Sick of Paying Off?

This man claims his book can show you the way to sports betting profit. Should you believe him?

(disclosure: This is a review of Kevin O’Neill’s latest book. Kevin is a columnist for many media sources on the Internet, including this one)

The second sentence of Football Betting’s Cutting Edge, New Strategies for a New Era bothered me so badly that I immediately grabbed a pen to start circling the multitude of mistakes that were sure to follow in the next 132 pages.

O’Neill claimed that “…(football betting) towers over almost all other forms of gambling in profit potential “. Even though my roots are firmly planted in the south (where gambling for the most part is illegal) I know a decent number of “professional gamblers” and none of them are professional sports bettors. Most are rags to riches stories straight out of Hollywood – amassing their fortunes through the demonstrative ability to apply big edges in their favor over and over again. For them, the task of sports betting is a “leak“, a hobby, or a laughable pursuit.

The only profit potential I’ve ever witnessed in football betting is for the bookmaker. One only needs to fire up your favorite Internet site to see the offshore bookmaker’s clamoring for your attention and money. There are so many offshore sports books that keeping up with them all has become an impossible task. How in the world, in good conscience, could the author claim that some sort of massive profit potential lies at the heart of football wagering or sports wagering unless he was scribing, in detail, the step-by-step process of becoming a bookmaker?

The other option is that O’Neill was delivering a treatise on how to become a sports service owner. Plenty of sports services are hording massive amounts of cash. A few net over a million a year, and the bottom of the totem pole is over populated with those that enjoy six figure incomes. Certainly, O’Neill wasn’t referring to the “profit potential” for the sports bettor as a player was he?

Even though O’Neill offers no proof or documentation to back up his opening statements, its painstakingly obvious that he believes it. In the pages that follow he delivers a textbook on fundamental sports betting knowledge that could ultimately save the average sports bettor between 2 and 10 bets during the course of a season.

The text is broken down into four sections. The first, “The New World”, details the pitfalls, shortcomings and advantages the “Information Age” of the Internet has yielded. While I couldn’t disagree more with the author’s opening insights, the first three chapters here expound one truth after another. O’Neill outlines the danger of “Information Overload”, line tightening, why the Nevada sports books have become obsolete and why offshore bookmakers are now king. While nearly impossible to believe, in the past five years Nevada has become insignificant in the sports betting industry to the point of leading a meaningless existence. O’Neill chronicles its fall very well, but could have gone deeper by delivering a deeper look at the future of Internet gambling, the origins of the Kyl Bill and its future from a legal position.

The highlight of the second section “The World of Wagering” is a sojourn to the offices of . Widely known as “Roxy” (after its founder and former owner – the self-proclaimed “King of the Odds makers”), this is the office where opening lines and halftime lines are created. O’Neill gives an account of a Sunday night when LVSC puts out a seemingly bad number that is immediately moved several points by the legion of bettors at the Stardust opening lottery. The lessons learned here are important:It is the bettor that pounds the numbers into shape, and nobody at LVSC is ever going to admit they made a mistake in an opening line, no matter what happens or how much a line moves. Its humorous to read O’Neill’s account of how odds maker Pete Korner danced around admitting the opening line was “wrong”, and discounted the possibility that bookmakers could hurt if they got middled or sided. The NFL number is so tough not because of the brilliant minds at LVSC, but because it only takes a relatively small amount of Sunday night money to move an NFL side or total. Once the early money hammers a line into place, the limits during the week progress to the point one could actually bet 5 figures on an NFL contest in Las Vegas and not even notice the slightest quiver in line movement. Once the Sabbath dawns, the numbers are so tough IBM’s Big Blue couldn’t beat them.

The third section of the book delivers the “meat” of the package. Here O’Neill delivers a myriad of handicapping techniques and strategies that he evidently uses to realize the aforementioned “massive profit potential”. For the handicapper wanting to learn to do his own work, or add strategies, concepts and ideas to his skills set, this is the most important part of the book. Whereas earlier sections dealt with betting fundamentals, techniques and the proper use of information, here O’Neill unleashes his handicapping knowledge on the sports bettor in 7 chapters.

