Editor’s Note: In this weekly article, amateur handicapper David Laferriere, a new author here at BangTheBook, details the evaluation process all aspiring bettors should utilize to grade recent bets. Not every winning bet is a good bet and not every losing bet is a bad bet. Learning how to grow as a bettor is important and reviewing games in this fashion should incite positive changes in both your process and results.
So you want to bet baseball? Well let me tell you it is going to be one long wild ride, every season. This last week there were tons of ninth inning catastrophes as I suffered a seven game losing streak culminated with one of the worst bullpen collapses of the season.
What Went Wrong?
Milwaukee Brewers reliever Corey Knebel came into the game against the San Diego Padres with his team up 4-2. I had the under at 8.5 runs and was feeling pretty good that Knebel would come through against the worst hitting offense in the league. But alas, baseball is a cruel sport and he walked three straight batters.
Two home runs later and my under play was crushed and I was feeling rather demotivated. The worst part was I used roster resource the night before and had seen how poorly the Brewers bullpen was performing leading up to the game.
The last month had turned unprofitable and now baseball was running me ragged. These moments are where the sportsbooks make their money.
Customers either win so much they never stop playing till they lose it all. Or they start off in such a hole they never even try to dig out of it. The small amount of people who avoid these highs and lows are the professional bettors
The baseball season requires such a high volume of plays to follow systems and capitalize on the long run profitability. There will be madness nearly every night.
I did not have a play on the game, but look no further than the last Sunday night baseball match up. There was a walk off grand slam to ruin starting pitcher Max Scherzer backers who were up three to zero in the bottom of the ninth.
But, baseball does not stop there. As I am writing this, the St. Louis Cardinals finished the first five innings against the Washington Nationals with ten hits. However, the baseball gods laugh at us all and there were only two runs scored by the Cardinals and the -.5 run line was a loss for me.
I spent the night before analyzing the data in this game and knew starting pitcher Miles Mikolas had only give up more than three runs once in his last thirteen starts. Starting pitcher Tommy Milone for the Nationals had not impressed in his first three starts.
Any time a team collects ten hits in five innings you expect a serious amount of runs. I certainly had the right side in this game despite the end result. Ridiculously it was a walk off for utility man Paul DeJong and I was thankful I also played the full game line.
What Went Right?
I realized the losing streak mentioned above could have been one that left me with an empty bank account. However, playing with single units on each game allowed my bank roll to survive a big dip like this.
So what happened with the money left in the bank account? It was used to turn the week around and I ended recovering all losses and even turning a decent profit. The NFL preseason strategies I picked up listening to the Bang the Book podcasts cashed with tremendous success.
For those who did not hear the podcasts (you should absolutely be listening), the teams with quarterback controversies are going to pass the ball much more than other teams who just want to stay healthy. So we play the overs for these teams or take them to cover the spread.
Additionally, the teams with new offensive coordinators will struggle to implement their offenses by week one of the preaseason. Playing the team totals unders was very profitable for these teams.
There are other strategies to use as well, but the big take away from here is the importance of managing your bankroll. I know all baseball season I have discussed bankroll management in this journal, but that is because it might be THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF BETTING.
Anyone can find data to support a lean they have. Not everyone can turn down plays. For instance despite the starting pitcher advantage, the offense was mired in a slump and could not be backed.
If you read Adam Burkes daily picks articles you will see him write an essay about a game. Yet when all is said and done, he will pass on the game.
When I first started doing serious research it was mostly to find stats to support my initial lean. Now my betting has developed into a neutral initial approach and I let the data take me to my decision.
This article may seem a bit sporadic compared to others, but that is how baseball has warped my mind. The biggest takeaways from this week’s edition are:
Manage your bankroll so you can always climb out of a bad week.
Trust your systems over the long run during baseball because the game gets crazy.
-END OF AUGUST 14 ENTRY-
The best professional athletes always have the best work ethic. Okay, maybe not always, but there is an incredibly strong correlation between work ethic and success. Professional betting is no different. Professional bettors use the offseason to project the impact of player movement, study schedules, and get ahead of market expectations.
