Sports and Gaming News

NFL Playoff betting strategies, a look at the NCAA move to prohibit gambling in LV and more.

From $5.50 an hour stockboy to NFL MVP, if you wrote a rags to riches tale like that you’d be laughed at. What you might not know about Kurt Warner is that a few years ago he was one bad game away from being cut by the Iowa Barnstormers. A defensive lineman dropped a sure interception on a horrendous pass from Warner that would have sealed the game. Warner went on to throw a game winning TD pass on the drive to keep his career alive for another week. He is now one game away from the Super Bowl. What a story.

Just as the public is so often wrong, even the well researched “super strategy” can be wrong in the NFL. Would you have played a strategy with a pointspread record of 125-49-1, for an amazing record in excess of 70%? Of course you would have. That was the exact record of a strategy (system, trend, choose your own lingo) provided to me by MJR of Marc Lawrence’s office recently. The strategy: simply bet the over in the AFC and NFC playoffs (excluding the Super Bowl). That’s right, betting the over in the NFL playoffs was better than 70% over 175 occurrences dating back to 1980. I say “was” because that same strategy is guaranteed to have a solid losing year this year. Those playing the 70% play are a mere 2-6 (25%) after the first two weeks of the NFL playoffs. Despite his access to such quality research, MJR is a successful comprehensive handicapper astute enough not to be 2-6 in the NFL playoffs himself.

If you received a copy of our basketball report in the mail you know that we have more respect for single team trends in college hoops than we do in other sports. We reported that Arizona entered the season with a 19-5 spread mark as an underdog or a pick under Coach Lute Olsen. Make that 22-5, as ‘zona notched their third outright upset of the season beating a UCLA team that couldn’t handle the prosperity of their victory over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Arizona’s ace freshman guards Gardner and Arenas were outstanding for the Wildcats. For a free copy of our basketball report call our 24-hour voice mail at 770.989.2526 and leave your name and address.

The days of Caesar’s Palace being a top sports book may be numbered. Caesar ‘s has long been known for providing among the fairest money line and proposition odds in the business and being willing to take a sizable bet. That era may be ending as a corporate merger now has Caesar’s simply being a satellite of the Las Vegas Hilton. Seizing the window of opportunity provided by the “corporatization” of Nevada sports books, the Stratosphere is rapidly becoming the most aggressive sports book in town. Every day the sports betting world moves a just a little bit further offshore.

The NCAA is behind a bill scheduled to be introduced in the US Senate next Wednesday outlawing legalized gambling on college sports. Such and action obviously would concern only Nevada, as no other states allow wagering on college sports. Those behind the effort show their lack of understanding of the issue in their comments from a recent AP story:

”We think the kids are very vulnerable,” said Doris Dixon, NCAA director of federal relations. ”They’re young people; they don’t have professional contracts or careers – $500 or $5,000 to miss that shot or stumble on that finish line doesn’t mean their team won’t win, just that they won’t win by the point spread.”

“Stumble on that finish line”? Did I miss a cross country or track and field scandal? Additionally, Ms. Dixon owes us an explanation as to the mechanics of the point spread in these two sports. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas was quoted in the AP dispatch saying that the recent point shaving scandals at Arizona State, Northwestern, and Boston College “are a direct result of an increase in gambling on college sports.”

Let’s ignore for a minute that utilizing Vegas sports books is the surest way to get caught in a point shaving scandal. Nevada books recognizing “unnatural” betting patterns exposed the Arizona State scandal. By making such a statement Brownback shows his lack of knowledge of the thought processes of college athletes. College athletes see multi-billion dollar TV contracts, dozens of schools that gross well over a million dollars in gate receipts alone on a Saturday afternoon, quarter million dollar basketball gates, big money shoe contracts for schools and coaches, and say “what about us?” The athletes who have shaved points have not necessarily gambled at other times, they simply saw it as the only way for them to possibly milk a few bucks out of the cash cow that is college sports. A more reasonable distribution of college sports wealth would make it more difficult for the contemptible small time hustlers like former Notre Dame football player Kevin Pendergrast to tempt athletes into a point-shaving episode.

There is a continuously-growing bureaucracy of associate athletics directors, academic advisors, special assistants, staff members, and other hangers on in ill-defined roles who earn a nice living from college athletics. The athletes who can’t afford to go on spring break or take a date to dinner say, “we’re providing the product here, where’s our piece of the pie?” Rather than address economic issues or those of academic fraud, drug abuse, violent crime among athletes, and numerous other problems that the army of “athletic administrators” haven’t solved, they trot out the gambling issue as a diversionary tactic.

The NFL playoffs appear to have isolated the top four teams in the league, as the Colts seemed to fade a bit toward the end of the season. You already know that Jacksonville’s only two losses this year have come at the hands of the Titans. Additionally, the Jags are 31-3 at home since their expansion year, with Tennessee responsible for two of the three defeats.

Despite their loss on Sunday, is their any team with a brighter future than the Indianapolis Colts? If Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is so rich, why did he have to double the parking fee for Washington’s playoff game against Detroit? My cousins have been loyal ‘skins fans forever and did not appreciate the gouge. Snyder reminds me of the kid in “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” whose dad hired a staff of people to open up candy bars to find the one with the prize.

For updates and selections throughout the week call 770.618.8700. The Hotline went on a recent 15-2 football/basketball spree, so make the daily call to this 24-hour free service that seldom has any advertising.

One sure thing in the football this weekend is that widely respected Tampa Bay Coach Tony Dungee will do everything in his power to slow the NFC Championship game down with defense, no mistakes, defense, run the ball to take time off the clock, defense, and defense. This game planning leads me to favor under, which opened at 46½ but has been bet down to 44. 15 of Tampa’s 17 games this season have been under 46½, with the only two higher seeing 47 and 49 points scored. Surprisingly, 10 of the Rams 17 games this year have gone under the opening number.

The Rams may be more amenable to a low scoring game than expected. No doubt that his teams sloppiness during the Vikings pointless (except for teaser players) comeback on Sunday infuriated Rams Coach Vermeil. With the Bucs’ lack of offensive punch look for the Rams to go conservative with a lead. With a shootout unlikely, other scenarios suggest a low scoring game. We’ll go against the long term 70% over trend we wrote of earlier and look to the under, though we’re certainly not thrilled with the line move.

Enjoy the games this weekend. Good luck and be careful. | January 21st, 2000

– – – – – – – – – – – –About the writer
Kevin is the author of two best selling books on football betting. His weekly column covers the world of sports betting, the media and football handicapping.

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