I grew up betting on horses. The concept is almost the same as finding a winning bet on an NFL team. You look for the best horse, assess the relevance of the odds, and then make the bet.
The idea, like football betting, is to find overlays. That is horses that are going off at higher odds than what you anticipated as the handicapper. It’s easier in horse racing than football because NFL betting odds requires sports handicappers to assess the relevance of betting spreads. For instance, a horse going off at 6 to 1, that you assess should be going off at 3 to 1, means that the horse is an overlay.
An NFL team on the road getting 4 ½ points against a team that hasn’t beaten anybody of merit but is undefeated is much more difficult to call an overlay. In fact, the 4 ½ points pretty much destroys any thought of an overlay.
We’ll get back to overlays in a moment. Just keep in mind that overlays are only produced on the money line. You can see right off the bat that finding overlays in sports betting (especially NFL) is not an easy task.
First, we need to discuss money management. In order to find real overlays, bettors have to understand how to manage their bankrolls. This is not an easy task. Even for a guy like me, who has been betting on football games since I was eighteen, managing my bankroll is always a difficult task. Why? Because inevitably we love action. What’s the point of watching a game without any action, right?
Okay, here are some money management rules.
1.) You have a bankroll. That’s it. No cashing out your 401K to replenish – - Come on, you’ve thought about it, right? No. Stick to your bankroll. If you lose it early in the season because you got stupid (trust me – - it can happen!), then your stuck with drinking Coronoa’s and watching the games with the fantasy football crowd. Sorry. That’s life.
2.) Always bet the same “unit” or amount of each “unit” for every game – - Usually, this means looking at three or four games a week and betting the same amount of units for each game. Now, the most successful NFL bettors stagger the amount of units. For instance, let’s say I really like the Cowboys this weekend and I have 300 units to bet. I might bet 200 units on the Cowboys and the other 100 units on another game. What’s a unit? It’s whatever you want it to be. Some guys call a unit ten bucks. Others call a unit one thousand bucks.
3.) Never, ever, ever bet parlays – - I know that parlays look attractive. I mean, you can double up your odds, right? But most often than not, they are sucker bets. Sure, a terrific parlay might slap you in the face once in a while – - like the Saints + 3 against the Chargers to the over at 46 ½ on October 26th – - but that doesn’t happen often.
4.) But if you have to get stupid it’s better to get stupid with parlays than with teasers – - Teasers are bad, bad, awful, horrendous bets. Just don’t do it. Form an analytical, thoughtful opinion and go with it. If you think about making a teaser bet, then it’s a sign that you really don’t want to make the bet at all. So, don’t make the bet.
Okay, now let’s discuss the money line wager. When is it a good wager to play and when is it a bad wager to play? It’s always difficult to hit money line wagers but sometimes the payout can be tremendous. It takes guts and a “feeling” that should come about based in fact. For instance, the St. Louis Rams were coming off of a road victory against the Washington Redskins. They were facing the Dallas Cowboys at home as 7 ½ point underdogs. What was the money line in this game? + 280.
Why were the St. Louis Rams a good swing on the money line bet? Because the Cowboys were starting Brad Johnson and the Rams were at home.
There was a reason to at least ponder a money line bet on the St. Louis Rams. Of course, there was a reason to stay away from the St. Louis Rams a week after when they played the New England Patriots. The Patriots’ starter, Matt Cassel, had started to click with Randy Moss and the Rams were on the road. The Rams were + 260 on the money line in that game. That was a bad money line wager to make.
One rule of thumb I go by when making money line wagers is that the team I want to make a bet on, the overlay, has to be at least + 130. Anything less than that makes it a bad money line wager. The odds of hitting money line wagers are much less than the odds of hitting on a bet against the spread. So, in order to make it worth while, you have to be getting good enough odds. By trial and error, the threshold that I have found success with is + 130. Anything less and I pass on the bet.
Other than that, successful money line wagering takes practice, knowledge of the particular teams involved, and a “feeling”. Don’t discount the feeling. For instance, who didn’t have the feeling that the New York Giants were going to play well on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week eight?
Trust your instincts. That’s what makes you a good sports handicapper.