Power rankings are nearly every pro bettors bread and butter for building a baseline for the entire season. Power ratings are completed by assigning a number to every team in the league, the higher the number, the better the team is.
This number is then used to calculate what the spread should be between two separate teams, according to how you power rated them. The lower number is subtracted from the higher number for the neutral field spread. Then the home field advantage adjustment is made.
Let’s say you have the Alabama Crimson Tide as your best team in the league, then you could give them a ranking of 100. The Louisiana State University Tigers are ranked 88. The game on a neutral field would then be Alabama favored by 12 (100 Bama – 88 LSU).
However, the Tigers play in Baton Rouge with rabid fans and it is very hard to win there. The home field adjustment should be at least three points. Is there also bad weather? The game will be lower scoring so less points means the favorite will not score as much.
Now you adjust your 12 point spread down 3 for home field and 1 for weather, With these additional factors, Alabama is favored by 8 according to your power rankings. So any spread of Alabama being favored by less than 8 could mean you have an edge.
The power ratings are a method to quantify all the data gathered during the offseason and during the season. Bettors need to pay attention to a lot of key factors during the offseason.
Edges like coaching changes, player transfers, and offseason departures or drama all need to be considered. Will the new coach try to change the entire team philosophy and speed the game up despite having a roster filled with talent meant to play slower?
These topics need to be studied every offseason for every sport. It is already late to be starting football research, but definitely not too late. Using Bang the Book’s Power Ratings is a great tool to decrease betting research time. The work has been put in by a very trusted source, Adam Burke.
These power ratings can be adjusted as the season goes on, but because the proper amount of work was done to complete them, the numbers should not be altered significantly very often.
The timeline of the year is packed with preseason research. When baseball is midseason, football research has to be done. Once football starts it is already basketball season, and then baseball is damn near year round. Once these power ratings are created they can be carried throughout each year and used as a starting point for each new season.
What Went Right
The grind of the MLB season is long and arduous. Every bettor claims it is and believes it is. Money is made during the baseball season by identifying systems and profiting from edges.
I have written two articles discussing playing unders in Yankees games since Aaron Judge got hurt and the Yankees acquired Zach Britton. It started off rather poorly with just one win three pushes and three losses. Now over the last four games the under has cashed in three of four.
The total record is 4-4-3 since Judge got hurt and I will continue to bet on the under. It can be hard to hang on these longer trend plays. I am very pleased I was able to ride out the rough start and analyzed the situation.
I determined that with the Yankees continuing to struggle to hit, the starting pitcher leash will be even shorter. The Yankees are in the midst of a Wild Card race and every win, and run matters.
What Went Wrong
Sometimes betting needs to get placed on the back burner. There were friends in town and I completed my morning research and got off to hot start on Saturday. Instead of locking in the profit, I got greedy.
Clearly the work was not put in and I wiped out half of my profit from the week. Avoiding pitfalls like this is one of the last obstacles to year round profitably. As long as I continuously improve, days like this will continue to be fewer and farther between.
-END OF AUGUST 7 ENTRY-
On Monday’s edition of the Bang the Book podcast Adam Burke discussed the differences between a good handicapper and a great bettor. What better time to discuss my method for tracking my performance against the market? Over the MLB season and most of the NBA season I began tracking the numbers I bet compared to where they opened and closed. Adam dropped one of my favorite betting tips I have ever heard, “The best predictor of future success comes from beating the market”.
Getting the best of the number can be the deciding factor in finishing a season with a 3% increase in bankroll compared to a 1.5%. The main take away from market evaluation during this MLB season is that Friday through Sunday, wait for better numbers Monday through Thursday, bet early.
This is a trend I have notice all season as a result from my market studies. Whether it be from bigger crowds in Vegas, or public bettors wanting some action while they drink on the weekend, the market moves against me more often than not during the weekend and with me during the work week.
This last week I finished with the better number 17 times and the worst number 12 (58 percent). The calculation was done using the number received when bet versus the number that closed. Specifically, during the work week the record was 10-5 (67 percent) and on the weekend it was 7-7 (50%).
