I tend to view sports wagers as falling into one of three categories: favorites, coin flips, and longshots. Favorites are those teams that have a high win probability, but are paying well under -110. I think of longshots as teams that have less than a 2-in-5 chance of winning, and are paying out in the range of +160 or more.
Coin flips? Well, the name is pretty self-explanatory. You’ve got at least a 9-in-20 chance of winning, you’re getting anywhere from +100 to +130 on the wager, and the contest could really go either way.
All of these types of wagers have their pros and cons.
Favorites have the highest probability of winning, but the tradeoff is that they have lower payouts. When you see a team listed for a moneyline like -200, that team has a very good chance of winning, but the payout is only $0.50 cents on the dollar. You’ll see a winning record by only betting the favorites, but you may only see incremental gains in your bankroll.
Longshots give you a chance at taking home a huge payday. If I win a wager at +850, I can lose all five of my other bets that day and still be way ahead. Nobody minds a losing record when your wins are raking in massive amounts of cash.
Of course, the cons are that you are definitely going to lose more of these bets than you win. Most of your nights are going to be winless, and you have to be able to ride out the long losing streaks. If you’re playing for that one gargantuan payday on some random “Thursday Night Football” game, you’ve got to be able to have thick enough skin to lose all the rest of your games on Sunday and Monday.
And that brings us to the coin flips.
Coin-flip wagers are the best of both worlds. These wagers, because they are close to 50/50, win just about as often as they lose — but you’re getting at least even money (+100 or better), so the profits stack up a little faster. Of course the opposite is true as well: coin-flips lose just about as often as they win, and it usually happens in streaks and clusters. One NFL Sunday you may lose all of your coin-flip bets, then go 2-2 the next weekend, then sweep the next weekend.
Coin flips can be maddening as hell sometimes, but they do make a fair bit of profit when you hit the inevitable winning streak.
Going into Week 17, we’ve got several coin flips on the NFL odds board worth looking into.
The Falcons and Bucs opened at a one-point spread, and I like either one of those teams once they get above +100. Atlanta is up to +105 already, and I suspect they may go up a bit from there, but at +105 they’re already offering positive expected value at 15 percent.
The Cowboys and the Dolphins are both on the low end of the coin-flip range to beat the Giants and the Bills, respectively, but the Cowboys at +225 are just asking to be plucked off the tree (they would have been valuable at +120, let alone twice that amount). The Dolphins are up to +160, but they would have already had value at +125, so the +160 payout looks juicy indeed.
Finally, the Bears and Vikings are going to give us a close game, I think, and I’d take take the Bears at +117 or better. They’re already way up to +190, which is nearly double your investment. For that kind of payout, it’s probably worth taking the risk.
As always, good luck this week, and be sure to check out my other sports analysis and +EV filters on Twitter at @HooksPicks and on Patreon at patreon.com/hookspicks!