Having trouble picking winners? Help has arrived

Sep 13, 2005 5:24 AM

Just in time for the football season, two new books provide valuable insight for sports bettors.

Reed Hogben is a Canadian physician who bets sports and writes about it well. His new work, The Betting Doctor (119 pages, paperbound, $29.95) covers not only football, but baseball and basketball handicapping, along with a solid, time-saving favorite from GT columnist Andy Iskoe, NFL Teams & Situations (141 pages, 8x11 plastic spiralbound, $29.95) which examines six years of pro football results for each team plus the whole league.

Hogben, a sports bettor since 1986, discusses betting on pro and college football, pro basketball and major league baseball. His sections on money management; shopping for prices, understanding value and looking for a positive expectation are some of the best you’ll find.

In addition, he illuminates the point that there may well be a correlation between certain statistics you’ll find in a box score (or elsewhere) and team performance, straight up and against the line.

He has some interesting things to say about betting the colleges, including evaluating team personnel; defining offenses and defenses; categorizing powerhouse teams and those less powerful by "tiers" and evaluating team "goals" like winning a conference or going for the national title, compared to just having a winning record.

His section on betting pro hoops has value, including applying and updating team depth charts; understanding power ratings; categorizing results (nail-biter, foul-fest, blow-out for example). He discusses power ratings; why "smart teams" cover; the importance of defense; and the viral role offensive rebounding plays in every game.

There’s a short but vital section for those who like to bet parlays and teasers — with advice on when they are really worth it — and a final section on the line and observing movement.

NFL Teams & Situations looks at more than 1,500 pro football games played from 1990 to 2004. There are more than two-dozen categories listed for each pro team, year by year, for three years or for the last six years combined.

For example, the Arizona Cardinals were 4-2 against the spread in 2004 as a home dog, 12-7 for the past three years: They are terrible as a road dog for the past three years (with a 7-17 mark) against the spread. Baltimore is 10-2 for the past three years in their second four games; while the New York Giants are 1-10-1 in their third four games against the spread since 2002.

One extremely valuable section is titled Analysis of NFL Victory Margins (1981 to 2004). Here you can truly see why there are "key numbers" like three, seven and 10.

Later, Iskoe shows us why pro football is almost a coin flip in the differences between home favorite or home dog or road favorite or road dog is many categories--they "even out" in many cases.

Iskoe helpfully isolates some of the strongest situational performances for short, medium and long term tendencies--one of the most remarkable time-saving and analytical compilations I’ve seen in more than two decades.