Tom Barton was the recent winner of the 2013 Pro Football Weekly national handicapping contest. He’s been in the business for five years and has never – repeat, never – had a losing season in any sport.
Barton does a two-hour radio show called Heatwave Sports co-hosted by Tim Unglesbee, Ron Nady and Armando Vasquez. It airs Saturdays and Sundays locally from 10 p.m.-midnight on AM920 and deals with intelligent conversation about games, not bravado.
There won’t be any remotes done in strip clubs, or boasting about who’s hot or not on Twitter. This is nuts and bolts tips and descriptions about games and how to correctly analyze and profit from the right information and trends.
Gee, what a concept. Especially in a field where there is so much deceit, phonies and con artists trying to take your money by giving you teams from both sides of their mouth.
“I think it is a disgusting, sickening industry,” Barton said when reached at his home on Long Island not far from the Connecticut coast. “It should be regulated and monitored. Well over 90 percent are just ripping people off. Most couldn’t even tell you about the team. They are just really good salesmen.”
Barton went to Harvard, which usually produces Rhodes scholars, not handicappers. He got involved in professional handicapping five years ago when living in Cary, N.C., the epicenter of Tobacco Road.
“Cary is seven miles to Duke, seven miles to Chapel Hill and seven miles to Raleigh so I’m right in the middle of Blue Devils, Tar Heels and Wolfpack,” he said.
Being a native New Yorker, Barton returned to hone his craft. Two years ago he lost everything from Sandy, the superstorm that was the second costliest hurricane in United States history.
“I lost every possession I owned,” he said. “There was five feet of standing water and fish in the living room.”
Thankfully there is a new Barton home, Sandy is no more and the fish are back in Long Island Sound where they belong. Of course there still are sharks floating around his industry.
“Scamdicappers I call them,” he said. “No, I started from the bottom with zero clients. I came into the business as a sportscaster. I worked at ABC/ESPN Radio in New York City at 18 for almost 11 years before getting into sports handicapping. I worked for Scott Ferrall and was on the panel to pick the 100 top athletes in the 20th century.
Barton then got laid off and turned his attention totally to sports handicapping as a career.
“I gave picks out for free at the start and now have roughly 1,000 clients a year,” he said. “I make the most money on baseball and betting huge dogs.”
Barton is coming to Las Vegas for March Madness as are so many others when the group of 64 starts dancing for real this Thursday.
“I’ll be doing the Heatwave show on Saturday right from the LVH book,” Barton said. “I think this will be one of the coolest years for the tournament. Maybe zero No. 1 seeds in the Final Four and it could be the year a 16 beats a 1. But I won’t be betting on that.”
Normally this is where the article ends, but in this case it’s where it begins, in the form of Q&A.
GT: What was it like when you first came into handicapping?
TB: When I was on radio and hitting plays, I was approached by handicappers and worked for them for a few years. I got sick of it. I was laughed at for having integrity. When I went out on my own, I didn’t charge a commission. It was $100 for 30 days. No phone calls, no upgrades. Just 1 or 2 picks a day.
GT: I am fascinated by Harvard. That defies what most think make up an industry full of crooks.
TB: I looked at it from an analytical background. Nobody knows how to break a game down better than a good handicapper. We know more than coaches. I like Ron Jaworski a lot. I like the technical aspect. He could make a pretty penny if he was a handicapper.
GT: What is your formula for winning?
TB: I only give out 1 or 2 plays so as not to overextend. I just do straight bets, not teasers or money lines. You have to understand odds. In baseball Houston may stink but they will win 60 games and will be underdogs. I will bet Clayton Kershaw all the time, but never more than -180.
GT: And what type of games will you offer clients?
TB: I have given out 10 Level 5 games, my highest, and am 9-1. The Level 4’s I’ve recommended are around 97 now and I’m hitting 86 percent right.
GT: Of course you can say that, but proving it is another matter.
TB: Well, that’s where winning the Pro Football Weekly contest against the best national handicappers is the proof. And being heard each Saturday and Sunday on Heatwave and other national radio shows I do.
GT: Are you a trend player?
TB: I am somewhat. You just have to ride the hot hand. If a team beats you 14 times in a row, I’m betting on 15.
GT: How do you deal with colleges?
TB: I love the Ivy League as you can no doubt tell. I will hit their games over and over again. I am the best in the country in that conference. It’s good practice to stick with the teams you know.
GT: How do you view the NCAA tournament right now?
TB: I am a big (Tom) Izzo fan so Michigan State is in my Final Four along with Duke, Virginia and Florida. Of course I am telling you this before the brackets come out. I do think you will see a lot of middle of the road teams surprise people. Like I said earlier, it is quite possible all four No. 1 seeds don’t make it to the semis.
GT: I would be slack if not mentioning baseball does start this week in Australia with the Dodgers and D’backs. Any feel for them?
TB: I love betting baseball totals. Two ace pitchers. Give me UNDER 7. I also love betting the first five innings. I probably would go Dodgers and UNDER in both games.
GT: How is business for you?
TB: Good. I don’t rob people. Never will be a millionaire but won’t be broke. It’s a good living. Don’t need more than I have.
Encore: Barton has done the LA Dodgers post game show in Las Vegas the last two years, has a national show on XM Channel 92, Charlotte and Pittsburgh radio as well. Heatwave Sports is his longest running and best show.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].