Beware The National TV Game
by Josh Nagel - 09/01/2007
You are scanning the odds sheet at your favorite sports book on an autumn Saturday morning, looking for good values and vulnerable point spreads, when the big block letters next to a 5 p.m. game suddenly seem to glow and beckon like so much neon on the Las Vegas Strip.
E ... S ... P ... N.
Suddenly, you find yourself circling the game in red ink and, subconsciously or sometimes literally, you start looking for a way to find room for this game in your bankroll and some sort of reason to justify it.
In other words, if it's on (television), then it's on (a bet). Don't worry; you're not the only one with TV-game fever.
"A lot of people will bet a game just because it's on TV," says Judi Wellesley, a race and sports book supervisor at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. "If it's a game they're going to watch anyway, they'll throw a little money on it just to make it interesting."
Or, in some cases, they'll throw A LOT of money on it. Wellesley estimates that the book handles "at least 50 percent, if not more" action on televised contests than those that don't make it to the big screen.
But just because it's a good game doesn't necessarily make it a good gamble and you, the astute and profit-driven sports bettor, have learned to know the difference. If one of your top five plays for the day happens to be on TV, then so be it, but you are not going to throw down a full betting unit purely for the glorious thrill of it all.
Actually, you probably will. Or have at some point. It just seems to be a gambler's nature to want to "protect his investment" by betting a game that has caught the interest of a television network or, as is most often the case, the bettor decides that if he is going to put his money down on a sporting event then, win or lose, he at least is going to get a few hours of adrenaline out of his wager.
Fair enough. And if that is your goal with sports betting, simply to have a little fun, get some action or back your team with a few benjamins, then by all means bet all the games your heart desires and your wallet can handle.
But if you're serious about making a profit, betting the TV game for pure visual bliss can have a damaging effect on your bankroll. That's because high-profile TV games tend to feature two somewhat equally matched teams, usually from a tough conference, and the spread is usually accurate and difficult to crack.
If your top pick of the day happens to be on the tube, great. But let's pretend for a moment that it isn't. You've got your picks made, your bets down, but you need a fix for your TV jones as you watch the scores roll in over the course of the day. Here are a few tips that will put you in action without jeopardizing your bankroll:
- Bet a friend. If you pool your bankroll with a betting partner or have a friend who simply likes to watch games, take a side against him for, say, the lunch tab that day. It's enough of a stake to give you a rooting interest but won't interfere with your gambling bankroll.
- Bet small. If your average unit is say, $220 per game, then bet maybe $22 on the big TV game if you need action. If small stakes simply aren't enough to get your juices flowing, then maybe try a $20 four-team parlay on select major TV games. Even though it's a longshot bet, it gives you action on several games and it's a nice little prize (13/1 is the payout on most cards), given that you hit it one once in a while.
- Expand your TV options. If you're a serious bettor who just can't handle getting scores on the ticker or Internet, there are enough cable packages available that you might want to invest in one so you can get all the action that you please, without feeling compelled to bet only the major-network games.
- Bet at halftime. One advantage of the big TV game is that there usually is a new line posted at halftime for the second half. By getting a feel for the game in the first half, you'll have a better sense of how the game is going and might find value in the halftime line.
- Go against the public. When all else fails, do this in all instances. If the big game is about to come on and you see a bunch of drunken, frat-boy doofus types getting in line at the counter and all betting the same team, which will most likely be the favorite or the home team, bet against them. Or, if the line goes from minus-7 to minus-9.5 right before the game, take the dog. You'll be taking the side the books need, and they stay open for business for a reason.
- Go against the grain particularly in isolated games. This applies mostly to Monday Night Football and the occasional single major college football game in the middle of the week. As Wellesley of the Grand Sierra points out, the Monday night game often is a big one for the books, as many parlay cards are tied to the outcome, and many bettors who failed on the Sunday games will try to get the whole wad back in one lump sum Monday night. Remember, the public loves to play "favorite and over," so your best bet usually is to take the underdog. But sometimes there's no clear indication, through movement of the spread or otherwise, as to which way the public is leaning. How you will find out: be courteous and polite to the tickets writers, and leave at least a small gratuity whenever you collect winning bets (these small steps alone will make them remember you). Then ask one with whom you are friendly where the action has been coming in, and if he or she says, "Everyone in the world has been betting the Bears minus-7," then you've got all the info you need to know. Take the points.