Only way to win sports betting is avoiding majority
October 22, 2013 3:02 AM
by RJ Bell
The only way to win at sports betting is by disagreeing with the majority. Consensus opinion is what sets the betting market.
If you agree with consensus opinion, it will be extremely difficult to find value in the betting market, because of the commission (aka: vig, juice) charged by sports books means only above average bettors win over the long term. So, in order to win, a bettor must think differently than the majority.
But thinking differently alone is not enough. Thinking Jacksonville will win the Super Bowl is certainly different, and that opinion certainly will not lead to riches. Not only do you have to be different, you have to be right. Any bettor whose ambition is to aggressively pursue profit is the starting point.
Handicapper Scott Spreitzer, the host of Pregame.com’s Las Vegas radio show (10-11 AM weekdays on ESPN 1100), is more than ok disagreeing with his rotating roster of co-hosts. In most areas of life, being disagreeable is not a rare and valued quality.
Keep in mind, classic “tout” shows would rarely, if ever, allow handicappers to disagree. I grew up watching those USA Network shows on Saturday morning, and each of the personalities would get their time looking into the camera and telling the audience why their game was a sure winner. Even as a kid I wondered: “How can everybody always agree about everything?”
Being raised in an Italian family, I knew from experience it was difficult to agree whether homemade bread was better with or without sesame seeds. So it seemed unrealistic that the guys on TV agreed on every factor in every game.
From the start, a goal of mine has been to gather experts and place them in an environment where they can talk honestly – and if they honestly disagree with their colleague, they are obligated to express it with vigor and candor. That way, the audience would get all the information needed to decide which side they personally agreed with.
Typically, handicapping disagreements are a matter of nuisance. For example, is Andrew Luck a great QB today or merely a good who one day will likely be great? But there is one major area I totally disagree with many commentators on – football turnovers.
When a team is being critiqued, you’ll hear a negative turnover differential added to the list of the team’s ills. Yet, most advanced stats guys believe turnovers, for the most part, are a matter of luck (exactly how much luck is a matter of debate).
What’s certain is turnovers have a huge effect on the outcome of football games. The winner of the turnover battle historically covers the spread in 77% of NFL games. Think about that. A part of the game that involves a significant amount of luck has a significant effect on the outcome.
Some people believe the unlucky teams are 100% at fault, while others rightly understand how random turnovers can be. By definition, the way you handicap turnovers is an opportunity to disagree with consensus and also be right. And every time a commentary says the opposite, smile to yourself and hope the average bettor keeps believing it.
RJ Bell is the founder of Pregame.com - and co-host of FIRST PREVIEW, heard Monday through Friday at 10 am on ESPN 1100/98.9 FM. Follow on twitter: @RJinVegas. Discussion of this article continues at Pregame.com. Contact RJ at RJBell@GamingToday.com