New Customer Offer
Iowa sports betting: Tips and advice from experts before football season
30th August, 23:32Legal sports betting in Iowa has been underway for two weeks now, so naturally you've figured everything out. You're cashing on 80% of your bets, the bookmakers are crying into their thinning coffers and ...
... Yeah, OK.
This season's first full college football weekend is the likely first deep dive for many gamblers who have wanted to test the wagering waters since the activity was approved by the Iowa Legislature last spring and set into motion for good Aug. 15.
But are you likely to win? Let's just say there are reasons why sportsbooks operate by the hundreds and bettors' sob stories number by the millions.
That said, it doesn't mean the guys in charge don't want you to have your small share of fun. After all, if you don't think you can win ...
"People view it as a challenge. 'Can I beat the bookmaker?'" offered Nick Bogdanovich, the director of trading and an odds expert with William Hill, the sportsbook overseeing operations at multiple Iowa casinos, including Prairie Meadows in Altoona. "Everyone has TV and social media information, some of the same information in their hands with with their eyeballs.
"... And I do think sports betting is a person's best gamble out there. Look at the lottery, baccarat, blackjack, horses and so on -- the sportsbook often is the lowest hold (or takeout total) on a casino's totem pole. That's the player's best chance."
What to do with that information is where the dilemma comes in. With myriad options to wager on a game -- money line, point spreads, over/unders, futures, team and player proposition bets -- there's the temptation to find your niche, or to bet far and wide, or to ride a hot streak.
Some experts were quick to point out some of the biggest pitfalls and offer a couple of their own tips to make your sports betting experience one that doesn't flame out.
"People think it can be a get-rich-quick thing, and some people are able to bet for a living. But there aren't many," said Mark Gallant, a writer for the Action Network, a sports website dedicated to analysis with wagering in mind. "And nobody does it quickly unless they hit a crazy parlay or future."
Which leads us right into some of those hot topics and tips to give you a fighting chance ...
A near-universal theme is that your betting amounts should be consistent to start with, no matter the topic or your starting cashflow. Three sources polled for this article all said that a bet within 3 to 5% of your total stake is a reasonable value if you are to bet regularly on games or props.
If you succeed early, don't get tempted to run a hot hand, if your goal is to wager long-term. Same goes if you're going cold.
"You can lose all that you've earned in two bets if you multiply your unit size," Gallant said.
Another good rule of thumb, according to US-Bookies betting analyst Alex Donohue, is to only bet what you can fiscally or emotionally afford to lose.
"Ask yourself how you'd feel and how it might affect you if (your bet) was a loser. The minute it's no longer entertainment or fun, it's time to call it a day," Donohue said. "... Having betting on the forefront of your mind at the expense of enjoying the sporting event and moment for what it is -- even if you're on a winning run -- isn't good news, either."
Part of keeping your funds in check is limiting the temptation of parlays -- a series of bets on multiple games, or multiple bets within the same game. Under a parlay, a small bet can create a larger windfall. But remember, if even one element of that ticket goes wrong, your entire wager is a loser.
"Trying to turn $10 into $10,000, even though that's the fun part and what a majority of people love to do, straight bets keep you around a lot longer," Bogdanovich said. "The longshot parlay is the most fun, but it's like staring into the sun."
Additionally, Gallant added that sportsbooks often hold more money (known as the juice) to place parlay bets than they do on straight bets, so the payouts are less than what they should be based on implied odds.
"You can lose all that you've earned in two bets if you multiply your unit size," he said on wagering overall.
The concept seems simple. For example, you might think that Roger Federer or Serena Williams in an early-round U.S. Open tennis match is as much of a lock as it gets. Or a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament beating a No. 16 straight-up. So, even though the rate of return might be 1/10 of making a bet on a point spread -- in other words, wagering $10 just to win another buck back from the books -- it's a safe way to slowly build a betting foundation.
And that's all right, until it all goes wrong.
"Maybe you can even win 10 or 20 of those in a row," Gallant said. "But one loss, even one, and you get definitely get screwed. People don't understand that there are fairly large upsets that happen on a semi-frequent basis. They think that something that has an implied probability of 80% is basically 100%."
Points, runs and goals are fun. Offense is exciting. The bookmakers know this, and the vast majority taken by books on point totals will be for the "over" in these situations.
"As such, there are often more than fair odds offered for the opposing 'under' side," Donohue said.
"The public always leans toward the favorite and leans toward the over, so the bookmaker typically is rooting for the underdog or the under," added Bogdanovich.
In an increasingly competitive environment, sportsbooks are offering more in-game proposition bets among more popular sports and leagues. If you find an area of hyper-focused expertise, that can lead to an obscure line of betting victories.
For example, Gallant knew a colleague that was winning bets based on who would gather jump balls in basketball games. They were being placed as 50-50 propositions, a la a coin toss, and the colleague was winning those bets at an extremely high rate. That's value.
Or, use the conditions of a game to your advantage and be prepared to wager soon. Gallant specifically follows weather forecasts that might have an outsized influence on a result. The wind blowing in, rain in the forecast, a blustery Saturday or Sunday afternoon on the gridiron.
"I play a lot of unders when it's windy out, both in college and the NFL, and both have yielded a lot of historical success" if you can act quickly, he said.
Does this sound on-the-nose? It might be so. But the offshore betting options are still out there in spite of legal in-state betting. Without getting too civic-minded, know that licensed sportsbooks in Iowa will emphasize fair treatment for bettors, Donohue said, and any lost investment at least makes a contribution to public finances. Your civic duty-ish, and all that.
HOW SPORTS BETTING CAME TO BE: The background of Iowa's approval
You wanting to wager on your alma mater in this season's much-anticipated Cy-Hawk game? Fine. How about win totals for those teams, who are both ranked in the top 25? Sure.
But, as Donohue eloquently puts it, "the partisan fan pays the bills of most sportsbooks."
In the long term, putting allegiances to the side gives you the best chance of success. Beware, too, if "your" team is a popular national side. Gallant said that sportsbooks often shade betting lines in favor of those squads to begin with, knowing they will receive a lot of action. In essence, that could mean an extra point on a betting line to overcome.
And when so many games hinge on one swing, one pass, one shot, that can make the difference between a fuller wallet and an empty one.