From the Frontlines
Issue #98 – How to Handicap NASCAR and GolfWagering
Following last weekend’s thrilling victory forJeff Gordon at the Daytona 500, and Adam Scott’s rain-wreckedsudden death win at the Nissan Open, I thought this would be agreat opportunity to cover both NASCAR and golf betting. Bothsports have just started their respective seasons, and with summerapproaching, both will become an important source of businessto books.
Betting on NASCAR
As with golf, betting on NASCAR used to be almostexclusively on who would win the overall event. However, wageringon the odds to win has become a distant second to wagering onwhich of two competitors will have the better head-to-head results.Books typically offer match-ups based on drivers (and their carsand teams, of course) of similar skill, and will offer anywherefrom a dozen to 50 match-ups on a race.
Picking the winner of a race is difficult, butthe payoff is high. For example, Mark Martin might be 25/1 towin the entire race, and hitting that would be a nice payoff,but remember there are 42 other drivers in the race!
Picking the winner of a head-to-head match-upis much easier, but the payoff is much smaller as well. For example,Mark Martin (lets say he is 25/1 to win the race) might be matchedup against Jeff Burton (20/1 to win the race) for wagering purposes.For such a match-up Martin only has to beat Burton. He could finish42nd and still the bet could be a winner! In a case like thisthe line might be Martin +120 and Burton -140, so your $100 onMartin only pays $120 if he beats Burton. If Martin wins the race,you would still only get the $120 instead of the $2500 it wouldpay if you had picked him to win the race.
How to handicap a race
When it comes to handicapping a race, there are a couple ofmajor factors to consider: recent performance of the driver, andpast history of the given track. Recent performance is just whatit sounds like. How has this driver done over the last three,five or ten races? Look for consistent strong finishes, whichshow that the driver and his crew are in synch. These teams arealways in the hunt near the end of the race and that will giveyou a chance to win every week. Also look for consistent improvement.A driver that finished 32nd, 23rd, 15th, 8th and 5th respectivelyover the last five races is likely someone you want to keep aneye on over the next couple of races.
Track histories are probably even more important and not usedenough by bettors, in my opinion. Just like golf courses, or baseballstadiums, there are different tracks. There are pure ovals, D-ovals(which have only one real straightaway), super speedways (wherespeeds can get so fast that for safety reasons “restrictor plates”are placed on the carburetors to physically slow the cars down)and road courses (which requires cars to turn in both directionsas well as way more braking and thus a slightly different setof skills from traditional NASCAR tracks).
Each driver will have a certain type of track they are betterat, and many will have a particular track or two where they areoutstanding, as the length, speed, slope of the turns, etc alljust seem to fit their particular skill set the best. Ideally,when you are betting, you will be able to find a few drivers whodo very well at the current track and that have also been runningwell in recent weeks.
Once you have your drivers picked, you have to decide whetheryou want to bet on the entire race or on the match-ups or both.If you prefer match-ups, check through the list to see if thereare any situations where your chosen drivers may be up againstopponents who are big names, but are running cold or on a trackthey struggle on. These situations will bring you the best valuefor your dollar.
If you prefer to bet the odds to win, there are a couple ofways to bet. One is to simply pick one driver and put your moneydown. Another is to pick a few drivers and stagger your bet sizesto make sure you profit a similar amount if any of your pickswin. For example, lets say you like three drivers and their oddsare 5/1, 15/1 and 25/1. You could bet 8 units at 5/1, 3 unitsat 15/1 and 2 units at 25/1 and then you would win 35, 35 or 39units respectively.
Betting on Golf
As a book manager, golf is an enigma. The sportrepresents a books’ ideal target market, as golfers tend to beInternet savvy and affluent. I am sure most golfers wouldn’t pay$50 to play basketball, baseball or football for four hours, butthey think nothing of dropping that much, or several times thatmuch, to play a round every weekend. Also, golfers are naturalbettors.
I think the main reason golf betting hasn’t takenoff is that unlike betting on team sports, it is incredibly hardto pick the winner of any specific tournament (except maybe forbetting on Tiger at the Bay Hill Invitational). That is why Iwant to focus not on odds-to-win an entire tournament, but ratheron the head-to-head match-ups between individual players thathave become very popular in the last couple of years.
When you bet on team sports, you have at leastfive and as many as 50 players that will affect the outcome ofa game. In golf, there are just the two players to consider (dothe caddies really count?). If Tiger is on fire and Els is slumping,it’s much easier to know where to put your money. Also, in golfhead-to-heads, there is no clock to run out, referee decisionsare rare, and the match is held over four days so breaks, goodor bad, tend to even out.
How to handicap a match-up
Golf match-ups are easy to handicap. You canview a player’s performance in recent weeks to see if he is hotor cold or you can view previous year’s results on the same course.Every player has a slightly different set of skills and play betteron some courses than others.
Similar arguments exist for auto-racing match-upsbut you never have to worry about a golfer blowing a tire on thelast lap or running out of gas. Injuries are also less of a concernin golf than they are in other sports. If a golfer cannot play,he doesn’t get paid so they take good care of themselves (andhopefully nobody is running into them), and if they are injured,they tend to take some time off and make sure they are fully healedbefore participating to prevent permanent injury. How many timeshave you bet on a team and then found out a key player is hurt?Yeah, I hate that feeling too.
If you want to be a more profitable sports bettor,especially if you are a golf fan (or just plan on watching thefinal round on TV and want it to be a little more exciting), spendsome time looking through the weekend’s PGA match-ups as thoroughlyas you would the baseball or basketball card. Many bettors don’tlike golf wagering because their money is tied up for four days,but I consider this a poor excuse and it is indicative of poormoney management. With a little research and a little planning,betting golf head-to-heads can make you a more profitable bettorand make rainy Sunday afternoons a little more exciting.
The enjoyment of your wagering experience withus is my number one priority. Should you have any questions, concerns,or comments, I will personally ensure you are satisfied with your Bdg experience.
Good luck with your wagers!