Should You Ever Pay for Picks?

You’ll never lack for opinions when it comes to sports predictions. From the talking heads on ESPN and FOX to sports talk radio to sports “personalities” and “experts” online, you’ll find dozens of hot takes on any one team will beat another on any given day.

If you’ve started to seek out sports betting tips, you’ll also find a lot of “locks” and “guarantees” from professional sports touts and services that promise profits will follow if you simply pay for their advice.

Is there anything to all of this noise? Can you take media pundits seriously? Should it all be classified as “entertainment” only? Is there really something a tout knows that the public doesn’t?

So … should you pay for picks — either sometimes, or all the time? We’re here to dive in and see when it might make sense and what red flags to avoid.

How do I ‘buy’ sports betting picks?

Those who sell sports betting picks generally fall into one of two categories:

  • Individual touts
  • Picks services

Picks can be sold individually, as in a pick for a single game, or as part of a package, such as a full season of NFL picks. Naturally, the price you pay will vary based on what you’re buying. Touts and services set their own prices, ranging from the low to high end of the spectrum.

Exactly what you get when you pay for picks can also differ. For example, one tout may provide picks without much in the way of details, while another service may send detailed analyses and statistical breakdowns along with its selections.

What is a “tout” or “handicapper”?

Touts and handicappers can be experts on one or several sports. They may provide their picks for sale or benefit in some other way, such as via increased media exposure or by growing their presence on social media.

There are touts who are famous in the world of betting, but relatively anonymous elsewhere. On the opposite end, there are touts who have a big national presence and are well-known to those who don’t follow betting all that much.

One tout, for example, who has achieved a level of notoriety is Dave Oancea, a handicapper who goes by the name of Vegas Dave. Oancea rose to prominence with a number of big scores and has been featured on numerous gambling-related TV segments to profess his prowess. He’s generally not taken very seriously by the sports betting community even though many people buy his picks.

On a more national scale, Clay Travis regularly offers up his calls on FS1’s “FOX Bet Live.” The show is devoted to picks and prognostication, so we can certainly consider him to be a tout, and he falls into the category of those who benefit from increased exposure.

The main difference between our two examples is that Oancea offers up his picks for sale. Travis technically does not, but FS1 programming heavily promotes the FOX Bet online sportsbook and betting app.

What is a pick service in sports betting? 

Betting information is highly sought after these days, and a number of companies have responded to the demand.

The tout industry has grown beyond the old days of a random Vegas-based bettor hawking his wares. There are now multiple services that specialize in selling sports betting picks to consumers on a one-off or subscription basis.

The services may simply be a place to go for hard-to-find information, but they can also go much deeper than that with detailed analysis of upcoming games. There are also services that sell their picks as part of their information packages.

They will provide some content for free but more detailed information and insights are only available to subscribers. Picks service marketplaces follow the same concept: Some content is free, but picks from experts will cost you.

As opposed to being a single service with a unified voice, the marketplace offers up packages for sale from various handicappers.

Should I pay for sports picks or a pick service?

The answer to this question will vary. There’s no blanket answer that covers everyone, but you can quickly determine if paying for sports picks may work for you.

For starters, consider your overall skill level and experience with handicapping. If you’re new to betting, it can make sense to at least try to understand how everything works before paying for picks.

If you have some experience but aren’t finding much success, then take the time to examine your process. Is there anything you can improve on? It can sometimes be as simple as implementing a few tweaks or studying up on successful systems to see improvement.

Next, you need to be clear on what kind of bettor you are and what you hope to achieve. Paying for picks or services is an investment of capital, so you should be factoring that into your overall profit and loss.

Are you betting enough to even justify the cost — either in number of bets or actual dollars wagered? If not, then it’s time to examine your overall betting bankroll. When potential profits don’t justify the cost of the picks, then you likely shouldn’t be doing it.

Last but not least, take a look at the time factor and your personal preferences for research. If you like digging in and breaking down games, then you might want to spend time improving your skills instead. For the time-challenged and research-averse, buying betting tips can make sense.

Are experts or handicappers licensed?

It would be great if there were a simple way to determine which touts and pick services are legit and which ones aren’t. Unfortunately, there isn’t. Determining the answer to that question takes a little legwork.

