As long as there has been football, there have been degenerates like us betting on football. Much like fantasy football in the 80’s and 90’s, the league refused to acknowledge this fact out of fear that embracing it would be dangerous to the game. But also like fantasy football, it appears that the legalization of sports betting is giving birth to the social acceptance of this hobby, as well as acknowledgement from the league and other media outlets. Sports betting has always been popular, but it is about to absolutely blow up.
While as a part-time handicapper, I have waited for this my whole adult life, it would be irresponsible to omit the fact that this does present danger; like all things that give your body a rush, gambling can become addictive. One day, you decide to throw a few bucks down on the TV game to make it more interesting. Before you know it, you’re on your knees praying for a last second field goal to get you the cover so Tony from the bar doesn’t come looking for you in the morning. Sports betting is extremely difficult; many people believe beating the NFL lines long term is flat out impossible. What I want to do with this column is give you weekly winners, but more importantly teach you how to bet like a professional and avoid the traps and pitfalls that most recreational bettors run in to.
Before we get into Week 1 picks, I want to get into some rules of thumb for successful betting. If you are someone who isn’t concerned with losing money, isn’t trying to take this too seriously, and are only interested in the rush of having action on a particular day, you can ignore these. But if you want to be successful in the long run, these are not optional.
- Practice correct bankroll management.
I cannot stress this enough. Poor bankroll management is the main reason casinos never go broke. A trained monkey could pick the winning side 50% of the time; it’s the human element that causes bettors to go broke. A professional handicapper picks the correct side 54% of the time. Seriously, that’s it. If you ever hear somebody telling you he hits 65%+ of plays, he is either an idiot who doesn’t actually track plays over a large sample size, or he is some Matthew McConaughey, Two for the Money wannabe scumbag who is flat out lying to get people to buy his picks. Stay away from those assholes; if you are paying for picks you are already a sucker. Real handicappers understand that the best of the best of the best hit 54%-57%, and the profits come by properly managing your bankroll.
Set your bankroll before the season starts and never bet more than 5% of it on one game. Yes, that means if your bankroll is $1,000, you won’t be betting more than $50 on a game. For some people, that is not enough to get their rocks off, but that is when you have to ask yourself, are you chasing a rush or trying to win? And of course, the number one rule above all else; NEVER wager money that you can’t afford to lose.
- Don’t be a fucking idiot.
This is kind of a lost cause because, let’s be honest, if we are betting on sports, we do possess the degenerate gene inherently. However, it is important to control what kind of degenerate you are. I am the kind of degenerate who will bet on a WNBA second half line or some Australian cricket match going on at 3AM. But when I do that, I still am searching for an edge or a bad line. I will bet on anything if I see value, but if I don’t see value, I will never force it. The kinds of degeneracy that lead to you going broke include betting on too many games, betting just for action when you don’t really have an edge (very common on nationally televised games), chasing losses, and trying to double up wins. The last two are of the utmost importance. If you are down on the day, don’t try to win it all back on Monday Night Football. If you are up on the day, don’t look at that as “house money” and try to double down on a team you wouldn’t have bet on if it were part of the normal Sunday slate.
- Get the best line
You like the Packers on Sunday night. Your book has the line set at -8. You put the bet in without hesitation. Standard procedure, right?
It shouldn’t be. The Packers are -8 at some books, sure, but there are others where they are -7.5. You want to get the best line, and sometimes that involves shopping. There are plenty of online books that you can spread your money across, and if and when betting is legal in your state, there will be tons of casinos with mobile apps to bet on. Shop around before betting. The lines the books put out are crazy tight; inexperienced bettors think that half of a point of the line is not significant enough to worry about, but sharp bettors know that a few half points here and there can make or break a winning season.
The other aspect of getting a good line is deciding if you want to pounce on a line when it first comes out or wait until just before kickoff. This instinct will come with time. The real sharks have their apps open on Sundays as the lines for the next week are about to come out and are refreshing every few seconds to make sure they get the openers immediately. Books are not perfect and they do make mistakes, but you have to pounce on them immediately because they will correct themselves. One of my favorite plays this week, as you will see, is the New York Giants +3. When the lines came out, the line was 3.5 and I took it immediately. That half point is huge, especially on a strong number like 3 in what could very easily be a game decided by a field goal.
On the other hand, if you like a team that is playing the Patriots and the line comes out Pats -6.5, you are better off waiting until Sunday to place the bet. The Patriots are a very “public” team and there is a good chance public money will push that number to -7 by kick off. When you do this for a few years, you start to gain a sense of what the line is going to do throughout the week, and based on the side you want, you have to determine whether it is better to bet now or bet later. Either way, make sure you check lines when they first come out and monitor them throughout the week; don’t just wait until the weekend.
