Archive Opinion The Orion

Tips for football picks, rules to reduce risk

August 1, 2005

The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl.

The New England Patriots hoisted the Lombardi Trophy for winning the championship game of the National Football League, 24-21.

But if you bet on them, you probably lost. They didn’t cover the spread.

Sports gambling is a magical world where one paycheck can be parlayed to pay off student loans. This apple in the garden of Eden comes with a snake, though.

The spread is the point spread, or the number of points a team can either win or lose by. The team that’s favored is handicapped by the point spread, according to

In the Super Bowl, the Patriots were the favorites at -7. That means for someone to win a bet on the Patriots, New England would have to win by seven points. It’s like giving Philadelphia a touchdown and the extra point at the beginning of the game.

If that sounds too complicated, then there’s always the over-under bet. All this bet requires is to decide whether both team’s combined score will be more than or less than a set number.

According to Wikipedia, this number was 46 for the Super Bowl. Since the two teams scored 45 points together, the under barely squeaked through.

If you just want to bet on which team will win, then pick the money line. A plus or minus number is attached to each team on the week.

The minus again goes to the team that is favored. To win $100 on this bet, you have to put down that amount. The Patriots were the favorites in the Super Bowl, so their money line was -265, according to Wikipedia. This means you would have to bet $265 to win $100.

The plus goes to the Eagles at +245. If you bet $100 on the Eagles to win the Super Bowl without any point spread attached, then you would win $245.

No matter how you bet on the games, the house will always have your number. You can protect yourself with a few easy rules.

Rule 1: Expect anything

The most important thing to remember is that any team can win. With that said, don’t bet on the Houston Texans every week.

Rule 2: Just say no

When the favorites, or teams most likely to win, are listed every week, it looks like a really nice gesture from the oddsmakers. Treat this like you would treat any good-natured advertisement from a large company — avoid it.

Rule 3: Don’t pay for picks

There’s three reasons behind this.

First, it doesn’t matter if they have a money-back guarantee because they still have your money and you have to get it back.

Second, if they don’t pick the games well, then you’ve managed to lose whatever money you put down plus their fee. Even worse, you’ll keep getting those bad picks in your e-mail, on your phone, at the post office, etc.

Third, if the people you’re paying say they’re right 80 percent of the time, then there’s a good chance you’re not getting the full story. Most of the time sportsbooks have special games they pick, like the game on Monday night and a few easy ones from Sunday. That percentage in the ads isn’t from a full slate of football games, only a few they liked.

Rule 4: Go with the flow, but don’t drink the Kool-Aid

Every week you’ll see the network pregame shows give you sure bets on who will win. Listen to their arguments, but don’t put your food money on what Terry Bradshaw tells you. The man does Supercuts commercials even though he only has two hairs on his head — what makes you think he can be trusted with your money?

Rule 5: Do it yourself.

No matter how many Web sites offer you ways to make money, no matter how many numbers are thrown at you, no matter how many balding men yell at you, the only person who should decide the games is you. It’s your money. Don’t throw it away.