Actually, “unleash” might be a bit dramatic. “Dripping like really cold molasses” might be more appropriate. “NFL Games are ‘shorter'” says O’Neill, and therefore the superior athletes in a NCAA game have more time to dominate mismatched team. NFL coaches don’t run up the score. Teasers “seem” to be better in the NFL because the line is closer to the final score in professional sports. “Athleticism has changed the game” proclaims O’Neill. No, gentle reader, we aren’t exactly talking about cataclysmic epiphanies here. Fun to read, but not much you can use to cash a ticket at the betting window.

Profession of sports betting wisdom, although slow and deliberate, finally makes a showing in chapter 14, “Personality Handicapping Trumps Trends”. Here the author makes this argument:trends are most applicable in handicapping if they are congruent with the head coach and his approach to football. O’Neill gives the reader plenty of real life examples of teams, their coaches, and trend handicapping. As fantastic as all of this sounds, the author closes the chapter with these words “These teams changed their MO as dramatically as can possibly be imagined. Their coaches were smart enough to fit their personality to their talent. “Great. Now we need a crystal ball to ascertain what a coach may or may not do depending on his talent and how good of a leader he really is.

Chapter 15 doesn’t leave much “meat” on the table for the hungry sports bettor to be either. Kevin speaks of returning starter edges, teams with a “game in hand” and a few paltry suggestions for sources of solid information for these statistics. Since this chapter covers early season NCAA handicapping, it’s hard to imagine there is more ground to be covered. While I found myself asking “What else is there in terms of early season strategies?”, one problem still remained:this stuff is so obvious that its impossible it can be of much use. O’Neill doesn’t dazzle the reader with any long term winning statistics, so these early season strategies served more as a “jump start” to the brain more than anything else.

I would have liked to have seen a more in depth look at quarterback mismatches, and perhaps some sort of rating system to determine the relative strengths and weaknesses of squads early in the season.    Knowing the numerical strength of an offensive line, and how a certain injury, suspension or transfer might yield some sort of positive expectation seems more likely to be an indicator of point spread performance. I think there is some relatively sophisticated methodology used in setting the line, and this stuff just seems too simple to stand on its own.

The last ten chapters of the book, starting at chapter 16, represent the strongest part of the author’s effort. While the statistical work is a shallow in places in terms of the presentation of long term supporting data, its still highly thought provoking. In chapter 17, entitled “Using Statistical Analysis to Project Dominance of the Rushing Game in College”, O’Neill digs deep into the box score, historical expectation and a fantastic little section on projecting rushing beyond raw data.

Chapter 18 gives us “The Sayonara Strategy: When Coaches Leave for Greener Pastures”. One could probably write a college length dissertation on this subject matter alone, and O’Neill lends direction for doing more on our own with his great ideas and observations.

The rest of the fifth section concentrates on college bowl strategy, the NFL preseason, and the strategy of amassing a preponderance of evidence for playing a NFL team based on situational or statistical data. There may be some merit to many of O’Neill’s situational recommendations. Teams off a defensively weak win, teams off a fluky win, teams returning home after a blowout loss and teams off a fluky loss all caught my eye as more than passing interest.

My biggest gripe with the book is exemplified perfectly in this chapter on situational handicapping. Much like one of the last chapters in the book, “Games Sports Services Play”, Kevin touches the surface brilliantly, but closes weak.

I’d like to see more empirical evidence that this stuff works. I’d like to see charts, diagrams and some sort of statistical research to lend credence to the theories. While speaking on sports services, O’Neill scores a perfect “10” on his delivery in exposing much of the duplicity the service industry might engage. From sports book referrals to phony trend games to phony systems to a full explanation of why many tout services ALWAYS release an odd number of plays – O’Neill huffs and puffs but once again chokes before he can blow anyone’s house down. He has no problem naming The Football Betting Guide as a “particularly heinous piece of malfeasance”, but refuses to:

