Friday, January 16, 2009

The Wide World of Sportsbetting

I have been obsessed with sports my entire life, though the rest of my family could care less. I have never known why or how I got so into sports, but I caught the bug early and it has never relinquished its hold.

In high school physics class some buddies and I used to discuss the NFL games quite a bit. I distinctly remember the day after the Super Bowl immediately switching our discussion to college basketball and a friend asking "Tom, where does it end?" I stared at him blankly and then said "it doesn't."

In recent years I have grown increasingly obsessed with the NFL. It is the behemoth of American sports; nothing else is as entertaining or accessible. I have steadily grown more and more interested in the game, to the point where I was excited to watch games between teams I had no vested interest in, just for the competition.

Entering this season I knew the NFL would be a big part of my fall, but I didn't expect it to take over quite like it has. Leading up to the first week of the season I started to realize this could be bigger for me than any sports season before, for the following reasons:
  • I was chomping at the bit waiting for the season to begin whereas for most sports I don't really get too interested until the playoffs are approaching
  • Disinterest in poker was creeping into me and I was sort of looking for something to fill the void
  • Paul had installed five TVs in his basement along with the Sunday Ticket package
  • The idea of betting on the games was there in the back of my mind; I had experimented in the past tracking my results against the spread without putting any money down, and I knew Paul and Truman had bet the season before with moderate success
The first weekend of the season, I realized everything was going to take a back seat to the NFL the next four months. I was blown away by how much I cared about everything that was going on in the league. I started writing a weekly post on the NFL only because I was dying to get my thoughts on the game down in writing.

As the season progressed, so did my obsession.

The comparison I keep making is how I got into poker. I played poker because I have always loved games and it is such a fantastic game; I kept playing cause the strategy went so deep and it was so much fun; and then one day I decided maybe I was good enough at it that I could beat people for money, and I was right. It was the same pattern for football; I watched it more and more cause it just kept getting deeper and more fascinating, and then one day decided to try to make some money at it.

We could never be as successful as we have been at sportsbetting without the poker. When you start betting sports, it quickly becomes clear that making money is all about having money. In order to avoid risk of ruin, which is our #1 goal, we don't bet more than 5% of the bankroll on any one game. This lowers the week-to-week variance which makes it harder to quickly pump up (or lose) the bankroll. Therefore, if you want to make a lot of money, you need to have a lot of money. Starting this from scratch would have been exasperating; starting it using the money we have made playing poker makes it possible for us to make good money without risking the house every week.

The poker background also provides the stern gambling mindframe necessary for successful sportsbetting - the ability to handle swings, manage a bankroll, deal with wins and losses from an expected value point of view rather than a results-oriented one, and evaluate the big picture. It has been a comfortable transition, one that other professional poker players have made and can make if they have the passion and bankroll.

I have no plans to bet on anything but the NFL. I have long felt that I can do anything if I am passionate about it, but should do nothing if I don't feel that way. The NFL is the only sport I am truly passionate about, although I sure like March Madness and the NBA playoffs. I also have no interest in being a lifer - sportsbetting just does no good for the world and I feel the need to get something accomplished eventually. In poker, at least you are playing a game; sportsbetting has even less redeeming value.

It's unclear just how profitable this will be, if at all. Many believe the NFL is the hardest sport to beat because the lines are so accurate and there is so much information readily available. While we scoff at those that would believe our work is impossible, the income it does provide is neither consistent nor reliable. I am not counting on the NFL to pay the bills, but I do hope it is something that will supplement my income for the rest of my life.

2 Comments:

Blogger Champ said...

Good job on the NFL writes this year. They have been really enjoyable to read...

It sounds like you dabble with Fantasy Football a little...it can be another profitable way of betting on NFL, playing in High Stakes leagues. It's more of a zero sum game...like Poker.

Also, I was curious who you read? Personally, I follow Peter King, Dr. Z, Mike Florio, Greg Rosenthal, David Dorey, Steeltown Dre aka Sharp Football Analysis, among others...

10:08 AM  
Blogger GnightMoon said...

Michael Lombardi at the National Football Post is my main source of information.

12:19 PM  

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