Studying the plays like this throughout the season can save a bettor from taking unnecessary losses when handicapping the spread sports. In the MLB the differences in juice will not show up until the end of season bankroll examination. The effects of losing a bet because a bettor took a +6 instead of a +7 will be understood instantaneously during the football and basketball seasons.
So, this information is great, but how do handicappers use it to their advantage. For some of us, that is a difficult answer. Not everyone has the opportunities to alter their schedule. Most of us have full time jobs and family life. We make our plays when the time allows.
If a bettor does work a full time job and still wants to do research on his or her own, the night before and morning of are excellent times for this. The overnight line movements can be significant at times. Capturing the market open and close compared to the number received will inform this bettor which teams or pitchers they need to play early and which ones they should be waiting on.
What Went Right
Finding success playing some MLB derivatives was a theme for the week. One in particular was the Detroit Tigers at home against the Cleveland Indians. The Tigers are still hitting well during the day on the year with a batting average of .254. This number has fallen since the beginning of the year, but with the lefty Blaine Hardy on the mound I felt there was a legitimate shot for the Tigers to be leading after the first five innings and grabbed the added juice (+160).
The first five inning bets throw out the bullpen strengths and provide less variance. The Indians have a terrifying bullpen with the addition of Brad Hand. The Tigers were able to cover both the first five and full game, but I was very happy to not have to sweat an additional four innings.
What Went Wrong
Recently I have been traveling for work and bet more than I should have. Every night has involved dinner and drinks with coworkers. This is not conducive to getting the proper amount of research completed. There have also been long days that leave me feeling drained by the time I can start looking into some plays.
On Monday I wiped out half of the profit I had earned in the previous week. It was an inexcusable decision to bet on games that I had not even checked off the necessary steps of my research process. To be honest, I did not expect the days to be this long and probably did not realize how drained I was. It is important for every bettor to be cognizant of the emotional and mental health before making monetary decisions.
Personal Betting Note:
I will be playing the under in nearly every game for Yankees as long as Aaron Judge is out of the lineup. I was never a huge fan of this lineup to begin with. I know they hit the long ball extremely well, but there are a lot of inexperienced players who do not hit for a high enough average. Most of the hitters on this team have extreme overlapping skills.
The best hitter is out of the lineup and the bullpen got stronger. Luis Severino has struggled over his last several games, but Mashahiro Tanaka has been throwing significantly better. This team has already been hitting unders on the run total at 52.5 percent on the season. I expect that number to fall even further until Aaron Judge returns.
The biggest thing to monitor here is bullpen injuries or starting pitching fatigue. Severino has worked a ton of innings and the Yankees feature a couple of young place starters and back of the rotation guys who could start to wear down.
-END OF AUGUST 1 ENTRY-
The football season is nearly upon us. With NFL and NCAAF previews available, it is important to find a balance between the daily grind of baseball and preparing for football. Nearly every Amateur Handicapper will have to work another job before doing it full time. Priorities have to be set in order to balance the main job, life, and a side job of betting. During this time bettors need to learn bankroll management, data analytics, lineup research, and finding sources you can trust.
Over the last month and a half I have been writing more than 20 football previews. I limited my baseball plays significantly in order to put a strong effort into the research. The MLB season lasts for longer than half the year. Taking a few breaks during the marathon is very important for inexperienced bettors.
These breaks can allow important self-reflection. Are you still checking your phone like a maniac for sports updates? Have you continuously had the urge to place a bet just to have action? Answering these questions can help create a conscious system of red flags for when a break should be taken.
I write this journal piece in an attempt to help readers learn from my mistakes and my victories. BangtheBook features articles written by some of the best handicappers in the industry. There are plenty of victories for readers to learn from the more experienced writers. I know I learn best from mistakes and that tends to be the case for most people.
The emotional battle involved with betting is another area that fascinates me. It can be easy to get caught up with the thrill of winning money from your favorite hobby. Anyone who is able to complete the journey of becoming a successful full time bettor has one of the most enviable occupations.
However, the dream and idea of winning money as a bettor has left many undisciplined people in debt. The rush of being correct and making money is one of the reasons why gambling was outlawed for such a long time.
Even professional bettors with more than ten years of experience will discuss the temptation of picking a side for every game. It is important to remain cognizant of drivers behind betting decisions.
There are two main sets of emotions involved in betting. The first set is the basic feeling of relief or sadness that can make gambling so addicting. Winning cash from making an accurate prediction is one of the greatest feelings in the world. There also might not be a worse
The other sets of emotions come from the professional aspects. Are you feeling great because you put in the research and have built a system with repeatable success? Or are you second-guessing your strategy because five straight overtime results went against you?
The public bettors chase the roller coaster first set of emotions. This second set of emotions is subtler and quietly undermines progress made in the advanced stages of becoming a professional handicapper.
What Went Right
I could not be happier with the amount of research I completed to get ahead of the football season. On top of that, I earned a profit on the MLB and World Cup bets during that time. There is a small chance of profit if I had tried to maintain my normal workload while also diving into the Pac 12.
Over time I have proven to myself I can profit throughout the year. However, for the most part it has involved me spending nearly all of my free time reading box scores and watching tape.
Being able to adjust my betting picks for other life events and tasks is a big step. Doing this year round means there will be times that the normal process is altered. I further proved to myself that the systems I rely upon are not all or nothing. Additionally, the discipline and time management skills helped me to come up with even better scheduling and efficiencies when researching and making my picks.
What Went Wrong
Although I am proud of the completed articles, I realized it is never too early to start preparing for a sport. Looking back, there was a lot of time to research for football during some of the more casual weekends of watching baseball.
Year round there is a sport that can be researched before the season starts. There is some downtime before the baseball season once basketball is underway and the football season is winding down. Yet those sports require so much work it is not true down time.
The journey to becoming a professional bettor is not an easy one. It requires a desire to constantly improve and fail many times. Every sport requires a big picture view to properly prepare before the seasons start. I will be focusing on my preseason preparation much more stringently over the next year.
-END OF JULY 25 ENTRY-
There were 32 teams in the World Cup at the start of the group play. There are eight teams that met in Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series. There were 156 golfers at the Travelers Championship and another 156 at the US Open. If you work full time and bet on professional baseball your first instinct might be to ignore these markets. However, with all the information available, sports handicapping is becoming less about expertise in a sport, and more about interpreting data and money management.
It’s been over two weeks since I last wrote an Amateur Handicapper Journal. With a full time job there will be periods over the year where I cannot put enough time into my bets to make them worthwhile. Tracking my betting history shows that I do best when I am focused on one or two sports at a time. Finding reliable sources is essential to capitalizing on the extra profit that can be earned in some of the less popular betting markets.
Bangthebook features some excellent handicappers in these niche markets. There are sections on the website for the CFL, WNBA, Golf, Tennis, Soccer and UFC. While some fans tell you the summer is slow for betting action, exploring these additional markets can bridge the gap between the end of men’s basketball and the beginning of football.
As an amateur handicapper it is important to build a collection of reliable sources for information on these additional sporting events. There are some twitter users who put out their free picks. They have been doing this for a long time and are so profitable on their own they do not even want their follower’s money for picks.
Before sports betting, I had rarely used Twitter. Now I check it multiple times a day for injuries and weather. One of the best pieces of advice I have heard is to go to a professional bettors twitter and follow the accounts they follow. Most bettors will have unique sports news outlets that you may not have heard of before.
What Went Right
Soccer is a fascinating sport to watch. The better team can rip shots on goal for 90 minutes and not score a single point. That is exactly what happened during the match between Mexico and Germany to open Group F play at the World Cup. Germany finished the game with 25 shots, 9 on goal. Mexico finished with 12 shots and 4 on goal. Logic implies that Germany wins this game more often than not.
What made Mexico at +700 so enticing? Their unique style of play featuring speedy counter attacks means Mexico can score on any team in the World Cup. Are they going to win it? Highly unlikely, but that doesn’t mean they should be +700 to the reigning champs.