Over the course of this weekly column I will dive into other lessons and tips for successful wagering, but for now, that’s enough lecturing. It’s time to move on to my Week 1 plays. Remember, don’t be an idiot. These are my plays, and if you choose to follow them, they become your plays. They won’t always win but I will always explain my reasoning for them. I aim for 60% on the season and am happy with 55%+. There will be great weeks but there will also surely be a 0-5 or 1-4 week or two in there somewhere. When those inevitably happen, it is fine to be pissed and you can troll the fuck out of me on Twitter (@Eagles_Dan88); just never put yourself into a position where you are betting money you can’t afford to lose. On to the plays!
New York Giants +3 vs Jacksonville Jaguars
First off, as an Eagles fan, fuck the Giants. Eli has a stupid ugly face and OBJ is more concerned with white lines at the club then the white line in front of the end zone. Saquon is a beast but I hate that he helped the PSU fanbase/cult move on from what should be an eternity of shame from the Sandusky/Paterno era. So yeah, fuck these guys. Having said that, we get to fade Blake Bortles on the road!! Against an improved team that is going to be undervalued because they had a nightmare season last year!!! Sign me up.
Yes I know the Jaguars have a great defense, but those defenders aren’t going to be on the field to stop the Giant’s defenders from returning pick-6’s. All the Giants have to do on offense is feed Barkley, hit OBJ on a few slants and not make any mistakes, which is easier said than done for this guy.
The stars aligned for the Jaguars last season, every QB in their division got hurt, they shat their pants in the second half of the AFC Championship and now all of their receivers are gone. And I get to fade them on the road.
Carolina Panthers -4 vs Dallas Cowboys
I just made fun of the Jaguars receiving weapons but they look like monsters compared to the dreck Dallas is suiting up at that position. Zeke is awesome, even if he is a garbage human being, but aside from him, who is going to make plays? Yeah I know you took Michael Gallup three rounds too early in your fantasy draft because you read some hack say he is a sleeper, but he’s a 3rd round rookie. Dick-Pic Dak showed last year what he looks like when he doesn’t have 20 seconds to throw, and the injury to Travis Frederick kills the line. The best receiver in the building is Jason Witten and he’ll be in the broadcast booth. Dallas is going to suck this year; I’m taking advantage of what I consider some line value based on the fact that they are “The Cowboys” and that bullshit “America’s Team” stuff that needs to stop now. Although their owner is an old racist asshole who pays hot young women to be around him, so maybe the title is actually appropriate. But if this same roster wore a different team’s uniform, the line would be 6. Panthers by a touchdown.
Cincinnati Bengals +3 at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts got away with having a roster of 51 shitty players for a very long time because Andrew Luck was just that good and TY Hilton made some plays. Luck is back after missing two seasons, but I don’t care how many snaps he took in camp and the preseason, he is not going to step right in and play great. He may very well be great again by the end of the season, but it is going to take time and I am very happy to fade him until he shows he is up to speed.
The Bengals are not an exciting team to the general public because their QB is a goofy ginger who defines the word average and their coach has held that position since before many of our readers were born, but I actually like the squad this year. They don’t have a glaring weakness and second year players Joe Mixon and John Ross look poised to break out. I think they are hands down the better team in this matchup and I am happy to take a field goal.
Kansas City Chiefs/Los Angeles Chargers over 47.5
This is my favorite total on the board; both teams have exciting offenses that can score very fast. It seems like the Chargers are everybody’s “watch out for them” team this year, which usually is not a good sign, but I’m onboard. They are arguably the most complete team, top to bottom in the NFL. Of course, Melvin Gordon will probably tear an ACL getting on the team bus and they will lose three games on missed field goals like they always do, but there is no denying the talent!
I’m also on the Pat Mahomes wagon. Sure he is going to struggle at times as he is more or less a rookie, but Andy Reid’s history with quarterbacks is as solid as his clock management is awful, and he has no shortage to weapons to throw to. Even when Mahomes inevitably struggles, this team is always one slant that Travis Kelce takes 55 yards to the house or one 65 yard bomb to Tyreek Hill away from scoring. I am going to look to play their overs a lot, as their defense is as bad as their offense is solid.
Look for Rivers to have a field day, start him in DFS, and cash this bet with me when the Chargers win 31-24.
That’s it for this week; four plays that I think look solid. Do what you want with them, but whatever you do, trust me on the tips. I love doing this, and very few of life’s pleasures rival the rush you get when your team covers the line. But it’s a hobby; if you do this right you can enjoy the wins and brush off losses and bad weeks easily. Football is back, let’s make some coin!