Pat Hagerty has the no.1 selling book on Sports Betting, Good Teams Win, Great Teams Cover. In our continued effort to interview the top handicapping minds in the industry, we spoke with Mr. Hagerty about a wide variety of sports betting topics.
How long have you been handicapping and what got you into it?
First off – thanks for the invite to be on The Winning Side. I’m glad you reached out and I will definitely be following your work. I grew up in a gambling family – mostly golf. My old man decided he was going to teach my brother and I the ills of picking games. So one season, he gave us each $1000 in play money to bet the NFL games. His intent was for us to go broke and that would to teach us that betting games was a losing proposition. The opposite happened. We absolutely crushed it. That was my first introduction into sports betting. That said, I didn’t really have an avenue to bet games until college. That is when my betting started for real.
I know College Football is your best sport, is there a reason or reasons why you feel you excel in NCAAF over other
I think it is important to bet what you know and what you don’t mind researching. I love college football, and could read about it for hours. The grind doesn’t bother me because I enjoy it. It wouldn’t be the same with other sports. To be successful at anything, you have to be willing to put in the work. I don’t mind doing the work for betting games because I enjoy it. Further, the situational advantages I look for seem to be more pronounced in college football. The players are younger, and more prone to huge emotional swings. Also, there is probably no other sport where coaching has such a huge impact in the outcome of the game. All of that has attracted me to college football.
What do you feel is the toughest sport to handicap, and why?
The NFL has to be high on that list because the lines are so sharp. For me though the hardest sport to handicap is college basketball. The reason is there are so many teams and so many games. It is impossible to be smart on 300 teams. For me – I’d love to bet college basketball seriously. I’m from NC in the heart of Tabaco Road. But I’m so gassed after the grind of football season I just don’t have the energy to put the time in to do it right. So I throw some play money around for entertainment, but that’s about it.
What do you do to get yourself out of a cold streak Do you stay the course, switch-up your methods, take time off, etc.?
Great, great question that I go into in-depth in my book Good Teams Win, Great Teams Cover. I’m a big believer in momentum. That isn’t just for sports betting – but for life. Do you ever feel like everything is going your way? Things just kind of seem to happen and they are all positive? I think you can create that sensation intentionally. You do so by building up small successes. These small successes start to snowball. As these wins pile up, your mindset changes and you start feeling like a winner again. When I’m on a losing streak, I really rely on this mindset. I start by getting my life in order. I do a lot of the little things that need to be done to be happy in life. I make sure I work out. I write. I read. I take my wife out to dinner. I put in extra effort at work. I make it a point to compliment others. All those little things put me in the right mindset. Then with picking games, I do all the same things. I read a lot. I analyze box scores. I watch games. I look at injury reports. I research schedules. I look at all these positives as wins, and they help put me get my mind right. Then I make my picks by staying true to my principles. I focus on staying true to the process, and not worrying about the result. If you do everything right when you handicap, eventually all bad streaks will turn around.
What has your handicapping life been like after writing your book? Are you still learning to become a better handicapper? Are you a little more popular during NCAAF season?
It has been a lot different. I have sent out my fishy five picks for years to my buddies. It was always a way to keep in touch with friends. However, as I kept winning I kept adding people to the email list. And then I wrote the book and interest in my picks exploded. There are literally thousands of people who get my weekly email now, and I know some of the people are putting money on my picks. That has put a lot of pressure on me. Again though – I stick to my strategy and am very clear that the betting game is every man for himself. By the way – if any of your readers are interested – my picks are free by signing up for my emails at
When you are on hot streaks, do you up your wagers and maybe take on more action, or do you take a more conservative approach (like playing not to lose)?
Nope. I map out a plan and stick to it through the year. Money management is so important in picking games. If you couple a losing streak with raising your wagers you can get wiped out. That is never a good thing.
What are your thoughts on how handicapping will change for upcoming, known domestic sports (NBA, NCAAF, NFL)? Things other than less home-field advantage due to minimal or no crowds.
Another great question. I think the younger teams will be at a significant disadvantage. Also, I think teams with new coaching staffs will struggle because of the lack of time to implement new systems. I think the things I tend to look for – older teams with solid head coaches – will be more important than ever this season.
Tell me a little about your general process when capping a game. Do you work more from a numbers-standpoint
(team statistics, what Vegas set the line at, et al), do you trust the ‘eye’ test and ride teams that have some
momentum, all of the above, or something else?
I actually look to go against the eye test. When a team looks too good, and is on too much of a high, I look to fade them. The basic process is I start by looking for the contrarian angle to a game. I review the lines and look for contrarian line movement. I look at the situational spot. Then I actually look at the teams. I’m always looking to be on the same side as the house though, because the house wins a lot more than the public.
I remember from your book that you’re a big believer that Vegas sets trap lines. Do you still believe this to be true and
It is very obvious they set trap lines. When all the money is going on one side, and the line doesn’t move, it is very clear that Vegas has no problem with siding with the unpopular team. That is one of the biggest contrarian indicators I look for. When I see that, I ask myself what they see that I don’t? If I can find out, then I may make a play.
Do you have any general, basic rules you follow as a capper? (For example, I personally almost never wager side and total on the same game and I don’t wager a small dog unless I think they are winning straight-up).
My strategy is very vanilla. I pick five games a weekend. I play each game for 5% of my bankroll. I’ve been doing this for years. I don’t have many hard rules – but I almost never play road favorites. Picking double digit road favorites screams amateur hour. I get in trouble a lot because I fade elite teams. Last year I kept fading LSU because I just didn’t believe they were as good as they were. That was expensive and a hard lesson learned.
Are there any analysts/cappers out there that you respect and like to see what they’re thinking when approaching one of your games?
This question scares me. So many bettors look for the easy way to win at picking games. They rely on the opinion of someone else and then get pissed off when they lose. The betting game needs some personal accountability. It is every man for himself. I advise to read and get a lot of differing opinions, but at the end of the day you have to make your own picks. Because of my approach, I try to follow the most popular handicappers – like the ESPN betting podcasts. I listen not for advice, but to get a sense on what the general public is going to do. That gives me great insight on where I need to go to take the contrarian side.
Who are some futures you’re thinking about? Are there any NCAAF or NFL teams you believe can surprise this year?
Not the biggest futures guy as I don’t like my money to be tied up for that long. I really don’t start digging hard into the season for another couple of weeks. Hit me up then and we can talk.
What’s the hottest streak you’ve ever been on and your individual best season in a specific sport?
Three or four years ago I was nearly 60% for the season. I think I only lost one game in November. That was an awesome feeling and really helped my fishy five picks explode in popularity. Nothing beats a heater. My best time of year is typically bowl season. I seem to have a good feel for what teams will show up and what teams will tank. Knock-on-wood but I’ve never had a losing bowl season.
We would like to publicly thanks Pat Hagerty for his time and detailed responses to our questions.
Pat Hagerty is the author of Good Teams Win, Great Teams Cover – An Underdog’s Tale of Life, Gambling and
Sharp Sports Betting. His picks are available at FishyFive.com and you can follow him on Twitter @Fishy_Five and