In short, there’s just not much standing in the way of anyone hanging out a shingle and offering up picks for sale. As the legal online sports betting industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, we expect the ranks of pick sellers to continue to increase alongside it.

For a quick rule of thumb, watch out for those who promise unlimited success and picks that are never wrong. That’s the stuff of fairy tales. Everyone loses when betting on sports at certain times, even the so-called experts.

Signs of a trusted handicapper

For anything that’s worth buying, it shouldn’t be a hassle to find good information that you can rely on as you make your decision. If you can’t find something verifiable, then exactly how can you justify laying out the cash?

That’s just one rule you can follow while shopping for trusted sports handicappers and experts. As unfortunate as it may be, the reality is that there are many out there who are less than above board.

The folks who fall into this category are sometimes referred to as “scamdicappers,” and they give the entire picks industry a bad name. Among the shady practices they employ is selling one side of a pick to half a customer base and the opposite side to the rest.

The apparent theory behind this is that the winners will be happy and come back for more. Eventually, it catches up to them, but that doesn’t stop them from doing the same thing under another brand name in the future.

Reputable touts simply don’t need to employ such tactics to keep customers happy. If they are truly good at what they do, then they will have zero problem being transparent about results and performance.

Trusted handicappers who offer their picks for sale will generally have a solid web and social media presence. They’re responsive to questions, provide reasoning for their selections and take full accountability for their missteps.

Signs of a scamdicapper

Many of the so-called scamdicappers are quite good at what they do. They prey on unsuspecting folks, and then make convincing arguments and boastful proclamations in order to earn their business.

After doing so, they’ll keep them on the line as long as they can. At some point, customers will begin to get the sneaking suspicion that they’ve been scammed. As you would expect, filing a complaint or requesting a refund will generally lead to nothing more than a dead end.

To avoid having this happen to you, knowledge is your best line of defense. Once you know what to watch out for, the chances of being taken advantage of diminish. Here are a few of the top red flags to keep on your radar.

  • Horrid online presence: Sites that are clunky and poorly put together should raise eyebrows, as should a social media presence filled with negativity and complaints.
  • Promises that are impossible to keep: If a tout claims to never lose or simply win at an unsustainable rate, it’s time for you to move along. No matter how sound a handicapping strategy may be, there are simply no guarantees in the world of sports.
  • Results that can’t be verified: If touts truly have great track records, then they should be able to back it up. Documentation, high finishes in picks contests or results from free picks are just a few of the ways they can prove their worth.

You should treat paying for picks and services the same as you would any other major purchasing decision. If you simply can’t find any positive feedback on the product or something just rubs you the wrong way, listen to your instincts and keep shopping.

Can I just use the same betting system they do?

You could, but that would require a peek underneath the hood at all of the moving pieces. Many successful handicappers aren’t quite so forthcoming about what works for them, especially those who are in the business of selling picks.

If they revealed a step-by-step guide for free, then who would still pay them for picks? The market for their services would be a lot smaller. A complete handicapping system from a pick seller that you could access free of charge would be unusual.

All that said, there are steps you can take to devise your own handicapping system. It’ll take a little doing to put all of the pieces together, but there’s some great information out there if you take the time to look for it.

Can you trust a ‘lock’ pick from an ‘expert’? 

In sports betting parlance, the term “lock” comes up often. Many pundits and prognosticators lean on it heavily, and they use it for emphasis when they feel strongly about a game. Obviously, not all “locks” turn out to be sure things.

That comes with the territory of picking games. This is true whether you’re a paid tout or an amateur handicapper, as even the outcomes that seem the most certain to us can break the other way for a variety of reasons.

When you hear the word “lock” attached to a pick, consider the source. If it’s coming from someone who has an outstanding overall track record, then it’s a good idea to pay attention. When it comes from someone who throws lots at the wall in hopes that something will eventually stick, then you can take it with a rather large grain of salt.

Regardless of who is offering up a so-called lock, it’s important to remember a simple fact of life with sports betting: There are no guarantees, and even the surest of things can go awry when we are least expecting it.

Are some handicappers more profitable than others?

There are absolutely handicappers and touts who do a better job than others. There are also many at the opposite end of the list, and plenty bunched up in the middle.

However, determining who is for real and who isn’t is far from easy. There’s not exactly a centralized database that tracks the picks of everyone out there, but there are sites that analyze the performance of various prognosticators.

