Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Eureka! moment for dognostics, perhaps: If the numbers don't convince you to change your betting habits, try simple logic instead.

Skepticism about my by the numbers underdog betting concept is on the rise, led by die-hards with years of experience of backing teams that inside knowledge says have the best chance of winning.

Of course I have no quarrel with that. Why would I? Educated, smart betting has been my mantra for as long as I can remember, and I am in awe of anyone who takes the process seriously and sticks to a rigid set of rules.

As I commented to one doubter recently, my problem is that I barely know a baseball bat from a banana or a football from a flying fish, so all I have to guide me is "the numbers."

One thing we can all I agree on, I hope, is that the great majority of sports book punters put their faith in and their money down on favorites (one pro at Harrahs Stateline the other day said at least 85% of his customers bet that way).

Favorites are called favorites because most people favor them. Makes sense. And of course it all starts with handicappers who look at all the factors that a smart bettor considers, and use their knowledge and good judgment to come up with odds that are a distillation of all that wisdom.

Thing is, with so much money pouring in on favorites, the bookie biz would be in big trouble if the team with the shortest odds won every time.

Favorites have to lose for the bookies to make money. And the only way that can happen is for underdogs to win.

One thing I am still chewing on, and have yet to find a satisfactory explanation for, is the way odds on favorites and against dogs so often break what I was at first assured were hard and fast rules regulating the size of the rake that bookmakers take from each sporting event.

I started out with major league baseball, so let's look at that.

In theory, bookies take a "dime a time" so that if the odds on the favorite are -140, meaning that a $140 bet will earn $100 if the team wins, the odds against the underdog will be a "dime" shy of the exact opposite, or +130 (a $100 bet wins $130 instead of $140).

In hockey, I see, it's a "double dime": -130 on the favorite usually means +110 on the dog.

In reality, a comparison of odds applying to favorites and underdogs, especially when the sample runs into thousands of games, reveals repeated instances in which the bookies shave far more than a dime or two off each side.

Why, I wonder? It can't be greed, surely? Or sleight of hand? Perish those thoughts!

All I am trying to say here is that underdogs must win in a substantial number of contests in order for the bookmaking industry to make big money.

So betting against the mob (the 85% mentioned above, not the mob with a capital 'M'!) seems like a sensible plan to me.

I have started to track all the betting action on certain days, to see what "woulda" happened if I had backed favorites instead of underdogs, and already have several instances where more winning picks than losing ones still left me in the hole, while the reverse woulda been (or was) true for dogs.

This is all very interesting.

No one out there who believes in studying all the different factors that come together to make a team a winner should be insulted or offended by what I am proposing.

It's just another betting option, is all - one that has a lot of appeal for someone like me who, until recently, paid no attention to any sport unless one of my kids or grandkids was out on the field.

That meant soccer, mostly. And I see the bookies take bets on that!

Betting update: A mixed NFL bag on Sunday with two wins and three losses (+2/5), a good Monday (+2/3), 0/2 Tuesday, then +2/3 again Wednesday. Today's picks are all hockey dogs: Boston Bruins +145, Dallas Stars +130, Phoenix Coyotes +115, Tampa Bay Lightning +135 and Atlanta Thrashers +110. If the two shortest dogs (Chihuahuas?) come home, I'll almost cover all five bets, and three winners will put me ahead. The same could not be said if I bet against these teams at -170, -145, -130, -155 and -135. Target betting does not need to me nearly as aggressive against even+ payouts as it does against table games, and that's a good thing.

An important reminder: The only person likely to make money out of this blog is you, Dear Reader. There's nothing to buy, ever, and your soul is safe (from me, at least). Test my ideas and use them or don't. It's up to you.