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Seven Simple Rules

With football season just around the bend, it’s the time of year for fresh starts, lofty expectations, and dreams of sporting a new Testerosa by Christmas, courtesy of ones’ friendly neighborhood bookmaker.

One could make a strong case that football bettors have a lot in common with Chicago Cubs and their fans. The Cubbies, if you don’t know it, have not won a World Series since 1908, the year the Model T was first sold, and two years before Thomas Edison demonstrated the first talking motion picture, if you get my drift. Bettors enter every season with those same aspirations of breaking through, but in the end they are creatures of destiny, and for them, destiny spells Tuesday night meetings with their bookmaker to cover a weekends’ worth of losses.

Handicapping football games is not easy, but let’s face it, without the benefit of any information or prognostication prowess, picking games against the spread should be a 50/50 proposition, which is certainly not enough to pummel ones’ bank account into submission.

Given a 50% record of wins and losses, and 200,000 worth of betting handle, the bookmaker would profit to the tune of 10,000, assuming a lay of 11 to 10, which is no longer set in stone. Sports wagering is now a very competitive business with a handful of offshore venues offering -105, while virtually all of them providing some sort of monetary bonus structure for ‘posting up’ funds in an account.

The failure of most bettors has less to do with poor handicapping, than with violating some basic rules of sports wagering. If you follow the seven simple rules below, it will not guarantee success, but I can assure you that you will improve your chances of winning, or at least enjoying the season without having your wife threaten to throw you out of the house.

1: PLAY FEWER GAMES... Most bettors spread themselves too thin. If you wager on 10 games, you would have to check in a 6-4 to show a profit, and even then the juice will cut heavily into your take, which it is sure to do by seasons’ end. The fact is that most of the time you will not go 6-4, and in the end you will probably beat yourself up for wasting your best game. Stay with your top opinions, and play more on fewer games. If you bundle your betting bankroll into three games and connect on two, you will make just about the same money if you were spread it out amongst 10 games while going 7-3. Get the picture?

2: USE MULTIPLE BOOKS... By having at least three or four betting ‘outs’, you will spare yourself the misery of half point losses or pushes, that could have been ties or wins. Betting lines vary, and also be advised that many offshore betting venues offer free half points if you call your wagers in at certain times. Take advantage of the -105s that are available both offshore, and in selected Vegas venues like the Barbary Coast. This is a ‘no brainer.’

3: DON’T DOUBLE UP... I cannot overemphasize the ‘Don’t Double Up’ rule as this is the paramount reason why bettors end up broke. If you have a bad Sunday or Saturday, do not look to bail out on the night game though the temptation will be great. Your decision to bet the night game and to what extent, should be unaffected by how you fared during the day.

4: BEWARE THE TV GAME TRAP... If you must play, and you are not enamored with the game, keep it small.

5: AVOID PARLAYS…and other wagers that shift the odds in favor of the house. You are effectively laying more than -110 by accepting 13/5 on a two team parlay, or worse yet, 6/1 on a three-teamer. Stay with straight wagers and look to lay the ‘reduced juice’.

6: AVOID TEASERS...except in rare circumstances. If you must, shop it as the odds vary much more than that of straight wagers. A few betting shops offer six pointers at even money with a tie voiding the wager. Other shops require the bettor to lay 6/5 with ties losing. I confine my teaser betting to the last two weeks of the NFL season, emphasizing those teams that are motivated versus those squads that are resting players and/or eliminated, in essence, playing out the string. I would caution you to never bet teasers on college football as it is a losing proposition.

7: AVOID THE CROWD. If you like a side, but find that everyone is on that same side, I have always found that it is better to sit the game out rather than to ride with the herd. For some unexplainable reason, the public is usually wrong on these ‘can’t miss’ games.

As a final note, the expansion of the betting choices over the last decade has created more opportunity for educated bettors. Pro and college totals, halftime wagers, and even proposition bets, are now readily available at almost every major sports book, in many cases, if only to keep up with the competition, or, in some cases, to set themselves apart.

The reality is that all books know they are vulnerable to these types of wagers, thus they set limits, and are not hesitant to quickly adjust the lines. In other words, look under the radar, and do not be reluctant to take advantage of the vast array of betting opportunities that are presented to you, though they may deviate from what you have been accustomed to. Exploiting weaknesses and following the rules are critical elements of winning. And if you decide that rules are made to be broken, I suggest you take a look at the Cubs’ record at the All Star Break. Stay with the program! Good luck.

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