by Trevor Whenham - 06/02/2006
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If you're a North American sports fan, you probably think that the draw is a ridiculous concept. Leaving a game without a winner defeats the purpose of playing the game. Thankfully, they almost never happen here. They're rare in football, impossible in basketball and now in hockey and, except for in the all-star game, they can't happen in baseball, either. If you're a gambler who likes to make money, though, you might want to get used to the draw because it could be your best friend. In fact, betting the draw at the World Cup may be one of the easier ways to get a lot of action and make a bunch of money doing it.
The moneylines have been set for the first game each team will play in Germany. On those matches the average moneyline is +243 for the draw. That means that a $100 bet that correctly predicts a tie will earn a profit of $243, on average. That's 2.4/1. At 2/1 you would break even if one third of the games ended in a draw. Anything better than that would be better than profitable.
Here's where the good news comes in. There are 48 games in the first round (in later rounds they settle a draw with extra time and penalty kicks). In 2002, 14 of those 48 games ended in a draw. At +243, that would be enough to break even if you bet on every game. 1998 was even better, though. That time around, teams were unable to determine a winner in 16 of the 48 games. Assuming the moneyline was consistent with this year, then that would be a profit of almost 7 units on a straight draw bet on every game.
Here's the thing, though - you really don't have to bet every game. There are several games that you can comfortably assume are not going to end in a draw. By picking out and discarding the games that are destined to be one-sided, you can cut down on your losses and increase your profit. The trick, then, is to figure out the games that likely won't be close and use the process of elimination in making your draw bets. Here's a look at a few that could be interesting in that regards, and the reasons why:
Germany - You could make a convincing argument that neither Costa Rica nor Ecuador stands a good chance of playing even with Germany. Ecuador is a great team at home, but awful when they have to leave home and the comforts of their high altitude that chokes the opposition. Last I checked the World Cup isn't in Ecuador. It's not in Costa Rica, either, but even that wouldn't make the Germans a good match-up for the Costa Ricans. If Germany plays to a draw in either match it is a sign of much bigger problems for the home team.
Argentina - If the team plays nearly as well as they can then they should have no trouble beating the Ivory Coast. They outmatch them at almost every single position and they are just plain better. A draw isn't impossible, but it certainly isn't the most likely outcome.
Portugal - The team outmatches Iran and Angola with ease. Both teams are at 450/1 to win it all while Portugal is at 22/1. The biggest danger is that Portugal will be playing carelessly because they know hat they are the heavy favorites in both games. Provided that that doesn't happen, though, a draw is unlikely.
Brazil - If the Brazilians tie either Australia or Japan then there are going to be a lot of nervous bettors, because that wouldn't be a very good sign that the heavy favorites are going to be as dominant as people think that they will be. That shouldn't be a concern, though. Brazil has so many offensive weapons that it's almost unfair, and neither Japan nor the Socceroos have an answer for that.
France - Experts around the world are looking at France as one team with a good chance of spoiling Brazil's coronation. If that is going to happen, then they will have to be able to beat Togo with ease. Togo is at 400/1, while France is at odds 28 times smaller.
Spain - Saudi Arabia is at 600/1. If Spain, one of the favorites at 14/1, can't beat the Saudis with ease then I fear for all of Spain, because people will be jumping off of every bridge in the country.
England - Even if Wayne Rooney never plays again, England has to beat Trinidad and Tobago. The English will tell you that they are one of the best teams in the world, so they certainly better be able to beat the longest shot in the tournament. Trinidad and Tobago is 800/1. England isn't. A draw would be a disaster.
That's 10 games right there. One or two may end up as a draw, but I'm certainly not willing to bet that any of them will. That leaves 38 more games. Playing the draw in some or all of those is a way to both give yourself a rooting interest in a lot of games, and to take a low-risk shot at making a nice profit, too.