Another factor in my decision is that three of the previous four World Cup champs had been eliminated during group stages. This isn’t a fluky stat, there is a hangover effect for the World Cup champs. That is four years without the hunger of ending a drought.
Mexico’s speed and ability to at least create shot opportunities, coupled with Germany facing a possible hangover, made the odds of +700 to large. This was a play I made on my own. Even if you are following picks from an expert, you should still have enough knowledge to identify spots on your own.
What Went Wrong
I did not properly limit my plays. I tried to have bets out for the College World Series, World Cup, Golf head to head matchups and MLB. Over the last month I finished up a few units, but saw days where four units of profit were erased simply because the afternoon games were not all confident picks. While having resources is great, proper bankroll management must still be exercised.
Every additional play that is made means more total units are going towards the books. Winning two out of three bets is more profitable than winning four out of seven. If you consider all of these bets to have a vig of -110, in the first scenario the bettor would win 1.82 units and lose 1 for a profit of .82 units. In the second scenario the bettor would win 3.64 units and lose three for a profit of .64 units. In general the less plays, the less fee paid to the books.
This is something that has been hard for me to grasp and I know a lot of bettors who struggle with it as well. Once you win those first two of games of the day, it can be tempting to bet on more in the afternoon. What could have been a clean 1.82 unit win turns into a sweat and in some cases the day can turn into a loss.
-END OF JUNE 27 ENTRY-
With the federal ban on sports betting having been lifted there are going to be a lot of new bettors. As a bettor focused on continuous learning I hope to help newer bettors learn from experiences. During my time writing the Amateur Handicapper Journal I have strived to bring something new to the table with every edition. Below are the main points presented over the last three and a half months:
1. Grade your picks, review them to determine if it was a system issue or a ball luck issue.
2. Monitor the number of plays and identify greed plays vs well thought out plays.
3. Consistently reassess your strategies, but do not give up on them too quickly.
4. Avoid players just returning from injury, too much variability.
5. Avoid buying into player’s hot starts without the supporting data.
6. Emotional control is just as important as the betting systems followed.
7. If working a full time job you have to check the overnight lines for best value. Identify consistent market movers.
8. Do not get caught up in the swing of one game in the playoffs.
9. Have a prediction for a playoff series as a whole to better understand the individual games.
10. Trust your system to regain losses.
11. Fully vet through numbers that make no sense to you.
12. Identify live betting angles and stick to them.
13. Always look for future opportunities.
14. Evaluate completed seasons.
This week’s newest lessons:
15. Document your lessons learned.
16. Convert to the implied probability
Putting together a full list of lessons learned helps improvement over the long run. These lists can be kept for individual sports. The lists can be broken up based on derivative plays in each sport. Separate lists should be maintained for MLB run totals, MLB first five inning run totals, and MLB first inning run totals.
What Went Right
Guess what is on all of my MLB betting lists? Check for day night splits and check for righty lefty splits. The Detroit Tigers have an incredible .794 team On Base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS) against left handed pitchers. They have played 32 day games and the OPS is nearly as good at .767. If the Tigers played during the day every game they would have the third best OPS in the league.
The Tigers welcomed Andrew Heaney of the Los Angeles Angels last Thursday. Andrew Heaney is a talented left handed pitcher who was coming into Comerica Park on fire. In his previous start he went on the road and held the Yankees to one run over 6.1 innings. In fact, over his previous six starts he had given up more than two runs only once. His opponents included the Houston Astros, New York Yankees twice, and at Coors Field.
Why would I decide to go against a pitcher having this much success? Also included on my list for every bet is, “check moneyline implied probability”. At +180 the Tigers were only expected to win 35.7% of the time (100/(180+100)). In my opinion the implied probability was far too low and there was value on the moneyline. I was also able to increase the value by shopping for the best price of +185 on Bovada.
What Went Wrong
I identified the Colorado Rockies as a team that will continue to provide value on the run total under bets. Playing the unders in the Rockies series against the Los Angeles Dodgers was not a good strategy. I believe in the logic supporting why games the Rockies play in will continue to trend under. However, that does not mean the under has to be a play in nearly every game.
