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Making it Hard on the Book

NFL Football Handicapping Tips: Making it Hard on the Book

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

Straight Bets or Money Lines?

A lot of people get a bit flummoxed by the spread. They don’t like laying points, when their only true vision is that a team will simply win the game. So rather than taking the Steelers at -3, they take the Steelers at -150 or so. And when dealing with an underdog, maybe the few points that they’re getting doesn’t trump the great price they stand to win on the money line. So instead of taking the Raiders at +3, they make a money line bet.

The same theory is applied when gauging the value of buying points versus landing on a key number. With the spread vs. money line dynamic, the statistical breakdown is quite cumbersome and possibly undoable. When getting an underdog of 3 or less points, take into consideration how many games typically land between 1-3 points. Our figures say that a game ending between 1-3 points is under 22%. So does it make sense to take a 3-point underdog on the money line?

That might not be a terribly reliable guiding point, since they don’t say what percentage of games being decided by 1-3 points happened in games where a team was in fact a 1-3 point favorite. And overtime games are another consideration. But if you can take a 3-point dog at -110 and get it straight-up at +130 or better--it could be a good move if played in certain spots where your handicapping sees an edge for the underdog. You don’t want to cripple yourself by asking your teams to do 3 points better than what the market says, but maybe play with it and see where it takes you. Put half on the spread and the other half on the money line. If it doesn’t work--get rid of it.

Doing the Opposite of What the Bookie Wants You to Do

The bookie wants its clients to make certain bets. They want you to make parlays and other exotic bets that are not only hard to win, but yield bad odds even when they do win. They want you bet against the spread. That’s why the limits are so high on such bets.

When the limits are lower on some bets--there is good reason for that. It’s because some of those wagers can be exploited for good value. Such bets include prop bets and totals. Prop bets sometimes offer tremendous value. A savvy bettor is sometimes able to exploit a weak line on a prop bet, particularly if the bet is of a binary nature--with only two possible outcomes.

And limits are definitely lowered for totals, where the real sharps in this business find some of their juiciest action. If the book had their druthers, they would rather you not be making a lot of these kinds of bets. Another beneficial move is buying points--another tool at your disposal that the book isn’t counting on a lot of people doing. If buying a half-point can get you off those dreaded key numbers at a reasonable rate, you’re starting to think like a winner.

Deciphering a “Sucker Bet”

Doing the opposite of what the book wants also applies to how you handle sucker bets. Sometimes, it’s pretty obvious exactly which side the book wants you take. It can apply to any number of bets, but let’s look at spreads and prop bets as an example.

Being able to tell when a sucker bet is being offered, your instincts need to be honed. Then you will be able to get an immediate visceral reaction when you see a point-spread that falls into the sucker category. The rule of thumb is that if it looks too good to be true--it probably is. If you expected the Steelers to be 7-point favorites against a visiting team and you see the spread is at Steelers -4, it’s like they’re tempting you to bet on Pittsburgh. That might be the week to take the opponent. There is a fine line between getting good value and falling headlong into a sucker bet.

Or maybe there’s a prop bet on which running back will gain more yardage. And the line is relatively even between a big-name back and a more obscure guy. Again, you can start to sense that they’re trying to sucker you into betting on the bigger-name back. Again, on one hand, we’re looking for good value. But in doing so, make sure not to fall prey to the sucker bet.

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