Be a better bettor.
Cheddar Bay is off to a slow start this year. Our weekly win rate has gone from 48.7% to 44.6% to 44.0% as of Monday night. Compare to last year (49.0-40.2-49.7) and 2011 (49.5-48.8-45.4) and we’re down a tad.
(Note: we always figure it out after the slow start. We closed positive in those last two years: 2012, 50.9%; 2011, 51.0%)
These numbers got me thinking about ‘systems.’ I try a ‘system’ every year. This year I studied the ATS records of college head coaches. Last year I forget what it was but it didn’t work. Year before that it was random blue grass pioneers. (e.g., Bill Monroe is from near Bowling Green, Kentucky so take WKU and UL-Monroe. I swear it was as good as anything else I’ve tried.) I keep biting hard on a fail-safe way to pick games but dammit there either isn’t one or I’m not leveraging my resources.
Wait a sec. “Resources.”
I’m a g.d. Executive Committee member for Cheddar Bay. I have m.f.-ing resources out my ass. I know I’ve got one Cleveland-based handicapping maven and another guy who’s Vegas-based now but I wouldn’t be surprised to find he’s got some Steubenville or Youngstown roots. And then there’s Squeekycleen… he quietly goes his own way and does his own thing but I’ve been booking plays here long enough to know a sharp player when I see one.
So I asked these players to help a brother out. It went like this:
I view you as top handicappers in our group and just excellent handicappers without any qualification. This is out of left field but would any of you be willing to give Cheddar a couple paragraphs on ‘handicapping’ things you look at? Not football-related things, but stuff like line movements, public action, sharp action, consensus, what they mean (if anything) to you, where to find that data. I know I’d be interested, I’m sure the group would be too. Like I said, don’t want it to be a heavy lift. Let me know if you’d be up sharing.
They were up for sharing. I’ve excerpted their comments below.
Petefranklin (PF): As far as resources, Covers I use to track line movements and team stats and that’s about it. Most of their articles are too generic, the forums are terrible, and their touts suck. SBR and RX forums I use to see who the pro touts are on (good ones and bad ones). Sportsmemo.com used to be my favorite show on AM out here but is only on the internet now; they have solid all around info. I knew the Peedee was bad but there’s still no verification of Weedens sprained thumb at 12:30 AM EST. I hadn’t been there (PD) for a while and it’s reasons like this that I have stayed away. ESPN reported on its ticker three hours ago that he was out.
ClevTA (TA): I love using Covers.com. It’s a great resource for trends and an easy way to hit up box scores from the current and prior seasons. I also rely on their consensus betting percentage trends as a guide for public wagering. As a backup check on the public percentages, I also use an iphone app called iOdds to make sure the numbers jibe. My third check on the public action is simply using Yahoo! and their NFL and College Pick’em contests. You can see what yahoo.com users are entering in terms of ‘just win and ATS confidence. (It’s also a good resource for anyone out there who play in survivor pools.) For stats, the best site for both NFL and NCAA is teamrankings.com. There’s a multitude of statistics for NFL and CFB and it’s easy to navigate. I pay particular attention to yards per play and first downs per play. But any stat that you are looking for, teamrankings has them.
PF: My biggest criterion for a good bet is getting the best of the closing line. I look for at least a point in college sides and more in totals, less so in the NFL. I also work hard to get those numbers that are good, I made three laps around town yesterday in my truck and pulled a calf muscle sprinting into a casino only to have the # gone.
TA: There are a several things I pay attention to in terms of line movement.
- First is whether the point spread breaks through key numbers (3,7,10) in either direction. Since a large percentage of games, mainly NFL, end on those key numbers they are obviously very important for the books and bettors alike. If a line opens on one of those key numbers and breaks through either side it most likely means that smart money, and on occasion public money, is heavy on that side. It’s not an exact science but it’s something to keep an eye on. For example, last week’s Browns/Baltimore line opened at 7 and was quickly moved to 6.5 and ended up at 6 by game time. Most of the smart money was on the Browns and dismissing the outcome, it was apparent all game long that the Browns were the correct side. Another example is when the Packers opened -6 over Washington last week. The line jumped up fairly quickly and closed at 7.5, racing through the key 7 number. Sharps were all over the Packers and were proved correct with a Packer blowout.
- The second thing I look at is covered below in the public action and the “Rotten Fish” section: if the public percentages are heavy on one side but the line moves the other way then that’s a signal that the majority of smaller, public wagers are on one side (percentages) while the large dollar wages are on the other side. Again not an exact science but it’s something to keep your eye on and should give you pause when a side looks like “easy money” (ex. Miami/Indy from this past Sunday). You want to be on the same side as the money.
- Finally, if you have access or read about look ahead lines (lines in forward weeks), pay attention to overreactions. A perfect example of this was the Louisville/Kentucky game this past Saturday. Before the season, Louisville was installed as a 7 point favorite at Kentucky. After Louisville’s impressive first two games and the overhype for Teddy B, that line skyrocketed to 14.5 and in some places 15.5 during last week. A full 7-8 point change in the line is a huge move when in reality we didn’t see anything out of Louisville that we didn’t expect. Smart bettors took advantage of that inflated line and pounced on Kentucky at 14.5/15.5 to the point that the line closed right before kickoff at 12.
PF: For gods sake stay away from public dogs like the Clowns last week [vs. Dolphins]. From what I saw it was like 80/20 in favorable opinion of the Browns. I’m sure when ESPN showed the stat of the Clowns record in season openers everyone who bet on Cleveland was like “Why the hell didn’t I see/follow/know that stat?” Everyone here knew it but got crushed in the contest. Why? Because they (Clownies) were a terrible public dog. I did manage to get half my Browns wager (+1.5) back (in game) and a middle opportunity with Miami ( -.5) this was immediately after Weedens 2nd pick. In-game opportunities are great if you don’t go overboard.
