Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sports Betting: The Media Does Not Understand How it works.

Vegas has released their O/U win totals for the 2016 season today and you're already seeing a ton of stories like the following:

Las Vegas Projected Win Totals for the Texans, Rest of the NFL. Matt Young. Chron.com
Now that the NFL draft is over, we have a better feel for what every team is going to look like come September.
That means it's time to make some friendly wagers. Point spreads for the first 16 weeks of the regular season already have been published, and now we have projected win totals for each team, thanks to the folks at BetOnline.
That sounds great except for one thing....one BIG thing....

The O/U numbers released by the bookmakers are NOT how many games the books are projecting the teams will win. Neither are point spreads Vegas telling you which team they think will win.

The reason for lines, the ONLY reason for lines, is to try and balance the dollars bet on both sides of the wager. In other words, Las Vegas doesn't necessarily think that the Texas are going to win 8.5 games. What it means is that they think 50% of bettors will bet that the Texans will win more than 8.5 games and 50% of bettors will bet that they win less.

THAT is what lines do and THAT is why they are set.

Could it be that the bookmaker in question thinks the Texans will win 7 games? Sure, or even 9, or 10, but that's not why the line is set where it is.

It's amazing how often members of the media, even so-called "betting experts" who give out betting tips (usually on talk radio) get this simple concept wrong.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Horse Racing: Kentucky Derby Betting Spread (Exaggerator)

The first Saturday in May.  Spring has sprung and the 142nd Kentucky Derby will be ran.  Off of last year's Triple Crown winning performance by American Pharoah it's easy to think that attendance and interest will be at an all time high. I won't be at a track on Saturday, but I will be at one on Friday and I'll lay my bets then.  Here's what I'm thinking.

1. $20 Win - Exaggerator. If you didn't see this horse close in the Santa Anita Derby then you should probably go find the video. All he did was pass some very stiff competition as if they were standing still. It was the most impressive closing quarter that I've seen from a 3yo this year.  As such, I'm backing Exaggerator heavily and will be using him in all my exotics.

2. $10 Win - Creator. I've a superstition about betting the gray (don't do it) but I'm going to break that here as I think this is a horse on the come. Not a ton of confidence, but would feel pretty silly leaving him out.

3. $10 Win - Outwork. If this was a beauty competition, not a race, Outwork is your winner hands down. He's also pretty fast and comes from the stable of Mike Repole who is brash, kind of annoying and typical New Jersey, but who has a history of putting forth winning horses. Besides, it feels like Pletcher is due.

4. $1-Tri Box - 3 (Creator), 11 (Exaggerator), 13 (Nyquist), 15 (Outwork) - Basically my top 3 plus the race favorite. $12 bucks into the track's till.

5. $2  - Supr - 11 (Exaggerator), 13 (Nyquist), 5 (Gun Runner), 2 (SuddenBreakingNews)

6. (Added) $2 ATB Whitmore. Given the Buzz on this horse, and if the odds are right, I feel like I'm going to regret leaving him out.

Every year I try to hit the Derby Superfecta Straight up, and every year I fail.  It's quite possibly the hardest bet to hit in horse racing.  Yes, I could box it or key on a certain horse but I do that in my Trifecta.  Besides, there's a ton of fun in just taking a $2 shot at something that could pay out on the thousands.  I have, in the past, hit a straight Superfecta before. Not at the Derby however so we'll try and try again.

Good luck in whatever you do Saturday, and support Texas Racing if you can by going to a track and placing a bet, watching the races and having a good time.

Horse Racing: Kentucky Oaks Betting Spread. (Taxable)

Here are the positions that I'm taking for the 2016 Kentucky Oaks.

1. $20 Win - Taxable. - This is my main horse in this race and I'll be keying her in all of my exotics as well. She's lightly raced but I like her outside position, her works leading up to the race and I think Jockey Corey Nakatani and Trainer Steve Asmussen will take this daughter of Tapit to the winner's circle.

2. $10 Win - Land Over Sea - Another horse that, on paper, might not make much sense to bet but this is a wide open race and I think you're going to have to take a price. Any time I can get John Velasquez at 5-1 or better I jump at the chance.

3. $10 Win - Cathryn Sophia - I'm somewhat tepid about this pick but I'm running under the theory that you can draw a line through this filly's last race. Up until that point she felt unbeatable.

4. $1 Tri - 14 (Taxable) with 13 (Land Over Sea), 12 (Cathryn Sophia), 11 (Rachel's Valentina), 3 (Lewis Bay), 2 (Weep No More)

I might make the Tri bet a straight box b/c I'm not entirely comfortable putting all of my eggs in the Taxable basket.  That said, if I do that I'll cut the box to four horses, eliminating Lewis Bay and Weep No More due to cost ($24 vs $60 or $120) which I think might get too step for the potential payouts.

