Team O/U Win Totals (8/21/12)

By Paul Bessire

Tuesday, August 21 at 12:00 PM ET

This, the beginning of football season (though similar concepts apply to the beginning of the MLB or NBA regular seasons or the NCAA Tournament), is among my favorite times of the annual calendar professionally and personally – and not just because we have not gotten anything wrong yet. As a fan, especially with the parity of the NFL, this is the time of the year when optimism reigns. This is our year.

The same could be said professionally, but in a slightly different way. First of all, while still very busy with the testing and launching of everything we are doing for football season, the last few weeks (just over a week in this case with college football) before the season starts and after the previews have gone out represent both a calm before the storm of the football season and the culmination of the vast amount of work that goes into preparing 156 football rosters for the upcoming season. That moment is when I breathe, step back, look at everything we have put together, and put “my money where my mouth is” (not to mention my words and numbers).

While I certainly invest in sports during the regular and post seasons (still likely more than most reading this), for many reasons, I invest more in full season Team Win Total Over/Under plays than in anything else – significantly more. I have alluded to this in the past, yet have not fully discussed the topic in a blog… until now. Much of what I will cover here will sound very similar to the recently posted podcast that we conducted on Team Win Total picks strategies. In that podcast, I give away several free picks. On the site, we have already made available four free “light” NFL picks and six free college football picks (five “half-bet” and one “light”). The podcast has two plays of the seven total picks (technically five team win total picks and two valuable futures)  in which I am heavily invested for the season (subscribers who have access to all of this information should be able to utilize our information coupled with the Play Value Calculator to incorporate juice to determine these plays that standout, but can contact us for more information if that is not clear).

Since the podcast worked so well at addressing common questions and misconceptions about Over/Under Team Win Total picks strategies, I am going to apply a similar format to the rest of this blog.

Why do you think Over/Under team win totals have been such a strength of the site?

Concerning oneself with the outcome of many games played by the same team takes a lot of the luck out of what we normally see with individual games. It is easier to count on a team to be what we expected on average over the course of the season, than in the span of three hours on a random day. In each individual game, the bounce of a ball can make or break the outcome, but that should even out over the course of the season.

The market also tends to pay too much attention to what teams did the year before and too little attention to subtle roster and coaching changes and the schedule (particularly in pro sports where the perception of schedules seems to be that they are more equal than they actually are).

We often see a lot of value in totals, which typically results in many options to play. For instance, assuming -110 odds (we’ll get into that more below), we have 22 “normal” (57%+ to cover) college football plays and 13 “normal” or better plays in the NFL. Collectively, there are 12 plays that cover 60%+ (which would even be playable at -150 odds or greater). In baseball, we had ten “normal” plays total plays (that are still projected to go 8-2) and 24 playable plays (projected to go 17-7 overall). Last year, college normal plays were 11-6 and all NFL plays were 18-12 (I was heavily invested in Jacksonville Under 6.5 wins and Alabama Over 10 wins which were our top plays in each of the sports). One could look at those results and output and say those are small sample sizes, but those are consistently the rates we have seen for all sports (even the NBA!!! *before this year when we did not have the time or the… uh, gumption to pick against lines in the shortened season). Plus, viewing those as small sample sizes is not really relevant anyway because each iteration in those samples is made up of a much larger set of samples.

Add to all of that my personal concern to protect against my potential impatience and psyche that could lead me to making irrational changes to the simulation engines if I am overextended on the day-to-day and my personal bankroll sees its largest individual plays and overall percentage invested in O/U team win totals. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it is the best way for me to find value and intelligently invest in sports…

To sum this up, GO METS!

Over/Under Team Win Totals are different from normal over/unders.  In a normal over/under if the public is betting the over, the total of the game will increase.  With win totals, if everyone is betting the over for wins, the win total doesn’t increase and instead the odds/juice changes.

