Monday, September 13, 2010

The Justifications of Bad Bettors

Football season is here, and, more importantly to some, so are the 5 most active months in terms of sports betting. It's no secret that football is king when it comes to sports gambling in this country, and because of that, everyone wants to get after a piece or two of the action. What's interesting is that with the wealth of information we have at our disposal today when it comes to handicapping games (weather reports, injury reports, team blogs updated round the clock, statistics out the wazoo, etc.), the harder it ultimately becomes to make a good bet, because there's simply too much information out there. Your mind can become clouded quite easily.

That being said, there is no secret formula, and if there were, it would have been discovered by now. All you can ask of yourself is to make an informed decision on which team you want to back, because, hey, it's called gambling for a reason. But what cracks me up is when people think they have everything figured out, when all they're really doing is throwing money around with nothing but hollow reasoning. Bad bettors come in all shapes and sizes, but their justifications seem to fit a select few molds.

-"They were due!" Really? Were they due? You hear this a lot when someone bets on a team thinking they're going to snap a losing streak. Chances are, they're not "due," they just stink. It works the other way too - people try to bet on a hot team to lose simply because they're "due." How many people got crushed on that thinking with the 2008 Lions or 2007 Patriots - it's like a guy who's lost 5 straight $20 dollar blackjack hands and tries throwing $100 on the next hand because his luck has eventually got to change. Obviously, streaks come and go, but if you're throwing money out there with only the logic that a team is "due" and nothing else, you might as well go play roulette. (An exception would be when a team is blatantly underperforming or overperforming its talent level, i.e. last year when the Broncos started 6-0 and the Titans started 0-6. It was clear the Broncos were not that good and the Titans were not that bad. But tread that line carefully.)

-Basing this week's game too heavily on last week's game. How many times do you hear "they're mad after getting blown out last week," or "they had an emotional win last week and this will be the letdown" from dimwits that you work with or hear on the radio. People who say this have never played real football before. It's one thing to be extra motivated for a game, but let's make something clear: you always have to be "mad" when you step on a football field. If you're not in some sort of altered mental state, you're going to the hospital. The team that's supposedly "mad" in a game after a 35-point loss was probably just as "mad" when they took the field before that very 35-point loss. I find it hilarious when uninformed people try to all of a sudden enter the psyche of a group of coaches and athletes they've never met personally. One exception is a blatantly disadvantageous travel scenario or short week, especially if team turmoil is somehow involved (i.e. 2008 Thanksgiving, the Cardinals had zero chance coming East to Philly on about two days' rest from their game that past Sunday).

-Finding asinine stats to back up whatever conclusion you want to believe in. Stats are there to allow you to draw a conclusion, not the other way around, because there are so many numbers at our hands that you can hand pick and manipulate almost any stat that supposedly supports your thinking., the website I like to go to for spreads and other information, has on each matchup page a sometimes-useful "trends" section and lists the ten prior meetings between the teams in question (which does you zero good if you have interconference opponents who meet every four years - yeah, those times when Miami and Minnesota met in 2006 and 2002 are really going to help me find an edge for Week 2 in 2010). Some people put so much stock in this stuff, it's amusing. I'd like to meet the guy who reads a stat like "Tampa is 6-1-1 against the spread in its last 8 daytime home games when getting 1.5 points or more" and takes something so obscure as reason enough to plunk money down on the Bucs. That guy is out there somewhere. Hell, that guy is everywhere.

-Blind faith in your own team/blind hatred for your team's rivals. Fandom and betting are a tough mix. I'm not saying you have to ever bet against your favorite team or bet for your most hated team, but money tends to stay in the pockets of those who are objective. Don't allow your biases (and we ALL have biases) to distort your vision. For instance, Dallas has opened between an 8- and 9-point favorite at home against Chicago this coming week. Does the fan in me think they can beat the Bears by double digits? Yes. But the observer in me knows the team is poorly coached, lacks discipline, and most of the time does not do the little things right. I wouldn't even bet on them this week with someone else's money. Show me a guy who bets with his heart instead of his eyes and ears, and I'll show you a guy who helped build Vegas.

In conclusion, all you can ever want is to be above .500. And yes, sometimes lucky is better than good. We're all guilty of this stuff from time to time (you're talking to a guy who once lost $50 in Vegas two years ago because he thought he had a feeling about Boof f*ing Bonser and the Twins in a late May game against the Tigers. The Twinkies only lost that game for me by about 16 runs). But, until next time, remember that there is a difference between a losing bet and a stupid bet.

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