Join me for the first instalment of "John Ryan's Mail" Bag where I tackle your sports betting and handicapping questions. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.

First, I want to thank all of those who have contributed to the positive start we have on the new thread. I appreciate the inquiries into the methodologies of sports handicapping, and I know we will all benefit as this thread evolves and our mutual exchange of ideas progresses. There is no such thing as a Black Box, but a sophisticated modeling program or simulator used in conjunction with other technical and fundamental resources provides a great opportunity to enjoy sports betting

Discipline is a Must

Believe me, in my 18-years of sports handicapping and the years I have spent studying the markets I have heard some of the most profound stories. Gambling, like ‘day-trading’ can become a very addictive and life altering endeavor if not done with Marine-like discipline.

I have heard stories of demise, where a father has lost cars, his house and, most devastating, his entire family to the addiction of gambling. We have seen the rise and fall, and then the rise and fall again of some of the best poker players in the world. As great as the temptation is to ‘just go for it” and make that massive wager, it is not worth it even if the wager wins.

I am trying to make a point here, and while is sounds easy, it can be one of the most difficult to abide by. If you find yourself self absorbed with who is going to win next, who is the next ‘LOCK’ and it is directly putting you at grave financial risk or is affecting your family bonds, then take a cold hard look and make the right decision.

Nothing replaces the hard work in your careers that earn paychecks and salaries. So, never put to risk a paycheck on a sporting event where a loss can have a devastating impact on your life. 

However I do not want to labor on a point, as the purpose of the weekly thread and mailbag article is to offer you, the readers, the chance to pose questions to me and for me to, hopefully, offer you useful insight. 

Remember, I will be opening a new thread each week in the “Players Talk” section of the forum where you can post one question each week, and then on Thursday I will respond here, my little space on SBRforum. I will then post a link back into the thread and we can debate the questions and my answers until we begin again on Monday. I hope this will offer everyone a chance to get involved as I, like this mailbag, am not going anywhere. 

So onto the opening week’s questions and answers (not ranked in any particular order).

Calvini’s Question

Thanks to Calvini for this question:

“John, in regards to wagering on Basketball and Football, is there value to be found in discrepancies between the game total and the sum of the two team totals? If so, what is the value and does how does it vary between the two sports? For example: Team A Total = 28.5 pst Team B Total = 21 pst Game Total = 52 pst Point Discrepancy = 2.5.” 

My Response: “I wish it were that easy, but we have seen that using a single statistic like power ratings is not a solid way to consistently make money. It will provide roughly a 50% ATS result or lower over the long-term. However, these simple stats can provide a starting point for further evaluation of a game. In his example, he ends up with a value of 2 ½ points. This value appears to be an opportunity for the ‘under’ play.

I have found though, that if a line is out of line, when compared to team stats, it offers the opposite.

So, let’s say we have a total value in Calvin’s example of 10 with the posted total at 59 points, this immediately alerts to the ‘over’ play. Simply, if two teams’ averages are 49.5 points per game, why then is the total 10 points higher? One elementary answer would be that both teams have weak defenses or there have been injuries to an already weak defense.

This is only a starting point, but you can already see the direction your next leg of research will be focused towards. Thanks Calvani. 

Just Win This One

The next question comes from ‘justwinthisone’, and he asks “what factors do you think are the most important in capping a game? Also how much do you weigh historical stats for current games? How far back do you think is relevant? For example, can you look back at past Giants/Pats Super Bowl game a few years ago? I would think the game that they played this year would be the best game to compare but everyone wants to talk about the Super Bowl game.”

My Response: I would require a 100 page report to provide the complete answer to this question. I believe looking back at previous games is a useful tool, but the differences between games must be accounted for. For example, in the Giants' win at Foxborough, they played without one of their three elite wide receivers in Hicks. This is just one of the many reasons why the NFL betting ‘public’ believes the wrong team is favored in this game. 

So there were other strong reasons why the Giants won that first game. When comparing games, they cannot be evaluated in isolation of one another, much like comparing a plain Apple to a ‘Delicious’ Apple. All the games, injuries, newsworthy events that led up to the first game must be considered and compared to the next game.

How have the Giants and New England Patriots evolved over the season? Both defenses were decimated by injuries, but so much more attention is being given to the Giants improvement. Is that a real result, or the fact that the Giants are in the biggest media market and have the most volatile ‘band-wagon’ in the nation? Those are the sort of things I analyze apart from the simulator projections. 

In my discussions with Peter Loshak regarding the BCS Championship game, I was certain that the offenses would find a way to open up and exploit the defenses more effectively than they had in the first meeting. I was dead wrong as LSU just had nothing on offense that worked against the Alabama defense. I had believed that the weeks of rest and preparation would favor the offenses chances at success more so than the defenses based on every detail and matchup I had analyzed.

So, yes, studying previous games and their statistics can be important, but studying the current matchups is by far more important than any historical event. 

Money Management

Thanks to Justin7 for this question. "Why do you release 5, 10 and 20* plays, instead of 1 to 4 * plays? How much do you advise betting on your 20* plays?"  

My response: From my experience, people can relate better to the staging I have provided. I want the 5* plays to stand out as the foundation with the majority of all released plays in that category. Then, we build up with increasingly rare 10* and 20* plays. It also brings to light the importance of discipline when playing the 20* Titans. Yes, they have posted significant winning records in every sport, but if you notice I always bring the ‘danger aspect’ into those releases. 

I’ll end this article where I started, and that is with discipline. A 20* play is four times the amount wagered on a 5* play. I recommend using a cautious approach to money management. In no instance should a 5* play exceed more than 2.5% of the total bankroll. So, if I decide that for my life I can part with losing $10,000, should I hit a big time losing streak, I would be wagering $250 per 5* graded play or $50 per * unit play. That way, the 20* would never exceed $1000 per play. 

Moreover, do not alter the amount per * unit after a significant winning streak. You may think you are re-balancing your ‘rules’, but in essence you are setting yourself for a greater and faster decline during a losing streak.

We all know what happens after a sustained winning streak. The greater the winning streak, the greater the probability exists that a period of net losses will occur. We never know when winning or losing streaks will occur, but we can control the amount we will consistently bet and that is why my methodology has worked. 

Let me know what you think

I hope I have been able to open up the debate and offer useful insight into these questions, I have really enjoyed the first week of this and look forward to it evolving into the future. Please post any responses to this article here or on the forum and we can discuss them until I open the new week of questions on Monday.

If I did not get to your question then I apologize. I value every contribution and do not be discouraged, ask again and hopefully I will get to it in the next John Ryan Mailbag.