Oh what a wonderful 2014 NFL gambling regular season it was for Bobby Vegas. For the first time ever G-Hunt and I picked every NFL game against the spread to see how we stacked up. We were not only picking against each other, but also against the line of profitability, 52.4% (when betting you have to include the juice, thus why you have to pick better than 50% to be in the green).
Hitting 52.4% when being selective on the games you pick is difficult. It’s even harder to do when you are picking against every single game. Take Week 17 for example, there’s no way that I would have bet either side of the Packers (-7.5) vs Lions game. There was just no value to be had.
Despite a slate of Week 17 games with tons of uncertainty, both G-Hunt and I finished the season strong. He turned in a 10-6 week, which jumped him up to 52.2% for the year but left him one victory short of a profitable season. I continued my Pittsburgh Steelers-esk late season charge as I went 9-7, which was my fourth consecutive winning week and good enough to have me finish at 55.4% for the year. Winner winner chicken dinner!
All season long I tried to drop some nuggets of gambling wisdom to help make you a more informed bettor. Despite hitting 55.4% on the season I am anything but a sharp. What I am, however, is getting better at thinking like one. Actually, let me rephrase that, I’m getting better at thinking less like the public, aka a square.
The way I was able to do this, which I mentioned in my 2014 Guide to Gambling before Week 1, was by listening to Chad Millman’s Behind the Bets podcast (aka the Scooch Pod). What better source to get knowledge about gambling than from a Las Vegas bookmaker and the editor-in-chief of ESPN the Magazine who runs a podcast that covers all things betting in the sports world. This proved to be invaluable as I was able to pick up on who the sharps were betting and why. Once I understood the why then as the season went on I was able to think more like them.
One of the most useful fundamentals that came from the podcast, which was something I implemented and talked about early and often, was the 80/20 Rule. If 80% of the action is on one side then bet the 20%. There’s no such thing as a sure thing in gambling, otherwise we’d all be driving Lambo’s and Vegas wouldn’t have billion dollar casinos, and statistically over time the 20% will win more than the 80%. It’s a subtle edge like that which helps contribute to a winning season.
In Week 4 that lead me to declaring this my Year of Minority, where I got comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s not easy to bet the 80/20 Rule because you are often betting on the worst teams that the NFL has to offer and there is always the potential of a blowout. When picking games on Thursday you’ve got a few days to think about how unenjoyable it’ll be to need Kyle Orton to keep it close against Peyton Manning, who could very easily throw for 4 TD’s. It’s that feeling why sharps are sharps and the public loses more than they win. It isn’t about feeling good on Thursday, it’s about feeling good on Sunday when you are cashing tickets.
The Raiders were one of the worst teams in football as they finished the season 3-13. Since everyone knew how bad they were their lines were often double digit spreads where they were expected to get blown out. What was the Raiders final record against the spread? 8-8, which was the same as the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens (two playoff teams). You know who else the public didn’t like this year? The Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings. No way Kyle Orton and an Adrian Peterson less Vikings will amount to anything. The combined record against the spread of these three non-playoff teams was 27-21.
The other resource that I used, which was something new this year, was ESPN Chalk which has a plethora of gambling related information. I only used the Pick Center portion of it to see what percentage of the bets were coming in on each game plus how each team had been performing ATS in recent games. Trends aren’t an end all be all answer, and I only use trends from the current season as previous seasons have no bearing on the current one, but they can be a good indicator of how well a team is performing based on expectations. I found that how a team performed at home vs road and as an underdog vs favorite were very valuable and something that I referenced often. Heading into Week 17 the Vikings had covered five straight and eight of nine and the Chargers were 2-8 ATS their last ten. Those are good things to know that don’t stick out when you are just looking at a teams straight up win-loss record.
There’s an endless amount of NFL and gambling related information and picks out there and the key is finding the one(s) that you trust and stick with that. For me Chad Millman and Scooch were the answer and I highly recommend you give them a listen (the podcast typically drops on Wednesday’s). They’ve made me a more knowledgeable and informed bettor and that’s a good thing when you are playing the game of picking winners.
Here’s a look at the final overall totals for G-Hunt and I for the 2014 NFL regular season. I took both the head-to-head and overall victories over him, but am happy with how we both performed.
Head-to-Head weekly victories and season record:
G-Hunt (5-10-2): 129-118-9 (52.2%)
Rob (10-5-2): 137-110-9 (55.4%)
I don’t have any picks yet for the NFL Wildcard games because none of the lines stick out to me. I don’t believe in the Cowboys defense nor Matthew Stafford in a big game on the road, Le’Veon Bell’s injury scares me for Pittsburgh, the Ravens secondary is awful, laying almost a TD with a sub-.500 Panthers team doesn’t seem like a great idea, betting on a Cardinals team who has trouble scoring and is starting a quarterback that might not be in the league next year doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy, the Colts have Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and that’s about it, and we all know about Andy Dalton/Marvin Lewis in the playoffs. I’ll probably wait until just before game time in each game (except for the Steelers, because, you know, me being a yinzer) and I’ll probably be taking the points and feeling uncomfortable and loving every second of it.
You can follow me on Twitter @RobCressy, where I’ll often dish about the games I bet on plus sports randomness.