Value vs. Overlay

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Every so often I get philosophical when asked about my approach to sports handicapping and betting. Much has changed in the half-century or so that I’ve followed sports and in response to recent inquiries on the topic I offer the following.

I’ve often contemplated the difference between the terms ‘value’ and ‘overlay’ when it comes to sports betting. Over the years, I’ve heard the terms used interchangeably as if they were one and the same. But to me they are not the same at all despite each being extremely important in its own right.

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To me, overlay refers to an aspect of the handicapping process where value relates to the wagering process. For example, if my handicapping makes the Lakers a 6-point favorite over the Rockets and the actual point spread has the Lakers only -4, I look at this as having a two-point overlay to bet the Lakers, laying only four points rather than the six points I had computed.

The value part of the equation relates to finding the best number available in the marketplace by shopping numbers. If I can find a book where the line is only 3.5 instead of four I will have found a half-point in value relative to what other books are offering.

Linesmaking has never been a truly scientific process. In fact, I’ve held over the years that the process is a combination of both art and science. The science is in the development of a line that reflects an established difference between two teams.

The art part is in the tweaking of that number to consider factors other than analytics that could impact play. Injuries, home vs. road performance, series history and scheduling dynamics are four such factors that would fall within the scope of such adjustments.

In the end, determining which side to bet and when to make that bet is all part of a process that involves making assumptions and having opinions on what factors to consider and how much weight we assign to those factors.

We each develop our own style of handicapping. Some rely more on numbers than matchups. Others rely more on situational factors than on series history.

The point is that there is no singular way to have success.  It’s very true that experience is the best teacher in enabling each of us to find what works best for our way thinking, making us most comfortable.

And it should be a never ending process. I’ve been doing this since I was in my teens and I continue to learn more every day, always willing to consider other points of view and to research thoughts that come to mind.

Structure and discipline is important but not to the point of being rigid and inflexible. It’s important to remain open minded as sports continue to evolve and change and the methods of handicapping do the same.

Thus, my goals remain the same. To identify what my methods consider to be overlays and then to seek out the value in the marketplace to be them. It may sound easy or simplistic. It’s anything but.

Friday

Pelicans at Jazz: New Orleans is running out of time to make a successful run to the Playoffs, currently tied for ninth place in the West, four games behind eighth-seeded Memphis. Utah is safely in, but could be seeded anywhere from second to seventh. 

Utah’s won two of three meetings, all of which have been decided by eight points or less. This is the third of a four-game road trip for New Orleans which ends Saturday at the Clippers. Rookie Zion Williamson continues to impress for the Pelicans and his performances have been very consistent while playing 30 to 35 minutes per game. 

Utah’s been very streaky since mid-January, alternating four- or five-game winning and losing streaks. The Jazz are on a 5-12-1 ATS run despite going 9-9 SU since January 27. PELICANS

Saturday

Pacers at 76ers: Philadelphia continues to possess the NBA’s starkest contrast between home and road performance. The 76ers are an NBA best 24-2 at home but have gone just 10-24 SU on the road. 

Since losing those lone two home games in mid-December, ironically back to back, Philly has won 14 straight at home, going 11-3 ATS. After losing six straight to start February, the Pacers have bounced back going 6-1 SU, winning six of seven including four of five on the road. 

Both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid remain sidelined for the Sixers who have slid to the seventh Eastern seed, a game behind the Pacers. They hosted Detroit on Wednesday in their return from a four game road trip and will be playing only their second game in the past week. 

The home team has won two of three meetings this season although Philadelphia has covered in all three. 76ERS

Sunday

Nuggets at Lakers: The Lakers have an increasingly comfortable 6.5-game lead for the top seed in the West with Denver a half game behind the Clippers for the third seed. This has been an unusual series this season with the road team winning all three games, each of which was lined at three points or less. Since Feb. 1, Los Angeles is 13-2 SU, 11-4 ATS, including a win at Denver and last weekend’s over Milwaukee and the Clippers. 

Denver has under-performed since the All Star break, going 5-5 SU but just 3-7 ATS including 1-3 SU, 0-4 ATS on the road. This is the last of a three-games-in- five-nights road trip for the Nuggets and the last of a three-game homestand for the Lakers, who have an extra day of rest. LAKERS

Last week: 2-1

Season: 32-24-1

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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