When you see ads with scumbags driving luxury cars, fanning wads of cash, and surrounded by sexy girls — run in the opposite direction. They’re crooks. Truth is, successful sports handicappers don’t call attention to themselves. They don’t toss around $100 bills like confetti. They don’t hang out in nightclubs. Real sports handicappers work their asses off — because that’s what it takes to win.
It’s that time of year again.
The start of football season means two things. First, sports gambling ramps up. Second, an infestation of predators starts hunting for fresh prey. These predators are known as “sports handicapping services.” Another word for them is scamdicappers.
Fortunately, most scamdicappers are easy to spot. In fact, they make it way too easy. Here’s some advice that’s never once failed me in my 25-plus years on the sports gambling scene, thousands of columns and interviews, and two decades living here in Las Vegas. My advice is this:
When somebody looks like a scumbag and acts like a scumbag, he’s a scumbag.
Want to know more about the warning signs? Funny you should ask.
I’ve compiled a list of things to look for. Here are ten ways to tell a sports handicapping service (also known as “touts” or “sports advisors”) is likely to be dishonest:
 When the Handicapper(s) uses a Pseudonym
Any truly successful sports handicapper should be willing to use his real name in all of his business dealings. This is especially true when your hard-earned money is involved. Sure, some handicappers may employ a catchy nickname for marketing purposes, and that’s okay. But each of us has a legal first and last name. Anyone who’s honest about what they do for a living should be willing to be known publicly. FIRST and LAST name. I’ve discussed this sticky point with some full-time touts who insist they use pseudonyms for legal reasons and/or to maintain privacy. I call bullshit. If you can’t take pride in what you do for a living, or you’re uncomfortable with your customers knowing your identity, then you shouldn’t be in the business. Here’s a question: Would you take financial advice from someone who doesn’t use his (or her) real identity and instead relies on a fake name? Of course not. This should also apply to anyone you trust to provide sports picks.
 Handicappers Using Phoney Academic Credentials
Over the years I’ve noticed many scumbag handicappers use “Doctor” or “Professor” or some other impressive moniker in their titles. This would be perfectly fine if they actually had even a smidgeon of actual academic credentials — particularly in fields such as statistics, psychology, or some other discipline related to sports gambling. Fact is, these “doctors” and “professors” are frauds. They’re liars. Years ago, a scam-capper who went by the name “Dr.” Ed Horowitz was exposed as a cocaine addict and was found to be a convicted felon. More recently, “Dr. Bob,” a college dropout who lit up the sports betting scene about a decade ago when he went on a (perhaps random) hot streak that caught the attention of mainstream media, has no doctorate in anything. He’s still around, mostly cherry-picking hot steaks from an avalanche of mediocrity. Be careful about who you trust. Academic titles shouldn’t be slung around loosely with the intent to establish false credibility so as to fool people. Academic credentials should be rightfully earned. No sports advisory service to my knowledge has any doctors or professors working as full-time handicappers. Perhaps they do exist and if so, they could post a copy of the doctorate on the website.
 Living a High-Roller Lifestyle
There are legitimate handicappers and honest sports services making living researching games and then giving out the plays, and perhaps even betting on those picks themselves. Every single one of them puts in massive numbers of hours. This is especially true for bona fide sports services that really do care about their clients, which are few and far between. If you see advertisements (or worse, “reality television” shows or videos) with douchebags posing with fancy cars surrounded by pretty girls, or fanning huge wads of cash — run in the opposite direction. They’re all crooks. Shit stains. Scum. Every one of them. Here’s the truth: Real sports handicappers don’t call attention to themselves. Real sports handicappers don’t toss around $100 bills like confetti, nor hang out in Las Vegas nightclubs. Real sports handicappers work their asses off because that’s what it takes to win in this business. And yes, I want the frauds identified by name and run out of the business because they not only steal from victims, they make legitimate handicappers look bad.
