The Super Bowl is this Sunday and it is the biggest gambling event of the year. But before you put down any money on the big game, I want you to know just how difficult it is to win at betting on football. It is so difficult that even the experts, people whose job it is to know a lot about football, can’t even do it.
If these experts can’t make money betting on football then you probably can’t either.
Why it is so hard
The sports books have two tools that make betting on football so profitable for them. The first tool they have is the spread, which evens the playing field between good and bad teams making picking a winner very difficult. The second tool the sports books use to virtually guarantee they come out ahead at the expense of gamblers is the commission they collect on all winning bets which is also known as the “vig” or “vigorish.”
When one team is better than the other, it might seem easy to predict the better team will win. In the 2016 Super Bowl, for example, most NFL experts believe the Carolina Panthers are a better team than the Denver Broncos. To even out the number of people betting on each side, sports books add a spread that says the favorite must not only win the game, but win by a certain number of points in order to win the bet. On the other hand, the underdog team doesn’t have to win the game to win the bet, they only need to lose by less points than the spread.
The spread in the 2016 Super Bowl is about six points. While many people believe the Panthers will win the game, predicting whether they win the game by more than six points is much harder to do. Hard enough that picking games with the spread factored in is about a 50-50 proposition.
Almost all experts would lose money gambling
The website NFLPickWatch.com keeps tracks of 50 of the top experts and their records for picking NFL games against the spread. The results aren’t pretty. Of the 50 experts tracked, only 10 were able to beat that key winning percentage of 52.5%.
These 50 experts picked a total of 12,648 games during the 2015 NFL season and won just 6,259, or 49.5% of those games. If every one of those experts had wagered just $10 on each game, the group would have lost a total of $7,559, an average of $151 per expert. If the average expert would lose money, what do you think your chances are?
So what about the 10 experts that would have made money? I still don’t think it is a very good idea to put money on what those guys have to say. Of those 10, only three would have made money according to NFLPickWatch.com’s 2014 rankings (registration required). To be fair, a few of those guys didn’t appear on the 2014 list and how they did in 2014 either isn’t published anywhere or is nearly impossible to find. This goes to show that even the few experts that picked more than 52.5% correct probably had more to do with luck than with skill.
The best picker of them all is Jason La Confora from CBS sports. In 2015 he won 55.1% of his picks, which is pretty darn impressive. If somebody was taking Mr. La Confora’s picks and placing $10 on every one of them that person would have placed $2,560 in bets to win just $119 (before taxes) in the 2015 season. With that little tiny amount of return compared to the the large risk of betting on football, I don’t think that is a good investment at all.
What about the shady sounding guy on the radio that says he has a system?
If you listen to a sports talk radio station, it won’t be very long before you hear some guy come on the air and tell you he has a foolproof system for picking games and if you call his 800 number and pay him money he will give you his picks. So what about these guys, do they really have a system that could make money?
Let’s imagine for a second that they did have a system that really worked. What would they do to advertise it? They would tell you their record, that’s what. They would say things like, “My record for picking games the last two seasons has been 410 wins to only 102 losses” or “The last two seasons I have correctly picked the winner in 80% of the games.” But you never hear guys like this say these things, do you? Occasionally they have a good week and will tell you how they went 8-1 last week, but most of the time they don’t say a word about their past results. You will never, ever hear one say, “I went 2-6 last week, but am still winning on 75% of my picks this season.”
My theory is that these guys don’t talk about their long-term records because they know the only money they are winning is the fees they collect off suckers who pay for their picks. Their systems don’t work and they know their systems don’t work. That is why they don’t talk about their records.
You know the only other people in sports that don’t talk about records? Professional wrestling never talks about win/loss records. What professional wrestling and guys who sell gambling picks have in common is that they are both fake. Don’t bet on sports!