The sportsbooks are counting on you getting distracted with team-by-team analysis so you don't notice how they're beating you
Repeatedly in this weekly column, I keep returning to a single theme. No matter whether I'm writing about NFL, NHL, MLB, parlay betting, spread betting, totals betting, or even poker, the point I continue to make is that money and financial edge are at the heart of sustainably profitable wagering. Or, in short, "get paid for your risk." Put another way: stop betting on teams and start betting on lines and values.
With the start of the MLB season just weeks away, many sports bettors like to put some money down on team win totals. Will Red Sox finish over 94.5 wins, or under? Will the Marlins be able to top 63.5 wins, or will they fall short? Think you know? Then put some money on it, says the sportsbook, but they're distracting you with team names, logos, player names, and all the rest.
It's the same game as when the sportsbook puts a spread out and says, "What do you think? Can the Warriors afford to spot the Hawks 10 points and still win?" and the average bettor starts analyzing the teams and getting distracted from the real game.
The point isn't whether the Warriors can beat the Hawks by 10, the point is that you're taking a 50/50 shot for -110 and that's not enough payout to cover a 50/50 risk. The same is true of totals, so let's tackle this upcoming 2019 MLB season with a fresh approach.
Let's start with the Chicago White Sox. The total (according to Bookmaker at the time of this writing) is 73.5 wins, but that number was very carefully constructed for the purpose of giving you a 50/50 shot at getting it right. Go up and down the sheet, pick an over or an under for each team, and watch what happens at the end of the season. You'll cash about half of the picks and lose the other half, and lose money because you took less than +100 on the payouts.
Anyway, back to the Chicago White Sox. Can they win more than 73.5 games? Of course they can, and there are lots of good analytical reasons why. But they can also fall short of that goal for lots of other different reasons. The reason why I'm looking at the White Sox is because Bookmaker is offering me +101 for the over. And you'd better believe I'm on that.
The Detroit Tigers are offering +100 for over 68.5 wins, and yes, I'm on that too.
My point is that your first step in wagering totals like this is to eliminate any wager that isn't paying +100 or more. Once you've narrowed the list to wagers that give you the financial edge, then you can start analyzing whether or not that bet makes sense from a "real world" perspective. And when you're done analyzing, you'll still have about a 50/50 shot at cashing that bet.
Here is the current list of teams and totals that are offering +100 or better on Bookmaker:
- White Sox o73.5 +101
- Tigers o68.5 +100
- Dodgers o93.5 +103
- Marlins o63.5 +101
- Yankees o97.5 +100
- Athletics o84.5 +116
- Padres o78.5 +102
- Royals u68.5 +116
- Angels u81.5 +113
- Nationals u88.5 +105
- Twins u83.5 +100
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