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Dan Podheiser

Dan  Podheiser

Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

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2015 NFL Betting Preview, Part 1: Top 10 degenerate tips for betting the NFL this season

24 Aug 2015

By Dan Podheiser
This is part 1 of 3 of Casino City's 2015 NFL betting preview. Other articles in the series include:

Part 2: Top 10 tips for the novice daily fantasy football player
Part 3: Top 10 futures bets for the 2015 NFL season

It's finally here. It's the time of year when we can stop talking about deflated footballs and start talking about inflating our bankrolls. When our obligations to our families, friends and the rest of society take a backseat to our obligations to our bookies. This is the year, finally, that we'll hit it big.

I'm talking, of course, about betting on the National Football League. The 2015 NFL season doesn't officially kick off for another two-plus weeks, but we're well within range to start preparing our strategies and getting our finances in order for 17 weeks of regular season shenanigans. And then the postseason – oh, that amazing NFL postseason.

I'm so excited for pro football to start up again that I'm running a three-part series of betting columns leading up to Week 1. This week, I'm thinking big picture – 10 degenerate tips for betting the NFL this season. These aren't mathematically sound arguments based on strict critical analysis of charts and spreadsheets. And I am in no way promising that these are foolproof methods for making money.

But they sure as hell are a lot of fun. At the very least, if you follow these tips throughout the course of the season, you'll be on the edge of a heart attack once or twice.

Let the madness begin!

"Get your popcorn ready." – Terrell Owens

10. Bet on coaches and quarterbacks

The New England Patriots have been a dynasty for the past decade and a half, having won four Super Bowls (appearing in six) since 2001. At the forefront of the team throughout it all have been two men: head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

Belichick and Brady both rank among the top five all-time in their respective positions. So it's no surprise that week after week, year after year, the Patriots are consistently among the best teams in football. They are simply tough to beat.

It's rare that one team would have both an elite head coach and an elite quarterback. And while the great quarterbacks in the NFL can take a team a long way, a bad coach can derail that same team.

Take the Green Bay Packers, for instance. Aaron Rodgers is, in my opinion, the best quarterback ever to play the game. But his head coach, Mike McCarthy, is an absolute dumpster fire of a coach. His ultra-conservative play calling makes my eyes bleed and my heart hurt. The Packers have won one Super Bowl under Rodgers – if it weren't for McCarthy, they might have won four.

So when you're looking at the games you want to bet on each week this season, take a quick calculation of the teams' quarterbacks and coaches. Sometimes, an overwhelming difference in quarterback play can make up for a slight difference in coaching abilities, and vice versa. But when the teams are pretty even on both sides, it can often be the coaching that determines the outcome.

Conclusion: Bet on the Patriots. Be careful with the Packers. Also …

9. Don't bet on Andy Dalton

Somehow, this guy signed a $100 million contract last summer to be a professional football player.

8. Play the Delaware Sports Lottery

If you find yourself in the "Blue Hen State" on an NFL Sunday, make sure to stop by a convenience store and pick up an NFL lottery ticket.

The Delaware Sports Lottery only accepts wagers on the NFL and only in a parlay format, as bettors must choose a minimum of three selections per wager. But the most fun option is the $5, 15-team parlay card that pays $100,000 to anyone lucky enough to win.

Last season, a bettor in Delaware picked 14 consecutive winners on his 15-team card, only to have his big score foiled when the Philadelphia Eagles came from behind to beat the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. If I were that bettor, I absolutely would have gathered as much cash from family as friends as possible, booked a flight to Las Vegas on Monday morning, and hedged my bet to lock in a profit.

I guess I'm not as much of a degenerate as you might think.

7. Try a "teaser wheel"

As I laid out in last week's column about potential Las Vegas hockey team names, the teaser wheel is a favorite bet of Nolan Dalla, media director for the World Series of Poker. Here, a bettor teases one team's line and pairs it with every other game on the docket for that day. It's a chance to win up to 32 bets in one week, and if your selected teaser wheel team covers, you're almost guaranteed to make a nice profit.

Of course, this is also one of the most degenerate ways to bet on the NFL. Which is why I love it.

6. Be creative in daily fantasy sports GPPs

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) are exploding in the U.S., as companies like Yahoo!, CBS and PokerStars are entering the market to compete with existing giants FanDuel and DraftKings. This season, expect to see humongous prize pools across the DFS sphere, such as DraftKings' weekly $27 buy-in "Millionaire Maker" tournament.

These guaranteed prize pool tournaments (GPPs) are different from traditional fantasy football in that they are huge tournaments with tens of thousands of players competing against each other, rather than a one-on-one matchup. So to have a chance to make a big score in these GPPs, you need to make your team unique enough that it can differentiate itself from the pack.

For example, you may think Aaron Rodgers is going to have a huge game against the Oakland Raiders – but so will 30,000 other players. The impact of selecting Rodgers for your team, then, is marginalized by the fact that a large proportion of the entry field will also have him on their rosters. You might be better off trying to find the best "sleeper" you can find at the quarterback position – an under-the-radar player who you think will shock everyone with a huge game.

