Friday, January 16, 2009

Tragedy in the Desert

Here's the Czabe on what that Eagles +4 line is really saying:

Think about this: if a team had beaten another team by a 48-20 margin in the regular season, even if it was at home, how on earth would they only be 4 point road favorites? Makes no sense right? Unless it makes perfect sense. Arizona is one of those typical “front running” teams, just like their fans, who are SUDDENLY on the bandwagon. Now that the Cardinals have a chance to go to the Big Game, I think they’ll play like a house on fire. Plus, isn’t Philly’s move to CHOKE when everything is perfectly lined up for them? This is who they are. This is what they do. Westbrook, hurt. Boldin, back. Nah. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb aren’t this lucky. PICK: Cardinals 38-21.

I have no retort.


Anonymous said...

I hate having to explain this kind of thing to sports fans yet again, but here goes:

A point spread is NOT a prediction!

The oddsmakers in Vegas are not fans, and they're not clairvoyants. They don't care who wins or by how much. When they set a spread, they only have ONE concern: making sure that a roughly equal amount of betting money is placed on both teams.

A bookie collects bets from a large number of gamblers. He hopes to pay off the winners with money put up by the losers, while keeping a percentage for himself. He doesn't care who wins or loses. The ONLY thing he fears is having too many winners to pay! The entire purpose of the point spread is to make sure there's an equal number of winning bettors and losing bettors.

Here's a hypothetical: suppose the New York Giants are favored to beat the Oakland Raiders by 17 points. WHEN does a bookie know if the point spread was good one? Answer: at the moment of the opening kickoff. At kickoff time, if the money bet on the Raiders equals the money bet on the Giants, the point spread was a good one- even if the Raiders end up winning 42 to nothing!

Fans and players never seem to grasp this. When they see that their favorite team is an underdog, or isn't favored by very much, they take it as a slight. When a 3-point underdog wins the Super Bowl, you can bet that their players will crow that "THEY said we couldn't do it, be we sure showed THEM!" Or they'll gripe about how the oddsmakers gave them no respect!

How silly. Bookies and oddsmakers are businessmen, nothing more. As long as they're making money, they figure they're doing the right thing.

Some people mocked Jimmy the Greek for making the Baltimore Colts a 19 point favorite in Super Bowl III. But despite the Jets' victory, Jimmy's spread was just about perfect. THink about it- SUPPOSE Jimmy had made the Jets a 10 point favorite. Sine the Jets won by 9, THAT would have been a fairly accurate prediction, right? But it would have been a DISASTROUS point spread for the bookies. EVERYBODY would have bet the rent on the Colts, and EVERYBODY would have won!

Remember the second time the Steelers played the Cowboys in the Super Bowl? The Steelers won by 4 points, 35-31. Now, initially, the oddsmakers made the Steelers a 3 and a half point favorite. Very good prediction, right? Well.. when the spead was 3 and a half, practically ALL the bettors went with the Steelers. So, the oddmakers raised the spread to 4 and a half. STILL a very accurate prediction, right? But when the spread was 4 and a half, practically ALL the bettors went for the Cowboys. So, a very ACCURATE prediction turned out to be disastrous for bookies, who had to pay off almost everybody.

Bookies and Vegas wiseguys don't think the way fans and players do. Don't read too much into point spreads.

DBrooks17 said...

Love this comment, astorian. I have had this very discussion many, many times with friends and acquaintances. You left out an important part--the vigorish. Bookies typically make an extra 10% on losing bets. For example, if one bets $100 and loses, one owes the bookie $110. As astorian said, the perfect line would entice lots and lots of people to bet, and have money split evenly on both sides. At that point, the bookie would make 5% of all the money bet. One more example to make this point--say there is $1 million bet on a big game, $500K on each side. The bookie would have to pay $500K to the people who won, but he would receive $550K from those who lost. That means a profit of $50K, or 5% of the $1 million bet. Lines are all about money, not predicting winners or losers--that is, unless you include bookies.