To find the truly profitable ones, you can also lean on some of the same steps we outlined on what to watch out for with scamdicappers. Once you weed out those folks, it’s a much smaller playing field.

From there, research those with a solid presence and following. Are any of them racking up followers left and right? Using the “wisdom of the crowd” perspective, they could be ones to keep an eye on.

Paid picks vs. free picks

There are lots of picks articles and videos out there each and every day, and we’re not just talking about those behind a paywall. A number of content providers dish out picks and analysis free of charge.

Why would they provide expert sports picks for free? The short answer is web traffic and social media following. Those who consistently put out good content have a tendency to attract those in the market for sports betting content.

But these free sports picks can’t possibly be as good as the ones you have to pay for, right? That’s not necessarily the case. There is plenty of fine content out there that’s also free, and some of those making the picks are quite good at what they do.

To find those who may fall into that category, follow the traffic. Sites with a strong web presence and lots of social media followers may be on to something. At the very least, they’re putting good stuff out there that consumers enjoy reading and viewing.

As with paid picks, there are no guarantees that they’re going to be right every time. However, you can’t argue with the price. It can also be helpful to locate a few sources you trust from the free crowd. When they’re all in agreement on a game, it might be time to pay attention.

Regular season picks vs. playoff picks

When the stakes are higher in the world of sports, there’s naturally more interest from the general public. The same holds true from a betting perspective. While regular-season games attract plenty of volume, betting tickets rise considerably come playoff time.

A tout who has a solid track record in a sport over an extended period of time should continue to do well during the postseason. The same holds true for those who don’t find much success: There’s no magic switch to be flipped.

That said, both good and poor touts will go through peaks and valleys. From your perspective, there’s no need to switch things up when the playoffs roll around. If you’ve been finding success either on your own or by paying for picks, then it makes sense to roll with it. However, if you’ve had a horrible regular season, then maybe it’s time to explore other options.

Which sports make the most sense to buy picks?

When you’re in the market to pay for picks, you’ll find that there are touts and services who specialize in one or more sports, as well as those who cover the full spectrum. There’s no concrete answer on which approach is correct, but you can safely assume that those who specialize are doing so for very valid reasons.

If we take a look at all of the major sports, there are valid arguments to be made both for and against actually paying for picks.

  • NFL Betting
    • Pro: Handicapping spreads is tricky.
    • Con: Ton of free information to be found.
  • NBA Betting
    • Pro: It’s challenging to break down the daily sports.
    • Con: Late-breaking injury news can change perspectives on games.
  • MLB Betting
    • Pro: Sheer number of regular season games can make things unpredictable.
    • Con: Profits tough to project with lots of bets on moneyline.
  • NHL Betting
    • Pro: Expert knowledge can lead to an edge.
    • Con: Returns also unpredictable due to moneyline bets.

It’s also helpful to consider your overall knowledge of the sport at hand. For example, if you have a feel for football or hockey, it makes a lot of sense to try to devise your own betting approach. If basketball or baseball isn’t your thing, then paying for picks could be the way to go — after you’ve done your due diligence, of course.

The same applies for any other sport that you don’t know much about, such as golf betting, tennis betting or UFC betting.

Are sports picks worth buying for amateur or casual bettors?

The short answer is possibly, but it depends on a few factors that you’ll need to think through. First, you have to weigh the cost. Next, determine what your reasonable budget for sports betting as a whole is.

While working on this step, think about how much you’re comfortable betting on an individual game. From there, figure out how often you plan on betting. The end result should be a budget per game, as well as on a long-term basis.

The last part of the process calls for a realistic assessment of profit expectations from the picks you’re paying for. If what you plan on laying out is less than what you expect to take in with the cost of picks included, then you can at least justify the expense. When the cost of the picks or subscription leads to profits being negligible or nonexistent, then you have your answer. In this case, paying for picks is a losing proposition that just won’t make sense for you.

On the other side of the coin, those who plan on playing enough volume to justify the expense can find that paying for picks is a rewarding investment. In this situation, be sure to track your results closely to make sure that your profits are truly living up to expectations.

Always remember this: It’s already difficult to be a profitable sports bettor when just going against the sportsbooks. If you layer another cost on top of that, it can sometimes become almost impossible.