How to Win at Football Betting

With the opening of the NFL season this week, thousands of gamblers, serious and recreational, all want to know how to beat the pointspreads, how to get the best of the Line. Many of these hopeful souls end up writing me for the “secrets.” Since the publication of my book “The Smart Money,” which explains how professional betting syndicates earn millions on sports betting, many gamblers have the mistaken impression that I can bequeath the Rosetta Stone that will break the Vegas code and solve all their financial worries. (For that trick, call one of the countless 900-lines that claim to pick 70% winners.) I can’t help you. I’m sorry.

I can, however, tell the amateur gambler the best strategy for betting on football games: Don’t do it. Over the long run, you won’t be able to overcome the bookie’s 4.54% advantage. You’ll have some good weeks, and perhaps even a good season. But, as with any negative expectation betting proposition, with enough trials the results will mirror the math, and you’ll have less than you began with. And if you have emotional problems or mental illness, you’ll end up with nothing.

If betting on football is “just entertainment,” then wager the absolute minimum every game and keep your habit in the cost-of-a-movie range. Don’t chase losses; don’t press your wins. Acknowledge that you don’t know more than anyone else and that your opinion is going to be “right” exactly half the time.

If you’re really a talented handicapper, quit your job, move to Vegas, and retire rich. But please don’t write me to boast about your 64% win rate and plead for an introduction to Big Daddy or Algo Andy. If you’re that good, they already know about you.

I hesitate to say “no one wins” at sports betting, because some people do — consistently and for enormous amounts. (You can read all about them.) The average Sunday afternoon couch jockey, however, is better off keeping his selections in theoretical realm, where the wins aren’t quite as sweet and the losses don’t sting nearly as much.

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