 Touting Only Recent Win-Loss Results / Shaving Results
This is a red flag that screams — scam. We see this frequently, especially on print ads and all over social media, including Twitter and Facebook. “We went 8-2 our last 10 plays! Sign up now!” So, the service claims that they went 8-2. So what? I can flip a coin and it might come up with 8 heads and 2 tails (there’s a 3 percent chance of this happening if you flip a coin ten times right now). But why is the service bragging about only the last ten picks? What happened to the previous 20 picks? Or previous 50 picks? You can be absolutely certain — if the service had enjoyed a longer winning streak, they’d be bragging about it. Fact is, the service might have gone 2-8 the prior week and ended up with a 10-10 overall record. Minus the usual 10 percent vig plus the service’s subscription fee, congratulations — you’re well on your way to going broke. All that matters in sports handicapping in the long term. One day, one week, or even one month is almost meaningless. Unless a service can provide a legitimate W-L record over a lengthy period (at least a year, and preferably several years), they should be avoided no matter what claims they make. [One more thought: A trustworthy service shouldn’t have to constantly brag about themselves — winners become self-evident]
 Failure to Post Comprehensive Win-Loss Record
This is related to the previous red flag. All handicappers should publicly post their comprehensive W-L (and/or +/- units earned) results. This is easy for a website to do. All plays should be archived so that customers and potentially new clients can see for themselves how the handicapper has performed. That said, be careful because many sports services have been caught “scrubbing” their dirty records. These unscrupulous services appear to maintain an updated listing of all recommended wagers, but they go back later — a few weeks or months afterward — when no one remembers the losing picks. Then, they scrub away the losses. Removing ten losses from 100 picks can make a 50-50 coin-flipping handicapper look like a genius since the falsified record would be hitting 56 percent winners. One very strong indicator to know if a sports service is honest or not is to look carefully for losing streaks and losing seasons. Oddly enough, this is a somewhat reliable indicator of integrity. If a sports service has a few losing seasons, but also more winning seasons on their record, that might be worth consideration (provided they don’t have other red flags). In short, be more inclined to trust a handicapper and/or sports service that admits to bad streaks and losing seasons.
 Different Levels of Service or Clubs — Based on Inflated Pricing
This is a dirty trick used by most dishonest sports services. They offer different levels of service for their clients based on the price. Often, you see “VIP” clubs and other elite offers that presumably provide a higher level of service (which implies better sports picks — but is junk just like the rest of their stuff ). If I’m relying on someone else’s judgment, I want his best stuff at all times. This would especially be true if I’m paying for information. While the time period of a subscription is indeed a legitimate way to categorize clients (giving discounts to those who purchase a full season, rather than one month, for instance), no sports gambler should ever be receiving second-rate plays. Any service with segregated membership clubs is a scam. Without exception. Here’s the reason — it’s playing the odds. The more clubs a service offers, the better chance one of those clubs will get hot and produce a winning record. That way, the service can market its best-performing club to future suckers (and ignore the inevitable losing records).
 Beware of Hype
Here in Las Vegas, several dailies and weekly radio shows feature sports handicappers as regular guests. But now, with sports gambling legal all over North America, they've become way too common. These “experts” break down games and provide their picks. While many are worthless so far as value, just about all of them do provide accurate information. Most public handicappers who appear in major media work very hard to provide analysis, injury updates, and other data that can help the listener to make a solid pick. Even those who don’t win in the long run can provide valuable insight on a game we may not know otherwise. Hence, I do respect these handicappers who are willing to share their opinions. That said, gamblers should avoid the braggarts and screamers. Beware of so-called “experts” who spend lots of time touting their records and marketing next week’s picks. YouTube.com is filled with these videos of self-promoting scammers who spend most of the program telling the world how great they are. Stay away from them, unless you’re looking for a laugh.
 Any Sports Service Promoting a “Game of the …..” is a Fraud. Period. End of Story. Don’t Fall for It.
