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Jim Barnes


Jim Barnes

Jim Barnes

If they ever decide to erect a Sports Betting Hall of Fame, there is no doubt that Jim Barnes would be one of the first inductees. The author of the highly respected Journal of Handicapping, Barnes is still going strong at the age of 70 and his daily forecasts on his website is something every sports bettor should take advantage of.

Barnes graciously agreed to an interview and when a man with his sports handicapping background agrees to share some of his knowledge, sports bettors would do well to listen and learn.

About.com: How did you first get interested in sports handicapping?

Jim Barnes: It was strictly by accident. After deciding to end a decade in radio and television news, I created a series of games that were soon produced by Avalon Hill Game Co., and sold under the "Sports Illustrated Series" name.

The royalty income permitted me a chance to try other ideas and one hit when United Features Syndicate, Inc., adopted my daily "Sportography."

A magazine publisher saw the graphic in a New York area newspaper and contacted me about contributing sports analysis to his seasonal annuals. One thing led to another and Gary Austin, a Las Vegas gambler and friend of the New York magazine publisher, was interested in a weekly, "The Vegas Pipeline," and I was hired to create the publication and moved to Vegas in the 1980s.

I was getting my first taste of sports betting, opening the door for my independence in less than a year and "Journal of Handicapping" was born with the backing of John and Edna Luckman, owners of “Gambler’s Book Club.” This was the actual start of my involvement in statistical analysis.

The popularity of the publication was extremely good in Las Vegas where it was used in teaching at Clark County Community College and led to my being offered an opportunity to present a paper at the International Symposium on Gambling.

ESPN had a gambling show and I was asked to create graphics to illustrate various points being featured by program analysts, another step forward. Several seminars furthered my reputation as I was on programs with Mort Olshan (The Gold Sheet) and Mike Lee, who became a very close friend.

Not desiring my sons to go to high school in Las Vegas, our family relocated back to Iowa but my handicapping career was actually in its infancy.

After finding out where players were getting numbers that were consistently beating the Stardust Race and Sports Book during college basketball season, sportsbook manager Robert Walker hired me to become a consultant - a position that I retained from 1993 until 2004.

Around this same time I developed a website, which when it was promoted by Jim Feist and National Sports grew to more than 277,000 visitors per year.

Slowly, with age advancing and lung and cardiac problems developing, I began to slow down and have disappeared from everyday public knowledge. Handicappers are so plentiful that if you do not keep your name in front of everyone each day you will be forgotten more quickly than Howard Stern when he went to satellite radio.

About.com: Are you still working on new handicapping techniques/methods?

Jim Barnes: I am active to some degree, but pretty satisfied with the method that I have for baseball and basketball. Pro football has also been very beneficial, college football a total weakness. Even after 40-years I still have not developed a college method that can consistently perform to a 55-percent level.

Time is spent more on website and database creation, trying to keep up with all the new software and programming languages.

About.com: Can people still purchase the "Journal of Handicapping" and spiral-bound "Best of Jim Barnes?"

Jim Barnes:Not that I am aware of unless GBC Press (Las Vegas) has some copies of the "Journal." The other publication is definitely out of sight and was never a giant success as less than 500 were published and sold. I have never been a 'pack rat' and did not retain any copies of my work for future reference.

About.com: Is there one handicapping idea that you came up with that you are most proud of?

Jim Barnes: : Yes, one that was an uphill battle and still is not universally accepted by a betting market that is too stubborn to adopt new theories.

For more than three decades I have insisted that baseball is "80-percent batting and 20-percent pitching." I knew the idea had merit from the beginning and a year before leaving the Stardust to return to his native state, sportsbook manager Walker said he was coming around to my point of view. There are only a handful of pitchers that can win when their team is not scoring and the other 95-percent have their records determined by whether the team scores or not.

About.com: How do you keep up with new betting ideas as the old ones seem to fade away?

Jim Barnes: Actually, I have not changed from a very simple philosophy. The only important statistics in sports are: (1) what is the margin, (2) what is the quality level of competitors and (3) did it under or over-achieve versus my expectation? Everything else can be discarded, trends, past history, etc. The most important game is the last one the team played. Today is everything. Yesterday is past history.

The Internet has changed handicapping and sports betting. First, it has made far more people aware of it which is good for betting parlors. Yes, it is also good for parlors because the amount of information is so exhaustive the average player becomes confused as to which way to go.

People have more knowledge on handicapping than money management and this is the difference between a "pro and novice."

Most websites offer the same thing - nothing new with the main difference being the design work of the page and depth of statistics.

Too many handicapping sites have diluted the market to where only a handful of firms (the giant ones) make any money and their income has dropped drastically in the past 12-18-months and this pattern will continue.

To give you an idea of how vast the market is, enter "World Wide Ranking and Ratings" in your 'search bar' and see what is delivers.

About.com: What is the biggest single change you have noticed in sports betting over the past 25 years?

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