SportsBook 101: Tout Services

Las Vegas Hilton SportsBook In our continuing series on sports book wagering, this month we tackle tout services.

If your are unfamiliar with the term “Tout Service”, you may already know them as “handicapping advice”. If you have ever turned on a sports talk radio program on Saturday or Sunday morning you can hear these guys, typically with the thickest Brooklyn accent you have ever heard, claiming they have the inside information on that day’s slate of games. Claims of “the college football play of the year” or “your bookie won’t call you back after you break him with this pick”, can resonate in your ears until kick-off later that day. Many who are not that great at predicting winners but do enjoy winning money might be tempted to try these handicapping services. As with anything, buyer beware.

You have heard the term “follow the money”? Well, if you were reading our previous post on How Sports Books Work, you know that the spread on a football game goes up and down based on how much money is placed on one side over the other. One cool thing that you can tap into is the College Football Odds where it will show you the percentages of money placed on a certain team. From there you can determine what side most sports bettors believe will win (or not lose by as much) by a certain margin. Most people don’t like to follow the crowd but when it comes to sports betting, you definitely like to be betting on the side where the big money is going.

So if you are considering enlisting the help of a tout service to help you pick winners, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself.

Why are you betting? If you are playing in sports books for entertainment or to try and actually make some money will help you determine if a tout service is something you should consider. If you are a casual bettor and do not take it seriously, are you willing to cough up a monthly fee in addition to what you are willing to bet on games? Do you only like to bet on a certain sport like NFL football or do you like to take action on college and NBA basketball and hockey? Some tout services offer comprehensive service where they pick all sports where others offer one sport only.

How much do you typically bet? If you are a small potatoes sports bettor, wagering $10 or $15 per game, the monthly subscription to a tout service might not be justifiable. Some services run $300 a month. Betting $10 per game and factoring a 10% vigorish, you would need to win 33 games in a month just to break even on the money paid for the service. But if you typically bet $100 per game, you would only need to win four games in order to justify subscribing to a $300 a month tout service. Of course you also need to factor in potential wagering losses because no handicapper has ever picked 100% of games correctly. (If you know of one that does, let me know…)

Speaking of winning percentages, many handicappers will claim to be “The King of Monday Night Football” with a 8-2 record against the spread on Monday nights. But how are you to know if that claim is really true since tout services only reveal their picks to those who have paid money and subscribed. Some handicappers have turned to Twitter to document their picks to demonstrate to those considering using them, their accuracy. One handicapper I chose to follow on Twitter, @Randizzle14, will post his members picks five or 10 minutes after the game has started. Sports books and local bookies will no longer take action on games that have started so this practice is a safe a way to document their picks without giving them away for free. By being able to track a handicapper for free to see their success rate will help you determine if their service might be right for you.

Lastly, you have probably heard on a radio station tout services giving away free winners for that night’s game. All you have to do is dial their toll free number and listen to the recorded message. When I came up with the concept last month to write this post, I decided to call the number of one these guys advertising on the sports talk radio station I listen to. After all, the call was free and I wanted to see if the guy was full of crap or actually could predict that nights’ game.

The total length of the recorded message was about three minutes long and two and half minutes of it was him telling me how great he was at picking games and having to sit through the requisite sales pitch on his subscription service. After getting his prediction I wrote it down so I could double check his accuracy later that night. In the interest of full disclosure, he suggested doing a parlay on the Philadelphia Eagles and taking the over in the November 15th Monday Night Football game. He was right on both accounts with Philly demolishing the Redskins 59 to 28. But much like drug dealers that give you the first taste for free, same thing goes with handicappers.

I had made the call to the toll free number on my cell phone. I received a call the next day from a number I did not recognize. I picked up and much to my surprise was the handicapper on the other line asking me how I enjoyed his free pick and did I win any money by following his advice. Apparently my number was recorded on the toll free number’s caller ID and he was making follow up calls to try to get those people onto his subscription service. Although the call and the betting advice was free it did not come without cost.

I felt very pressured and he was trying to make me feel guilty for taking his free pick and then balking at coughing up the subscription fee. Try to picture the classic used car salesman giving the high pressure sales pitch and asking “what is it going to take to get you into this car today”. After I explained to him that I did not take his advice and make a bet but was rather using it as research for a future blog post, he mumbled something and then quickly hung up. So if you think you may skip paying a tout service their fee and just take advantage of their free picks, be prepared to either block your number or get some high pressure sales pitches the next day.

So all in all, do tout services work? Some say yes and some say no. The real answer is it find out if going with one is right for you. Keep in mind, all handicappers will go on hot streaks that will make them look like geniuses. Also, all handicappers will go on losing streaks that will make it look like you have a better chance of winning had you let your dog make your bets. Just make sure if you do choose a tout service to understand that gambling is an inherent risk no matter who you go with.