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How to bet on football: Billy Walters’ tips for NFL, NCAA


This excerpt is from “Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk,” an autobiography by Billy Walters, who is widely considered the GOAT of American sports bettors.

I didn’t realize it then, but when I went broke the first time in my life — betting on the 1955 World Series at the age of nine with the Munfordville town grocer — I was taking the first step toward preparing myself to write this chapter. Welcome to my master class for sports betting.

From that moment until now, I have been through more trials and tribulations than anyone could ever imagine. It’s safe to say that, over the course of my sixty-plus years of betting, I have wagered billions of dollars (yes, billions).

I also have spent countless millions of dollars trying to stay ahead of the game. If we had not updated our computer models and I hadn’t reinvented how I think about sports at least fifty different times, I would have been out of business way back during the Reagan administration.

The truth is, until I decided to write this book, I would not have taken $20 million to share the details of my system. Friends ask me why I’d want to give away my secrets now. The simple answer is I’m not getting any younger and I want to give something back to sports fans.

Let me start out with the absolute basics: there generally are many ways to bet, but the main one is spread betting.

In a spread bet, the score matters. For example, if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are favored by 7.5 points against the New Orleans Saints. You can either take Tampa Bay at -7.5 (which means they have to win by 8 points or more for you to win the bet) or New Orleans at +7.5 (which means they have to either lose by 7 points or fewer, or win the game, for you to win the bet). In either case, you generally must pay an additional 10 percent to make the bet. So a $100 wager will cost you $110. This is called the “juice” or the “vig,” from the Russian/Yiddish word “vigorish.”

Because you have to pay that extra $10, it means you’ll need to win 52.38 percent of the time to break even.

Here’s another way of putting it: even if you pick winners half the time after laying $110 to win $100, you will only get back 95.4 percent of your money – because you have to pay the bookmaker. Consider you place two bets laying $110/$100 for a total investment of $220. With one loss and one win, you get back $210 on your winning bet (your bet plus the winning of $100) and you lose $110 on the losing bet. Bottom line: you win $210 on a $220 investment, which is 95.4 percent. This is worse than most slot machines, which on average return about 96 percent of the money played. The odds are even worse if you’re playing parlays and teasers.

In a moneyline bet, you’re simply wagering on who will win. Moneyline bets are common in baseball, tennis, soccer, and other events where the scores tend to be smaller numbers, but you can bet the moneyline for any event.

Favorites in a moneyline bet are denoted with a minus sign. Underdogs are a plus sign. Let’s say, for example, the Buccaneers are playing the Saints and Tampa is a -180 favorite and New Orleans is a +160 underdog. If you like Tampa to win, you must bet $180 to win $100. If you like New Orleans, you bet $100 to win $120. The final score doesn’t matter-you win if your team wins. The bookmaker’s fee is baked into the numbers.

My primary message is that the average Joe or Jane faces an almost insurmountable set of disadvantages that virtually guarantee a significant loss over the long term unless you can flip the odds in your favor. I did that for thirty-six consecutive years, and I’ve developed a set of core principles for sports wagering that I’ll share with you now:

There are three essential elements of a good sports betting system: handicapping, a betting strategy and a money management plan. Money Management

Properly managing your money is almost as important as handicapping and betting strategy.

The first order of business: sit down and decide what you want to risk. Start with the assumption that you’ll lose it all. The simple fact is you can’t play without a bankroll, so the top priority should be to do everything possible to protect the money you decide to risk.

With that thought in mind, I recommend that you set specific limits on how much you wager. Ideally, you should not risk any more than 1 to 3 percent of your bankroll on any single bet. This allows you to spread the risk and limit significant losses.

Rest is here

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