Welcome to what I’m going to call The Definitive Guide For Betting Football In 2017. That title may be a little bit misleading in truth though because there are really an infinite ways for you to game plan your 2017 NFL/NCAA football handicapping season, and let me tell you i’ve tried them all. I’ve never shared this with anyone, but when I was first starting betting football games, my plan was simple. There was this new website called www.oddsshark.com starting up at at that time, and they were one of the first sites to offer public % of bet splits. Basically they told you the percentage of tickets on each team in a nifty little graphic.
I thought, hey, all of these people can’t be wrong can they? 84% of people think that Pittsburgh will cover 14 points against the Browns? Where do I deposit my money into this offshore crime factory of bookmaking so I can become rich and run my high school like the sports betting king pin I was meant to be. Well, if you’re taking the time to read this, you probably know how this worked out for me, as I quickly learned that 50,000 Elvis fans CAN be wrong. Elvis is in fact dead, Tupac is too, and betting with 84% of the general public blindly isn’t how to make money in this racket.
If there was a mistake to be made along the way of sports betting, believe me when I tell you i’ve made it. I left no stone unturned in my quest to turn a profit betting on something I thought I was so good at predicting—sports outcomes. I tried big favorite parlays, I tried only betting underdogs, I tried fading the public, I tried paying for information, and it all left me in the same place. Sure—I had some nice runs, but I was just spinning my tires. I want to re-emphasize this, i’m not here to tell you how to bet. Much like life, everyone wants something different out of betting games.
Some people just want to pay for their entertainment, bet $100 on their hometown team on a Sunday/Monday and I want to be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’m simply going to outline the steps that finally got me over the hump. I moved from Boston to Las Vegas over 15 months ago and haven’t had a “real” job since. I say that because I have bet sports professionally in Las Vegas for that entire time. I haven’t had to resort to driving around Joey Knish’s truck yet (knock on wood), and am making a very comfortable living doing so. I don’t say these things to brag, but at this point they are facts of my life. At this exact moment of my life, i’m sitting at my computer in my home office, watching The Miami Marlins play the San Francisco Giants while I write this, and I couldn’t think of a better afternoon. (Shoutout Miami First 5 innings!) The NFL and NCAA seasons are everyones favorite to wager on and are the biggest season for any professional, anyone who just wants to invest into making some side money, or anyone who is just looking to escape the cube life of their 9-5 for most of Saturday and Sunday afternoons with a little bit of skin in the game.
Again, I want to be clear, these tips are not gospel by any stretch. The longer you do this, the longer you will find out what works specifically for you. Not just one of these “tips” will work for you, you have to figure out how to blend them together to make yourself more well rounded. This business is directly correlated that how much you put into it, the more you get out of it. That’s why I fell in love with it. So, let’s get started.
1. Insider Trading is not only legal, but encouraged.
Do you realize that if sports handicapping was held to the same standards as the stock market, simply by logging in and following a team’s beat reporter you could be convicted of insider trading? I really want that to sink in for a moment. In the age of social media, every hamstring, stubbed toe, and sniffly nose can be documented for each key player for thousands of people to see at the click of a button via social media. In a constant arms race for information, the person who finds it out first in this business wins. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, book makers have moved into the 21st century with us, and they are looking at twitter, DonBest, Sports Insights, and rotoworld.com probably more than us.
That being said, you’re out of your mind if you think we should make it easy on them. Use every ounce of information that is available to you, if you don’t have a twitter, you’re already behind the game. Use every ounce of information available to you—and the best part?—most of it is free. Don’t wait until you get home from work, turn on Sports Center at 7pm to find out Andrew Luck isn’t playing. rotoworld.com had that covered since 7am. Twitter broke it shortly after. You get the point. You don’t have to be glued to your phone constantly, but take a few minutes out of your day once you’ve zeroed in on games you think you’ve found your edge in, and read up on some things. Now i’ll caution you, too much information will overload you. You can find a trend to support any argument on planet earth, especially in the sports world. The trick is finding out the ones that matter, and the ones that are just content fillers.