No sporting event is so lopsided that it merits being promoted as a “Game of the Year.” Yet, we see this garbage advertised all the time. This is marketing targeted directly at saps and suckers. Gambling is a long-term endeavor. Gambling is about percentages. No game is a lock. Ever. The most egregious violation of this “Game of the….(whatever)” is often witnessed early in the football season. Dishonest sports handicapping services advertise their “Game of the Year,” sometimes even in early September! How does a service know there won’t be a superior wagering opportunity later in the season, in October, November, or December? There’s a reason for this and it’s a sure sign of dishonesty: Scammers know most gamblers still have money early in the football season that will inevitably be lost from week-to-week. So, they hype early-season games to try and take advantage of ignorance and desperation. You will also see the hucksters promote multiple “Games of the Year.” If you see anything like “Game of the Century” advertised (yes, this is quite common), that service is a scam 100 percent of the time. These aren’t reliable handicappers. They’re clowns.
 Touting Parlays
Parlays are bottom-of-the-barrel traps for chumps and suckers who lose consistently and are desperate to crawl out of the financial hole. Some sports handicapping services are so vile, they prey on these most vulnerable who believe in the fairy tale of parlays — gamblers who hopelessly need a longshot winner to get back to even. Fact — it’s tough enough to pick more winners than losers over the long run, let alone make two or more picks on a single betting ticket. Yet, we often see “side and total” parlays advertised for the biggest games, especially the golden goose of fleecing for the sports handicapping industry, which is Monday Night Football. Some services even promote 3- and 4-team parlays. This is insane. It should be a crime. I’ve made perhaps 100,000 sports wagers in my life, and I can count on one hand the total number of parlays I’ve bet (all were weather correlated — like when a hurricane slammed into Florida a few years ago and I bet several games in the region to go under due to rain and high winds). Parlays are for losers. It’s the crack cocaine of sports gambling.
 Heavy Emphasis on High-Profile Games like Monday Night Football or the Playoffs
Betting sides (and nothing else) is at best a break-even proposition for 95 percent of all gamblers. The lines for NFL and most college football games are rock solid. Oddsmakers don’t make mistakes (or, if they happen — they’re very rare). Value comes when we have reliable information that’s not widely known nor factored into the line (yet), which is far more common on propositions — such as the number of yards rushing a running back will gain. There’s also still some value in second-half (halftime) wagering. In short, the more exotic the wager (betting obscure players, quarters, etc.) the better the chances the number might be off since it’s impossible to calibrate every proposition of every game with complete accuracy. Incredibly, very few sports handicapping services give out propositions, quarters, first-halves, and so forth. They focus on numbers that are virtually unbeatable — sides and totals. There’s a reason for this: Most sports bettors want to bet on something they understand and can easily follow. Very few gamblers take the time to consider a rash of cluster injuries along a team’s offensive line which might lead to allowing more sacks. In such situations, betting OVER the sack total would be a far wiser wager than betting the side. Again, very few services concentrate on these opportunities. Similarly, sports services that always give out picks on the most popular games aren’t doing their customers any favors. Betting values are much more likely to be found on an Arkansas State-Louisiana Lafayette game that almost no one cares about instead of the New England-Green Bay game. Seriously — do you think a handicapping service knows anything special about a game likely to be watched by 50 million viewers?
In summation, my conclusions are as follows:
Avoid sports handicapping services. You can probably pick just as many winners (and losers) doing your own homework as the typical “professional.” Moreover, if you add in the cost of the service — which can be hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars — making a steady profit is even less likely. The number of happy clients who have used sports advisory services is minuscule.
A final word: I have many close friends and associates in the sports handicapping business. I know many of the biggest names known to most serious sports gamblers. Some of them are honest. Many are hard-working. Most have experienced temporary flashes of profitability which launched their careers as public handicappers and provided some measure of client confidence. But remember — all glory is fleeting. Caveat emptor.
Disclaimer: I have publicly posted my football picks for more than 20 years. I have posted more winning seasons than losing seasons. Over the past five NFL seasons, my pre-game recommendations have been posted on this website. In more than 1,000 plays, I have produced a very small profit — but a profit nonetheless. I have never once sold my picks, nor recommended any sports handicapping service.