A weekly look at smart plays, oddball propositions and all your tales of gambling woe.
In football, as in life, things tend to equalize over the long run, with no hot streak going unpunished. That's why the house — after getting hammered by bettors with favorites all year — finally got even with the betting public last Sunday when favorites underachieved across the board. Four of the six teams favored by more than nine points failed to cover; two of them (the Eagles and Jets) lost straight up. Parity must be coming back. Yet going into Week 7, most NFL bettors are sill laying the wood with the heavy favorites, even on the road or in Europe, where anything goes.
This week, the heaviest action lies once again with the two biggest favorites: Indianapolis (at 95 percent) and New England (at 92 percent), giving -13 and -15.5, respectively. But neither team is playing at home — the Patriots are in London — which undermines that old saw about large road favorites being a terrible play. Over the last 107 games in which the road team has been favored by at least a touchdown, the favorite has covered only 38 times — a winning percentage of 37 percent.
Only the worst teams provide exception to this rule.
After all, what does "home-field advantage" really amount to for a team like the Rams? When the bulk of crowd noise is coming from the enemy camp, it amounts to a nice advantage for the visiting team. Rams lineman Richie Incognito argued this point last year when he questioned his hometown fans' passion and general football aptitude following a bad loss to the Bears: "They don't know how to cheer, when to cheer. We get the other team's fans coming in, and they cheer real nice for us. It provides for a good football atmosphere having the Chicago fans down here." Demoralizing as the scenario is for players, it's typical of traveling fans of popular "public" teams — like the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Ohio State Buckeyes — to outnumber the hometown crowd in football voids like St. Louis.
And limp football crowds have a bigger impact on the spread than people realize.
An expert told Chad Milliman, ESPN's Behind the Bets columnist that "one factor when determining how much the fans traveling goes into the spread is when public teams are playing in small market venues. That's when they're more likely to fill seats, especially when those home teams are having down years."
The Rams, on their sixth consecutive down year, are 4-12 ATS in their last 16 games as a 'dog in the foe-filled Edward Jones Done. Making matters worse, the Colts are 9-3 ATS the last 12 road games against NFC opponents — and their fans travel well.
Bad Beats: Readers Share Their Tales Of Woe
That I can remember this so vividly nearly five years later is testament to how painful this was, especially considering the massive quantities of alcohol I ingested to try to forget it.
It was December 4, 2004, and I was in my first semester of law school. Law school was stressful enough with our first exams only days away, but added to that was the stress of the holidays coming up and my student loan check from August running out. My check for next semester wasn't going to show up for at least another month, and I was flat broke. Out in the real world before law school I had gotten used to getting paid twice a month, and to go from that to getting one giant check every few months wreaked havoc on my already lousy skills of budgeting. Rent was due Jan. 2, and I didn't have it. Nor did I have money for the power bill, the cell phone bill, or my next credit card payment. I was FUCKED.
In October of 2004, a friend introduced me to the magical world of online sports betting. I deposited something like $50, and then went on an unimaginable hot streak. Everything I touched turned to gold. Eventually I had over a grand in my account, from an original $50. I never worried about my finances, because I figured that at any time I could cash out my online betting account and be sitting pretty. Well, supreme overconfidence, greed and whiskey conspired to make me lose over a thousand dollars on the NFL over one awful Thanksgiving weekend. It was a moronic rookie mistake. I saw how much money I had, I couldn't lose, so why not swing for the fences?? So I went big on one game. And lost horribly. Then I panicked because I just lost half my bankroll, and frantically tried to make it back. I ended up in quicksand on one of the most hellacious losing streaks I've ever known to this day. In one weekend, I lost it all but about $20.
I was beyond devastated. To make it worse, I got my first overdraft notice from my checking account in the mail. After several days of very dark thoughts, I gathered myself. And on Friday morning Dec. 3, instead of studying for exams, I ground out a list of pro and college football and basketball games that I liked. I picked my favorite ten wagers, on games taking place Friday night or Saturday morning, said a prayer and put down $10 on a ten-team parlay. $10 to win over $7,000. Having lost probably ten bets in a row, I wasn't optimistic. Just desperate.
After the Friday night NBA games, I was a miraculous 7 for 7. SEVEN FOR SEVEN. It was unreal. I had to get hammered just to sleep that night. Then Saturday morning, Pittsburgh slaughters South Florida in football to easily cover. EIGHT FOR EIGHT. I am losing my fucking mind at this point, hyperventilating and getting dizzy. SEVEN. THOUSAND. DOLLARS. That's me paying off my entire credit card balance, paying off each and every bill including rent for a few months, buying my family some sweet Christmas presents and not thinking about money again until next fall.
Last two games are college basketball. I've got UNC -10 over Kentucky, and Wake Forest -18 over Richmond. UNC is the early game, and HOLY SHIT they cover by the skin of their teeth. I'm getting chest pains. I AM NINE FOR NINE WITH ONE GAME BETWEEN ME AND $7,000. It's all on Wake Forest, who is now comfortably ahead of Richmond, always hovering around a 20 point lead.
Well, obviously Wake Forest doesn't cover. But oh, it's HOW they didn't cover that was so perfect. Wake Forest is up by 22 with a little over a minute and a half left. But then the scrubs start to file in, and the turnovers start piling up. These assholes begin a turnover festival that took years off my life. We're under 30 seconds left, Wake Forest grabs a defensive rebound with an 18 point lead. 18 is a push. That won't get me $7000 BUT I WILL FUCKING TAKE IT. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS GET THE BALL OVER THE TIMELINE AND DRIBBLE OUT THE FUCKING CLOCK YOU SCRUB MOTHERFUCKERS. But of course that doesn't happen. Wake Forest turns the ball over. Then Wake commits a foul. Richmond is in the double bonus. Some cocksucker on Richmond steps up to the line with TWO SECONDS LEFT IN THE GAME. He clanks the first one just because, fuck me, right Universe? Then he makes the second. Game over, Wake wins by 17, does not cover. Ten team parlay lost. $7,000 down to $0.