Friday, April 29, 2016

2016 NFL Draft Thoughts.

The morning after the most interesting 1st round in the history of the modern era there's a lot of stuff on which to comment.

 - San Francisco 49ers: Also known as "my team". So I freely admit my bias here.

Let's get right to it.  I do not like the Buckner pick. On a team that has nothing resembling an offensive line to draft a questionable motor guy in Buckner, who just happens to have played his college ball at Oregon, is just more proof that Chip Kelly doesn't understand the difference between college and pro football.  I do like the Garnett selection, but I'm not sure if the team needed to jump back into the first round to get him.

The team, and local media, are trying their best to but a brave face on this but I've a bad feeling that what we're seeing here is the continued destruction of the team under inept GM Trent Baalke and a new head coach who's player evaluation begins and ends in the Pac-12.

 - Laremy Tunsil: I feel sorry for him.

Not for taking a bong hit, and being stupid enough to allow someone to record him doing it, but for obviously being surrounded by people who are petty and more concerned with themselves than him. We act as if these guys are sage, savvy veterans who are going to make decisions befitting their high-profile status when, in fact, in most cases they've been coddled their entire lives and (sometimes) develop a reliance on some fairly awful people.

On what should have been Tunsil's biggest night he had to sit in the public eye and watch people make fun of him for using a "gas mask" bong, question his password habits, and be roundly treated as the "worst person in the world" by gas-bags like Mike Mayock and Todd McShay.  Oh, and he admitted to taking money from Ole Miss.

If this IS a troll job by #HailState then it's one of the better ones ever.  Still, I feel for Tunsil and I hope he goes on to have a great career with Miami, except for the few occasions when they play the 49ers.

 - Ole Miss: Maybe the worst draft night ever.

Yes, they had three players get drafted in the first round, but two of the three went way later than they should have due to character issues and LaQuan Treadwell dropped due to his horrific injury suffered two years ago.  Nkemdichie could either be the steal of the draft, or a character bust. I'd say the odds are 50/50/

Oh, and one of their former players admitted in a press conference that they had been violating NCAA rules.


 - Houston Texans: My "hometown" team which means that I'm forced to follow them due to the NFLs ridiculous TV rules.

I like the Fuller pick. I would have preferred Treadwell because I think he's a much better WR, and that his speed is going to come back as he gets further and further away from the horrific injury he suffered in 2015. I also disagree with the "experts" in the media who say that the Texans need a "burner".

The Texans already have a deep threat receiver in Hopkins. What they need is a possession-type receiver because their TE play is atrocious.  Fuller is fast, and will "take the top off" of opposing defenses, but there's a question as to whether he'll catch what Oswieler throws his way. This is not the first time the Texans have rolled the draft dice on a slot receiver with questionable hands. It's never worked out in the past, maybe it will work out here.  One thing you don't want is your first round pick to be described as having "Ted Ginn hands" which is what happened to Fuller.

 - Sports Media: Mostly a group of older guys who are considered experts because they've offered bad analysis for a long time.

It was a bad night for the media.  Especially ESPN.  Of course, there was the usual stuff, Chris Berman saying that the Ohio State having three players taking in the first ten picks had "never happened before" (when in fact it had happened 12 times before) to Mel Kiper throwing his now-annual (and no longer entertaining) draft-day fit over the Cowboys taking Elliot and the aforementioned 49ers trading up to take Bennett, to Todd McShay chastising Laremy Tunsil for "throwing Ole Miss under the bus" as if there's some college football code of Omerta that Tunsil violated.  But the NFL Network wasn't without it's flaws as well. Notably Mike Mayock, who is rapidly transitioning from a solid draft analyst to a know-it-all scold, luddite character who, at first, piled on Tunsil (before having to back-track some) and then advised all football players to get off social media.

The legacy news folks hate (is there a stronger word than hate?) social media and internet outlets. If they had their choice they would shut them all down. In a media world where the message is massaged and unquestioned (often, as we're finding out, with the consent and advice of the teams) open forums such as social media and the internet run counter to everything they believe in. The worst thing to people such as Mayock, Kiper and McShay is not the action itself, it's the public being able to openly (and publicly) question their takes on it.

Here's the facts.  Despite assuring you something to the contrary. Kiper, McShay, Mayock et. al. are just as clueless as to who is going to work out for a team as the rest of us. Yes, they study a lot of film and are paid to do so, they have access to the Combine and pro-days that the regular fan or, the common internet reporter doesn't. They have resources and support teams and all of the bells and whistles.  And if you do a simple You Tube search there are hundreds of videos of them getting it 100% wrong on player after player, just like the rest of us.  They provide some good analysis, and can offer some insight, but they are not an authority on the matter just as I am not.  I could be 100% wrong about Fuller and Bennett or I could be 100% right, or 50%. Only a body of work spanning a few years will prove that out. (This is also why I don't do draft grades, silly.)

