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August 2002 Article

Understanding the Line
By: Greg Dempson

How an individual interprets the line in any sport in most instances will determine how he or she wagers on a particular game. If that individual puts their faith in a sports service, that process is made for them and they let there service work out the thought process. However, if youíre one of many that prefer to "go it alone," how do you really know whether the number you are betting into is the right number? Do you utilize your own power ratings in determining the number in football? How about the over and under? Do you rely on adding points for and against for each team and then dividing those numbers to come up with the over/under also known as the total? The toughest number for a sports book to properly set is the total, and that is the one number I take advantage of the most. The Imperial Palace Race and Sports Book have posted the week one NFL numbers for some time now. The IP also has advance numbers for the marquee match-ups posted such as Monday night games, etc. What about over and under totals for week one?  Not a chance.  It is easier to win with totals than sides.

Point-spread Records and the legendary Bob Martin.
I have every point spread result for all the NFL games played since 1960. Guess what? The line doesnít come into play very often, so when you pick the point-spread winner in most cases you pick the straight up winner. You might say what good are those old numbers? Well, the odds maker was as sharp back then as he is now at trying to create equal action or as close to equal action as possible. I am of the opinion that the equal action theory is a myth! The number must be sharp though, a one-sided wager can seriously hamper the bottom line of a sports book.  Case in point, Super Bowl III. That one game moved Jimmy the "Greek" from an odds maker to a television analyst. If you can predict the straight up winner, you normally predict the ATS (against the spread) winner. The higher the number the more difficult the cover sometimes becomes because of the back door cover, or a coach pulling back if the game is out of reach. If you can predict the straight up winner in comparison to the point-spread winner, it will reward you to such an extent that you wonít have to work at anything else to make a living; you can make your living by gambling.

So why is it so difficult to win?
Discipline, if I may sum it up in one word. Bettors are also very gullible when it comes to the betting line. Iíll take so-and-so to win but not cover the spread. How many reporters in your local paper make that prediction in the sport pages when selecting the outcomes of the weekend NFL games? Did you ever stop and consider if these "analysts" bet on the games? A prediction in the NFL is the same as your butt; everybody has one.

One of the most important quotes about gambling you will ever read is this; "What you want is a point spread that will make people on either side say," "Thatís a steal." "When you get that, you know youíve put up a good line." That was a quote from the legendary Bob Martin. Mr. Martin recently passed away at the age of 82. He was the all time greatest at putting up a sharp number.  Apparently the late Mo Siegel, a Washington sports columnist phoned Martin and stated that Vince Lombardi gave the New York Jets, who were a 17 point underdog, a good chance at winning Super Bowl III straight up because of Joe Namath. As the story goes, "If I write that," Siegel stated, "Would that change the line?"  "That would depend on how much Mr. Lombardi bet," Martin said.  Always remember; money moves the line, not an opinion.

I am a firm believer of utilizing past results in helping to predict the future. This is one time when the odds maker is your friend. It wasnít that long ago the 49ers were laying 14.5, and 2 years ago they were getting 17 at the Rams. The odds maker does this job for you; you must interpret how correct his thought process is.  Working with over 40 years of point spread results has produced some spectacular and profitable systems for me. Can you imagine over 140 plays with 123 wins and only 17 games lost against the spread since 1960. Over and under systems with 51 wins and zero loses, or 116 wins and 12 loses since the late 1970ís.  I didnít just stumble on these, they came about as a result of me tracking my lost wagers, understanding why I lost a game and correcting the problem so it wouldnít happen again.  This has helped me tremendously. The losers are still a part of gambling but the wins are much more frequent than the losing wagers now. There are no short cuts in the wagering world and there is no substitute for hard work.

Traps or so-called Trap Games.
Another myth. You set your own traps. Listening to friends and over-reacting to what you read on numerous sites can influence your judgment the wrong way. Iím sick and tired of reading about the book is begging you to take so-and-so, the line is a gift at such-and-such. As for an actual trap game, donít fall for this malarkey. The simplest guideline to follow is common sense. If you like the home-team at Ė 3.5 and the game meets all your criteria as a qualifying play, then make the wager. Is buying the half point a good safeguard from 3.5 to 3? Do you know how many games have landed on 3 since 1960? How many times did 3.5, 7.5 or 14.5 affect the point spread? I have these answers; it helps me win. Other key numbers are 2.5, 13.5 and so forth, if youíre so inclined to buy up to 3 and 14 points. No one went broke getting a push! Remember what I said about winning straight up and covering the spread.

Have you ever talked yourself off a Winner? 
Did the book ever change your mind to such an extent that you actually played a different game rather than take 6.5 because you were hoping for 7 points? What if 6.5 were actually 1.5 points more than the 5 you should be receiving; if you actually knew that 5 points was the true number then getting 6.5 would not be a problem? The line can play with your head more often that it actually comes into play.

So the next timeÖ
You find yourself saying Iíd lay 7 but not 8, everybodyís on them, or the total is too high, just avoid the game. No one ever went broke betting on sports by passing on a game either! There are two teams, one line, one total and you have first pick. It should be easy, shouldnít it? Often the line clouds oneís judgment more than the line affects the actual outcome of a game.

My Commitment.
My purpose with my football oriented web site, is to help you in your battle against the book by providing you with quality free information as well as offer a paid service for those who are so inclined. If you have a football question and I can help, send me an email. If you would like to respond to this article or have any questions about my football service, please reply via email to .

Understanding the line in football is protected by copyright and may not be transmitted or reproduced in any forum without the express written consent of Greg Dempson Sports



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