Betting Halftimes

I told you so. In my last Frontlines (Issue #84 First Half Betting) I said, and I quote, I am a horrible bettor and my suggestions rarely pan out, but on the surface it is pretty easy to see which team I would choose to bet on for the first half this weekend.

Okay, it’s not that I’m a horrible bettor; it’s just that I have incredibly bad luck when I bet.

Let me explain. Before that comment I had noted that the Seattle Seahawks had been the best first half team in the league. Then they go and get pounded early in their game against the New England Patriots and lose the game 30-20. Obviously, that tells you that Seattle’s a team that’s probably better suited playing with the lead.

The San Francisco 49ers, on the other hand, who have been the worst first half team so far this season, were up 14-3 at the break against the New York Jets, but ended up losing the game 22-14. That goes to show you that San Francisco is probably better suited playing from behind.

With regards to halftime betting, here’s how Week 6 played out between the New York Jets at San Francisco, and Seattle Seahawks at New England Patriots. You’ll notice there were a couple of different scenarios going on at the half of this game:

N.Y. Jets at San Francisco 49ers: Dog Up at the Half

The 49ers were +10 for the game and the Jets were up 14-3 at the half. The Jets were 7.5- point favorites for the second half and won 19-0. The 49ers covered for the game (14-22), so a bet on the Jets at halftime gave you the middle.

Seattle Seahawks at New England Patriots: Favorite Up Big at the Half

New England was -3.5 for the game and led 20-6 at the half. The Seahawks were -3 favorites for the second half and won 14-10. New England covered for the game (30-20), so a Seattle bet at the half gave you the middle as well.

What is Halftime Wagering and What’s in it for the Bookmakers?

Halftime wagering is wagering on the score of the second half only, and is available for football and basketball 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. (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.)

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. 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.

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. 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.

I don’t advocate playing middles as a rule (because it’s hard to get winners and you 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.

There are similar profitable 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.

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.

Why Should You Bet on the Halftime?

The excitement of having a bet on the second half is something that might help to keep you interested in the game, particularly if your first half bet is up in the air. It’s watching a game that maybe the bookmakers aren’t watching and seeing something that maybe you can take advantage of.

The way this season’s shaping up, one never knows what’s going to happen. Teams that were better first half teams or better second half teams have proved me wrong time and time again. That’s fair. In the NFL, every dog has his day.

For the first six weeks of the year, the home team has had a 1.18-point advantage. Statistically, the home teams have gotten off to a very bad start, but after last weekend it jumped up to a 2.09-point average home field advantage.

Home Dogs Rule

Last week (Week 7) the home dogs were 4-0 ATS (against-the spread). Miami was a 6-point dog, Arizona was a 7-point dog, Cincinnati was a 7-point dog, and Cleveland was a 7.5-point dog and the first three won outright; only Cleveland lost (but forced overtime against Philadelphia and covered). Those four games produced four big wins for the Sportsbook and helped to make it the biggest weekend in football for us so far this year.

Good luck with your wagers!

I always welcome comments, questions and suggestions via email at
Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino