12/07/2006 1:00AM

Maybe Warhol was talking about touts


This past week was a pretty good one.

I went 3-1 with my college bankroll plays, including my top play on UCLA +13 1/2 points and a recommendation to take UCLA to win straight-up at 4-1 or higher. That was followed up with Sunday's NFL card when my plays went 4-1 against the spread.

That was all well and good, but it was also followed up by congratulatory calls and e-mails, pats on the back, and then inquiries into which teams I like this weekend.

But I have made sure not to let it all go to my head because I know the score. This is truly a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. This week's hero is next week's bum and vice versa. In fact, this past week was just a peak in a football season that sees my overall published record at barely above .500 at 74-72-3. Besides, this past week was on the heels of a 2-12 disaster the week before, so I'm a not-so-gaudy 9-14 the past two weeks.

In fact, this illustrates a theory about public handicappers that I have held for a long time. In fact, the only time I've shared it in a public forum was in a conversation with the sports betting industry watchdog, gadfly, and my favorite curmudgeon, Jeff Jones, on the fezziksplace.com Internet posting board.

Basically, my feeling is that Andy Warhol's famous saying "in the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes" is especially apropos in the world of touts. Everyone takes their turn being in the spotlight from time to time. Everyone has winning streaks and losing streaks, and anyone with any sort of significant sample of games will be in the 45 to 55 percent range. Despite what the ads and TV or radio shows will have you believe, no one hits more than that in the long term, and there are plenty of sports betting math gurus who will tell you that 55 percent is impossible over a lifetime.

Of course, when marketing their services, touts are going to tell you when they're very hot, but then you don't hear from them when they're cold. That's when Warhol's wisdom kicks in; someone else happens to be hot and they get all the accolades and become the flavor of the month or whatever other phrase you want to use. I prefer monkey of the minute - it's closer to reality than monkey of the month.

When Warhol wasn't painting celebrities or soup cans, he sometimes used monkeys as subjects (do an online search for "Warhol monkeys"). There's a saying that if you put a million monkeys at a million typewriters in a room, eventually, even if takes a million years, one of them would randomly write "War and Peace." I will take the analogy down a notch and use just 32 monkeys. The true odds, assuming each game is 50/50 against the spread, on hitting a five-team parlay is 1 in 32. Note: At 50/50, the odds are the same of someone going 0 for 5. So, if we took 32 monkeys and had them pick five games against the spread each week, one monkey would go 5-0 and we would all be praising him as a great handicapper while the 0-5 monkey would be the chump. But you know what? The next week, there would likely be a different monkey going 5-0 and the first one would be forgotten as everyone clamored for the second monkey's picks. Then another would go on a hot streak and be the monkey of the minute. And so on.

That's a hypothetical situation, but you get the point. One of my favorite real-life stories on the "15 minutes of fame" nature of the business comes from October 2002. One week, professional handicapper Andy Iskoe went 14-0 on the NFL in the pages of GamingToday, nailing nine sides and five totals. He does a lot of radio shows in town and it got plenty of mentions, and I wrote a small item on it in Daily Racing Form. The next week, I received a nasty e-mail from a reader saying I should "be careful who you endorse because Iskoe is the worst handicapper I have ever seen." It turned out he had read my article and signed up for Iskoe's service and had a terrible week.

The person who signed up for his picks based on one week's results is just as foolish for dropping him based on just one week's results. Iskoe has had his share of poor performances in contests and with selections on radio shows, but he has also had his share of successes by winning several contests, finishing tied for second and third in the just-concluded Leroy's College Challenge. This weekend he's competing in the semifinals of the Money Talks Invitational that was scheduled to air from 8-9 p.m. Pacific on Friday from the Silverton on KSHP AM-1400 (and kshp.com).

This isn't meant to pick on Iskoe, or to endorse him (that's what I told that one reader: I was just reporting someone who had a great week and not shilling for anyone to pay for his service). It's just another example that hot handicappers and cold handicappers come and go, and we're all from the same room of monkeys.