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A Crash Course in Vigorish

 

 

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Debunking the Kelly criterion

 

 

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How to Beat NFL Preseason

 

 

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How to Spot Key NFL Pointspreads

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HOW TO SPOT KEY NFL POINTSPREADS

You won't find an NFL game with a score of 18-11

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The ten most meaningful pointspreads are 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, and 17. (Not in that order, however.) Almost two-thirds of all NFL games can be expected to end with one or another of only those ten margins of victory. Consequently, a bookmaker needs a very good reason to move his line either off or onto one of those ten key numbers. When the bookmaker does move his line from or to one of those ten numbers, it's usually because he's having difficulty getting enough action on both sides of the bet.

Since football is scored in increments of 3, 7, 6, 8 and 2 points - in that order of regularity - certain pointspreads are much more significant than others. For example, a ½-point variance in a bookmaker’s posted pointspread from 3 is much more important than a ½-point variance from a pointspread of five. This is because football games are very likely to end with 3 points as a margin of victory, but not at all likely to end with a margin of victory of 5 points. About 14 percent of all NFL games end with a margin of victory of precisely 3 points, but only about one game in thirty will end with a pointspread of 5 points.

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For you, as a bettor, a line move off one of those numbers can easily present either an opportunity or a trap. An underdog getting 3½ points, for example, is a much better bargain than the same underdog getting only 3 points. That extra ½-point means their opponents must upgrade a field goal to a touchdown in order to cover. And by the same token, an underdog getting only 2½ points is a much higher risk than the same underdog getting 3 points. A ½-point move from a pointspread of 3 can be more important than many much larger moves. An underdog getting 9½ points instead of 7½ points is hardly a better deal at all. Since games rarely end with a margin of victory of exactly 8 or 9 points, there's simply not much difference between getting 9½ points or 7½ points. If an underdog fails to cover 7½ points, they're not likely to cover 9½ points, either. Likewise, a favorite giving away 7½ points is hardly a better bet than the same favorite giving away 9½ points. If a team wins by more than 7½ points, they will almost always win by more than 9½ points.

The significance of different size pointspreads does not increase on an evenly ascending scale. Imagine a very crazy staircase where some steps are much higher than others, and hardly any two steps are exactly the same size. Our natural instincts tell us to place a bet whenever the pointspread is a certain amount different from our own prediction - but that instinct is misleading because of the unique factors involved. For example, if your final forecast shows a 2½-point favorite should win by 4½ or 5 points, there may be a good argument for going with the bet, even though your prediction is only 2+ points away from the posted line. This is because there is a substantial likelihood that the favorite could win by either 3 or 4 points.

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On the other hand, if you show a 7-point favorite should win by 9½ or 10 points, you may be well advised to pass the bet. Even though your prediction is further from this pointspread than in the first example, it's a much riskier proposition. Since games rarely end with 8- or 9-point margins of victory, the favorite would very likely have to beat your own forecast in order to cover the 7-point line.

The implications are obvious: It is important to take the time to shop. Shopping for lines is one of your most important advantages. Veteran professional sports bettor, Lem Banker, is a steadfast believer in making the effort to shop. Banker offers some very good advice: "If you like a favorite that is minus 3½, shop around until you find a minus three... If the price isn't right, pass it up."

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Shopping pays off because of competition between sports books. In order to attract customers some sports books offer worthwhile bargains on certain days or during certain hours of the day.

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The importance of shopping reveals itself to us over and over again. With the picks from our newsletter, PROFESSIONAL GAMBLER Newsletter, in Week 4 of the 1998 NFL season, some of our subscribers went 8-5, but at least one subscriber went 4-6-3 with those very same picks! ("Officially," against the lines published in the newsletter at the time of publication, the picks went 6-6-1.) Most weeks, the differences are not nearly that pronounced, but in that particular week, shopping for the best lines made all the difference between having a winning weekend or a losing weekend.

Because certain scores are much more likely to occur than others, your forecasts of scores are extremely important in relation to your predicted pointspreads. If your prediction is for a team to score, say, 26 points, there is virtually no chance of your forecast coming true. Teams just don't score 26 points. If your forecasting method shows a final score of, say, 26-18, the chances of your being exactly right are about the same as Pat Robertson's chances of being elected President. Once again, the reason is the way in which football is scored. In your lifetime, for example, there is not likely to be a pro football game that ends with a score of 26-18.

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Whatever your forecast, by whatever system you use, it's helpful if that forecast is adjusted to a score that is likely to really happen. Only 13 different numbers make up more than two-thirds of all final scores in pro football: 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 17, 20, 21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 31. These 13 numbers, plus the group "41 & more", can be used as the only numbers in your final forecast; - that is, even though your forecast is for a score of, say, 26-18, your prediction is best 'translated' into a score with a reasonable chance of actually occurring. In the case of 26-18, you'd be better off 'translating' such a forecast to appropriate numbers that are more apt to occur. (27-17, or 24-17, or 28-20, or perhaps 24-20.) By translating your final forecasts into these key scores, you will automatically be adjusting your predicted margins of victory into realistic pointspreads.

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 Related articles:
How to Beat NFL Preseason

How To Spot NFL 'Positive Universes'

 

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