NFL Week 10 Expected Value Tips: Picking Winners or Picking Payouts?

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018 5:27 PM UTC

Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 5:27 PM UTC

Unless you have near-perfect prediction skills, you should be watching the moneyline more closely than anything.

I made two suggestions in last week's NFL column, and the results of those two suggestions are a perfect example of why I continually hammer home the same advice: always, always, always bet the +EV games. If you don't recall my advice from last week's column, here's a refresher.

I mentioned that betting underdogs against the spread is only +EV if you're getting better than even money (+100) as a payout, because ATS dogs only win 52 percent of the time. I suggested taking the Buccaneers at +6.5 points for a +105 payout, an expected value of nearly 7 percent.

I also suggested a three-team parlay of the Chiefs, Panthers, and Patriots that was paying out at +131 for an expected value of 18 percent.

The Bucs lost, the parlay cashed, and if you bet on both of those outcomes, you finished the weekend with a 1-1 record. But guess what? Your 1-1 record was worth $30 in pure profit (for the $100 bettor), because you took the action that maximized your payouts. You played the +EV game, and that ensured that your wins more than covered your losses. (Your win-loss record means very little in comparison to your record of profits.)

Playing the +EV game maximizes your profits and gives you flexibility to absorb the inevitable losses that affect all bettors (except the ones who are truly psychic and predict game outcomes with 100 percent accuracy).

Which brings me to the topic of this week's column: you don't have to have perfect prediction skills in order to make money, you just have to pick the juiciest payouts. There's a formula for that, and it's one I've been repeating in every column, so I'll stick with my precedent and repeat it again here: (win probability * payout) - loss probability = expected value, and any expected value that gets you into roughly the 3-4 percent range is positive expected value, or +EV.

Most people make their weekly or daily picks based on who they think is more likely to win. That's a mistake, even though it seems like common sense. Why? Because upsets happen all the time, and the truth is that most people struggle to successfully predict even five out of ten winners on a daily or weekly basis.

“But wait,” you say, “five out of ten successful predictions is break-even!” Unfortunately, it’s not, because most of your successful winner predictions are the super obvious ones, like the Chiefs over the Cardinals this coming weekend. That's a no-brainer prediction, and if you can see that, the sportsbooks can see it too -- and they're not about to pay you well for making that pick.

(The best sportsbooks are offering $7 payout on a $100 bet for the Chiefs, by the way. Don't spend all your winnings in one place, ok?)

So if you can predict five winners out of ten games, but you're only getting payouts of pennies on the dollar, then you're not making enough money to cover your losses for the week. What about those five games you predicted incorrectly? What were they offering for a payout? Was it enough to risk betting on a few underdogs, on the off chance that they might pull off an upset?

Another example from last weekend: in college football, Louisville was a 100-to-1 underdog against Clemson. Those are terrible, terrible odds, and you'd be a fool to take that bet.

Unless the payout is better than 100-to-1.

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In this case, 5Dimes was offering a 170-to-1 payout, which made that bet a +EV play. What?! How could you take that bet?! Don't be a fool!!! Well, that's the wrong mentality, because it focuses on trying to predict a winner rather than hunting high reward-to-risk payouts.

Is it likely that Louisville would win? No, of course not. Was it impossible for them to win? Absolutely not. Upsets happen all the time, especially in college football. And when a long-shot upset payout is more-than compensating you for the risk, then you get on board. When the upset finally happens (1 out of 100 times in this case) and you get to cash in (for a 170-to-1 payout), the profits will cover all the times you took that bet and lost.

Alright, enough theory! On to this week's +EV plays! The NFL odds board is looking pretty barren right now, but it's early yet. Keep an eye on the moneylines, because they're certain to move a bit this week, and when the payouts are maximized, you strike.

The Dolphins have a 3-in-10 chance of winning in Green Bay, but the +380 payout makes it a 51 percent +EV play. The Cardinals are only a 1-in-10 chance of winning at Kansas City, but their +950 payout gives us 59 percent expected value, another +EV play. Too risky for your blood? Then try the Saints at anything better than -220, or the Jaguars (essentially 50/50 odds) at anything better than +125.

The Steelers need to come down to around -165 vs. Carolina before that's a +EV bet, and the Redskins (slightly better than coin-flip odds of winning) at +135 are already a very valuable bet in Tampa. If the 49ers end up coming down to around -130, that's almost 3 percent EV, and worth taking.

Good luck this weekend, and keep making those +EV bets! If you have questions or comments, or you want to get my NBA or College Football picks, I'm on Twitter @HooksPicks!

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