That’s mostly true for football win totals, but not really true for other win totals with sports that have longer seasons. With just 12-16 regular season games on the schedule in football and, often, some obvious wins and obvious losses (particularly for college football teams), books don’t have much latitude to move up or down a half of a win. Instead, they mitigate risk by adding juice to the side where they get the action. This year, books have done this far more than I have seen in the past – and, unfortunately, far more than I would prefer as I hunt for value. Due to the team and schedule, it’s technically different for each team, but, even for our strongest plays, I would generally rather see a line move against my pick by a half a win than see odds worse (more in the books’ favor, more negative) than -140 (which requires 58.3%+ confidence to play).

It’s very important to pay attention to the odds. Some current college football examples of both types of line movement for these picks that we have already seen include:

  • Ohio State – The Buckeyes have held steady at 8.5 wins on the total in most books. Despite winning six games last year so much action has come in on the over (as we would recommend at normal odds), some books have juiced the over all the way to -200 (bet 200 to win 100). At the normal -110 lines, it only takes 52.4% accuracy to turn a profit. At -200, 66.7% accuracy is needed to be profitable. We have Ohio State covering 8.5 wins 61.2% of the time. I figured I’d have to root for the Buckeyes this year (not something the Wisconsin and Cincinnati fan in me would love doing). At -110 odds, that’s almost a 2X normal play (preferably 4-6% of one’s bankroll). At -200 odds, that’s no longer playable (whew).
  • Kentucky - On the other side, Kentucky was originally posted at 5.5 with +105 odds on the Under. That means that, if the Wildcats won fewer than 6 games (which looks like as close to a certainty as I can comfortably discuss), a $100 bet on the Under would have actually returned $105. Now, with such a strong conference, such a weak team and a little help from Clay Travis (a tremendous read by the way), seemingly no one played the over (a smart move) and the line has come all the way down a win and a half to 4 even in some spots.

Therefore, with the large variance in odds, you have to measure value similar to how you would a money-line play in an MLB game.

Kind of. It’s like an MLB money-line game in the fact that one team’s expected win is another’s expected loss and in that the juice varies so much that it is absolutely critical to incorporate that into wagering consideration.

However, we often times recommend wagering on MLB teams that we do not expect to win in a game more often than not because they have enough of a chance to win that it justifies the positive payout. It is possible that is the case with win totals, but it would be rare that the juice really allows for that because books often add more juice to these type of plays than they do MLB money-lines.

Plus, wins are still counting stats where the overall win of one play does not guarantee a loss for another play on another team (part of the reason books add juice to these type of plays is because it is very difficult to balance this type of action and the only partial dependence of one specific play on another). In this manner, these wagers are closer to MLB totals, which are independent counting stat plays that are also often juiced at something besides -110 odds. The difference with these plays is that they will almost always be a number between five and 12 and cannot exceed 16 for NFL and 12 for college (and are even more constricted in college where many wins/losses are more obvious).

It truly takes someone with a lot of patience and a good bankroll to be able to make these types of bets.

I would say the exact opposite… I think it takes more patience and a bigger bankroll to adequately implement and stick to a day-to-day, game-to-game wagering strategy because that requires one to play through losing streaks without changing anything

Here you make your decisions once and let them be. Yes, there are in-season wagers and other ways to hedge against full season team win total over/under losses, but there isn’t anything you can do about that specific play. More than a large bankroll, you need to think of these plays as having a separate, dedicated bankroll that you are comfortable tying up for an extended period of time.

Plus, I find that these plays are a lot of fun too. You get to start the year with a new favorite and/or least favorite team or teams for the entire season… Have I said go Mets yet (fortunately, I passed on the Lucas Duda jersey, but, since he is on multiple fantasy teams of mine that are also succeeding, I may have to spend some of my winnings on a David Wright Fathead).

In pro football, win totals for all 32 teams are available, how many are typically available for college football?

55 at most books and on our site. For the most part, that represents the BCS conference teams and well-known non-BCS teams that are likely to be bowl eligible, plus Nevada and UNLV.

As usual, if you have any of your own comments about this article or suggestions about how to improve the site, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time. We respond to every support contact as quickly as we can (usually within a few hours) and are very amenable to suggestions. I firmly believe that open communication with our customers and user feedback is the best way for us to grow and provide the types of products that will maximize the experience for all. Thank you in advance for your suggestions, comments and questions.