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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Understanding Rob Q’s Picks Against the Spread

Reviewing my picks against the spread on games has become a weekly post on the blog, so I thought an introduction – or re-introduction – to my picks made some sense. I’ve introduced elements of what I do as they come up, but I don’t think I have ever explained everything about my picks in one spot. Besides, I like to think that at least the presentation of the picks has evolved for the better as something more entertaining and hopefully useful for the reader since I started making picks on the blog. Plus, this will be my first year of making regular baseball picks. With the MLB season just getting revved up and the NBA playoffs about to start, this week seemed like as good a time as any to explain some things about my picks.

First of all, my picks are for entertainment purposes only. To be completely honest, I started making picks because doing so made for an easy post on Fridays during football season. Hearing everyone with a sports talk show offer picks on fall and early winter Fridays, I decided to give it a shot. Some of those guys admit that they start thinking about their picks two seconds before their often sponsored segments in which they give selections. I always took my picks seriously, but I wasn’t even keeping track of my overall win-loss record for the first couple of months that I offered picks. In fact, I stopped giving picks in the middle of the first season I tried it. When I got more serious about it, my efforts to find old picks to figure out my record created some of the errors readers might have spotted early on. It was actually difficult to decipher official picks at times – sometimes I just picked winners, and my thoughts on the Eagles weren’t always meant to be official picks. Eventually, all of my picks got tallied up accurately, and my record was corrected on earlier posts. Almost all of the corrections made to the win-loss record decreased the winning percentage, so there was nothing fishy going on – just honest errors.

I eventually added points to my picks as a way to indicate how strongly I feel about a game. A 5-1 win-loss record looks great (and usually is), but it doesn’t mean anything if the one loss was the strongest pick and the other five were base-level picks. The reverse can be true as well. A 1-5 record isn’t so bad if the victory was the strongest pick and the other five picks were for minimum points. I call my weighting indicator “points” as opposed to calling units indicating the strength of a pick “dimes” as many professional handicappers do. Using the word “dimes” is just a phony way of making a pick sound more extravagant. For me, 5 points is the minimum pick. If I think a pick is strong enough to risk 50 points, I’ll make it for 50 points. I also put exactly how many points can be won based on the amount risked by checking a reliable source. I don’t know any professional handicapper that does that.

I think it’s important to be crystal clear that I listen to and read free picks from professional handicappers on a regular basis. I get Maddux Sports’ e-mail, watch daily videos of Al DeMarco on and Brandon Lang on the site with his name on it, and at times scan the free picks of other guys on those sites. Other sites have come and gone as well.

I basically start with my own opinions, and usually check to see if others are going with or against me. Sometimes I’ll let that sway me, sometimes I won’t. The handicappers admit that they don’t consider their free picks part of their records, so I don’t put too much stock in them. It’s just good to see what others are thinking. I’ll also check various indicators of what fans are picking. Very occasionally, I’ll pick a game I wasn’t considering if there’s a lot of guys picking it the same way and it makes sense to me. I listen to DeMarco’s videos much more intently than anyone else at this point. He offers somewhat extensive thoughts on various games, and really seems to be the most honest guy offering free picks. At this point, I watch Lang out of habit. He was the first handicapper I followed off of the Two for the Money film, which is still advertised on the site. The irony that the film’s message is that making picks is a flip of the coin seems to be lost on someone.

The website with Lang’s name from the movie (I believe his real name is Brandon Link) recently revealed that he lost a “120 Dime” pick on VCU in the Final Four as a pick people could have bought. Leading up to that game, he was screaming into his video camera for his daily videos with his free selection about how he was doubling his bet from a previous pick. (Handicappers make these videos essentially as commercials to buy their “premium” picks, many sounding like used car salesmen, and throw in a free pick at the end.) He said the same type of thing about the NCAA Tournament Championship Game. I certainly didn’t check his site every minute of the day after the title game, but I did check more than once that day and never saw a video from him. I have also never seen any mention of his pick on that game on his site. Yet, I’ve seen other games that he won touted on the site for months. I’m guessing he lost – big.

I have never bought a pick from anyone, and cite the above as an example of why I don’t even understand the idea of buying a pick. It simply makes no sense. These guys don’t have any more information on games than any fan who really pays attention. They’re certainly not going to have better knowledge than the odds makers, and spreads make most games a tossup (or, you know, a coin flip) to pick. It’s the whole point of a spread. To think any handicapper has even one source tied to a professional or college team feeding him important information about a game that no one else has – let alone the multiple sources they often claim – is a joke.

But, yes, I check them out. At times they can offer good insights, especially DeMarco. That said, my picks are mine. I ultimately decide what I’m going with, and, again, it’s rare that I go with a pick I hadn’t originally thought of before checking other opinions. Even then, I figure out why the game in question is so popular before going with it as a pick.

Again, I’m just having some fun. Even if it was legal, I’m not putting 120 dimes on any game, ever. That’s nuts unless you’re hanging with Donald Trump.

When I say I’m just having fun, the other side of that is that even if I lived in Las Vegas and could turn my “points” into bucks, I would not recommend using extravagant amounts. I would play with amounts that I knew I could lose and never miss. I would consider it my entertainment budget. But within that amount, I certainly wouldn’t just throw it away or suggest that my readers do so either. I expect to win each game I pick, and take the amount of points I suggest very seriously.

Finally, as I mentioned, I started out just giving picks on college and NFL games. I soon added the NCAA Tournament and the NBA playoffs. In the 2010 football season, I started putting some picks on Twitter the day of a game. Soon, I realized that was a more trustworthy method of posting picks. All readers have to do is check my Super Bowl picks to know that I’ve never altered a pick after a game. But it is possible to edit or even back-date posts on Blogger. To my knowledge, that’s not possible on Twitter.

So, now almost every pick I make is posted on Twitter @robqblogs. The Ink is still where I make the occasional dollar on advertising, so I did put this year’s Super Bowl pick right here on the blog to try to pull in some readers, and may do the same with other picks from time to time. But even then, a link to the post is instantly put on Twitter and Facebook.

However, every week (now on Thursdays to flow with the football season) I offer a rundown of the previous seven days of picks in a blog post. Sometimes the posts aren’t much fun to write, but I do it every week – win or lose.

I suggest using my picks the way I use the picks others – as one method of measuring your own thoughts. I have fun making picks, and hope others enjoy following them or even competing against me . . . for entertainment only, of course.

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