Last Updated: 2019-01-10
Saturdays in the winter are overwhelming. One look at the odds screen shows college basketball games with start times from 12 p.m. ET to 12 a.m. ET. It is a daunting task to try and find edges with so many games. Take the January 6 schedule, for example, when teams ranged from 517 to 712 in rotation order. We know that there is value in a board that big, but finding a starting point to take advantage of that value is not an easy task.
Football is the captain of this industry and we all know it. In the early part of January, we still have NFL playoff games to handicap, so those remain the primary focus for most, but going from 60+ college football games on Saturdays and a full Sunday NFL card to college basketball, the NBA, and the NHL can be a real challenge. Knowing the ins and outs of 353 college basketball teams is impossible. Only about 220 or so are lined on a regular basis, but still. We’re talking about 120 FBS teams, 31 NHL teams, 30 NBA teams, and 32 NFL teams in the other markets.
Breaking down a full college basketball Saturday card is a tall order, but we’ve got some tips to help you along the way in this “How To” article for betting those Saturday slates:
Stick to what you know – There are a lot of college basketball conferences. Teams are spread across the country. On BangTheBook Radio and in our written content, we talk about conference specialization and the importance of narrowing your focus. Becoming an expert in a couple mid-major or low-major leagues can give you a significant edge over the sportsbooks. The focus is always on the top conferences because those are the games that will receive most of the betting handle.
It is in your best interest to study those underappreciated leagues. If you haven’t, stay with regional teams. If you follow college basketball, you’ve likely picked up on some trends about teams that are close to you. Do teams struggle to win on the road when they change time zones? Are there suspensions or injuries? You can stumble upon news coverage of local teams almost by accident and those can be key factors in betting on or against a team. Make it easy on yourself.
Bet on teams you’ve recently studied – This sounds obvious, but it makes a lot of sense. The Weber State Wildcats are a prime example for the January 6, 2018 card, and you can find options like this every weekend. Weber State has struggled at the outset of the season with losses to Bradley, Utah Valley, and Idaho State. That was the conference opener at home that Weber State lost to Idaho State.
Head coach Randy Rahe was not happy. He publicly challenged his team. The Wildcats responded with a 40-point win over Northern Arizona. The message seemed to be sent loud and clear. The team responded. Why would they have a letdown the following game? It might happen, but you’ve found an angle because you’ve studied that team. Stick with it.
Were you on a game in which you got unlucky because of a great shooting performance or got lucky because you benefitted from one? Regression to the mean could be an angle to play on or against with that team. Because you’ve paid attention, you may have an edge. Oddsmakers don’t have the luxury of keeping a close eye on stuff like that. After all, there are dozens and dozens of lines to put up. You’re sure to find some that are off for one reason or another.
Fade the public – Public bettors are excited about betting these big slates and generally pinpoint the Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-12. Because the focus has recently shifted to college basketball, there is a lot of ill-informed money in the marketplace. Public bettors often lack discipline. They just want action. If you see an overwhelming favorite from looking at betting consensus percentages, that is not a team that you want to back, unless there has been a very significant line movement on that side, which would indicate sharp involvement.
If a public favorite is getting bet heavily and the line isn’t moving, there are reasons behind that. Either sharp investment is coming in the other way or sharp investment hasn’t come in at all and oddsmakers aren’t worried about the public funding on that side.
Separate the day – This could be a point of consternation among my friends that are professional bettors, but they have different approaches and different motivations. For them, line value means everything. For most bettors out there, trying to figure out the right side should be the goal. Unless you are betting for a living, you’re making money in some other capacity. Sacrificing a point or a point and a half of line value means less to you than it does to them. We all want to win, but it is worse to put money into an uncertain wager than to know exactly what you want and take a slightly worse line.
As a result, I would suggest that novice bettors separate the day into segments. Handicap the early games. Once that is done, handicap the mid-afternoon games. Once that is done, handicap the late games. Seasoned bettors will want to grab line value whenever they see is, whether the game has a 12 p.m. ET tip-off or a 10 p.m. ET tip-off. For those that are trying to learn and hone their skills as handicappers, focus on the research. Find the edge that you need to make a confident wager.
That doesn’t mean you should take a really bad number, but it means that you should have the utmost confidence in your bet before you lock it in. Consider all of the angles. Consider the line movement. Consider the matchups. Breaking down the day into segments allows you to narrow your focus and not be overwhelmed by trying to do everything at once.
Bankroll management – This is probably the most important point, so I have saved the best for last. There are a ton of games and a lot of options. You need to determine your personal risk profile. Would you be comfortable with 20 percent of your bankroll in play? 40 percent? 60 percent? If you have a bad Saturday with 60 percent of your bankroll in play, that could be disastrous. Remember that most people, myself included, advise anywhere from 1-3 percent of your bankroll as a standard unit size. If you’re going to bet high volume, you’d want to be closer to one percent. If you’re going to be more selective, three percent is a good number.
The last thing you want to do is greatly increase your risk of ruin by playing too many games with too much money in play. Isolate the spots you like the most and play them accordingly. If you believe that smaller edges translate to bigger edges, go with higher volume, but lower the bet size. Just because a game is lined does not mean that it has to be bet.
Good luck and happy betting!
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