Sports handicapping advice and picks from a future professional sports handicapper.

Location: Lighthouse Point, Florida, United States

I am a corporate attorney with an MBA in finance. I've practiced since 1993. Currently I work for a high-tech company that focuses primarily on intellectual property development, technology licensing and venture capital transactions. In my spare time I am studying several so-called "advantage play" techniques as they relate to sports handicapping. I hope to someday pursue sports handicapping full time. Sportsbook managers, consider yourselves duly warned.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Advice: NFL "Key" Numbers

When betting NFL point spreads, you must be extremely mindful of what are called “key” numbers. That is to say, there are certain score differentials in NFL games that have a propensity to occur at statistically significant rates.

For example, from 2000-2004, games ended with a differential of exactly 3 points about 17% of the time and by exactly 7 points about 10% of the time. Other significant differentials were 10 (6%), 6 (5%), 14 (5%), and 4 (4%). Thus, there is a VERY good chance that the final score of your game will land right one of these key numbers … almost a 47% chance.

What does all of this mean to a bettor? In general, it means that there is a HUGE difference between laying, for instance, -3.5, -3.0, and -2.5 on a favorite. Similarly, there is a huge difference between taking +2.5, +3.0, and +3.5 on an underdog. SHOP, SHOP, AND SHOP SOME MORE TO AVOID BEING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF A KEY NUMBER. If you’re on the favorite, and you’re laying -3.5 (-110), you’re on the WRONG side of the 3. Similarly, if you’re on the underdog and you’re getting +2.5 (-110) you’re on the WRONG side of the 3 (from the other way.) That piddly extra half-point you gave on the favorite at -3.5, or that piddly extra point you didn’t get when you bet the underdog +2.5 proves EXTREMELY costly over the long run. It may not seem like a big deal at the exact time that you’re making the play (how important could a lousy half-point be?), but trust me, it is CRITICAL over the long run. Actually, don't trust me, run the numbers!

Again, if you like the favorite in a game, you should always try very hard to avoid laying -3.5 (-110): do your very, very best to get a -3.0 (-110) or, better yet, a -2.5 (-110). If you’re on the underdog, avoiding taking +2.5 (-110): do your very, very best to get a +3.0 (-110) or, better yet, a +3.5 (-110). The same advice applies for the half-points around the other key numbers: 7, 10, 6, and 4.

Memorize the key numbers 3, 7, 10, 6, and 4, and respect them at the betting window.

In some cases, and where it is permitted by the sports book, it can be mathematically wise to buy down off of a “3”; that is, instead of laying -3.0 (-110), you can pay extra vig and bet the same game -2.5 (-120). I'll discuss this tactic later on.


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