handicappers bowl for Pro Football Weekly."
I can say from personal experience that many in the business of selling their picks play from both sides of the fence. One trick is to put out a game and tell one side of the Mississippi, for example, the Lakers will win. Then they tell the other side the opponent will.
"I don’t use deceit, use scare tactics or yell at people," Barton said. "So many in this business treat their clients rudely, caring only about making a sale. I enjoy what I do because it’s fun and I have a skill that makes me feel good to pass along. I don’t charge anyone for my advice on money management."
Barton’s top tip is at no time ever bet more than 50 percent of your bankroll.
"My best streak was winning 16 straight," he said. "I got more hate mail for missing the 17th game because so many bet on that one."
Barton’s crusade to change the negative image of pro handicappers began two years ago. He chooses radio show appearances carefully and wants nothing to do with sports service rip-offs and telemarketers.
"People calling you with winning bets were unbelievably ignorant," he said. "I remember some sellers in one of the offices that didn’t even know the starting quarterback of the game they were promoting. I have found that people want somebody to trust. Handicapping is the future of the sports betting industry. I want to be the one doing it right."
Barton’s winning formula is simple – doing the research.
"Like a coach would, I understand every situation and zero in on the big games," he said. "Guys want action. I chip away with small games. In close to a year and a half, I’ve never had a losing month. I won’t pick enough games for you to win a Lexus, but will win enough so that I will make the payments for you."
On the radio, Barton takes a refreshing approach. He actually talks about the games and does not repeat his website 25 times.
"Most guys in the business charge $100 a game, I charge $80 a month," he said. "Clients interested in my service are the ones who read GamingToday. Your publication is the one that real people know about and that ones in the business should."
Barton will not give you hockey, soccer, golf and tennis. His are strictly the meat and potatoes – college basketball, NBA, NFL, college football, baseball.
"Baseball is the hidden sport, the one you can make the most money on," he said. "I believe in being very selective, totally honest and respectful of the business. It hurts me professionally when customers attack it and other handicappers abuse it. I’m trying to set the record straight, that there are honest handicappers not looking to rip you off."