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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at 1:00 PM

As sports continue to evolve, how you handicap those sports must also continue to evolve. The most recent reminder of that was in Tuesday night’s American League Wildcard game won by the Yankees with a BULLPEN that pitched almost a complete game with 13 strikeouts and only one run allowed.

There was once a time that baseball handicappers would barely even think about the bullpen. Starting pitching was everything. As the game evolved, you started thinking about closers. Now, teams are “building for the playoffs” by finding arms that can come in and throw in the high 90’s one inning at a time from the sixth inning on. The Yankees and Indians can do even more than that.

In pro football, wide receivers have become much more important than running backs. If you’ve been reading me for awhile, you know that my football roots come from the time that Bear Bryant was dominating college football from the sidelines and Johnny Unitas was doing so in the NFL on the field. But, quarterbacks like Unitas barely threw the ball compared to today’s standards. And, the emphasis was on keeping the secondary off the line to help set up the running game.

Now, a stud receiver like Odell Beckham can get hurt, and his team falls apart completely!

In college football, running backs stopped getting the Heisman Trophy because the passing game largely determined who won championships. There are still occasionally rushers who win the honor, and we’re currently expected to have one this year. But…it takes a very rare athlete who can now break through to reach those heights. Thirty years ago, all good teams had star running backs who carried high workloads. Elite programs had multiple high impact backs.

The month of October always brings a daunting challenge for handicappers. That’s even more daunting this year because the NHL and NBA have both moved their regular seasons earlier on the calendar. Pro hockey starts Wednesday night. Pro hoops is coming up soon. Those will be running parallel with the Major League playoffs, important NFL, and an intense slate of conference action in the colleges.

My best advice to prevent you from getting overwhelmed is to focus on the PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS who matter most in the current landscape. You don’t have time to study ALL the stats, and ALL the trends, and ALL the analytics, for ALL these different sports! But, you can find the linchpin players (or coaches) who will determine straight up and against-the-spread victories.

 

Pro Football: quarterbacks first, then receiving corps

College Football: coaches first, then quarterbacks, then ATHLETES at skill positions

Baseball: Ace starters first, closers second, other relievers third, then star hitters

NBA: Offensive schematics first, three-point shooters second, point guards third

NHL: Goalies first, goal scorers second, high scoring three-man lines third

There are a handful of students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting who can handle doing all the sports at once. But, if you’re relatively new, I’d suggest focusing only on your favorite sport. Save the NBA or NHL for later in the calendar unless you’re an avid fan who knows personnel very well. I would even suggest choosing to specialize between college or pro football. I can’t tell you how many bettors I know who are good in college football, but give all of their profits back with ill-advised NFL bets. For others, it’s vice versa. They bet college for fun, and lose too much of their bankrolls before great opportunities arise in their specialty.

Have you ever heard of “addition by subtraction?” You get healthier by eating less food. You get smarter by spending less time playing video games or watching movies. You make more money in gambling by eliminating your leaks. Your homework this week is to find areas of your current sports betting approach that should be trimmed away. Maybe it’s a sport you shouldn’t be betting. Maybe it’s the wasted time you spend looking up trivial trends (like series histories from the distant past).

Then, once you’ve narrowed down your focus, update your lists of PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS in light of today’s discussion about what matters RIGHT NOW in the sports you’re focusing on. Handicap this week’s and this month’s action with this new, sharper focus (from a mind that’s probably tired of underachieving each week!)

If you’d like some help finding smart plays, KELSO STURGEON’S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155, or on weekends before the first games get started. I do have combination packages available right now for football and baseball. Basketball will be joining the mix in very short order.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping thanks you very much for your time and attendance again this week. I’ll be back one week from today four our next class.

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