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Common Wagering Fallacies

NFL Betting: Common Wagering Fallacies

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

Home Field Advantage

One of the more common mistakes made by inexperienced bettors is to assume the home team has an advantage. At face value, that is a decent observation. Home teams typically perform better on their stomping grounds--in familiar territory in front of their fans. And conversely, road teams are often times in diminished form when away from home. That's all true, but what role should that play in your handicapping?

It is important to remember that the point-spread already accounts for the home/road dynamic. The oddsmakers didn't forget to figure that into their equation. So when you see a point-spread, whether a team is at home or on the road is already represented in the number. This doesn't mean you should forget about the home/road dynamic, but should you make it a guiding light in your breaking down of a game?

Any observation you make about a team's home or road tendencies has already been hashed out by the oddsmakers. You might notice that a team is either much better at home or a lot worse on the road. That's one of the first things that the oddsmakers notice, so it isn't exactly exclusive insight. And the fact that it is already accounted for in whatever number you see posted makes your home/road observations almost moot. Handicap the game within the framework of understanding that the home/away dynamic is already represented in the point-spread.

Urgency Leads to Better Play

The tendency on the part of some bettors is to place a lot of importance on the dynamic of urgency. Some teams have a lot to play for, while others are just playing out the season with no hopes of glory. The urge is to take the teams who have more to play for. And if that is your M.O.--you better be extra careful.

Make no mistake--teams with a lot on the line often win and cover the spread. But it's not quite the slam-dunk move everyone thinks it is. First of all, we're not merely trying to have teams win important games, we need them to cover the spread. In a game between a team with a postseason on the line against a losing team, the spread is not going to have much value for the favorite.

It might seem like a good move on paper. In the last few weeks of the year, bettors take the teams that are playing for their playoff futures, especially when facing teams who you'd almost think would want to lose to secure a higher draft choice. But this is a faulty betting strategy that will surely cost you money.

Again, the oddsmakers make those lines pretty big. And there is almost never any good value to be found on a team playing for its postseason facing a 2-12 team. The oddsmakers know it might be a struggle to find bettors to take the 2-12 team, so they might make the line extra enticing.

Being "Due"

Another fallacy is so fallacious that it is actually called "gamblers fallacy." This way of thinking is based on the binary bet--wagers with only two possible outcomes. In these types of heads-and-tails wagers, the bettor can expect an eventual 50-50 spread of results. If a bettor only wins 15 out of 50 bets, he can expect the wins to soon start piling up. It doesn't work that way.


It's like a guy playing roulette who sees the ball has landed on "black" 11 straight times. He puts a big bet on red, figuring it is "due" to hit. But the chance that the ball will land on red is no better now than it was before the ball started landing on black 11 straight times. Regardless of past results, a 50-50 shot is still 50%. In NFL betting, this way of thinking can be really dangerous.

Over an excruciating long haul--you can perhaps expect 50-50 on coin flips. But how big of a sample pool of results need to take place before mathematics takes over? You could have been betting on the NFL since the 40's and there is no guarantee that math will have taken over. Thousands of results need to pour in before your numbers start to even out. And when betting a small handful of NFL games each weekend, one should not expect to be bailed out by mathematical probabilities.

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