OK. Working under the assumption that in general the public will more often lose than win, I pose the fundamental question we've asked ourselves a thousand times through the years: Will the "public" be right?
The first problem I have with this is the definition of the "public". Twenty years ago we had to watch the line move, ask around, and then try to go against who all of our golf buddies said was the "obvious" pick. (Just like the scene in "Let It Ride", the idea was to do what Jay Trotter did, which was absolutely cross out every horse that somebody at the track said was their "lock".) We'd imagine what would happen if we walked down the street and asked everyone we ran into who they liked in the game. But at that point you must ask yourself, am I trying to shade the better known / perceived better team, or figuring out who people are actually BETTING.
These days we're in information overload.... every Larry, Earl and Gus think they know exactly who is on what, and to what extent. We have line tracking, multiple websites reporting % of bets placed on each side, % of money on each side, as well as casino personnel on radio shows and podcasts TELLING us which side the public is on, and more importantly which side the "sharps" are on. (It is in this scenario that most of us also make the mistake of assuming the public and sharps MUST be on opposite sides, which is also not the case. See Giants at Packers and Broncos at Patriots two weeks ago.)
With all of the information fed to us, everyone is now an expert. Your next door neighbor now greets you in the morning while picking up the morning paper with "I don't know.... seems like a lot of people on the dog in this one". Everyone analyzes and is trying to get "against the public". But what happens when a team like the Giants makes it all the way to the Super Bowl? Well, first of all, they're based in New York, which guarantees a huge following and huge media coverage. Next, they're the "hot" team.... following a complete blueprint that they followed 4 years ago (and that Green Bay followed last year) that led to Super Bowl wins. Then you hear stats that say the last 9 wild card teams in the Super Bowl have covered the spread. What happens when they get matched up with a team like the Patriots, that have been the most covered and well known teams over the past decade? Does Vegas have to account for factors like "Billiceck with 2 weeks to prepare" or "Brady with revenge" or "hard to beat a team 3 straight" that EVERYONE knows about and have seen work for years?
I think the answer ultimately lies locally, not globally, on this one. If a hundred people are asked who they like in the Patriots/Bucs game, more people are always going to say the Patriots. More people are always going to have more information about a New York team than about the Carolina Panthers. More people are automatically going to like the team with the better quarterback (which worked like a charm during the regular season to a HUGE percentage, by the way), and more people are usually going to like the favorite. So when I say locally, I think the "public" not being right has to be narrowed down to a small group of people you target as being wrong. Call them what you want, but it's just the guys you don't feel are going to have the right side. Maybe it's your barber. Maybe it's your boss. Maybe it's your best friend.
(Last week was a perfect example. Here in Northern California, everyone liked the Niners. Everyone thought the Niners weren't getting the respect they deserved. Everyone thought the Niners defense would prevail. Everyone laid the points. And everyone lost. From what we heard around the rest of the country, "everyone" was on the Giants. That's what the percentages said too. And the line moves. So in the end, the public did win. And the worst part is that they won on a muffed punt, fumble, and the ghost of forward progress, so was the public RIGHT or did the public just get away with one?)
My belief is that "the public doesn't win" and "the public won't win this side" are two entirely different questions. How many people actually win in the long run? Few. But I believe that comes from pressing, chasing, halftime bets, props, totals.... poor money management.... basically every other way of getting action aside from just the opinion of who is going to cover. Plus, some people just have a knack for losing.
But can "the public be right"? I would say most definitely. It happens all the time. Looking at caribsports.com or sportsbook.com or scoresandodds.com, the team with the larger percentage often covers. What we don't see is what other bets those same people place, because for every winning side, there's a losing total or an NBA game just waiting to take our money.
But what do YOU do about it? Do you go with the smaller percentage because it's "against the public"? Do you go against your barber? Do you go with the sharps you've heard about on the radio? Do you go with a tout who tells you he's won 21 straight Super Bowls? Do you go against a tout who you've tracked and seems like a proven loser? Or do you scrap everything and just go with your gut?
Not asking who you have in this game.... but interested in your thoughts.