The NFL is back, baby, and if you’re reading this column, that can only mean one thing: we all just spent an entire weekend yelling at our television sets. A lot. Like, the neighbors came over to check on us several times, until we finally just invited them in to have some beer and nachos and watch the game, and pretty soon we were all yelling at the TV.
This first week of NFL action handily illustrated my Top Three rules about betting on NFL games:
1) Don’t drink and bet
2) Don’t bet heavy favorites
3) Actually, just don’t bet at all*
*I always ignore #3. I’m not even sure why it’s on my list, to be honest.
Rule #1 should be obvious. You need your wits about you if you’re going to properly evaluate your odds and place successful bets, and so far in my experience the only thing excessive alcohol contributes to in the thought process is OMG THAT IS SUCH AN EASY MONEY BET RIGHT THERE, HERE, TAKE MY ENTIRE WALLET AND LET ME KNOW HOW IT TURNS OUT.
Rule #2 might be less obvious. Why not bet the heavy favorite? That’s the easy bet, right? Yes, and your sportsbook knows this, which is why they will only pay you pennies on the dollar for betting the “obvious” choices. You’re being asked to risk a full position (i.e., if you lose, they will take 100% of the money you bet) for a 20% gain, or a 30% gain, or whatever tiny fraction is being offered.
Here’s the secret, though: football is volatile. Heavy favorites lose all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. You need to be making enough money on your wins that you can cover your inevitable losses for the weekend, and betting the heavy chalk won’t get you there (all of the time)
A quick example: four of the biggest favorites last weekend were the Patriots (-450), the Falcons (-286), the Texans (-230), and the Steelers (-485). In a fictional world where I am both drunk-betting and hammering the favorites, I put $10 dollars on each of those four games. The Falcons and the Steelers both won their games, which made me a total of $25.56 ($20 original bet, plus that whopping $5.56 in payout), while the Patriots and Texans somehow lost their games, which means that my total $40.00 bet came out a $14.44 loser.
I’M NOT SURE I’VE MADE MY POINT SO LET ME SAY IT IN ALL CAPS: I WOULD HAVE LOST MONEY ON THE EXTREME FAVORITES.
Thankfully, I did not take this route. I went with the strategy I usually use, which is to find matchups that are incorrectly priced while trying to identify my weekly edge. (And yes, it’s important to look at the sportsbook’s opening lines, before the best of the number is no longer available and you end up going Under 20.5 on the Chargers vs Broncos 1st half…but I digress)
For Week 1, my four picks were the Lions (+113), the Raiders (+127), the Redskins (+110) because I didnt listen to Bet the Board, and the Colts (+167). In hindsight, yes, that juicy +167 moneyline on the Colts was probably a good sign that I was about to play Wile E. Coyote to the sportsbook’s Road Runner, but … live and learn with Scott Tolzien. (Also never use ACME betting services.)
Just as with the former scenario of betting extreme favorites, two of my teams won, and two of them lost. The Lions and Raiders cashed, and at $20 per bet, that brought back $48 dollars. The Redskins and Colts lost, which cost me $40 dollars, but my wins netted me a tiny profit for the weekend…somewhere I hope to stay all season.
Clearly, my method is fool-proof, and there is absolutely no chance that I’ll be back here next week writing about how I lost money using this same strategy.
No chance at all.
I’ll even give you -450 on that one.