In my last column, I covered some of my thoughts with regards to wagering on the First Half of a football game. This week I take the logical next step and discuss wagering on the Second Half.
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. 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.
On the other hand, Bookmakers cannot watch every game and do not have time to handicap Halftime lines either. We rely on a comparison of handicapping for the entire game, action on the game and the score to determine the Halftime line and 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. Key Numbers are even more key in Halftime wagering as they occur with even greater frequency for a half than they do for a game. See Frontlines Issue 61 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 a favorite and they have more than covered the spread for the game at the end of the First Half. Bettors who played on Seattle were presented with such an opportunity this past Sunday Night. The Seahawks were a 4-point favorite, but if you had bet them for the game, betting against them at Halftime would give you a chance to profit twice without risk of a loss. I know this probably sounds too good to be true, but with Seattle up by 14 and laying 4-points, this was effectively a 13-point lead for betting purposes, and those bets were looking like they had a good chance to be winners.
The Halftime line was Pick-em, so if you had Seattle for the game and the 49ers Pick-em in the Second Half, you could win both, but not lose both. If San Francisco mounted a comeback and covered the game line to make your wager for the game a loss (as they did), your Second Half bet would be a winner as the 49ers would have had to have outscored the Seahawks by at least 11-points for the Second Half to make your Seattle bet a loser. However, if the 49ers won the Second Half by 1 to 9 points, you would win both bets (this would have been the case if Seattle had scored a TD instead of a Field Goal on their last scoring drive! If the 49ers were outscored in the Second Half you would break even-less the vig). The point is, you could have won both bets, but you were in a position where you had to win at least 1 of the 2. The bigger the lead for one team, the bigger the window of opportunity at Halftime!
I don’t advocate trying to play middles like this, as you work hard to get winners and don’t want to end up with nothing (it’s 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 dog for the game and they have a big lead at Halftime; playing the favorite can lead to a no-lose situation.
There is another situation that arises when an underdog is leading at the half, and I’ll use the Tampa Bay/Washington game from this past Sunday to illustrate this point. The Bucs were a 3-point favorite but found themselves down 10-7 to the Redskins at the end of the First Half. The Halftime line was Tampa Bay -3 and so to cover that line they now only needed to tie the game. You would in effect be laying fewer points on the Bucs than a bettor who took them at -3 for the game.
Tampa Bay stomped the Redskins in the second half so it didn’t matter when you bet them and this obviously isn’t any sort of system 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 (the 49ers for example – betting them at Halftime meant you got 13-points for the game).
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 few years, and handle on the Halftimes of yesterday’s games was as much as a 30% of the handle for the entire game! That 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 because you won’t have much time to second guess yourself.
Sportsbooks offer Halftime wagering because they make money on the vig, so the more that is wagered, the more they can make (hopefully). I see a lot of players trying to bet themselves out of losing situations at Halftime but this can lead to situations where you can lose both bets but not win both and this should be avoided if you want your bankroll to last. The Colts/Bucs game last week showed us that you should never give up on your team (although Atlanta’s comeback last night was!ahem!shall we say!a lot less spectacular)! 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.
Now for a quick look back at the weekend. This was a good week to be a college football bettor as bettors hit with Colorado State on Thursday and Michigan on Friday and kept going from there. Michigan looked like they were out of it, down 28-7 going to the 4th quarter but rallied for a 38-35 win and cover that set bettors up for a good Saturday.
Michigan St. kept the pressure on the House when they beat up Illinois and the players roll continued with Miami over Florida State, Auburn over Arkansas and Oklahoma’s destruction of Texas. The lone bright spot for the book was Notre Dame’s upset of Pittsburgh and although a big decision, it was not enough to overcome the other losses and we ended with our first losing week in college football this year.
The NFL didn’t start much better when Miami beat up Jacksonville but the Dallas win over Philly was good for us. Bettors also did well with Tampa Bay in the early games and Baltimore in the next wave, but the book clawed back with a decent win when the Steelers covered (would have been better except for a late rush of Steeler money when the Broncos announced Plummer was out) and a very nice win when the Jets beat up the Bills.
The biggest game of the day by far was the Sunday Night game as bettors loaded up on Seattle. It looked bleak for us at 17-0 Seahawks, but the 49ers cover combined with the Under gave us a big win and dug us out of the hole for the weekend (although barely). The Monday Night game drew less action than normal and the real decision was on the total where the Over saw a lot of play, so although we lost on the spread, we were happy to collect the vig and escape without suffering a losing week!
Over the next couple of weeks, I will look at betting on totals and moneylines. Enjoy the week and good luck.
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Good luck with your wagers!
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Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino