It doesn't matter if you're playing in the office bracket pool or dropping a couple large at the Vegas sports book, if you want to still be in it all the way to the Final Four, you're gonna need some guidance. (Yeah yeah, I don't care how much SportsCenter you watch or SI you read.)
They call it "gambling" for a reason, but I don't risk my hard earned bankroll without talking to the pros. The guys who take the emotion and "gut feeling" out of the equation, do the research, get the info, and make informed picks all year long. So I spoke to Al DeMarco, lead handicapper for SportsGamingEdge.com
, to pick his brain on his picks, get tips on picking your own, and find out what to look for when seeking pro guidance.
DeMarco's been a sports junkie his entire life - and a 25-year pro handcapper after leaving his gig as a broadcast journalist. He says using a pro handicapper to help make your picks is just like using a financial planner or a broker to make stock picks. They do all the legwork, make educated recommendations, and help you turn a profit over the long term. (And right now, dropping money on the brackets seems like a safer bet than the markets.)
If you're just dropping a Jackson in the office pool, here are a few of his suggestions for making your own picks. (And if you want to get his completed brackets with all his picks - to skew the odds in your favor - you can download it here
1 - Don't follow the formula
Some people swear by always taking the underdogs in the first round. But according to DeMarco, the favorites the last two years are 42-21-1. "Take every tourney as a separate entity. Don't fall victim to the stereotypes. Look at the actual matchups," he advises.
2 - Factor in travel
Look at what teams are forced to travel far, and are out of their element. For example, Mississippi State gets the 13th seed and has to travel long range to Portland to battle Washington right in its backyard.
3 - Factor in tourney results
Your team may have had a big run in the tourney, but it may have been an exhausting run. Syracuse comes to mind. Six OTs followed by a single OT. "They may have an easy first round," says DeMarco, "but it's going to take its toll."
On the flip side, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and North Carolina all took early exits. But they're rested, relaxed and ready. And they're also three of DeMarco's Final Four.
When you do decide to turn to a pro, here are some things DeMarco recommends when
picking the guy you're entrusting next month's mortgage payment to:
1 - Beware of Phone Pickers
There's a lot of scum in the business. A lot of guys who are in it just to make quick money. So they'll get you on the phone, push picks and charge you for it. But DeMarco warns against taking picks over the phone. The guy could be double siding you: giving you a random pick, and giving the next guy the opposite pick. 50% of the time he's gonna be right, so half the guys he calls are gonna be really happy, and he'll try to reel them in for more money on his next "big pick."
2 - Stick to Online Handicappers
"The same play - and the only play - will be posted online for everyone to see," says DeMarco. "It gives the customer a sense of security, because the handicapper had to put his best play out there."
3 - Pick the guy who is going to be there for the long haul.
Follow his picks online for a while, and check out his stats. Base your decision on the guy you think is going to be able to turn you a profit over the long term. Not just sell you a bunch of picks, and bail.
4 - Forget winning percentage, look at rating
"The biggest misconception," DeMarco warns, "is choosing a handicapper based on his winning percentage." You need to look at his stats and rating. According to DeMarco, a guy can have a "losing" percentage, but based on his personal rating system, and how he suggests you allocate your bankroll, he can actually be making people a profit over the season.
5 - Make sure he watches your bankroll
When DeMarco mentioned a handicapper's personal rating system, the pros who want to keep you as a long term customer are conscious of your bankroll. And they'll rate their picks according to how strong they think they are. Chris Jordan, one of SportsGamingEdge.com's hottest pickers, has a system that rates his picks from 100-1000 stars. So, if he rates his pick at 500 stars, he suggesting you can bet half your bankroll. 250 stars would mean he recommends only putting down 25%. See 1000 stars and you can place a major wager.
So who does DeMarco see cutting down the final net? His Final Four are: North Carolina, Pitt, UConn and Louisville, but he's calling for NC to take the whole thing. And you can bet on it.