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It is Good To Pick Bad
Aug 1st, 2007

With the NBA betting scandal making headlines, every wannabe detective thinks they found the statistical smoking gun that Tim Donaghy point shaved games. Furthermore, two academics believe they have statistical proof that point shaving is commonplace in both the NBA and college basketball.

These conclusions are based in no small part on the epiphany that big underdogs cover at a disproportionate rate. No kidding, sharp players have known that for years. More importantly, we knew why and it is not point shaving.

We feel it is time to update and revisit an article we wrote years ago.

Let me divulge upfront that I am not a connoisseur on picking stocks. But I know those who have been triumphant on the stock market have done it by selecting stocks that nobody else sought. They purchased stocks when their worth was at their lowest and going with them. The other end of that equation is selling stocks when they reach their zenith.

That is exactly the modus operandi that I have used to become the foremost all-sports handicapper in the world. Of course I do not win 365 days a year and even on winning days, I will get some hate mail about a particular pick.

I can candidly say in all my years of handicapping, 98% of people who interrogate a specific selection, second-guess my picking of a big underdog. The handicapper who hits 48% of his plays but elects to choose almost all favorites will get less hate mail then the guy who hits 56% and picks mostly big dogs.

Especially in baseball, if I have a losing night and I picked several big dogs, I already know of the four guys who will question how I could make those picks. Of course, I must add this caveat: they keep re-signing with me. As you may guess, when I go 4-0 with all dogs I do not hear from them. But my most unforgiving critics are more times than not, my most loyal clients.

I have flat out had gamblers tell me, If I am going to lose, I would rather lose betting (the vastly superior team) than betting on (the grossly inferior team). Never in my life have I heard a more self-fulfilling prophecy. Attitudes like that keep the bookmakers in business for those of us who do win long-term.

It is no secret that the public loves betting favorites. I am not sure why.

I suppose from a cardiac perspective, it is easier to root for a favorite. For example, if a gambler has Florida State laying 28 to Duke, even if FSU is winning by only 10 entering the fourth quarter, in the back of his mind, he knows the Seminoles are more than capable of scoring three quick touchdowns.On the other hand, if he has Duke, he can never breathe that sigh of relief until the final buzzer.

So if a fallacious feeling of security from a rooting standpoint is all you want, true going with grossly rated too low teams necessitates sweating wins until the end.

By hook or by crook, going with a 10-point dog that loses by 14 is so much more painful to the typical gambler than having a double-digit favorite lose outright.

This is so much truer in baseball betting. I am flabbergasted at how few gamblers truly have a notion of how baseball betting works. Winning percentage is so irrelevant in MLB betting. One has to hit 60-percent of 150 favorites just to break even, but only 40-percent of 150 dogs (after the juice) to reach the break even I have been very triumphant in the back pocket going against Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and the Yankees etc in choice situations. But it never fails, every time I pick a huge dog that loses, my email box has a small number who say, How could you EVER pick against Pedro Martinez?

Wise Guys do not elect to choose huge baseball underdogs expecting to strike 70-percent But the best baseball handicappers put themselves in a position where they can go .500 and take home a ton of money.

It takes parallel thick skin in other sports. Of course if you are going with undervalued teams against overvalued, meaning big dogs, inescapably you will be on the wrong end of a 56-7 score. But I have news for the chalk lovers. It is the same in the wallet as picking a 10-point favorite and winning only by a touchdown. But again, the at least I lost picking the better team attitude gives the average Joe a facade of solace.

It is the bad teams that are thought too little of, not the great teams. We made big money going with the Detroit Lions late last year for example. We had to be on pins and needles for a lot of them, believe me, but taking the undervalued dogs is the way to win long-term.

Do not get that false sense of sanctuary by going with Florida in college football (or basketball for that matter), the Spurs, Duke in basketball all of the time. No gambler hits 100% of the time, but eradicate this bizarre human nature of second guessing yourself when a horrible team fails to cover and being so content when the superior team loses in the back pocket.

This is not to say that there are not games of value in betting the big favorite. But while all the psychological advantages of betting favorites cause the public to love laying the lumber, those of us who win more than we lose know that the best value comes with select big dogs in the right situation.

But those of us who sell picks for a living have to develop mental sturdiness when getting feedback from clients. Even the most realistic clients understand that no handicapper is slump-proof, but they still seem to only second guess me when I pick an underdog.

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Joe Duffy is founder of featuring the world’s top sports service selections.
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