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Beware of Handicapping Marketers in Midst of March Madness...By S. H. Austin

Many of you are about to be "pitched" by handicapping services hoping for your business. Some of you will get phone calls. Some of you will receive flyers or brochures in the mail. Some of you will receive emails. Some of you will get it all!

March Madness offers up the last big sales drive for both legitimate and illegitimate handicapping services. Interest in the NBA playoffs is relatively light amongst the nation's sports gamblers. Major league baseball is virtually dead. This is it until next football season. And, given the question marks about the future of offshore wagering, THIS COULD BE IT, PERIOD for some places.

I can relay to you from my contacts currently in the industry that sales haven't yet taken a big hit from the offshore news. Sports services existed long before the internet was invented, and long before the offshore industry sprouted up. Avid players have outs. Handicapping services are still trying to find these players and sell something to them. It remains to be seen what will happen in the Fall. The best guess is that we'll see a decrease in the number of services who can stay afloat, but not a collapse in the industry. As has been said a thousand times here at, people love to bet.

I've been on the fringes (or closer) of the industry for more than 20 years. I thought this might be a good time to answer a few of the questions that potential clients have about these places. As you make decisions about whether or not to pay for college basketball assistance in the coming days and weeks, I hope you'll consider that these companies are spending a lot more time worrying about getting your money than they are about picking winners.

First, let's answer the big question: Do any of these places win?

They all win and they all lose. You can't possibly judge off a small sample size anyway. The most honest, legitimate places in the world will have losing streaks. The least reputable boiler room scammers will have hot streaks where they hit everything. You won't possibly be able to know ahead of time whether or not any of these guys contacting you will be winners over the next few weeks. They'll all paint a rosy picture. Nobody will be able to go out and make shots for their teams. It's ultimately up to the players on the floor. Last year's March Madness proved that time and time again.

Next big question: do any of these places lie?

Some lie...some mislead...some "lie by omission" because they tell you only the good things and not the bad things. If they have something good to report that's actually true, they'll report it. If not, many will make something up. That's the nature of the beast.

*A guy calling from a phone room is going to tell you whatever it takes to get you to buy something. That's his job. His job is not to say "We've won a few games lately and we're hoping to get your business." He's under orders to find out what you bet per match an offer with the size player you say that you are (they know you lie too, they account for that!), and to find a way to get you to buy something.

*The direct mail you receive probably has a comprehensive listing of games from past successes. It may be "results" from last year's tournament. It may be results from the past month of the regular season. It's very likely to feature a fantastic won-lost record over a large sampling of games...with a list of all the games as "proof" of the record. I stopped helping these places write their ads several years ago when I found out they just made it all up. They had been faxing me a list of results, and I thought they were just sending the actual results of whatever "club" had done best. They weren't. They were just grabbing winners from old schedules figuring nobody on the mailing list would know any better. I found this out when they were pressed for time and asked ME to go through old schedules and make up a list of winners that added up to 79%. This is who you're dealing with if you call some of the places that send out brochures or ad pamphlets.

*The emails you receive might also be from the same people sending out the direct mail. They found out the hard way though that emails garner very little response. Some may still try because it's March Madness, and because it's very cheap to write up an email and send it out. Now, to be fair, the 100% honest people in the industry will also send out emails because it's the cheapest way to reach potential clients. There's just no way to know from an email whether or not a place is a scam or legit. And, over the next month, their actual results probably won't tell you that either.

Final big question: should you buy anything or not?

My best advice is no, you shouldn't buy anything from anybody. If you've had experience with a place in the past, and they did right by you...that's one thing. If a place you're not familiar with contacts you via phone, mail, or email, the odds are very much against it turning into a pleasant experience for you. I know that we have some posters here at who are either name handicappers, or work as handicappers for places. I'm sure they're doing their best to win for their customers. As Nelson Lardner has discussed in his articles, the best way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to study the results at The Sports Monitor. Even then, it's not a sure thing that you're going to be happy with the performance. But, at least you know you're dealing with a place that cares enough to be publicly monitored.

I want to put in a quick disclaimer here. Many of you know that I got the poster name "blogguy" when I wrote a temporary handicapping blog for the Jim Feist website. That was an experiment that lasted from June of 2005 through the Super Bowl in early 2006. Nothing I've mentioned here in the article refers to anything I saw that company do in my limited time there. We gave a blog a shot, and it didn't find a big enough audience. I have no knowledge of the inner workings of their sales process. I just wanted to make that clear up front because many of you know I wrote for them in the past. I don't want you to think I was referring specifically to that company. As I said at the beginning of this piece, I've been either an employee or a freelance writer in the industry for more than 20 years. Now I currently only ghostwrite handicapping articles for clients. I have no connection to writing sales materials and haven't for years. I'm referring to things I've seen first hand prior to June 2005 at other places.

What I saw tells me that many of you will be contacted in one form or another in the next few days (if you haven't been already). Don't believe everything you hear. Don't believe everything you read. If you suffer a losing streak on your own and decide it wouldn't hurt to pay for advice, be very careful seeking out these companies who have contacted you. Some of them will turn out to post winning records with their customer plays. There's no way to know who that's going to be ahead of time.

I've heard this time and time again from people who have paid for services...the only thing worse than getting a loser from a salesman is getting a WINNER from a salesman. You just won't believe the headaches that the first winner leads to in terms of a hard sell on future plays.

If you see a "pitch" heading your way...DUCK!

S.H. Austin

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