Selecting potential winners
‘an isolation procedure’

May 18, 2004 1:18 AM

EDITORS NOTE: The late GamingToday columnist and author Huey Mahl wrote informative baseball articles nearly a generation ago that still apply. In Mahl’s memory and as a service to our readers we are reviving his successful gaming advice over the next few months.

Baseball betting is a picky, picky business. First, you have to pick the team you deem most likely of being a winner, then, pick the spot where you believe the price quote is advantageous, and last, you have to pick the size and type of wager that will most compliment your risk.

Selecting potential winners, the initial process, is an isolation procedure — separating the wheat from the chaff. Many of these candidates should never cross your betting window because the risk/reward ratio is a negative expectancy.

The best way to evaluate a team’s bet worthiness is to first assign a probability or "advance percentage" to the particular matchup. This is best achieved by assigning some "brownie point" quantification to each of the evaluation factors you deem pertinent.

Assume, after totaling all your arbitrary brownie points for each team, based on today’s conditions, you come up with something like this:

Dodgers —38; Giants —29.

What you are saying is that out of 67 (38 + 29), such similar matchups, the Dodgers should prevail in at least 38 of those games.

To convert the favorite into a probability figure divide his points by the total:

Dodgers 38/total 67 = .567 or 56.7 percent chance.

According to your figures, you give the Dodgers a 56.7 percent chance of winning. The Giants have a 43.3 percent chance of winning. The (57/43) can then be converted into what you consider a "true" money line to balance the risk with the payoff to break even.

Favorite 57/dog 43 = 1.33.

Your so-called "true" line is thus -133 on the Dodgers and +1.33 on the Giants. Remember, at such a payoff, you would only break even.

To have positive expectancy or advantage, you must lay the Dodgers at below -1.33 or the Giants above +133.

Here is where we should utilize the wisdom of the Kelly Criterion to determine the minimum price quote we should look for on either team.

Let’s say you are comfortable betting five percent of your bankroll on any qualified game. That means you want at least 105 percent return on your bet size if you win. Now divide your "true" price by 105 and you get -127.

So, you should try to lay the Dodgers at -1.25 or less. If you must lay higher (-130 or more) the advantage and value are lost. Skip the game or take a foolish chance.

Remember, that’s how to find your shoppable quote on the favorite only. To find your minimum acceptance on the +133 dog, go this way:

Multiply the "true" price by 105 to have a percent advantage. We see that to bet the Giants under today’s conditions, you should get at least +140 quote or abandon the bet.

Most pros employ this technique. Also, you couldn’t care less whether the bookie deals a dime, 15-cent, or 20-cent line or whatever vigorish schedule he has.

Your only concern is getting your advantage price. In this case, either -125 on the Dodgers or +140 on the Giants.

Go get’em.