Get the double-sided 92 Club & National League map poster

The Pros & Cons of DIY Handicapping

Image source: Pixabay

When it comes to sports betting, beating the bookmaker is the ultimate goal for punters. Before you even place a bet, the odds are tilted in the bookie's favour thanks to the edge or overround that is worked into every bet. To achieve this edge, the bookmaker will offer prices slightly lower that the true probability of the outcome.

For example, in a 50/50 event such as a coin toss, which is quite a debated topic in itself, the bookmaker might offer slightly less than even on each outcome so that they will make a small profit whether the coin lands on head or tails. So instead of offering evens, they might offer 49/50. If one punter bet £100 on heads and another bet £100 on tails, the bet would work as follows:

Heads wins

The scenario would be exactly the same if the coin toss landed on tails. This is how the bookmaker or sportsbook makes their money. Every bet is set up in the way where the odds represent an implied probability, not the true probability of an outcome occurring.

To ensure that this system works, the bookmaker must do two things well. First, they must balance the books. This means having an even amount of money on each side of the bet. If the books are not balanced, they will sometimes adjust the odds to encourage punters to bet on the side that is short. The second thing they must do is to accurately calculate the true probability of an outcome in order to set a price that will guarantee a profit. Bearing all this in mind it is easy to see why it is so hard to overcome the bookmakers' edge.

There are many ways in which punters may attempt to overcome this edge. Line shopping, where punters shop around to grab the best odds on an event before the price shortens, and steam chasing, the act of wagering before an expected price shift, are both systems advocated by sports betting tips sites to help bettors improve their chances. Punters sometimes also take advantage of betting bonuses which in effect give free cash to bet with as long as a specific set of conditions is followed.


Most odds are essentially a form of handicapping (assigning advantage to participants based on experience and capability). This means that the stronger team has shorter odds and the weaker team has longer odds to balance the difference in the perceived strength of each team. Some bookmakers actually offer handicap markets, where a scoring advantage is applied to one team and punters must bet on what the final outcome will be once the handicap has been applied.

The practice of calculating the difference in strength between each team is also known as handicapping. And this is something that bookmakers are very good at. By using historical data and statistics, it is possible to precisely calculate the odds of an event occurring. From there, the edge can be applied and bets can be taken.

DIY Handicapping

In the never-ending quest to beat the bookmakers, some punters have taken it upon themselves to become handicappers. The idea being to keep their own records of statistics and data in order to calculate their own odds. The end goal is to find discrepancies between their own odds and those offered by the sportsbooks and then to take advantage by beating on these lines. Such discrepancies are also sought out by those who seek to engage in arbitrage betting.

The disadvantages of DIY handicapping

The problem with DIY handicapping is that however much information you gather, the chances are that the sportsbooks have already done the same. The bookmakers employ analysts, mathematicians, statisticians and data gatherers to amass and collate every piece of information in order to arrive at the most accurate odds.

They look at everything from the basic hard data such as wins, losses, goals, points and head-to-heads, to other external factors such as weather, injuries, off-the-field problems and coaching records. Whatever you can think of, the chances are the bookmakers have already worked it into their calculations.

The advantages of DIY handicapping

Despite all this, there are people who have made a success from DIY handicapping. To really excel in this area, you need to be diligent, mathematically minded and very good with computers.

Via a process of data gathering and mathematically modelling, it can be possible to develop programs that can arrive at accurate odds that can expose slight discrepancies in the bookies own odds, giving the punter a slight edge.

Image source: Pixabay

Top tips for DIY handicappers

If you do fit the profile and want to try your hand at handicapping, you should target markets that are less popular with the betting public. Most of the bookmakers' time, effort and money is directed towards the big markets where the majority of casual punters bet. So if you are betting on European soccer, avoid the richest leagues such as the English Premier League or the Spanish La Liga and look at low-profile or lower-tier leagues. This is the true domain of the successful handicapper, the place where genuine edges can be found through thorough number crunching and data analysis. But before you place any bets for real, you should test your system by keeping a record of virtual bets to see if you can return a positive long-term yield.


The bookmakers always win, that's how they stay in business. And there are enough casual punters out there to ensure that they always will win. However, the bookies can be beaten and there are plenty of handicappers out there who have a strong track record of mining the best picks. In fact, some even charge other for their tips, such is their reputation. Having said that, it is not for everyone and any system should be thoroughly put to the test before any cash is wagered.

More articles from Football Ground Map...

The biggest football attendances ever recorded

An in-depth look at the biggest football attendances ever recorded, from the 1950 World Cup to pre-season friendlies in the States and the Scottish ground with dozens of 100,000+ attendances

My Daughter's First Football Match

My daughter's first ever football match - Orlando City v Atlanta United, August 2019. Written for Izzy to read when she gets old enough. Vamos Orlando

The 91 Biggest Football Stadiums in Europe

The 91 biggest football stadiums in Europe. From Manchester to Munich, Villa Park to Valencia - each one with a capacity over 40,000

Football Grounds To Visit While You Still Can

All good things have to come to an end, and the same unfortunately has to be said for football stadiums too. This article looks at the grounds which are soon to host their last match, the stadiums whose days are numbered and where fans will be watching their football from next.

Get the double-sided 92 Club & National League map poster