 - Houston Sports Media: Even worse than the National Media, if you can believe it.

Houston, the town where I live and work, is not a good sports town. As a matter of fact, it's a horrible sports town for college and a pathetic one for pro-sports.  Yes, the fans are loyal to the Texans, but to a fault. They're willing to accept mediocrity and continue to fill the stands when there's ample evidence the owner is quite content to finish 8-8 as long as the revenue numbers are in the black. The NBA and MLB only exist when the hometown teams are doing well, but College sports might as well not exist, unless UT-Austin or aTm-College Station are doing well in football.

That's not on Houston's media.  What is squarely on them is plain bad reporting. The worst offender is John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. In 7 of his 8 mock drafts he had the Texans picking Baylor WR Corey Coleman. Now, McClain is a Baylor grad and admitted, on AM 610, that a large reason for him doing this was a big dose of "Sic 'em".  That would have been OK if he would have said that's who he WANTED the Texans to pick, not who he thought they WOULD pick.

Because immediately after Cleveland selected Coleman McClain went on Twitter and said that he had heard all along that they were targeting the receiver, which means that all of his mock drafts were rubbish. At best.

At the worst they were a smokescreen for a Texans team who can rely on some at the Chronicle to provide unquestioning coverage.  Yes, McClain has some fun on Twitter saying the team is "pathetic" and "the worst he's ever seen" but that doesn't ever line up with his more mainstream media appearances.

When the Texans were melting down during the 2014 2-14 debacle McClain would tweet that the offense was awful and Schaub was 'playing terrible' and then, the next day, write columns and make radio appearances saying that Schaub wasn't the problem with the offense. This despite the fact that he clearly was. (To be fair though, that team had a load of problems and was a mess all around)

Look, I understand that you can't insult a team repeatedly and expect to have any access to them, and in the new world of team and league owned media they really don't need legacy reporters at all.

Which is why honest reporting is so crucial. Why dissenting opinions are so necessary.

Since their inception the Texans have operated as one of the most mediocre teams in the NFL. They rarely take chances, risks or anything that suggests that they have a burning desire to win.  Even their appearance on Hard Knocks was JJ Watt, O'Brien cursing and meh.

The thing is, I'm not sure that Houston fans have done anything to deserve better.

 - Today and tomorrow: Rosters are not built in the first round.

Now it gets interesting.  While the Rams are done until Saturday there are teams with huge talent gaps that need to knock some balls out of the park today.  Cleveland, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Houston. Cleveland and Tennessee still have a ton of picks which will allow them to do so, and Jacksonville seems to be a team on the rise.

Rick Smith and the Texans have a horrible track record when it comes to finding players who can play the game of football in rounds 2-4. If they ever want to get better, these next picks are key.

Which leads me to the 49ers, my team.  Concerns about the first round aside one of the defining characteristics of the Harbaugh era was his ability to find gems in rounds 2-5. With GM Trent Baalke calling the shots there's little evidence this is still the case (granted, we have a sample size of one year so the jury is still out). One year could be an aberration, but two starts a trend. And if the 49ers don't take steps to shore up their o-line, DB's, WR and LB corps then it's going to be another long year.

Oh, and they need a QB as well.

If the 49ers walk out of this draft with Buckner and Christian Hackenberg I might have to burn a hat. (I won't burn my Ronnie Lott shirt though, some things are timeless).

Enjoy the weekend.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Some down time.

When I bet it's usually on football, college basketball and horse racing. I've never been very good at handicapping the NBA and betting on baseball, to me, seems to ruin the experience. (I watch baseball to chill out, so betting on it would just make me nervous).

Last Saturday they ran the big(ger) prep races for the Kentucky Derby so I'm sure I'll have something about that in a couple of weeks.

Until then, I'm taking a break.

I'll be back before the Derby on May 7th.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sports on TV: How to save TV deals? Look to Gaming.

It's a problem that's sneaking around the edges of College and Professional Sports. Namely, what's going to happen as Millions of viewers "cut the cord" and the dollars that have been flowing into league, team and school coffers begins to dry up?

