I’ve really enjoyed Covers for the past year or so, and my winning percentage has been higher than ever, perhaps as a result of the insight gleamed from these pages, or perhaps I’ve just been lucky. I thought I’d try to condense my philosophy into a few paragraphs, to give back to the community, and encourage some civil discussion. Putting it down on paper is good for the thought processes, even if my wisdom based on close to forty years of experience just boils down to some classic maxims we all know so well.
You can’t Einstein the game. The football takes strange bounces. It’s a game of inches. The difference between a win and a loss often comes down to an event that is almost as random as whether the roulette ball drops into red or black. The tipped pass, the broken tackle, the fourth and one that makes it or not by an inch, the big punt return or the dropped pass in the end zone could all go either way. Any bet is a gamble, meaning the outcome is unknown. There are no sure things or locks.
Granted, a strong team will probably prevail over a weak team. Enter the spread. Now we don’t have to predict who will win, but by how much. Vegas doesn’t care who wins. They want a balanced book, with a guaranteed 10% profit. If you could get 10% a day on your bankroll, you would soon be rich, so why would you gamble? Line moves are the result of money coming in on one side or the other, with the book making an adjustment to keep his accounts even. If the money moves the line and the game goes that way, we call it smart money. If the result goes the other way, we call it public money. But we don’t know until after the game.
There is some psychology to be considered. We all want to win, and we find it easier to imagine riding with the strong team. As a result, the public tends to like favorites, so I would submit that taking the points has a slight value over laying them. There are three outcomes possible in any game: the favorite wins and covers, the favorite wins and doesn’t cover, or the dog wins and obviously covers. Note that two out of three go to the bettor that took the points. The biggest losses I’ve seen come when bettors pile on a favorite. Now, when it smells too sweet, I think it starts to stink. On any given Sunday...
If there’s any edge to be had, it’s recognizing when the public is oversold on a popular team. Case in point, last year’s Super Bowl. The gaudy two-touchdown spread seemed to be based on the idea that this Patriots team was one for the ages, and going to wrap up a perfect season with a blowout. The media loves to hype. On the other hand, handicappers knew that over the last five games played, the Pats had failed to cover, while the Giants had covered every game. The teams had played pretty close, toe to toe, at the end of the regular season, so the match ups were pretty even. No wonder a ton of money came in late on the Giants and Vegas took a hit. (I guess in this instance, they did care who won, but it was too late.)
Finally, gambling should be entertainment. How much would you spend to go to a concert or game? You should never bet so much that losing will affect some other aspect of your life, or relationships with your loved ones. Gambling has the potential to become addictive, like drugs or drinking. Control it, and if it becomes a problem, deal with it.
Good luck to all!