New York City
I'm a degenerate gambler. I've been willing to give and take action on a series of prop bets ranging from the absurd to the utterly insane.
I also love betting on sports. To me, it's as an American a past time as apple pie and binge drinking on St. Patrick's Day.
I've been betting on sports since I was a little kid. It was socially accepted too in the middle class Irish and Jewish neighborhood that I grew up in. My father used to bring home sports betting slips from a gambling ring that the mobbed up guys used to run out of the corner bar called The Leprechaun. A lot of cops drank at the bar too. That was back in the late 1970s when there was a blurry line between cops and crooks on the seedy streets of New York City.
During football season, I would pick a four team parlay and my father would put $2 on it. Once in a while, I got lucky, and it would hit. I'd get back $20. The bookies always fucked you and paid out lower odds. These days, you can get 12-1 or even 13-1 odds on some offshore and online sportsbooks for action in various four team parlays. Alas, when I was a kid the intertubes had not been invented by Al Gore yet and Slick Willy was chasing skirts in Arkansas, W was a cokehead throwing raging parties at his old man's ranch.
I spent the past weekend glued to the TV watching various conference championships. I had action on a lot of the games, in my last weekend of betting before March Madness began. UNC/Clemsen was a push for me. I had Kansas getting 6.5 in as close to a home game situation you are going to get in a conference game, and I had been riding Georgia since they are the hottest team around. Overall, I went 2-0-1 on Sunday which was a great way to end the regular season.
Here are some March Madness betting tips. These are not tips on how to do a sheet. Rather, this are tips on betting on individual games with the spread at a sports book in Vegas, with your local bookie, or online.
March Madness Betting Tips
1. Road Record and Neutral Court
Road record is one of the most underrated statistics in the NCAA tournament. Every team is playing on a neutral court, so road games and records in any neutral courts games (such as various conference championships) come into play. When in doubt, go with the team that has the better road record.
I usually prefer betting home dogs, but you can't really take that in account for March Madness games. The best value you can look for are teams that play well on the road who are listed as underdogs.
2. Free Throws
Clutch free throw shooting is crucial in the tournament. Simply put, the teams that convert more FTs down the stretch give you a better chance to cover. UNC and UCLA are solid free throw shooting teams while Tennesse and Memphis are not shooting FTs as well as they should. Those two teams are capable of beating almost any team in the country, but FT's in crunch time make the difference between squeaking out a victory and covering the spread.
3. Defense + Threes = Cover
I love a team that plays excellent defense and that can shoot the rock from downtown. That usually translates into the potential to cover a lot of spreads. They tend to keep their opponents score low and at the same time, they can put up a lot of points if they get hot from the three point line. Wisconsin, Kansas, UCONN, Mississippi State, Georgetown, and Louisville are among the best defensive teams in the country. While UCLA, Duke, and Tennessee give up a lot of points.
4. Hot Teams vs. Overrated Teams
I look for a matchup between a hot team (with a mediocre record) against an overrated team. Georgia is one of the hottest teams in the country. And teams like St. Mary and Washington State played weak non-conference schedules. I like Winthrop in the game against Washington State. Also, there are a few underrated teams like Mississippi State and South Alabama. Depending on their matchups, there could be some solid value with those teams.
5. Upset City: #5 vs. #12
The word is out. Every year a #12 seed upsets a #5 seed. That changed a lot of strategy when everyone fills out their office pools. The result? Everyone picking #12 seeds, which has become the Sicilian Defense of office pools. The oddsmakers have been paying attention to that trend. Over the last few years, there was heavy action on #12 teams, and the lines have moved to reflect that. The best value is betting the #5 teams since the spread is lower than what it should be. Everyone is going to be betting George Mason. Avoid the trend and go with Notre Dame. Pick the #12 upset on your sheets, but bet the #5s.
The key to successful sportsbetting is not to bet upsets. You're trying to get your money in on sure things. A potential upset is not a sure thing. It's a longshot.
6. Happy to Be Here Teams
The teams are having their "aw shucks" moment are dead money in the first round. When I hear stories about the America East Conference champion making their first ever NCAA bid in the history of existence, I bet against them.
7. Betting #1 Seeds
I stay away from the huge lines with the top seeded teams. Most of those lines are trap games. It not uncommon to see a #1 a 25 point favorite against a #16 seed. Sometimes if there's some good value, bet the underdog and the lower seeds.
You don't have to bet every game. There will be 16 games on Thursday and 16 days on Friday. You should only be betting two or three games. Easier said than done. What happens is that I go crazy and spread out eight to ten bets each day because I'm an action junkie. The smart was is to pick two or three games in the first round and bet 25% of your bankroll on them. Then in the second round, you spend another 25% of your starting bankroll on a handful of games. That way, if you go on a bad losing streak, you have 50% left for the Sweet 16 with an opportunity to get back your loses.
Bankroll management is essential in poker, as well as sports betting. Don't blow your load on a game because you are craving action. That's the hardest thing for me to discipline. If you can keep that in check, then you can avoid losing your shirt.
9. Winning ATS
Teams that win against the spread are enticing bets in March Madness. UNC, San Diego, Clemsen, and South Alabama are among the Top 10 teams ATS.
10. When in Doubt... Fade My Picks
Over my career, I'm a winning sports bettor. I had a bad 2006 March Madness and broke even last year. In 2008, I had mixed results betting on sports. I had a profitable NFL playoffs and barely broke even betting on the NBA. I'm currently down for the year in college basketball, but most of that is juice. I'm 22-21-3 since I started keeping stats.
That's it for now. I'm not a tout service and I really have no clue what I'm doing. What I do know is that you have to do your own homework and crunch the stats. Go with your gut and don't bet too many games. Find the best two or three games on the card and bet them strong.
In case you were wondering, Change100 won my March Madness pool last year. She admitted that she knew nothing about college hoops. Don't you love ironic moments like that?
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