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Bovi: Second-half wagering

Get the lowdown on Paul Bovi's college football plays by going to his season pack.

Another option in the seemingly endless menu of betting choices is second-half wagering, or halftime betting as it is sometimes called. When the halftime line is established, the results are determined by the points scored only in the second half. Overtime is included should the game be tied at the end of regulation. For betting purposes, the second half is completely independent of the first half and/or the line on the game itself.

Chances are that you have already tested the waters here. How you handle halftime betting will probably revolve around how you approach betting in general, recreationally, or as a business.

There are two basic reasons to make a second-half wager, and the first is obvious. If you have an opinion on the result of the second half, you may want to step up. A second-half wager allows you to factor in the results of the first half as it relates to current weather conditions, injuries, flow of the game, and your perception of one teams superiority over the other. The second reason you may want to make a second-half wager is to limit your exposure to a bet that you have already placed on the outcome of the game. The latter reason is usually reserved for those that take a more serious approach to betting.

Let’s take a look at Saturday's Duke versus Maryland game as an example, a contest in which the Terrapins prevailed by a score of 55-21. The first half was completely dominated by Maryland. Miraculously, the Blue Devils managed three first-half touchdowns with only 85 yards of offense, the bulk of it on a miracle bomb in which the receiver was smothered by the defender. The 55-yard aerial strike put Duke in the red zone, and the Blue Devils scored shortly thereafter. Their other two touchdowns were courtesy of an ill-advised pass that resulted in an 85-yard interception return, and a kickoff run back.

Towards the end of the half, Maryland’s receivers dropped at least two perfectly placed passes on separate drives that would have resulted in touchdowns. When it was said and done, the game went to the half with Maryland leading, 27-21, while dominating the yardage by a count of 330 to 85.

Bookmakers make halftime lines predicated on three different factors. First and foremost, the point spread and/or the 'over/under' that was established for the entire game. This is the basis from which the halftime line is derived. From there, it is adjusted based on the second and third factors. The second factor relates to what has transpired in the first half, including injury and game flow. Of course in certain instances, weather may be a factor, particularly with respect to the 'over/under.' The final factor relates to setting a line that will minimize the bookies’ chances of getting ‘middled.’ Let’s go back to the Maryland game for a moment.

A recreational bettor holding paper on Duke + 18 would probably just sit with his bet and a ‘hope for the best attitude,’ in spite of the fact that his team was clearly living on borrowed time. Maryland was the dominant team, and all indications would point towards a blowout . In fact, in selecting Maryland as one of my plays, I pointed out that the Terps had lost seven times in three years under coach Ralph Friedgen. In the following week, they had six victories by an average score of 48-11, with the smallest margin of victory being 18 points. Their one loss was to Florida State. Clearly, this game was following a pattern. A more serious bettor would opt to exit his position and look to take the Terps in the second half, thereby limiting his exposure, in this case to only the ‘vig.’

With Maryland favored by 9 1/2 points in the second half, a Duke player plus 17 1/2 could lay the points and hope that Maryland could outscore the Blue Devils by exactly10 or 11 in the second half. By ‘middling out,’ he would win the halftime play and his original bet. Maryland would win by 16 or 17 under those circumstances; enough to win the second-half play while sneaking in under the number for the game. Any other result besides 10 or 11 would result in only a loss of the ‘juice,’ far better than losing the entire side bet on Duke, which would have been the result in this case based on the final score.

Under another scenario, if Maryland would have been up by 10 points and the halftime line would have been set at the same 9.5, the Duke bettor would be exposed to losing both bets. By placing a second half wager on Maryland, the bettor would be exposed to losing both bets if the Terps outscored the Blue Devils in second half by eight or nine resulting in an 18 or 19-point victory. In this case, the bettor has to be prepared to lose both wagers to ‘buy out,’ though the odds of such a scenario are not likely.

You may ask yourself why the second-half line was set at 9 1/2? With the game-line ending at 18, the second half line in most instances should be close to 50 percent of the game line given a competitive contest taking into account factors two and three as listed above. In this case, it was clear that the house probably took more Maryland money based on the movement of the point spread on gameday. The line on game morning was 16 1/2, and it moved to 17 1/2 and 18 by kickoff in most places.

By setting the line at 9 1/2, the house does not get hurt if Maryland outscores Duke by exactly 10 or 11 in the second half assuming two-way second-half action. The book will win on the Maryland money that drove the line up from 16, 16 1/2 to 17 1/2 and 18. If the game line had been bet down from 20 to the same 17 1/2 under another scenario, the halftime line would likely have been set differently so that the so that the books could not have been ‘middled out’ on the side that took all of the money.

If I am sitting with a team in a position like that of Duke, I use the second half to get out of my bet by wagering on the opposite side. In fact in this case, I would have 'bought back’ everything, and then some, thereby shifting my financial interest to a Terrapin blowout. Since I already had Maryland minus 16, I used the opportunity to add to my wager at what I considered was a very favorable line given what had transpired.

Clearly, the books are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to making halftimes lines. Putting aside the fact that the lines have to be set around their closing-game numbers, as discussed in factor number three above, there are just too many games that they must pay close attention to while lacking sufficient time to react. Things slip through the cracks on occasion, as they did during Saturday’s Penn State-Wisconsin game. Given the fact that two Nittany Lion QBs went down to injury, it was surprising to see that the second-half total of 20 was unadjusted from half of the 40-point number set for the game. The final second half points tallied six.

Speaking of 'over/unders,' I am 14-5 on the year, 3-1 on the colleges, and 11-4 on the pros. Totals are easily beatable, and I will continue to abuse the Vegas numbers. Ignoring totals, proposition wagers, or halftime bets is akin to leaving money on the table. Remember, reducing risk and/or getting out of a wager is sometimes your best strategy. By the same token, pressing a second half on a game that you already have a wager on is like raising with a full house. It’s a business, approach it that way!

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