Betting on Televised Games

Lets face facts. Watching sports on TV is entertainment for just about every person that is reading this column. Wagering is also a form of entertainment for the majority of bettors. Therefore it is logical to conclude that betting on sports events that are on TV is a double pleasure for most fans, and indeed this is the case. (The sooner the professional sports leagues in the US realize this, and embrace the betting public, the better in my humble opinion. Didn’t work for the XFL, but at least they tried). However, today I want to give you a little something to think about before you make your next bet on a televised game that will maybe save you some money over the course of the season.

On any given weekend there are 40-45 college football games and 14-16 in the NFL, a total of roughly 60. As book managers we spend equal time on just about every game because we have to. We are going to take bets on every game so all the lines must be as accurate as possible. If you go through yourself and handicap each game, you will find that you have opinions on a lot of games. Perhaps you will see 15-20 games where you say to yourself Gee, I thought that spread would be higher, etc. Of those, maybe you have a strong feeling on 5-10 and those are the ones you choose to bet. I would consider this the right approach to handicapping if you are trying to make a profit.

However, many players seem to start their handicapping with the TV guide as they only bet televised games. This must be the case or else the 10-12 nationally televised games wouldn’t account for 50% of our handle each weekend. I understand the desire to have a play in on any game you are going to watch, and that is great if you consider betting merely a form of entertainment, but in my opinion that is the wrong approach to handicapping for profit. I met a couple of the best handicappers in the business on a trip to Las Vegas last year and had a chance to take in a Monday Night football game with them. I asked them which team they had given to their clients and both said they hadn’t given out any plays for the game because they didn’t have a strong enough opinion. Their reputation and relationship with their players was more important than the easy sales they would have gotten from the game. In their minds, Monday Night Football was just another football game. That is the type of approach and attitude it takes to succeed as a bettor (or a handicapper) in the long run. My point here is don’t limit your bet selections to just televised games and don’t bet every televised game if you want to be profitable in the long run.

Right about now, my bosses are picking up the phone to call and scream at me for telling players not to bet so I better offer some point of reconciliation. If you want to have a play in for a big TV game (and I know how much more exciting a 21-3 game is when the spread is 17 and the dog has the ball late!) take some time to consider options other than the spread or the total. Just as there are a wide variety of games to choose from on any given weekend, there are also a wide variety of wagers to choose from for each game. Have a look at lines for the First Half and at Halftime. Look through the list of player/team props that most books offer for TV games. Consider making a play for less than your typical bet amount if the play is for entertainment only (although I am a strong advocate of keeping your bet sizes the same when handicapping to maximize profit). The bottom line is (and I can’t take credit for either of these lines) they play the National anthem every day and The Super Bowl is just another football game. Keep each game you are betting on in perspective and you will be a more profitable bettor at the end of the season.

Once again, I am pleased to offer Kent’s Line Move of the Week. Kent is Bodog’s top bookmaker and each week he offers a glimpse at the lines of a game of interest. This week’s selection was the Maryland upset of West Virginia on Saturday. Here is what he had to say:

I opened the line West Virginia -3 and by Friday afternoon it was clear that the public really like West Virginia. I hate to move off 3 if I can help it so I went to -3 (-115), -3 (-120) and even -3 (-125) in an effort to stem the tide. Other books were already at -3.5 and a few were already at -4 so I made a bold move and moved to -4. These are the kind of line moves that make book managers go bald but even that turned out not to be enough. Over the course of two hours Saturday morning, the line went from -4 to -4 (-115), -4 (-120) as I certainly didn’t want to move through 4 after moving off 3. However, the action continued to pour in on West Virginia and I had no choice but to move up. The problem is that after ‘the dam breaks’ so to speak and you move to -4.5 there is no real resistance until -6 and that is where the line closed at kickoff despite attempted curbs like -5 (-120) and -5.5 (-115) among others. This was our most lopsided college game of the year so far and I was a pretty happy guy when Maryland jumped out to a quick 28-0 lead and held on for a 48-17 win. After that game, the rest of the weekend seemed easy by comparison.

Thanks Kent. Unfortunately I have run out of room to talk about the baseball playoffs so far in any detail but let me suffice it to say that many bettors (and bookies too) have been caught by surprise at the high scores (15 of the 17 games so far have gone over the posted total) and the Yankees/A’s/Diamondbacks losing. Needless to say, books will be upping the totals for the next round of games. I will be back next week with a look at moneyline betting on football.

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Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino