When I was first introduced to the world of professional gambling (courtesy of a few Discovery Channel documentaries and the infamous “Poker Boom”), I learned about one very important key concept that inspired me to continue my inquisition into the field. The concept was simply that guarantees did not exist–only probabilities did. I believe this concept to be true almost anywhere, and also to be no truer anywhere else than in professional sports. To me though, the idea that we as sports bettors are not trying to figure out who will win the games, but rather who is more likely to win the games (and how likely), only makes the endeavour both more interesting and more potentially sustainable over the long run.
I bring this up, mainly to segue into a brief review of some of the mechanics at work here, but do read on, as I’ll also reveal a little casino trick that is as close to a guarantee as there is in the world of gambling.
To the first order of business then, let’s use the game at the top of this Thursday’s NHL card, Atlanta at Washington, as a demonstration. As seen below, the prediction here is that Atlanta is most likely to lose, and hypothetically, if this game were to be played 100 times over, Atlanta is expected to win 44 times (44%) and lose 56 times (56%) after those 100 plays. Assuming then, that these percentages are in any way accurate, it should be very apparent that it would actually be fatally incorrect to bet on Washington here at -270. Sure–Washington is expected to win this game more often than not, but the question should really be “how often”? Mathematically, Washington would actually need to win this game almost 73% of the time (1 divided by 1.37) just to make this a marginally correct bet. On the other hand, Atlanta would only need to win this game about 30% of the time (1 divided by 3.30) to make them the correct side to bet on. I realize that to some, this is nothing new at all, but I just wanted to make sure that everyone here was up to date with this very crucial detail.
So, going down the list now, today’s set of recommended moneyline bets (as indicated by the words “VALUE”, “LEAN”, or “BET”) are ATL, BUF, FLA, CBJ, CAR, STL, and VAN, and not (triple-emphasis on “NOT”) WSH, PHI, BUF, BOS, DET, OTT, STL, and VAN. Of course, the teams in this second set are projected to be the most likely to win their games, but you may ultimately find yourself in a losing proposition if you choose to go that way. Therefore, I really hope that nobody is thinking about a 5+ game parlay of multiple favourites today.
Now to the goods. A professional sports gambler I am not (sadly), but as far as gambling for a living is concerned, I have actually been around that block. It was almost exactly one year ago today when I quit what was once one of the most lucrative gambling ‘schemes’ in recent history. If you’re at all familiar with progressive jackpot slot machines, or more specifically, the ‘Indiana Jones’ slot machine by IGT, then you may already know exactly what I’m talking about.
Essentially, there once was an incredibly popular slot machine which gave out ‘bonus spins’ at regular intervals during play, and those of us who were actually paying attention knew almost exactly when these bonus rounds would come. As for those who weren’t paying attention–well, they were the ones that paid off my 4 years worth of student loans and then some. Back then, people would actually get up quite frequently from their machines right before the thing was just about to give out its bonus. That was when we (those who paid attention) would swoop in and reap all the rewards (the bonus rounds were quite lucrative, sometimes yielding well over $100 per round). After the bonuses were done, we’d simply just cash out and then wait for the next batch of poor suckers to jump in and play until the machines were ready to pay out again, and the best part of it all was that there were a total of 8 machines in one location to ‘mine’ from. Guaranteed money?
Absolutely–and if you should be lucky enough now to find an oblivious gambler who just finished pumping his entire bankroll into an ‘Indiana Jones’ slot machine, only to get up while the ‘Sankara Stone’ or ‘Golden Idol’ indicator is blinking furiously above his/her head, then at all costs, get on that machine! Unfortunately for me though (and numerous other B.C. residents), that money train left our station a long time ago.
Anyway, the point that I really wanted to emphasize here was actually the point that in gambling, most of your profits are likely to come at the expense of other gamblers and NOT at the expense of the house, so pick your spots meticulously and try to cash in on the mistakes of others. Also, you’re probably generally better off if you’re thinking just one step beyond what everybody else is thinking–if betting the favourites all the time was really that profitable then everyone would be a professional sports bettor by now. Finally, just play the percentages. The percentages listed here may not necessarily be dead on, but you should always have some way of weighing the “what ifs” against the “what if nots”. Keep in mind that the NHL’s best team only has a win% of .645, so even the mightly Capitals have lost more than a third of all their games this season.
In conclusion, manage your risk-reward ratios wisely, and just remember that even 60% doesn’t mean “take it to the bank”, let alone 51% (re: yesterday’s concerns over the OTT/WSH prediction).
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