We'll open this third - and what we expect will be the final stanza regarding this topic for the time being - with some encouraging news, amongst the gloom.
How can you minimize the effects of sharp syndicates and public handicappers chopping away at the favorable odds offered on sides you might happen to fancy? The obvious way is to firm your opinions early, know an advantageous number when you see it, justify to yourself that the number in question is not likely to get any better, and wait until limits are sufficiently-high for you to take prudent advantage to the extent of your resources. That said -- and/or you still find that Toutworld has landed squarely on your side before you were able to make the move you wanted to make -- then shop. Shop 'til you drop, in order to obtain the best number possible.
Success in this field can be facilitated by following the paths less-taken - by taking the trouble to stay alert to non-Don Best-screen outfits, and to pay special attention to stand-alone operations in Vegas . . . independents like the LV Hilton, the Hard Rock, Terribles, and the like. Compared house-by-house, touts have less of an influence on Vegas prices than they do on the remaining offshores, though the limits imposed by some of the Vegas operations can be infuriating. It's a rule of thumb in Southern Nevada that the higher an individual house's limits, the more homogenized their betting lines will be. And good luck being able to lay the wood to a bricks-and-mortar joint with any consistency if you're neither a house guest, a serious pit player, and/or a known loser. Vegas' inclination to gamble with their sports books has lessened noticably since NETeller's departure from the US market put a severe crimp in the overall proceedings.
Evaluating influences in the marketplace boils down to an interesting aspect of an amusing pastime popular in this field . . . "handicapping the handicappers". Is an individual's established style/perception worthy of respect? Arriving at the insightful, accurate answer to that question will allow you to decide whether or not the individual is likely to be able to sustain hot streaks consistently - which is one of the $64,000 questions in this business.
You must not let yourself get cowed out of positions by names with inflated reps whose performance doesn't match their reps. Take a couple of the bigger names at a particular website. While not phonies, by any stretch, neither will ever scare me off a preferred side if they proclaim love for the opponent. Both are arrogant beyond rationality - or justification. A fundamentalist whose disdain for technical handicapping is wrongheadedly astonishing, one makes astounding assertions of certitude, which should concern anyone who's aware that a combination of humility and quiet confidence best prepares a player to earn consistently.
The other hangs his hat virtually entirely on so-called "value" in football 'capping, especially in the NFL - and is stubborn beyond reason in doing so. He winds up on many of the worst pro football teams, consistently - OK, on days they decide to show up, but ugly business in bad situations when the towel has been tossed. Pure power-rating NFL handicapping with an inherent lean to non-public teams is inefficient at best, dangerous at worst - especially when there are solid, accessable approaches currently available which help the studious player isolate non-public teams which are likely to "show up" on a particular day, with a gratifying percentage of success.
(And, no, I won't name them, either here, or privately. But ALL of my friends in this business will know I'm not talking about them. I respect both of these guys more than I do, say, "Brandon Lang". But character reads in this line of endeavor are SO important, both in evaluating team "products" in the stadium or arena, and in sizing up handicapping talent).
Most good handicappers you may decide to deem worthy of sustained respect are lone wolves. If they're flogged as part of a group, team or "crew", they're the head of it. It's not that developing top skills in this field demands you be a recluse - though some are. But modern marketing developments demand you be cynical about multi-headed handicapping operations offering seemingly-endless options. If there are eight, ten or a dozen monkeys on a staff, flipping coins on a daily basis, it's a statistical inevitability that one or more of them may be able to achieve reasonably-impressive win percentages - for a while. But without lengthy track records to evaluate, how much respect can you legitimately dredge up? It takes years, decades to be a proven entity in this field - not days, weeks, months. The so-called "overnight success" in this business is as rare as the dodo - with good reason.
Time to give this a rest - for a while. With March Madness at hand, there are other fish to fry. But the topic's virtually inexhaustible, and there are many more tales to tell, and angles to explore.