I woke up on my living room floor the next morning after drinking a life-threatening amount. Apparently my roommate had people over that night and they just stepped over my lifeless corpse.
I ended up taking out a high-interest "emergency" student loan from Citibank, which I'm still getting raped on to this day. Surprisingly, I did not shoot myself, but I did do terrible on my exams. (J.S.)
This isn't mine in that I didn't make the bet, but I did take it, sort of.
A friend of mine in college (this was at Ohio State) was a bookie, and on Saturday mornings it was a madhouse at his apartment, where I usually was watching pregame, drinking, and getting high. I often answered the phone when the caller ID (this was before cell phones) was someone I knew better than him. So, one morning I answer it and it's a kid I know who's a lazy, loud mouth, Irish drunk. He asks me what the Indy line is. Thinking he's referring to Indiana, I tell him. He tells it to someone in the background, hems and haws, and then says to put him down for $50.
Games are played. Indiana gets crushed by god knows who, but this kid calls the same apartment later to try to collect on his bet. I'm baffled. He's indignant. Turns out he wanted to bet on Notre Dame, who had just pulled off an upset of some kind (no idea who – sorry). I told him he was fucked, but consulted everyone in the room anyway, explaining the confusion, and they backed me up, so he was still fucked. The verdict: no one EVER says ND for Notre Dame. Ever. This is like saying DU for Duke. (Tom R.)
My first trip to Las Vegas, March 1999. Had no idea how to bet sports, which of course did not constrain me in the least. I bet a 5-game NBA parlay, stood to pay off $2200 on a pretty small bet. First 4 games hit. The last: Clippers +10 at home against the Trail Blazers. Clips winning the whole game, up 12 at the beginning of the 4th and up 8-10 most of the last quarter. I'm already spending the $2Gs, when all of the sudden the Blazers make a furious run, tying the game on a Damon Stoudamire bucket with :01 left. No worries, I think—not even the Clips can lose by 10 in OT. And yet, there go the Blazers, sprinting out to a comfortable lead. Garbage time. As the clock winds down, Blazers up 8 with the seconds ticking down, Clips have the ball, I'm still feeling OK. Then a Clipper launches a shot that is as unsuccessful as it is irrelevant, rebounded by the Blazers' Kelvin Cato with :01 left. Cato is then quickly FOULED by Lorenzen Wright, who evidently thought there was still a chance to tie on a half-second 8-point full court shot if Cato missed. But still no problem, right—Kelvin Cato's a 50% free throw shooter, 0-2 already on the night, as I recall. Of course, he promptly sinks both free throws. Blazers win by 10. Unbelievable.
Here's where the novice better part comes in. I'm so disgusted I walk out of the TI, rip up my ticket, and toss it into the lagoon. Only to be told that, if a game in a parlay pushes, they'll take that game off and pay the rest. In other words, I ripped up a perfectly good 4-game parlay worth $1500 or so.
I have to think that that is the worst NBA gambling beat ever. (Eric in Cincinnati)
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Sacrilegious Prop Bet Of The Week: White Smoke Edition
Via Paddy Power:
The betting for who will succed Pope Benedict XVI is hotting up following reports that the 82-year-old was taken to hospital after suffering a fall on holiday in the Alps. The Vatican may well be watching this space!
Francis Arinze (Nigeria) 5/1
Cardinal Angelo Scola (Venice) 7/1
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras) 7/1
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco (Italy) 8/1
Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Argentina) 9/1
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (Italy) 10/1
Count Christoph von Schoenborn (Austria) 10/1
Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy) 10/1
Archbishop Piero Marini (Italy) 12/1
Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa (Chile) 14/1
Claudio Hummes (Brazil) 14/1
Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Canada) 18/1
Daniel DiNardo (Galveston-Houston) 18/1
Cardinal Renato Martino (Italy) 20/1
Cardinal Ruini (Italy) 20/1
Cardinal Karl Lehmann (Germany) 20/1
Wilfred Napier (South Africa) 20/1
Norberto Rivera Carrera (Mexico) 20/1
Jose Da Cruz Policar (Portugal) 20/1
JaimeLucas Ortega y Alamino (Cuba) 20/1
Attilio Cardinal Nicora (Roman Curia) 20/1
Angelo Sodano (Italy) 25/1
Antonio María Rouco Varela (Spain) 33/1
Cardinal Sean Brady (Ireland) 33/1
Philippe Barbarin (France) 33/1
Cormac Murphy-O'Connor (UK) 40/1
Giacomo Biffi (Italy) 40/1
Giovanni Battista Re (Italy) 40/1
Lopez Rodriguez (Dominican Republic) 50/1
Timothy Dolan (USA) 50/1
Cardinal Dario Castrillion Hoyos (Colombia) 50/1
Geraldo Majella Agnelo (Brazil) 50/1
Keith O Brien (Scotland) 50/1
Cardinal Odilo Scherer (Sao Paulo) 50/1
Godfried Danneels (Belgium) 66/1
Cardinal George Pell (Australia) 66/1
Diarmuid Martin 66/1
Cardinal Walter Kasper (Germany) 66/1
Francis George (USA) 80/1
Cardinal Amigo Vallejo (Spain) 80/1
Cardinal Carlo Maria Matini (Italy) 100/1
Silvano Piovanelli (Italy) 125/1
Father Dougal Maguire (Craggy Island) 1000/1
Bono (Ireland) 1000/1