When you bet, whether you’re going through a sportsbook or a friend of a friend that goes by “Slick," you’re contending with an information imbalance. The reason that everyone in the gambling industry, including bookies, wins more than half the time (it stands to reason that they do if they’re still in the industry) is that they understand the nature of lines and have historical data and betting information that allows them to make more informed decisions than their clients. You might have an inkling, but any business in Vegas is going to have an algorithm.
Fortunately, there is a limit to the powers of math. Absurdity trumps calculation.
Proposition bets (a Broncos cheerleader will fall down, the kicker will hit the post, there will be three or more pass interference calls in the fourth quarter) eliminate the information imbalance because while relevant information likely exists, no one has collected it. Is there a way to calculate the likelihood that a Steve Smith Sr. will catch a hail mary then do the jitterbug? Probably, but no one has ever done it. There is no statistical upper hand. There is only the negotiation about the odds. You can win a negotiation based on skill.
Here’s your proof positive. The British bookmaker William Hill once bet a Glasgow postman 20,000,000-to-1 that Elvis Presley would crash-landed a UFO on the head of the Loch Ness monster. He lost (so far), but you've got to like those odds. Try to get 20,000,000-to-1 on a premier league match.
That said, if you want a betting house to bite, you might have to keep things a bit less fantastic. For examples, let’s look back to the 1985 Chicago Bears season. Before ultimately losing a game, the Bears held a 12-game winning streak. About half way through that ludicrous season, gamblers began to focus on William “Refrigerator” Perry, a monstrous defensive lineman. Sportsbooks set odds at 20-to-1 that Perry would score a touchdown, despite the fact that Coach Ditka repeatedly said he was going to keep him out of the backfield. Perry did end up scoring, and betting houses lost a fortune. It was glorious.
Nowadays, you can make a much wider range of proposition bets. Most center on the Super Bowl, though prop betting is big in baseball as well (we recommend betting on high margins of victory for both sides). If your team is having an off year, it’s a great way to stay involved. Hell, it’s a great way to celebrate success too. You’ll win way less than half the time and it won’t matter. If you negotiate the odds, one stroke of luck could bankroll you through next season.
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