NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Smart People
by Dennis Ranahan

While I am of the general opinion that most people are good, I also have a history of them saying some of the stupidest things. The other day I was talking to a friend and the conversation drifted to insurance, when I revealed that last year for the first time I picked up earthquake insurance on my San Francisco Bay Area home, figuring that we are due for a big one and I waited long enough, equaled a good buy.

He was quick in response, “Yeah but, what if you never have to use it; what a waste!”

First of all, never having to use it would be all good, the benefit, and needing it is just to minimize a disaster. It is like those people, and I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say this, complaining that they paid for insurance for years and never needed it.

That’s a bad thing?

What did they want? A fire, flood or accident?

This time of the year one of the stupidest things some people put forth while representing a sports service is that they tout they can “break your book.”

Not really my objective. I want my book to always have ample resources to pay me. And, if someone thinks they are smart enough to even beat their book, let alone break them, they are uttering jiberish.

The books are the smartest people in the game. It is a lot easier winning with them than trying to beat them. The books reveal their own soft spots, most often situations where a lesser team is in a perfect spot to upset a squad with both a better record and public perception. If the books were using their own intelligence, they might make the team with the worst record a small favorite to give people with information, like me, a reason to pause.

In fact, way too many people that think ‘breaking their book’ is a good thing are there to bite at inviting point spreads that conclusively point to bad investments. The book has to factor those individuals along with the guy in the cardigan sweater on his way to a golf round and betting on the three best teams in the league.

With those public wagers based on what has happened in opposition to what is going to happen, the books are forced to tip the playing field in our favor.

Linemakers know when the occasional matchup shows up with a huge advantage with the underdog, and then go fish for favorite money while reducing the spread on the game to entice favorite players. Still, never really able to peg it for what they know. Most often, these edges are clearly identified by Tuesday night, while the rest of the week is spent watching the books spin magic while getting 70 or 80 percent of the wagering public backing the probably doomed favorite.

Only problem is, even public backing in the mid-eighty percent range fails to balance the money. Wagers from sources with good information are placing wagers a hundred times higher and more than the average Joe placing a wager on a team he thinks is going to win.

More than a few times each season there is a game that the books are so much out with wiseguy money on the underdog, that they reduce the point spread in the final hour in a final attempt to snag favorite money.

A perfect illustration of how a line move can illuminate a great point spread play was a contest between the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers. The public was all over the favored Packers to the tune of 83%, but the spot was tailored made for a home team upset win. The opening line of eight points had been shaved to seven points by Sunday morning and offered a clear indicator on the strength of an underdog play.

Then, on the Sunday morning, four hours before the Pacific Time Zone start, the books moved the Packers from a 7 point favorite to a 6½ point favorite. Before the afternoon kickoff, the line had dropped to as low as 5½ points at some of the most sophisticated books … this all happening while nearly nine of every ten bettors at the windows in Nevada were wagering on the road favorite Packers. Can you imagine the chatter in a casino sports book where nearly everyone you run into agrees with you that the Packers are going to win?

Our offices had alerted clients in the morning that the late move enhances the prospects of the home standing Cardinals, even with the shaved line. The Cardinals plus points was a decisive winner as Arizona won the game straight-up, 20-13.

Situations like the winner in Arizona will occur three or four times in 2018, and when they do we will declare a “Bullet” and post that high percentage play at 9:45 a.m., 15 minutes before the NFL kicks off a Sunday of action.