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As I See It

5 August 2002

by Jimmy Vaccaro

As I write this, the football season is hours away from being officially underway. Call it pre-season, exhibition, scrimmage, whatever you want to label it, the bettors will be out in force.

Football betting is the biggest piece of the bookmakers' money pie that will be chopped up over the next five months. The offshore guys will be signing up players at a hectic pace.

In Vegas, both Station Casinos and the Hilton have announced their annual contests. Incidentally, I had dinner with Archie Manteris who runs the Station Casino chains, and it just might offer a second contest. We'll keep you informed.

Of course, everyone else with a contest will be in step shortly. Meanwhile, a lot of players who have had their money in their jeans for a while will be in action again, which leads me up to this week's theme.

I was watching Sportscenter when Linda Cohn led off the story about the Washington-SF 49er game with this statement, which I'll paraphrase: "Well, tomorrow in Osaka, we start the season with the 49ers and Skins, and everybody is talking about only one team, the Redskins. The Redskins have been installed as a 3-point favorite."

Installed would lead us to believe that the Skins opened as a 3-point favorite over San Francisco. Now, let's not come down too hard on Linda, as it is likely that an intern just got her the info out of the paper and if he would have said Washington was a 7-point favorite, she would have used it.

Now we can excuse journalists for their weak coverage of pointspreads, as they are simply reporting the news. But if what you got out of that show was that the Skins opened, or were installed as a 3-point favorite, you honestly do not have a chance of successfully betting these games.

It is essential that you know what is going on. Whether you do your own handicapping, pay for picks or get them from the shoemaker on the corner, you have to know what is going on as it relates to the line. Money is hard to come by, and if you don't know what's going on vis-à-vis the line, you won't have any to come by.

I don't know who is going to win the game, but I do know what it opened at, how long it stayed at the number, and have a pretty good idea why the favorite got changed. In other words, I may not win my play, but at least I know how the line progressed.

If you are half serious about showing a profit come the Super Bowl, you can start fresh each week looking at the line, away from lightweight media pronouncements, and use the approach that you must be connected to the whole process.

If you bet early or late, or if you feel a number is going to get away from you, it is crucial to know what's going on in order to protect yourself.

Now a lot of bettors have jobs and are pretty busy. But you should at least check the Don Best screen twice a day. Do it before you go to work and then check it when you come home. It will give you a feel for the rhythm that will click in your head if you stay tuned in.

No matter what store you play at, if you get a morning line, you will be able to adjust to a certain style that your book has. You will see if it moves quicker on favorites than some of the other joints, or if it lags behind on a move. After a while, you will be able to pretty much judge a store, especially a medium-size outfit that isn't able to take as big of a bite as some big shops can.

What this will do for you is give you a gauge on when to move on a side that you like. If your book is moving quick on favorites, you will know that you might have to strike a little earlier in the week.

On the other hand, if you like the dog, there might be a juicy number for you a little later in the week. But in either case, you have to know what's going on.

If you are following someone else or are simply a day-of-game bettor, you have to know where this number started, and if possible which outfit moved the number first. This may not always be feasible, but you must make an effort to find out.

If you follow line movement on a daily basis, you will have the ability to get smarter. But if you take Linda's word for it that a team was installed as a favorite, take that job at the gas station now and put yourself out of your misery.

Of all the major sports, football offers the greatest fascination for watching and betting on the games. You have time to talk about the big game that is coming up all week long at the water cooler. You can listen to every talk show and watch every Sportscenter, and I do not mean to rag on them too much as there are some segments that do have value. But over the long run, you have to go a little deeper than what they give to the public.

Listen, I only speak from experience. Whether you're booking or playing you have to know what's going on. In today's market bookmakers are starting to think like players and vice versa. You got to try to find out what's in the other guy's head.

The day is gone for bookmakers just getting a cold number from a service and throwing it up on the board and hoping the rest will take care of itself. Also gone is the day that players relied on bookmakers making mistakes that they let us swoop in and rob them once a week and then spend three days in the gold club.

Let me tell you that the people who end up with the money in the long run do know what is going on. Bad weeks, bad months, bad seasons are all a part of the racket. But if you apply yourself just a little to what is going on, in five or 10 years you will be waiting for another opening day and you will not be the rank sucker that you used to be.

If you know that the 49ers were "installed" a 2½-point favorite, you will get a different light on the game. Forget the final score on the game because it is just one of many starting on Saturday. But just pay a little bit of attention and see how good you feel about things come January.

Remember, it really does not cost anything to get a little smarter. All it takes is a little dedicated time during the week to see "what's going on".

Where is Linda when I need her?

Stay smart, Jimmy V.

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