For this week’s lesson, we are going to take a little trip to the Thanksgiving dinner table. I figured that’s a place that many of us are looking forward to being on Thursday before — or while — the three NFL games play out on our TVs.
Let’s talk about turkey.
Everyone likes turkey, right? It’s the staple of the meal. When you think about Thanksgiving, the first thing that pops to mind is the turkey. However, when you go to someone else’s house to eat Thanksgiving dinner, if they don’t serve turkey, but say ham, that would be an example of a contrarian dinner. Going with ham isn’t wrong, per se, it’s just different; a unique position for the host to take on the meal.
However, turkey is what is expected and nobody is going to call you crazy if you serve turkey at your house.
Turkey is the public side of sports betting. Turkey is doing whatever one else is doing. But here’s the thing about being on the public side: so often, it’s the right thing to do.
Dare to be square?
That brings us to this past week in the NFL where the Baltimore Ravens were getting pounded at the window by the public. According to ESPN’s David Payne Purdum, bettors put five times as much money on Baltimore as 3- or 3.5-point favorites on the road at the Los Angeles Rams. The game opened as a pick’em if you can believe it. I, being a lover of the ham dinner in this analogy, went contrarian and bet against the Ravens and took the Rams at +3.5.
It’s a ticket that was dead after the first five minutes of the game as Baltimore beating the living tar out of Los Angeles and basically ended the season for the defending NFC Champs.
The New England Patriots are a very public team and football bettors love to use the Pats for straight bets, parlays, and teasers. Every week, the books love it when the Pats don’t cover — but there is the problem. The Pats are great at covering the spread. New England is 7-4 ATS this season and if it wasn’t for a dumb decision by Jason Garrett to kick a meaningless field goal with 6 minutes to play on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, the Pats would likely be 8-3 ATS. The Dallas Cowboys are also a very popular team with the public and they are also 7-4 ATS this season.
If you bet just those two teams to cover every game this season, you would be considered a square. However, 14-8 ATS is making money and probably a much better winning percentage than most gamblers you know.
When you hear someone say, “fade the public,” while in theory it’s a good strategy, it’s not automatically something you should do every game. If it were, you could just wait to see what side the book needed and then bet along with them. Sportsbooks do lose and that’s why this activity is so frustrating and fun at the same time.
Ham or Turkey this week?
For the three games this Thanksgiving, I would expect the Bears, Cowboys and Saints to be very popular with the public. That doesn’t mean all three will cover, but it also doesn’t mean all three won’t either. You have to do your homework. For an extra degree of difficulty, playing on a holiday is also a curveball you have to consider.
As sports gambling becomes more and more widespread, more folks want to be seen as “the guy who made the call on that upset nobody saw coming.” Thus, contrarian betting is becoming popular on places like Gambling Twitter. However, you have to trust your own systems and your own judgment. If you like a play, it really doesn’t matter what the books needs or who the public is betting on.
Sometimes, you just have to eat a delicious turkey dinner and be happy about it.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.