Changing TV Viewing habits threaten Billion Dollar Deals. David Barron, HoustonChronicle.com ($$$)

But networks are wrestling with recent subscriber declines as millennials reject or trim back on the cable/satellite bundle pricing system that had fueled unprecedented payouts for the rights to broadcast college sports. Investors are skittish as television executives try to read - and monetize - the whims of a generation that is as happy to watch games on laptops or smartphones as their parents are to watch on 60-inch flat screens.
On the college side, athletic directors are scrambling for new money to support non-revenue sports, pay coaches, and expand stadiums and facilities as part of the athletics "arms race," while meeting NCAA demands to increase benefits for student-athletes.
Viewers abandoning TV networks is a problem but it's not THE problem, THE problem is that the schools and leagues don't really have a viable plan for what follows.  The answer to the question is expanding sports gaming, both online and at brick & mortar locations across the country. Currently, most, practically all, online gaming is limited by the Unlawful Online Gaming Act of 2006. Ironically, this act is also what companies such s Draft Kings and FanDuel rely on to justify their business models (for a primer on why this is, see the law of unintended consequences).

Sports gaming regulation goes back even further, to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992. It was that act that pretty much permitted Las Vegas to operate with a monopoly on Sports gaming, especially since New Jersey (and Atlantic City) neglected to take advantage of an election to opt in within a year after the law took effect, a mistake that the state is desperately trying to undo in order to keep Atlantic City alive.

The 1992 law carved out exceptions for Dog & Horse racing and, in a nod to Florida, Jai Alai. This is why you have horse tracks in say, Texas, that offer pari-mutual wagering via simulcast.  Fast forward to today and you're seeing (again) the unintended consequences of this act.  Now we have Bodog, and 5 Dimes and a host of other off-shore based betting sites that operate illegally, but on an unofficial gray market which the Federal Government is all but powerless to shut down due to the offshore locations of most of the books.

One option is to go after the players themselves, which would result in a disaster and, most probably, the indictment and trials of some high-profile public figures, many of whom are probably on the front-lines in the "fight" against gaming. You would have Millions of people charged, tried and (possibly) incarcerated in an already over-burdened system.  Much like online poker sites, the federal government seems content to leave the players alone, and continue to go after the operators.

They are, as we know, unsuccessful.  Since the passage of the Unlawful Online Gaming Act of 2006 (UOGA) sports gaming has boomed, and not just from Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). Traditional spread, or side, betting has never been more popular, and even mainstream networks such as ESPN, CBS and NBC frequently mention odds (or lines) in their coverage of live events, sometimes painfully but sometimes brilliantly. In fact, despite their attempts to limit it, Congress and politicians have seen the sports gaming industry boom since 2006.

What does all of this have to do with television?

As less and less people tune into to cable/satellite/content providers who provide the networks with most of their income, the revenues are falling and the anticipation is that the TV money flowing in will as well.  The Networks are going to have to find a supplement for these incomes somewhere, and an expanded gambling network should be ready and willing to act in a manner that allows them to do so.

The fact is this. People are more willing to bet on games that they can actually watch. When ESPN airs a MAC conference football game between two-smallish schools they still draw fairly substantial viewing numbers. Why? Because a lot of gamblers are watching the games.

These online sites/brick and mortar sports books and other outlets would be willing to pay a pretty penny for advertisement, and possibly become partners in broadcasting the games to ensure they have access.

Now, imagine this dynamic greatly expanded.  Because there are casinos in multiple states who are, due to UOGA, not allowed to offer sports betting. Imagine if they could?  Imagine that the illegal off-shore casinos were legitimized and taken off the gray market into a competently regulated one?

Of course, States could still vote to limit (or prohibit) gaming within their borders, but the states that already have casinos aren't going to balk, and many states have already shown a willingness to embrace online services such as Fan Dual and Draft Kings, would sports betting be that much of a reach?

Granted, this is not going to be the golden goose that saves schools or makes the States richer than the dreams of Midas, but it would go a long way to putting a salve on the open wound that are State Lotteries and might provide the leagues and universities money as well.

Yes, there are problems inherent with big-time sports at both the professional and collegiate level. For one, almost all of them survive on the backs of the taxpayer who, in many cases, cannot afford to attend the games in the arenas and stadiums that they paid for. Second, big time college athletics, as administered by the NCAA, exploits the athletes to the extreme, not even allowing them to profit off of their visage while they are "student-athletes" (a term that is, increasingly, meaningless).  The fix for this would be complex and problematic, and it would require municipal leaders who are willing to stand up to the shake-downs by professional sports teams. It would also require reforms by the NCAA. In short, none of that is going to happen barring a disaster.

Then there's the political problem. Many politicians feel that it is their charge to protect the American populace from itself. Gambling can cause addiction and is therefore listed as something that is "bad" and should be outlawed, or tightly contained. That this containment only makes people go to greater, and often-times illegal, lengths to get their fix is something lost on most.

So the proposal I'm making is certainly a non-starter, at least considering today's political and social environment.  That doesn't mean that the conversation cannot be started.  Working (not fighting!) toward a day when sports gaming is more legal. more honest and (yes) better regulated (note that I didn't say 'more' regulated) is something that will always be worth a conversation (or three).

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