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Bet with your Head, not your Heart!


Football and Thanksgiving go together like Santa and Christmas. This week, over turkey with all the trimmings, discussions at dinner tables across the Nation will tell which team the public wants to bet. However, if you want avoid the gambling equivalent of indigestion, there are some key points to understand when sports books talk about "public money".

The strength of some teams seems so obvious that every armchair quarterback wants to believe they're unbeatable. Selective memory takes over, as bettors see only one outcome and pour their money onto the "sure thing" after convincing themselves that the facts are overwhelming. The greatest weakness with these "locks" is they're so easy to recognize that everyone has the same idea. What many players don't realize is that the line reflects this and in many cases, books overcompensate for these public plays.

An old rule of thumb was that if you saw the public on one side of a game, stay off that team! One of the best kept secrets in gambling is that the average player wins only 49% of bets against the spread. Until a player develops their handicapping skills to become better than average, not even Pinnacle Sportsbook's ultra-competitive -104 style pricing on NFL sides will help them.

How can the public possibly do so poorly? In simple terms, the public thinks with their hearts and not their heads. If a line moves from -3 to -3, public bettors are almost oblivious to the loss in value playing the favorite, and will keep betting it, regardless.

To find who the public is playing in a game, look no further than your office or circle of friends. If everyone around the water cooler seems to agree what the right side of a game is, you've most likely found the public side. Further clues of public plays, include the use of terms like "National Champion", "Undefeated", and "QB Injury" when referring to a team.

How can you bet with your head and avoid being one of the squares? One concept to set you apart from the public is to look past short-term streaks. For example, let's take a look at the Cincinnati Bengals. I chose them because at 5-5, they look like an "average" team. The Bengals began the season 3-0 and as a result, this average team started receiving public money. Meanwhile, sharp bettors did not get excited over the quick start because it was "just three games".

The Bengals then proceeded to lose five of their next six games, and were suddenly a "bad" team on a three-game losing streak. The public, ripe to fade such teams, were disappointed when Cincinnati upset New Orleans. The sharps, viewing the season as a whole, saw the Bengals as just an average team -- sometimes good, sometimes bad, but just average overall.

Teams that look either great or terrible are seldom as extreme as their records appear. The public doesn't appreciate this, which gives rise to many profitable opportunities. If an average or good team wins back-to-back blow-outs, the public will be quick to jump on the bandwagon. Similarly, if a team plays flat for two straight weeks, the public will fade them. In both instances, the smart play will be to swim against the tide of public opinion.

Another smart tactic is to go against streaks, such as betting against a team that has won four games or more in a row to cover the fifth week. Players should also appreciate that teams on losing streaks are more likely to over-perform, and bet accordingly. Taking a quick look at this week's card, a team seeing an increase in public support is the Chargers. They are the first NFL team to win four straight while giving up 24 or more points in each game. Laying 13 points against Oakland might be considered a "trap" game.
 

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