How can I be a contrarian?

Now that the philosophy of sports gambling* has been laid out, you are going to need to know how to employ the strategy. Essentially, this post is going to outline what I do every Saturday and Sunday morning to determine who I am going to bet on.

Step 1: Check out the consensus sites.
Along the right side of the blog, you will find some links labeled consensus sites. Both Wagerline and Sports Insights have some advantages and disadvantages. Wagerline is completely transparent on how it collects its data. For free, people look at the matchups and choose which side they think is going to cover. The problem with this, of course, is that it is free. People aren't going to take it seriously if there isn't real money involved. Anyone who has ever sat a play money table in an online card room can vouch for that. Sports Insights on the other hand claims that their data is compiled from the online sports books. Supposedly, Pinnacle, WSEX, 5 Dimes, etc. send SI the total number of bets placed on each side and money line. This seems a bit fishy to me and I would never use the SI numbers exclusively to decide which way I wanted to wager, but it is a good starting point.

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule as to what these numbers mean. Obviously, you want to be on a side that is getting a lower percentage of the action, but there are times when you will see me pass up a team that is only receiving 20% of the bets for a team that is getting 35%. These are things you are going to learn as you go along. I am a quantitative person, so it took me some time to get my head around that gambling is as much an art as it is a science.

At this point, I've usually narrowed the card down to about a half to a third of the games. That is entirely too many games to be wagering on in a given day, so I turn to a different source of information.

Step 2: Find out what the squares are thinking
Also, along the side you will find links called square boards. This is where most of the research is done. Internet gambling message boards are some of the stupidest places on the web. However, because I want to be on the opposite side of stupid people, I have to lower my IQ by about 35 points every weekend morning and read these boards.

The first board I check is Covers. This place is lowest common denominator when it comes to sports gambling. The posts there are full of emoticons, poor spelling and grammar, and completely asinine logic. Generally, the more emoticons and spelling/grammatical errors, the more likely it is I am going to fade that particular poster. Not all of the posters there are complete retards. In fact, some of them are very good handicappers**. But 95% of the stuff you read there is garbage, but it is garbage that you can get a lot of information from.

The next board I look at is theRx. If Covers is your average retard, then theRx is Chris Burke. Yeah, some of the people there have talent, but at the end of the day, theRx is still retarded. The only exception to this rule is bigbookie. He appears to be a legitimate bookie and will post which teams he needs to cover in order to come out ahead for the day. Something I failed to mention in Tuesday's post was that contrarians are essentially betting with the sportsbooks. We are rooting for Vegas to win, because when they win, theoretically, we will be winning too. That is why bigbookie's information is more valuable than anything else you'll read on these boards.

The last board I check out is MJs. This board has some decent people on it. You should be able to figure which posters are good and which suck after a few weeks of watching their posts. Titus34 is a particularly good handicapper on this board.

Now that I have seen which teams are loved by the masses, I have narrowed my card down to somewhere between 6-12 games, depending on the week. The last thing I want to do is make sure that I am seeing things correctly.

Step 3: Checking in with other people who know what they are doing
Remember in college when you would ask your roommate if he got the same answer you did for a homework problem? That is what I am doing here. I generally head over to TMLJ and the RMMB gambling board to make sure that people like MoneyLine, Kinsey, VegasWatch, Drex, Boozy, and Squeeky are on similar teams as I am. Our cards won't be exactly the same, but they will be very similar. If they aren't, I probably did something wrong.

Other things to do during the week are read VegasWatch's posts, which analyze gambling lines from a quantitative, probabilistic approach and check to see if MoneyLine has updated Contrarian Angles, which is kind of similar to this, only written better and by somebody with more experience.

Step 4: Assigning unit amounts and wagering.
The last step is to actually place the bets. This is probably best left for a separate post, but the gist of it is that as I become more confident in a selection, the more money I will bet on it. Quite intuitive.

*This is a paper from an economics journal showing the scientific reasoning behind contrarianism and how it compares and contrasts to financial markets. Good read for scientists and businessmen.

**Handicapping is not what I do. There are very few true handicappers, people who actually look at stats and matchups and are able to find value in a particular side. The rule about knowing nothing about sports does not apply to them.