  • Acknowledge that sports service monitors are in reality just cheaply bought public relation firms for the sports services
  • Attribute”the odd number of games game” to its undisputed master, Phil Steele and Northcoast Sports
  • Attribute the “small number of plays game” to Joe Gavazzi and Private Players of Pittsburg
  • Acknowledge or attribute the 900 number merry-go-round/mistaken identity crisis/multiple personality disorder to Dandy Donn Wagner or Phil Steele
  • Acknowledge or attribute such bunk as “…our plays were 70% on a ‘star’ basis this weekend” to its founding father Phil Steele
  • Attribute the “phony system game” to retired sports bettor and tout Bob McCune who popularized the absolutely useless “parents day” system

To Kevin’s credit, he does attack the aforementioned Football Betting Guide, which is more than most in the industry will do these days. I suppose the duty of playing judge, jury and executioner is ultimately up to the potential sports service client according to O’Neill. It’s curious that he’d name the Football Betting Guide by name and not the others, though. It makes him look guilty of having some agenda or interest to hide by his lack of specifics in the rest of the chapter.

I just can’t help getting the feeling that Kevin missed the mark in this section, though. I think the sophisticated sports bettor that’s been around a while would like to know how if the services ranked by the Football Betting Guide really do “pay” to get that ranking, and if so – how much? (please see editor’s note at the end for more on this)

Stu Feiner has a huge (by sports service standards) office in O’Neill’s hometown of Atlanta. The history and a look at the inner workings of such an entity would have been fascinating. Right up the road, in Duluth, GA. , Johnny Demarco makes his home office. Why not give us more from these uncharted waters?Of course, its not a book on sports services, but much like the rest of the handicapping sections, one is left feeling very empty when its time to turn the page. In addition, it is the author that brings up the sports services then somehow leaves the reader out to dry without a more exhaustive look.

If, by the grace of God, you’ve made it this far in the review, you might be asking “Should I Buy This Book”?

I can answer that with an unequivocal, uncompromising and passionate — “maybe”. As stated earlier, its easy to see how some of the sports betting principles could save the average (losing) sports bettor 2-10 units in a given season. For the professional, I think the sections on handicapping might help jump start a potential new and winning approach.

Here’s a recap:

Cons:

  • Short on isolated (long or short term) statistical testing of his strategies
  • Section on “Information Age” strangely devoid of more specific Internet resources
  • Chapters can tend to leave one empty or unfulfilled
  • Section on Sports Services inconsistent in its critique and empty of a unique perspective
  • Would like to have seen tougher questions for the employees concerning offshore properties, thefeed, how much time is put into the less popular sports like Canadian Football, Hockey props, etc.

Pros:

  • Could save the average sports bettor many bets over a lifetime of betting sports
  • The second best book I’ve ever read on football handicapping
  • Fantastic, analytical thinking from an extremely bright mind
  • Interesting chapter on provides glimpse inside line making most of us will never see
  • Gives the reader fundamental knowledge of many of the games sports services play
  • When compared to the quality of most sports betting information, excels to the heights of Pulitzer Prize winning literature

Should You Buy It:

  • “Yes” if you find the fodder at  illuminating
  • “Yes” if you say anything less than “plus 10 thousand” when your bookmaker asks for your 
  • “Yes” if your knowledge of sports betting concepts discussed on this site seem a bit over your head at times
  • “Yes” if you are winning NCAA or NFL handicapper (yeah, right) always looking to increase your knowledge, wisdom or pick up ideas
  • “Yes” if you are the average (losing) handicapper that does his own work and is always tinkering with new ideas that may lead to something worthwhile and rewarding
  • “No” if you don’t bet on football
  • “No” if you are a professional level sports bettor that doesn’t have the time or the resources to follow up on the ideas O’Neill brings forth

Conclusion/Addendum:

If the above text seems harsh, its only because, as a publisher, the intent was to remain as fair and objective as possible. While some ideas seemed underdeveloped, we whole heartedly and without reservation recommend taking the time to read and explore Football Betting’s Cutting Edge, New Strategies for a New Era for yourself. The author offers an unconditional money back guarantee.

* Editor’s Note: In the original text, we questioned why O’Neill didn’t explain how the Football Betting Guide enjoys such a wide newsstand distrobution. We overlooked the fact that the text clearly states that the publishers give the publication away, allowing the vendor to keep all money earned from a sale. We regret the oversight)

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