TA: Rarely, if ever, do I want to be on the same side as the public. Don’t get me wrong, the public does win from time to time but in the long run avoiding being on the same side as heavy public action is probably the #1 tip I can give. There’s a reason all those casinos are standing tall and your local bookie can drive a Benz without a real job. I would never tell you not to take a game because the public loves a side but big yellow lights should be flashing if that’s a side you are looking to jump on.
One more thing that I have learned throughout the years, especially when it comes to NCAA public action: if you are looking to go opposite a heavy public side stay on single digit plays. I’ve come to learn that everyone in the world can be on a high scoring top ranked favorite who is favored by a large spread and that team can turn it on in the second half and cover because the talent disparity is so large. However, if a heavy public side is involved in a single digit line that means to me that the talent level between the two teams are close enough that things like emotional letdowns, look aheads, travel, etc. can play a big enough difference for the team opposite the public action to cover or win outright. It’s a subtle thing that I personally pay more attention to than the large Oregon-esque lines where the public will almost always inevitably be on the favorite. Covers does a great job highlighting the games that they consider heavy public. From experience I like to really examine the sides with 65%+ action.
PF: I honestly don’t have anything special except for my bullshit filter over my shoulders that I try to keep sharp and uncluttered. You hear so much bullshit or non-relative stats that you have to keep on your toes out here, because every swinging dick out here has an opinion and well, you know what they say about opinions.
TA: Not all sharp action is a winner, obviously, but it wouldn’t hurt to be on the same side as the professionals from time to time. Hopefully the reverse line movement discussed earlier and below (Rotten Fish), is one indication. If you’re looking for mainstream Vegas types on twitter to follow, guys like @RjinVegas, @teddy_covers, and @ToddFuhrman are some who do a decent job posting what sides the sharps are on and which sides the public is on. Just make sure not to chase a line that has risen or dropped a good amount based on that sharp action because then it may be too late.
Updated: How to get deep intel on public action.
Squeekycleen weighed in separately. He’s in sync with PeteF and TA on the anti-public bias but takes his research to the next level.
They have some similar ideas to what I do, but I have incorporated more message board trolling to see what people like. It’s more time consuming than using consensus sites, but I think it’s an important supplement to determining where public action is.
I have a two pronged approach in approaching these boards:
- First, I try to determine what games the board has a consensus on.
- Second, I try to identify who the squares are on the board and see where their consensus is. You kind of have to follow the board over a longer time to figure that out.
I find this to be more reliable than the consensus sites, which certainly can give some suspect info.
To go anti-public, I first start by looking at the lines with as square a perspective as possible and try to identify the ones that look too low/high. Then I check the consensus sites to see if they seem to echo that sentiment. You have to be careful with those consensus numbers though, they can be skewed.
I also think its important to keep in mind that a Dog catching 55-60% of the action is probably as big or bigger public play than a favorite catching 65-70%. The public dog is a big play against for me. Then I check the boards and the squares there to see what they have.
In my peak, when I did this basically as a second job, I made friends with some offshores and locals and would just call them and ask who they needed. Really, thats the best way to figure out where the public is. If I catch wind that an out really needs someone to come through, I usually jump up and back that squad.
Introducing the CLEVTA’s Rotten Fish tracker.
TA has a system of his own using some of the precepts discussed above. He explained it in a post last week and I’ll just excerpt his comment:
I’ve decided to try something new for those out there that are interested. I’ll call it the Rotten Fish segment.
- Lines that are the most heavily sided by the public yet the line has moved opposite the public action.*
- We’ll keep track of how going opposite the public and with the line movement would do weekly.
- I’ll post the covers.com % & opening v current line. any % >65% is considered heavy public and line movement opposite that typically means the big(sharp) dollars are going to the team opposite public.
For the record I personally wager on many of these weekly. This week:
- WIN Central FL at PSU (68% on PSU, op line PSU -6, now 4.5). Adv UCF
- LOSE Maryland at UCONN (74% on MD, op line MD -7.5, now 6.5). Adv Uconn
- WIN W KY at S Alabama (68% on W KY, op line WKY -9.5, now 7). Adv S Ala
- WIN Miami at Indy (72% on Indy, op line Indy -3, now 1.5). Adv Miami
- PUSH STL at ATL (68% on ATL, op line ATL -7, now 5.5). Adv STL
- WIN NO at TB (77% on NO, op line NO -4, now 3). Adv TB
CLEVTA’s Rotten Fish picks were 4-1-1 ATS this week, not too shabby. We only had three pickers who matched or beat it this week. (Way to go Concierge, CheddarClay, and HitTheHorns.) I should hope by now we all know there no surefire systems, but this theory will be fun to test.
Cheddar Bay is nothing if not about community betterment. That said, we surely welcome any other notes of interest on this subject and you can drop them in the comments below.
* Editor’s note: Why would this happen, TA? I thought the lines moved in order to keep a balance of action between both sides of a play and nothing more.
TA’s answer: Yes it is true that the books would like close to 50/50 action for the most part. However, they do take a chance at times and take a side if they feel their numbers are correct and the public thinks opposite. In addition, public percentages are mainly the number of wagers, or opinions, on one side not the dollars. Typically public action don’t move lines, it’s the amount of large wagers from a dollar perspective coming from the big bettors that really moves lines. That’s why you can see the public on one side and the line moving the other way. The sharp bettors are placing the real large bets and making the books move off of their opening lines.