Squares and sharps. Pros versus Joes. If you bet on sports you fall into one of these two categories. Not sure where you where you stand? Well, if you can’t see Caesar’s Palace out your bedroom window and you have to be at work tomorrow to review TPS reports, then you, like me, are a square. Squares have historically gotten a bad reputation when it comes to sports betting. We bet the favorites. We bet the over. We bet the Cowboys, Yankees and Notre Dame.
And why do we consistently lose?
Because Vegas knows our gambling trends and tendencies. They know we love a big favorite and they know we yearn for high scoring affairs where the “best” team always covers the number. We fall for this trap time and time again because we lack the time and energy to learn about the teams we are betting and accurately evaluate why Kansas State is getting 5.5 points at home to Texas A&M (more on that later).
The bad news? You’re probably never going to be a professional gambler, so get back to those TPS reports. The good news? There is more information available to the casual bettor than ever before, and when used properly, it is possible to find success gambling on sports.
Let’s get one thing straight right now. If you are simply scanning gambling sites looking for winners, this is not the site for you. I am a square, just like you. I have an 8-5 job. I drive an Accord. I miss some Saturday afternoon football games because the missus wants to browse the linen section at Macy’s. Such is life. However, I have learned how a square better can avoid some common mistakes and become profitable wagering on sports. In this column, we’ll discuss strategies, situational plays, how to research teams and discern “expert” information and yes, we’ll make some picks, all from a square point of view.
There are some people in the betting industry that believe the gap between the sharps and the squares is narrowing thanks to the flood of gambling information available on the internet. Professional gamblers spend 16 to 18 hours a day researching their bets and finding weaknesses in betting lines. You or I will never be able to match this, but that doesn’t mean that the professional bettors or the books for that matter are always correct. To become successful as a square bettor, there are some basic rules you must embrace.
- Know when to keep your hand in your pocket. Simply put, squares lose because they bet too much money on too many games they know little to nothing about. While you may feel that Arkansas State laying 11.5 at home to Florida International is a great Tuesday night bet, I promise you, chasing games like this are a recipe for disaster. The common question to ask yourself is, “If this game was on a Saturday, would I bet it?” If your answer is yes, then either you are a professional gambler, or an idiot.
- Don’t parlay bets. I’m not completely against parlay bets, but they should only be done once you have established a solid bankroll and have an accurate feel of how to bet. Square bettors see the low risk / high reward of parlays and jump at the opportunity. However, parlays will generally result in the methodical and painfull death of your bankroll.
- Get informed. Twitter, Facebook, websites, blogs; all offer a ton of information for the casual bettor. We’ll discuss which sites and writers to follow later, but the point is that you must get connected and routinely keep up with the online chatter regarding the betting industry.
- Grow some balls. Forget what you know and embrace the underdog. Professionals don’t live in Vegas because they lay 22.5 with Notre Dame every week. They do it by identifying teams that are undervalued or getting more points than they should. Why do teams get more points than they should? Because Vegas knows the public will bet the favorite time and time again.
- Identify Opportunity. This is the most difficult skill to learn and is impossible to master. However, the informed square bettor can use the tools available online to identify situations that offer a strong probability of success. A great example of betting opportunity can be found by looking at the MAC Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night games over the past 3 weeks. In these games, the underdog is 6-4 against the spread. Let’s briefly look at Tuesday night’s Ball State – Northern Illinois matchup. Tuesday morning, Northern Illinois was favored by 17 points as home. By kickoff, the Huskies were favored by 19.5; that’s more than three scores for those of you scoring at home. Why was this line rocketing upward? That’s why. Northern Illinois was coming off 63 and 45 point efforts respectively. People expected a blowout. However, Northern also gave up 60 points in one of those games; a definite red flag. Ball State on the other hand was averaging 30.5 points over their previous 4 games while going 3-1. They were confident and their offense was clicking. A final fun fact; these teams play for a trophy! Sure it’s only been around for 4 years, but any time some hardware is involved, you know you are getting a team’s best effort. Throw in the ESPN coverage and there was no way Ball State should have been getting 19.5 points. The result? The Cardinals raced out to a 14-0 lead, before eventually falling 41-38 on a Northern Illinois field goal with 8 seconds remaining.
And that brings us back to Kansas State and Texas A&M. All season, K-State has been getting points in games and each week, they cash tickets for bettors, going 8-2 against the number thus far. The line opened at A&M -3 even though the game was in Manhattan,Kansas. Early “sharp” money drove the line as high as 6 before settling at 5.5 before kickoff. Of course, after being down early, the Wildcats came back and won in 4 overtimes. The lesson: even the sharps are wrong sometimes.
This weeks CFB square edge plays: (All lines from heritagesports.com)
Houston -19.5 : There’s a saying on the PGA Tour that Saturday is moving day. Well, in college football, November is moving month, where the best teams thrive and the weak teams are exposed as the frauds they are. The Pony Express is 1-3 in their last four and will likely need to score 40+ to cover. Craig James is not walking through that door.
Eastern Michigan +3.5 : Coach Ron English’s EMU Eagles have already tripled their win total from last year. Kent State has won three in a row and is coming off a drubbing of putrid Akron. With both teams gaining confidence, I expect a close, low scoring game and will take the points.
Louisville +1 : Simply put, UCONN beats bad teams and loses to good teams. The Cardinals are young and have a great defense. Coach Charlie Strong called his team out last week following their 21-14 loss at home to up-and-down-Pitt. Apparently, Louisville players were more concerned with last week’s release of Call of Duty than Tino Sunseri’s noodle arm. Coach Strong will have his team focused and they will play with purpose after getting embarrassed last week.
-Square Edges will be a weekly column on Thursday or Friday’s and is written by “The Ghost of Sam Rothstein”