This is actually a pretty sound tip for DFS, and next week I'll present my top 10 tips for DFS for the upcoming NFL season. But remember that there's a lot of luck involved in any form of wagering, DFS included.

5. Save the best teams in survivor pools

A survivor, or "suicide" pool, is one in which each player picks an NFL team to win each week, starting Week 1. That team does not have to cover a spread; it just needs to win. If that team wins, you advance to the next week of the pool, and if it loses, you are out .But once you've picked that team – assuming it wins the game and you advance to the following week – you can no longer pick that team for the rest of the season.

I'm in a survivor pool that annually gets about 400-500 entries. It's amazing how quickly the field can whittle down after just a few weeks; when a big favorite happens to lose, it can knock out a hundred entries or more.

My strategy is to pick the "worst" team from among the group of the biggest favorites each week, because the likelihood of that particular team being a big favorite again is slim, while the likelihood of really good teams being big favorites down the road is solid.

For instance, two of the biggest favorites in Week 1 this year, according to bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook, are the Green Bay Packers (-250 at the Chicago Bears) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-165 vs. the Tennessee Titans). I'm taking the Bucs, because they probably won't be this big of a favorite again. Meanwhile, the Packers will likely be huge favorites in most games they play, and it will be valuable to have them as the field dwindles and the marginal value of picking correctly increases.

4. Believe in the circadian rhythm

In the mid-1990s, a group of sleep researchers at Stanford University theorized that East Coast teams that travel to play West Coast teams in prime time games would struggle because of a concept called circadian rhythm – essentially, a human being's internal clock.

I'm not going to bore you with the science behind circadian rhythm, but that's mostly because I don't understand it, either. But the reason for the researchers' theory was that the East Coast teams would be naturally exhausted playing games that ended at midnight their time, while the actual West Coast time was only 9 p.m.

And the results of the researchers' test of that theory were astonishing. After analyzing 25 years of Monday Night Football data and looking at such qualifying games, they found that if a bettor were to pick the West Coast team every time, they'd beat the Las Vegas spread 70% of the time.

I'm not sure if Las Vegas oddsmakers have adjusted their lines to this phenomenon since the Deadspin article revealing the study came out in 2012. Let's just assume they haven't! I know I'll be betting on the Seahawks, Chargers, Cardinals and 49ers when they host the Lions, Steelers, Ravens and Bengals this year in Weeks 4, 5, 7 and 15, respectively.

3. Don't blow your bankroll in Week 1

It's a long season, folks. There are 17 weeks to strike it rich, and then there's the playoffs.

Remember the teaser wheel? You should absolutely do it at some point this season. But maybe not in Week 1. You could absolutely go broke by 4 p.m. on the first day.

2. Take every opportunity to middle

In blackjack, basic strategy says you should always spilt your 8s, even when facing a dealer's ace up card. But the difference between splitting and hitting is pretty marginal – only a couple percent. If your bankroll has taken a hit, it might be hard to muster up the courage to put in another bet to split those 8s when the dealer is showing such a powerful hand. If you're in the mood to gamble, you should split that hand and double your wager, knowing that you're making the right play mathematically but also increasing your variance.

This is similar to middling on football bets. Let's say, on a Tuesday, you bet $110 on the Eagles as 0.5-point favorites (at -110) to beat the Cowboys the following Sunday. Then, on Thursday, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo breaks his leg, forcing the line all the way up to Eagles -7.5.

The middling opportunity here would be to bet $110 on the Cowboys +7. Now, if the Cowboys lose by 1-7 points, you profit $200. And if that doesn't happen, you only stand to lose $20 (double vig).

Middling does not increase your odds of winning whatsoever. But it does create an added sweat and decrease the downside of a game you were already betting on. The conclusion of which is thus: If you really like a spread when the lines come out, jump on it immediately. An injury or a dopey player suspension during the course of the week can always change the line dramatically, giving you an opportunity to middle.

1. Don't let your personal life interfere with your NFL sweats

I got married on a Saturday in November. The next day, I was at a bar sweating a parlay, my survival pool and my fantasy football teams. Priorities.

When the fall rolls around, you need to adjust your life accordingly. If you have work to do over the weekend, do it on Saturday. If you have a wife or girlfriend – and they don't love football like mine does – then make sure it's OK that Sunday is your day. There will be no apple picking or farmers markets. And if it's not OK, you might want to call a divorce attorney. But hurry up and do it soon; I hear that stuff takes a while to get sorted out, and the season starts in 17 days.

Most importantly, if you do plan to wager money on the NFL season, make sure it's money you can afford to lose. Don't dip into your IRA or your kids' college plans to bet on the Colts to beat the Texans, even if the line is really good.

Wait, what's that? The Colts are only -1.5?

Stops writing column, heads to ATM
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