by Justin M. Connery - 06/24/2005
Generally sports fans have their favorite teams or players. Therefore, when public or 'square' bettors place a wager, it's a common thing to see that bet go on their favorite team or player. In team sports like baseball or football it's easier to justify bets being placed on favorite or 'public' teams like the Yankees or the Patriots because they play as a unit, and no single person is solely responsible for the outcome of the game based on their own individual performance.
However, in sports like NASCAR or golf, betting on your favorite golfer or driver can be a very costly endeavor. Unlike team sports, in golf and auto racing the outcome is entirely based on individual performance and outcomes. While it can be argued that NASCAR is ever changing more and more into a team sport, the bottom line is that it is the driver who drives the car and thus who is mainly responsible for his performance, and in golf, the golfer is the one making the swings no matter what his caddie says.
Enter in the concept of betting the field, or betting on the whole field instead of just one of the golfers or drivers with posted odds. This can be a great money making strategy. By betting the field, you have multiple chances to win your bet, although you are essentially betting on a field of long shots. Relative unknowns win these events quite often and that is why the odds for 'field' are usually fairly low (depending on the event).
Look at the odds for the NASCAR Dodge/Sav Mart 350 this weekend, for example. Bodog has the odds listed as 30-1 for the field, at press time. Since this is a road race instead of the normal oval format, there could be a chance that an individual not listed on the odds board could take the checkered flag. While not likely, 30-1 offers a nice payout.
Recent early season results in both NASCAR and the PGA Tour have suggested that betting the field may be a more attractive alternative in the future. For example, my favorite golfer is Tiger Woods and in terms of NASCAR I follow Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick. If I had bet Tiger and Junior in every event this year, I'd be broke. Through 12 events this season, Tiger has won three times, which translates into only a 25 percent success rate if I had been making individual bets on Tiger every week. The odds for Woods winning each tournament usually don't offer much of a profit for a win. Junior is a different story. Through 15 races this season, Junior is winless, meaning I'd be winless too. These two examples alone show that betting the field could be the way to go because the favorites do not always pay off.
Another example to look at would be the recently completed U.S. Open at Pinehurst. That of course was the tournament where journeymen Michael Campbell held off Tiger Woods and won by two shots. Campbell truly came from nowhere and showed great poise with Tiger Woods breathing down his neck. A lot of people expected a bigger name if anyone could beat Woods, like Retief Goosen, Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh. But Michael Campbell? The same Michael Campbell whose only claim to fame was holding the 54-hole lead in the 1995 British Open before fading in the Final Round?
But when looking at the odds, it made sense. The odds of the field winning the U.S. Open were 5/2. The odds of Tiger winning the tournament were 19/5 or 3.8-1 compared to 2.5-1 for the rest of the field. Although the payout was less, there were many competitors included in that field and that wager provided some nice profits for those that were in on it.
This trend seems to be continuing, especially in the case of NASCAR. Greg Biffle leads in victories with five and rookie Carl Edwards follows with two. NASCAR betting is very difficult. Drivers can shine one race and then be horrible for the next few weeks in some cases. This season for example, nobody knew that Greg Biffle would have the start he has had or that Edwards would come out flying in his rookie campaign. In NASCAR, like golf this season, betting the field could be profitable in some cases because of the unpredictable nature of the sport and some lesser-known drivers that have won. This assumption is based on the season's early results and the fact that trends in NASCAR change all the time. You can't even go on the fact that a driver who wins the pole for a race is going to do well on race day.
For instance, look at a driver like Ryan Newman. Newman always qualifies well, and to date has five pole awards this season but no wins. So, you can't even bank on a driver that qualifies well to win in the end. In fact, Kasey Kahne is the only driver this season to win the pole for a race and go on to win the race, which was for the Chevy American Revolution 400 at Richmond on May 14. It will be interesting to see if these trends continue in NASCAR and on the PGA Tour.
It is fun to bet on your favorite driver or player, but betting the field in NASCAR or PGA Tour golf can be a profitable way to spend the weekend.