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No Place Like Home, Except on the Road
Nov 9th, 2006

Joe Duffy (www.GodsTips.com)

If there is one consistent general theory or category/sub-category that applies to successful handicapping in every sport, it would be exploiting home/road anomalies. That is discovering select teams that play significantly better at home than on the road or in some cases visa versa.  In baseball this is also true with pitchers.  We feel the term “home/road anomalies” is more accurate than the commonly accepted HFA (home field advantage) that many handicappers use.

This holds to form much more so than any other variances such as rested/unrested in the NBA, lefty/righty stats in baseball, grass/turf in football and baseball, day/night etc. In the NBA in particular nothing jumps out at us more than a team that is a home dog despite a fairly significantly better home SU record than the road team’s away mark.  We have explained in previous articles why so many systems and theories that hold up don’t Amake sense@ to the inexpert eye but make dollars to the trained eye.

Obviously in such situations the road team is the better overall team and hence the public still prefers betting the superior team even if closer scrutiny at the home/road anomalies nullifies the supremacy. Then again the notion of the general public actually being aware of the home/road anomalies is laughable anyway.

This is of course assuming there are no major roster changes via injury, trade etc that have changed one or both team’s dynamics.

If injuries or roster changes explain why there is a road favorite, said theory does not apply.  Likewise one must still put the circumstances under inspection.  In the NBA and NHL “remember them?) for example the schedule maker generally favors the home team. If there is a three game in four nights or five in seven nights versus a much more rested team, it is by and large a scenario that sees the home team benefiting. But sharpies must be aware of both the rule and the exception.

Be cognizant there are actually teams that play better on the road or more accurately from a handicapping standpoint their home/road variance is less than the norm. Thus especially when getting points they become of great value on the highway, but are also great go-against plays at home.  The teams with disproportionately better play on the road will sneak under the oddsmaking radar much more than Jekyll & Hyde better-at-home teams.

Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Chicago are examples of sports cities that far and away have the most passionate fans.  Passion is a double edged sword.  There are no better fans and hence home field/court advantage when the home team is playing well, but conversely when a massive slump hits so often being host is a home field disadvantage.


Pittsburgh is one of the great football towns in the nation and even in the post Steele Curtain days the Steelers were pretty invincible at home. It’s unlikely anyone knowledgeable would dispute the fervor of the faithful intensified their HFA. But the easily rattled mega talented Kordell Stewart was a much better quarterback on the road  throughout his career than at he was the confluence of the Allegheny, Ohio and Monongahela. The boo-birds became the 12th man for the wrong team.  This is a prime example as circumstances changed there was also a colossal modulation in home/road variance. 

Conversely the same can be true but for completely different reasons in Miami and Atlanta for example.  Arguably the two worst pro sports towns in the USA the empty arena at Phillips Arena in Atlanta for the Hawks is no benefit but when things are going well the bandwagon fills up quickly.   Ask the Heat.  One pony towns like Portland and Sacramento had magnified eminence on their home courts because of fan enthusiasm and conversely were disproportionately overvalued on the road.

I have seen some worthy power ratings in my day.  Most take into account individual HFA that is acknowledging that the extent of home field advantage is not across the board.  However with only a few exceptions even the more accurate rankings are oblivious to the equally important piece of information that road disadvantage is also not global.  Recognizing one and not the other can actually be counterproductive and be another example of the would-be handicapping kingpin outsmarting oneself.

Any time there are off-court or off-field distractions so often the road is a sanctuary.  We see this often with college teams under investigation for the proverbial Apossible sanctions@.  From a handicapping standpoint these teams become undervalued on the road but overvalued at home. This is why the Trail Blazers went from a great home court to the Jail Blazers struggling in Oregon.

Exploiting these deviations is a three-step process.  First one must find the statistical irregularity.  Then one must analyze why the anomalism exists.  Finally one must accurately conclude whether the state of affairs that led up to the deviation has been altered. If so, one must disregard the anomaly.  If there is no significant fluctuation in the then and now comparison, the sharp player has a winning angle to build towards the preponderance.

To paraphrase a famous movie line, when searching for your wallet’s desire look no further than a team’s own backyard.

Just don’t forget how the other team performs away from their house. 


Duffy’s plays are part of the Dream Team at GodsTips.com He is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Pro Fantasy Sports Internet radio and Grogan’s Fantasy Football show. His Wise Guy Plays available exclusively at www.GodsTips.com are widely respected as the biggest play in the handicapping abyss.

 

 

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Joe Duffy is founder of OffshoreInsiders.com featuring the worlds top sports service selections.
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