Monday, September 10, 2007

Week 1 Wrap-up, Part I

It has come to my attention that some readers of this blog may or may not understand how the betting lines work...

I'll start with the basics. The very basics. Vegas can't very well take bets on whether, say, the Seahawks will beat the Buccaneers in Seattle. The Buccaneers suck and the Seahawks are good, so, everyone would bet on the Seahawks and Vegas would lose tons of money.

So, what they do, is they set a betting line, the goal of which is to get 50% of people to bet on one side, and 50% of people to bet on the other. So, you don't bet on whether the Seahawks will win the game (you can, but, you barely win enough money to make it worth your while), you bet on whether the Seahawks will win by more than six or less than six. That's why it's:


The Seahawks are favored to win by six. That's why it's "minus 6;" think of simple math: the Seahawks minus six points equals the Buccaneers. The Seahawks, as a team, are assumed to be able to score exactly six points more than the Buccaneers. So that's what you bet on; presumably, 50% of people will bet that the Seahawks will win the game by more than six, and 50% of people will be that the Seahawks will win the game by less than six (or will lose the game outright).

That's called the point spread, or, colloquially, the "spread."

So, since the Seahawks won 20-6, if you'd taken the Seahawks -6 you'd have won. The Seahawks will have "covered" the spread. If the Buccaneers had lost by less than six, or had won the game, they would have "beaten" the spread.

When it's something like:


That just means that the Patriots are favored by 6 1/2 points (sometimes they'll involve half-points in the point spread). Sometimes they'll put it like this:


It's the same difference; the Patriots are assumed to be 6.5 points better than the Jets.

You can also "push" (like in blackjack); if a game's line ("line" means "point spread," as far as I understand it) was:


And the Redskins in fact won by 3, that game would be a push. You don't win money, you don't lose money.

Anyway, suicide pool picks are not against the point spread, they're straight up. You just pick a team to win a game that week.

So, I debated whether even to make picks for Week 1, since it's bound to be a train wreck, and so far, pending the Monday Night games, I'm 6-7-1 (if my quick count is right; I'll double-check later). But, in my five "I fell good about these games" games -- i.e., the five games I'd bet on if I were going to bet on games -- I'm 2-1. If the Monday Nighters go my way, I should be fine.

It has come to my attention that some readers of this blog may or may not understand how the betting lines work.

I hope that wasn't me. To clarify, I do have a passing familiarity with betting lines, thanks in large part to your primer in Vegas during the playoffs in '06. What I meant was: I don't understand how football works.

I wasn't exactly sure whether "-6" meant Tampa Bay would lose by less than six or Seattle would win by more than six, but I was confident I could figure it out if I looked at it carefully. (See? Looking at it carefully, those two are exactly the same thing. Done!) I just didn't look at it carefully because I figured "I don't understand football. Getting into the details is only going to lose me."

I may be selling myself a bit short. Although I have, on at least one occasion, uttered something as stupid as "the 52-yard-line," I actually understand football fairly well. I don't get the difference between a "nose tackle" and a "right guard" - but I understand the rules better than your average "Friday Night Lights" viewer, who could be forgiven for thinking there was no such thing as a field goal. I do not, however, follow football; so, parsing your list and thinking about Bucs vs. Hawks or Fins vs. Skins wasn't going to do me much good. The great thing about the Athletic Reporter Blog is that this doesn't matter a whit. I can still enjoy the Arksie wit and style, even if you could've switched the bold print on every pick and I'd still have said, "Looks fine to me."
I don't know how the Vegas oddsmakers could possibly have picked the Vikings to win by only three at home. Come on! With Tarvaris Jackson at QB and that LETHAL trio of Troy Williamson, Bobby Wade, and Sidney Rice at receiver, how could anyone not see them as a legitimate Super Bowl team? My sarcasm and cynicism aside, they did look pretty good yesterday.

I enjoyed your explanation of the betting lines. I'll admit that I'm not too well-versed on that type of thing, so your tutorial was helpful. It's funny to see you helping me for a change, since my back is sore from carrying you all of these years and showing you the ways of the world. It's nice to see my little one is all grown-up and teaching people about the lovely world of sports gambling.

Glad to see you back on your blog. Check mine out when you get a chance...

When I saw that the Tavaris Jackson-Joey Harrington duel was 7-0 at the half, I turned to my buddy Frank and said, "That has to be a defensive touchdown."

It was.

Also, other than 3 days next week, I'm back in town. Let's hang out.
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