Last October, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt was speaking on a panel during G2E, an annual gambling convention held in Las Vegas. There were hundreds of interested people listening to one of the biggest voices in the media discuss the future of sports gambling. One particular comment about how he handicaps games caused several sports gambling professionals to get very upset.
“All I want to know is, who does the house need, because I know they’re going to win over time,” Van Pelt said.
This seems like a sound strategy, right? Sportsbooks aren’t in business to lose money and with the juice, the deck is stacked in their favor. However, professionals believe that they have an edge in the games they play and they don’t care what side the book needs because it doesn’t matter to them.
While I can see both sides of this argument, I believe there is a way to use the information that can be learned by listening to the numerous sportsbook operators who speak on radio, podcasts or for online stories each week. They literally tell you what teams they need to win each week for their side to be profitable.
Understanding market movement
While Van Pelt’s comments weren’t meant to be taken as a blanket statement or even how he bets personally each week, there is value in looking at what the books need. To me, this comes into play in the NFL when the lines are extremely sharp. It’s not every week, but I like to use it when I’m struggling to find the right angles.
This past week, we had a few such situations where I used publicly disclosed information to help me. With numerous games with lines of 6.5 or higher, it was great to have the knowledge of which teams the books needed to cover.
Every Friday, I speak to Dave Sharapan of CG Sportsbooks on my radio show and I always ask him what the biggest liability the book has on games for the upcoming weekend. The top 3 needs this past Sunday in the NFL for CG were the Lions, Bears, and Bills. Those three games were seeing the same action across the country. The Saints were also a need at home, getting 2.5 points from the Cowboys.
The Lions were catching 6.5 points at home against the Chiefs with the public heavy on KC and lost by four. The Bears were laying two points at home to the Vikings with the public fading Mitch Trubisky and won by 10. The Bills were seven-point underdogs at home against the defending champs and lost to the public backed Patriots by 6. The Saints won outright.
It was a very good week for books like CG because the public went 0-for-4 in their biggest decisions.
How to use this information
Now, I understand that experienced gamblers reading this might be angry that it sounds like I’m recommending ALWAYS betting on the side of the books. To be clear, I’m talking about using this information when you are researching a difficult week to help you make decisions.
I do believe that, when in doubt, being on the side of the sportsbooks is the better place to be than on the side of the public. This is often called contrarian betting, a philosophy that I believe is a profitable way to approach sports gambling. However, the public does win. It’s not like there aren’t weeks where a public team like the Patriots are at home laying 10 points and they win it by 30.
On Sunday night for the Saints and Cowboys game, normally a situation where the books have a make or break situation going for the day on that one game, one sportsbook operator told Covers.com that the day was so good that “he was already into the wine” before the game even started. This was a week where it was very good to be on the side of the sportsbooks.
On weeks like this, using the information provided by the sportsbook can help you avoid a week that puts a major dent in your bankroll.