The Dodgers came into Coors field and trounced the Rockies pitching. They scored in double digits in all three games essentially covering the run total on their own. I lost two of those games and should have been more careful and done further research.
I did learn from my mistake and avoided playing the under in the Rockies Tuesday game against the Cincinnati Reds. With Antony DeSclafani on the mound for the Reds, playing on this game was in violation of rule number four above “Avoid players just returning from injury”.
I highly recommend every bettor maintains organized documentation of their plays and strategies. The sports betting market is constantly shifting and with the federal ban lifted it is going to get even crazier. With new players breaking out every season it is important to have stable processes to fall back on.
-END OF JUNE 6 ENTRY-
For the past three months this article has been written with a micro approach to my past week. For this week’s edition I will be performing an examination on my performance from a macro angle. Breaking past seasons up into segments can help identify areas for improvement. The NBA regular season can be broken up into three segments.
In the beginning of the year new teammates are develop chemistry while coaches figure out their rotations. Breakout players and teams prove their lasting power while teams must also overcome injuries. The end of the season features playoff pushes and nearly unwatchable tanking. Lastly, the NBA playoffs may look like the favorites always come out on top, but each game presents a new challenge for these teams. Reflecting on betting performance during these separate segments can identify areas for improvement.
What Went Right
There is a lot of value in the beginning of the NBA season. Underdogs can be trusted to play hard every night. Coaches have not started running out losing lineups in the fourth quarter. For my analysis, the beginning of the season uses the date ranges of the first game of the season (10/17/2018) until the All-Star break (4/22/2018). There were some teams that started tanking before this point, but they were the worst in the league and I was not backing them anyways.
In the first part of the season I played 36 games on the moneyline or the spread. Of my 14 losses during this time, 9 of them were in games I backed the favorite. Looking forward to next year I will look for a higher percentage of underdogs in the early season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors got off to slow starts. Part of this is attributable to three consecutive finals trips. The players were not as motivated to execute at the highest level. This provides value backing the underdogs in flat spots for the previous season’s most successful teams. Long road trips and the game after a big win are great situational plays.
I also saw a lot of success during the playoffs. Breaking down each series before it happens helps provide a baseline for the volatility of the series to regress to. If a favorite suffers a bad loss in the first two home games, they are not going to roll over in their first road game. On the other side, if the favorites win their first two games, the third game is a nice flat spot to back the underdog.
Once teams are down three games without a win, I do not back them. If the favorite jumps out to a big lead the hopelessness of winning the series can weigh on the underdog. This also applies to a favorite who has lost the first three games. When the Portland Trail Blazers were stunned by the New Orleans Pelicans in their first two games at home, they collapsed quickly in the two games in New Orleans. After the going down two games, it was clear it was a bad matchup for the Trail Blazers.
Reflecting on my playoff and early season success allows me to find areas of improvement and successful strategies I do not need to change. The beginning of next season will be a hunting ground for underdogs.
What Went Wrong
After the All-Star break I did not adjust quickly enough to the tanking teams. The double digit underdogs were no longer covering against opponents in flat spots. The coaches were purposefully running out fourth quarter units with poor offensive and defensive ratings. The young players were seeing more time and making more mistakes.
I will look to decrease my NBA plays late in next season. I will also being taking the opposite approach as the beginning of the year. The favorites are vying for playoff spots and individual awards. There were still flat spots, but the tanking teams showed no desire to take advantage.
Lastly, I identified teams that had continued value throughout the season, but did not play on them enough during the year. The Milwaukee Bucks never recovered after having their coach fired. The Cleveland Cavaliers never got into sync after the roster rehaul. The Indiana Pacers continued to play above market expectations due to the breakout of Victor Oladipo and a top ten defense. Next season, once these teams prove to be valuable past the All-Star break, I will be looking to back them more consistently.
I highly recommend all bettors take a similar approach to recapping their performance. It is important to monitor plays on a weekly basis, but there is also value in taking a high level approach. The NBA can be tricky with tanking teams playing for draft picks. There are also coaching changes and injuries that create more volatility. Reflecting on the past can help strengthen future strategies.