2. Invest In Your Craft
Remember how I said 90% of this information available to you that Bobby Axelrod would kill for was free? Well I want to touch on the other 10% of it. This stuff is for the more seasoned handicapper, but if you’re not investing into your craft and putting money back into it, you’re going to hurt yourself long term. I’m not telling you to buy picks from tout handicappers. A lot of them suck if we’re being honest. To be clear, I’ve sold picks in the past while I’ve been out here as well. I took pride in myself doing it the right way, but you have no idea how much effort the right way takes.
Anyway, i’m not here to talk about that. Advanced tools like SportsInsights, who will show you bet %, spread %, how many tickets, line predictor, and the lines from every sports book in Vegas is a tool I couldn’t live without. But I know some handicappers that hate it. They think it gets in their heads because it makes them want to only “fade the public.” Again, this is a trial and error group of things that may or may not work for you. Sports Insights is pretty much the same thing book makers behind the counter use, their version is just called Don Best, but it’s the same thing.
The good thing about these services is that you can put alerts on your desktop, phone, or whatever device you use, put it on in the background and forget about it until something happens and it will notify you. Sports Insights packages are right around $149 a month. Here’s what it looks like:
Again, there are so many services out there, covers.com, Twitter, Fantasy Labs, Rotogrinders, and all are fairly cheap. It will take you some time to even know what you are looking at with an application like Don Best or Sports Insights, but to me, it’s basically watching our version of the stock market live and in person up to the second. It’s the first thing I check in the morning each day. Split it with a few friends, and get trading.
3. Build A Network
The trouble with this one is that this industry can be very very shady. I’m not telling you to go out there and put yourself in every forum, twitter group, or leave yourself open to anything crazy, but I’m willing to bet if you’re reading this you’re not the only person you know who is into sports and sports betting. Use your friends to start, bounce ideas off them, get their ideas, and do that thing people used to do-have a conversation.
You don’t even have to leave your phone to do it these days. Twitter is a great tool for this, join in conversations, leave comments, and build group chats with people at your same skill level-or do the smart thing, and build one with people who know more than you. Another great place is Reddit, Covers threads, Facebook, you name it. You don’t even have to like their opinion, but use every bit of information available. Be a sponge. When I was getting started I used to force myself to listen to guys I seriously hated in this business because it helped me formulate ideas of the opposite way of thinking.
Get a group of friends together on twitter, google hangout, and share information. There is too much to keep up with by yourself, the more people you have to help you gather it all, the better. Use your friends first, but don’t be afraid to expand your network. Just be careful—Handicappers are an ego driven bunch. It’s part of what makes the good ones great.
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Adapt
This is one of my favorite topics and I could write a whole article on it. Do you know who won the “World Series Of Handicapping” last year, The Westgate SuperContest? A barista from Starbucks. In all honesty, for most seasoned, grizzlied, hands full of paper-cuts handicappers last season, it was their worst season ever. The rules that governed us for so long were broken on a weekly basis last season. (Don’t tease through the 0, Never lay double digits in the NFL, divisional home underdogs etc.)
As I touched on above, handicappers are a ego driven bunch, they won’t budge off the things that have proven to make them money over the years. Each week they backed inflated numbers backing teams like The Jaguars, The Browns, The Jets, the list goes on. They’re power rankings were so far off of Las Vegas’ lines they set, but in the end it didn’t matter. The spread failed to matter and they couldn’t set the number high enough on these teams as parody in the NFL went by the wayside. This trend was noticeable as soon as week four last season, and instead of pivoting and changing course, professionals doubled down and dug their feet in. They weren’t rewarded.
I understand the concept of believing in your numbers and your concepts of long term profit, but you need to be able to see the market shifting, identify it, and come up with a corrective course sometimes. For god sakes, Barstool’s dead goldfish finished inside the top 100 of the Super Contest this season. I don’t want to use this year’s super contest as a sign of times changing, but the lesson here is that adaptation. After all, this is a market. It’s fluid, it changes, and even with lines locking in midweek for The Super Contest, the winning handicapper made the right adjustments in breaking rules in order to take advantage of a market that was ripe for the picking.
Quite frankly, any professional bettor would be wise to take lessons learned and outlined by this “square” barista, who laughed all the way to the bank. I’m not telling you this year is going to be like last year, or any year before it. I’m telling you to be on the lookout for the market changing, and be ready to adapt.