Football Halftime Wagering

Last week I talked about betting on the First Half of football games. This week I want to finish off the set by talking about betting during Halftime and the opportunities that arise by betting on a sporting event where you have already seen half the game before you make your play. Some of you will recognize part of this material as I published a similar article but once again I think this is important enough to be covered every year and the NFL was kind enough to provide some fresh examples for me over the past few days.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, Halftime wagering is available for football and basketball, and is wagering on the score of the Second Half only, including Overtime if applicable. The lines become available at or near the end of the First Half, and are available only until the Second Half starts. This makes Halftime wagering very different from other forms of sports wagering. For most events, you can handicap the game well in advance and you can spend lots of time shopping for the best line to give you the best chance of winning. With Halftime wagering, you have little or no time to handicap teams or to shop for the best line, but you do have the advantage of having seen the teams play. Book managers do not have time to handicap Halftime lines either (they rely on a comparison of their handicapping for the entire game, action on the game and the score to determine their Halftime line) and no sportsbook can watch every game, so if you are watching an event where the score is not indicative of the actual play, you may be able to take advantage of the lines and find a very juicy play. Perhaps one team was hit with a rash of injuries, or is in foul trouble, or rallied late in the First Half and looks to have momentum – situations like these can be very profitable for disciplined players. With Halftime wagering, the bettor has an advantage in getting to watch the teams play before wagering, and the House has an advantage in that players have very little time to handicap or shop for lines. Note that Key Numbers are very important in Halftime wagering as they occur with even greater frequency for a half than they do for a game. See my column of 3 weeks ago if you want to learn more about key numbers.

There are a few particular situations that arise that can provide the player with the ultimate edge. One opportunity comes when you have played on an underdog and they are ahead at the end of the First Half. Bettors who played on Baltimore were presented with such an opportunity this past Monday Night. The Ravens were a 7 to 9-point dog, depending on where you got in, but if you had bet them for the game, betting at Halftime would give you a chance to profit twice without risk of a loss. I know this sounds too good to be true, but with the Ravens up by 28 and getting 7+ points, this was effectively a 35-point lead for betting purposes, and those bets were effectively winners. The Halftime line was Denver -8, so if you had Baltimore for the game and the Broncos -8 in the Second Half, you could win both, but not lose both. If Denver mounted a miraculous comeback and covered the game line, your Second Half winner would payoff, as they would have had to outscore the Ravens by at least 35 for the Second Half. However, if the Broncos win the Second Half by 9 to 34 points, you would win both bets as was the case last night with the Broncos outscoring the Ravens 20-3 after the break. Denver by less than 8 in the Second Half would mean you break even (less the vig), and this was indeed the case this weekend. I don’t advocate trying to play middles like this, as you worked hard to get a winner with your Ravens bet only to end up with nothing (its kind of like splitting face cards against a 6 in Blackjack) but in the right situations it can be a profitable tool. The opposite scenario can also work when you have the favorite for the game, they have a big lead at Halftime, and you play the dog at the break.

There is another situation that arises when an underdog is leading at the half, and I’ll use the Saints/Lions game from this past Sunday to illustrate this point. The Saints were a 7.5 to 9-point favorite but found themselves down 20-7 to the Lions at the end of the First Half. As mentioned above, players who had the Lions for the game could take New Orleans in the Second Half and hope to win both (and they would have) but an opportunity also presented itself to players that were undecided on the game and wanted to play the favorite laying fewer points. If you liked the Saints, but thought, 9 points is too many, then betting at Halftime presented a golden opportunity. With the Halftime spread Saints -7 and New Orleans down 13, the Saints now only had to get to within 5 for the bet to be a winner. With New Orleans outscoring the Lions 14-6 in the Second Half, they covered the Halftime line, but not the game, so seizing this opportunity would have paid off. This obviously isn’t any sort of system (see the Rams game if you want to see a case where this doesn’t work) but it is something to consider as the seconds tick down on the First Half. The opposite case can work as well, when an underdog becomes an even larger underdog if the favorite has a big lead at the break and you can bet the dog getting more points.

There are similar situations involving totals so it’s worth spending a few minutes with a pen and paper working through all the different scenarios to see how you can profit. It also helps to chart scores by Half for teams to see which teams play more dominantly in the first 30 minutes and which play better in the last 30 minutes. Halftime wagering has become increasingly popular over the last 3 years, and handle on the Halftimes of yesterday’s games was about one fourth of the handle for the entire games, according to Bodog’s top bookmaker, Kent. This much wagering action packed into 10-15 minutes can make for very rapid line moves, so make sure you plan out what play you want before turning on your computer or picking up your phone as you won’t have much time to second guess yourself. Sportsbooks offer Halftime wagering because they make money on commission, so the more that is wagered, the more they can make (hopefully). As a player, you need to be aware that this extra wagering opportunity can be very profitable if used with discipline and in the right situation.

Once again, I am pleased to offer Kent’s Line Move of the Week. As mentioned, he is Bodog’s number one bookmaker (our top dog so to speak!) and he has been kind enough to let us into his head for one game a week. Here are his thoughts. This week’s line has to be the Monday Night game. We opened with Denver -7.5 and moved down to -7 on the news of Griese’s silly injury. There was a little Denver action but handle was light because of the injury and what was perceived as a poor game to watch. When Griese was announced as the starter we quickly moved back to 7.5 and the action really heated up. We moved from there all the way up to 9 on steady Broncos action all weekend. It looks like the Ravens’ bettors were hoping it would get to +10 but gave up and took +9, and even later +8.5, as there was a late rush of Ravens money. The contrarians (people who bet against public sentiment) had a good night, as did we. The old adage ‘Home Dogs Bite Big’ certainly was the case again tonight.

My thanks to Kent, as always, and I will be back next week with a quick look at the baseball playoffs and some thoughts on how television affects wagering trends.

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Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino