Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures. While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard.
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Before I delve into rigorous explanations of how a bettor can gain an advantage against the point spread, it is important to understand what the spread actually represents. Point spreads were invented to keep bettors interested in games between teams of different talent levels – if a perennial powerhouse like Alabama plays a mid level team such as South Alabama, you’ll find very few people willing to bet on which team will win the game since Bama would be such a prohibitive favorite. However, most are willing to bet on whether Alabama will ‘cover the point spread’ and win by a certain number of points. If the point spread is 21.5, then the Crimson Tide must win by 22 or more points for their side of the bet to cover, while South Alabama must either win outright or lose by 21 points or less to cover their side. Point spreads are designed so that the probability of each outcome is roughly equal, and are generally set so as to approximate the median score differential between the two teams at the given site of the game.
Of course, as in any game of chance, there is variability in the actual results and just because you have won 55% in the past and expect to win 55% in the future doesn’t mean that you’re going to win 55% this upcoming season. There is variance in sports betting, as there is in most investments, and I calculate the standard deviation to figure out how much of my bankroll I can safely wager on each game during the season to accommodate potential negative swings while having very little chance of exhausting my bankroll. I have extensively quantified the variance that exists in sports betting, and use mathematical formulas to dictate the exact optimal amount to invest so as to maximize the ratio of profits to variance.
Spread betting are wagers that are made against the spread. The spread, or line, is a number assigned by the bookmakers which handicaps one team and favors another when two teams play each other and one is perceived as being more likely to win. The favorite "takes" points from the final score and the underdog "gives" points. This number can also be in increments of half-a-point (.5) even though very few sports have .5 point scoring (i.e., The Ryder Cup)
“When markets become more competitive, prices fall,” says Moskowitz, who was rooting for perennial disappointment England in last Wednesday’s match, because one side of his family is English. He’s typically more hard-headed when he thinks about sports, as shown in the 2011 bestseller “Scorecasting” that he co-authored with Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim, applying economic analysis to sports. A popular working paper by Moskowitz studied sports betting markets for the asset pricing anomalies that we know and love in financial markets.
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