Record Keeping Important Factor In Handicapping
by Trevor Whenham - 08/28/2008
If you want to do just one thing this season to make yourself a significantly more successful bettor with minimal effort, what would you do? Learning to handicap better would be one thing, but that's much easier said than done. Developing better money management skills is never a bad idea. The single biggest, and easiest, impact you can make, though, is by improving your record keeping.
I am constantly amazed by how many bettors don't really have a sense of how they are doing on a season. Writing down your results on a napkin with a crayon would be an improvement for most people. If you don't know what bets you have made and how they have done then you have no ability to assess your progress, and you are doomed to repeat mistakes and throw away money.
When I say that you should keep careful records I'm not suggesting that you need a fancy, expensive piece of software and an assistant to operate it. A simple spreadsheet is more than adequate. Heck, a notebook you could pick up for 50 cents would get the job done. All you need to do is record the basic information about every bet you make - the date, the team, the opponent, the amount of the bet, the type of bet, the odds, and the result. You could do more, but that would be more than adequate. Doing this will make you a better bettor in countless ways. Here are five:
1. You will know where your bankroll is - Regardless of how you approach money management, you will want to make sure that you are betting only a small portion of the money you have on every game. You can only do that if you know what you have. It can be hard to keep track of where your bankroll is if you are just guessing, and if you are wrong than you might make mistakes that will cause you to burn up what you have. It's also possible to lose more than you intended to if you aren't keeping track. It's not all negative, either - record keeping will tell you when you are doing well and when you should be increasing your unit size.
2. Keeps you sane during streaks - If you string together a few wins in a row you feel invincible. A few losses can make you look for a cliff to jump off. By tracking your bets it is easier to see that streaks happen all the time, and that they are just part of the game. If you don't keep track then you might bet recklessly when you are winning, or panic and chase your losses.
3. Spot costly mistakes - During the baseball season last year I was regularly losing on road underdogs. For whatever reason, I kept searching out decent pitchers away from home at a much higher rate than other bets. The problem was that I was a loser over the long term in these bets. My record keeping allowed me to spot this trend, figure out what the problem was, and correct it. My results instantly improved because I quit throwing good money at a losing situation. Regularly reviewing your records will help you see what is working and what isn't, and allow you to do more of the former and less of the latter.
4. Point out bad habits you don't realize - I am a huge fan of Michigan. I can't be objective about them, so I refuse to bet their games. If I didn't have this self awareness then my record keeping would be able to identify it for me. My records would probably show that I bet on Michigan a disproportionate amount of times, that I almost always bet on them to cover the spread, and that, unfortunately, that cost me money. That's an obvious example, but other biases in your betting can be more subtle. I discovered a couple of years ago, for example, that my hatred of the SEC was causing me to bet against NFL teams with QBs from the SEC more often than I should. Keeping records and studying them will often make your biases obvious and help you correct them.
5. Reinforce your successes - If you are a serious bettor who does his homework and manages money well then chances are that you go through periods of betting success. You know the feeling - it seems like you can see the box score before the game starts, and you're picking winners at a highly satisfactory rate. Good record keeping makes those times obvious, allowing you to celebrate them. It also allows you to look back at them when you aren't doing as well to remember what was working and how you were feeling. As you well know, the mental aspect of betting is huge, so having your success in front of you in black and white can go a long way towards keeping you positive, focused, and making good decisions.