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Power Ratings and Your Sports Betting

Power ratings – a term that every sports handicapper has heard, and every successful handicapper understands. A lot of winning bettors use power ratings as the basis of their handicapping approach. Even those who don’t formally use a power rating often employ the underlying principles behind power ratings that make them effective. Power ratings don’t have to be complicated, but they are often misunderstood. Here are four good questions to help sports handicappers understand power ratings better and use them to make winning bets:

What are power ratings?

Power ratings are, in the simplest terms, a number that strives to objectively rate the quality of a team. When you assign or calculate power ratings for two teams that are playing each other you can have a sense of who will win the game, and by how much. n many cases the difference between two power ratings is a predicted point spread in the game. For example, if the Steelers have a power rating of 90 and the Browns have a power rating of 83 then based on these on these power ratings a fair point spread would be the Steelers as seven point favorites. If the Steelers were favored by three points in the actual point spread then the Steelers would have vale as a bet. If the actual point spread was 13 points then the value would be on the Browns. The power of power ratings in these circumstances is that they rely on statistics instead of public perception or emotion. The point spread has to include those factors, so that’s why power ratings can point out real value for the sports bettor who uses them.

Power ratings can, at least theoretically, be applied to any sport – either individual or team.

What are the strengths of power ratings?

The biggest single advantage of power ratings is that they are objective. It is extremely difficult to have an opinion about a team that isn’t biased in some way – because of players or teams you prefer, or ones you see more often, for example. Power ratings don’t judge the statistics, they just calculate them. Because they are calculated using a fixed formula power ratings can also be repeated again and again, and the same basic results can be expected. When you are handicapping a lot of games over the course of a season it can be easy to make subtle changes in your approach that can lead to changes in your results. You might not even notice the changes you are making, but you could notice the change in the results. Power ratings can help you avoid making those changes, or they can help you identify what changes you are making and help to fix them. Power ratings are also a reasonably simple way to compile a wide variety of information and present it in a way that is meaningful and easy to understand. If sports bettors didn’t use something like a power rating but tried to compare all of the information that goes into calculating the power ratings separately then handicapping would be very complex, and  mistakes would be very easy to make.

What weaknesses or limitations do power ratings have?

Any statistic can only be as powerful as the information used to calculate it. A power rating uses many different statistics – dozens in some cases – to come up with a final number. The decision to include some statistics in the calculation and exclude others is a subjective choice made by whoever is creating the power ratings. The power ratings can be made more or less effective based on which statistics are included, and it can be very hard to learn which statistics are involved in calculating a particular power rating. Beyond that, some statistics are weighted differently than others in the calculations, so even if two different power ratings used all of the same stats they could combine them in ways that could lead to different results.

Sports handicappers need to understand that because power ratings only rely on statistics they don’t account for qualitative factors that can have a significant impact on games – the weather, injuries, motivation, coaching changes, and so on. If you rely to heavily on power ratings then you can be drawn into making bets that appear to have value based on your numbers, but which really don’t because of those other factors. Most power ratings also use all past games equally. That means that games can be factored into the calculations that were not good representations of what a team is capable of because of the same types of factors we talked about earlier – weather, injuries, and so on. If the data you are using isn’t an accurate representation of a team then the results aren’t going to be particularly useful, either.

Should you calculate your own power ratings?

There is no reason that sports bettors can’t calculate your own ratings – any computer is powerful enough to do it, and the statistics that go into calculating them are readily available. The thing is, though, that it is extremely difficult to come up with a power rating that you are happy with – one that gives an accurate representation of the strengths of teams. People who have created power ratings that have value have spent years tinkering with them and refining them, and have tested them against mountains of data. It’s not likely that most people are able or willing to make that same commitment. As such, it makes sense for smart sports handicappers to use available power ratings when betting on point spreads, moneylines and more.

There are a wide range of power ratings available. Many are available online for free, while others involve a cost. Instead of trying to come up with your own ratings your time is likely better spent exploring what is already available, and testing them to find the one that works best for you.

One approach that some sports handicappers like to use is to take the average of three or four different power ratings. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it can help to minimize any problems that a single power rating has. This way you are also using a power rating that is unique to you, so you might be able to find value that other sports bettors don’t.

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