Understanding Recreational NFL Betting

Jason Lake

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 2:10 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2016 2:10 PM UTC

It's never been easier to get an edge when you're betting on football. But you should understand the basics behind the NFL odds before you start throwing money around.

Summer vacation is over. The 2016 NFL season is just around the corner – training camp starts in two weeks, and the first exhibition games are coming up in early September. If you've been doing this for a while, you know the drill by now: Get familiar with the teams and players, see what new rules the league has brought in, take some time to brush up on your analytics. But what if you're brand new to betting on the NFL? Where do you start?

We've got you covered. It's my pleasure to bring you another season of free NFL picks, served piping hot from our home office here in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest. As always, our goal is twofold; one, make better picks, and two, do a better job of explaining the logic behind them. The second part is where the gold is at. You can easily make good football picks yourself once you get the hang of it – if you want to. Not everyone does. And that's where our journey begins.


Most people who bet on football have very little idea what they're doing. They'll make a small bet every once in a while, usually on their favorite team. If they don't have a local team to follow, they'll pick someone else, probably one of the glamour teams that's on TV all the time. You know the ones: the New England Patriots, the Dallas Cowboys, or whoever the Flavor of the Month is. Nice-looking uniforms help. So do marquee players like Tom Brady and Dez Bryant.

This is where your profit margin comes from. When you're betting on football, you're not trying to “beat the bookie” by picking which side of the NFL odds to bet – you're trying to beat the other bettors in the marketplace. The easiest ones to beat are the ones who are making the same predictable mistakes, over and over again, because they just don't know any different. We call these people “recreational bettors.” Sometimes, we call these people “squares,” but that's a pejorative term from olden days.


No Fun League
There's absolutely nothing wrong with being a recreational bettor. Betting on football is supposed to be fun, right? If someone wants to bet 20 bucks on the Green Bay Packers because they thought Aaron Rodgers was funny in that ad with Hans and Franz, marvelous. They'll have nearly a 50 percent chance of being right.

But not quite 50 percent. Every dollar recreational bettors put on the Packers has an impact on the betting marketplace; the less informed their bets are, the more they'll distort the marketplace, causing the bookmakers to move their odds and make it more rewarding to bet on whichever team the Packers are playing. You need a 52.4-percent success rate to cover the vigorish that you're paying the book when you place a standard single bet at –110. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out which games have the most distorted betting markets (Hint: the Super Bowl), so you can get that profit margin up to 53 percent, and maybe a bit beyond.

Once you've made this mental leap from trying to predict the outcome of football games to sniffing out where the betting value is, the rest is pretty straightforward. Every game provides a fresh opportunity for recreational bettors to distort the marketplace in different ways. We'll do out best to identify those ways for each of our NFL picks in sportsbooks. Then we'll scour the interwebs for quality data and analysis to support those picks – there's so much good stuff out there for free these days. Enjoy the games, feel free to comment below, and may the prolate spheroid be with you this year.

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