After several weeks of getting caught up on this season’s college basketball teams here in the Tuley’s Takes home office, March is finally here and we’re ready for the conference tournaments and the main event, March Madness. We can’t wait to be betting on NCAA Tournament games and tracking the progress of our brackets.
I’ve been covering the Las Vegas sports betting scene for more than 24 years (Thanksgiving weekend will make it a quarter century) with the last 4.5 years writing this column for VSiN. I’ve long believed that sports betting is a legitimate journalistic beat, even back when I was on the copy desk at the Daily Racing Form. Even though DRF was the “horseplayer’s Bible,” we knew there was a big crossover between sports bettors and those playing the ponies. And even though sports betting in the United States was only legal in Nevada, we knew there were bettors from coast to coast engaging in this activity and craving this kind of content. I was proud to be brought on at ESPN.com in 2011 as they recognized the turning tide in sports betting in this country, and now of course with VSiN.
The question I get asked the most (well, besides inquiries about my dog-or-pass philosophy) is: “How do you come up with your column ideas?”
My simple answer is “the calendar makes it pretty easy.” I mean, we all know that football is king when it comes to sports betting in this country, and it’s pretty easy to know what to write about in a weekly column when each team plays one game a week. There’s also the baseball playoffs in the fall, plus the Breeders’ Cup and the start of the NHL and NBA season to supplement the NFL coverage, but it’s pretty easy to map out my writing schedule weeks or months in advance.
Once the football regular season ends, with the amount of NFL games dwindling each week of the playoffs, we turn our attention to college basketball plus the goings-on in the NBA and NHL to fill in the gaps. And once we get through March Madness, it’s time for Major League Baseball (or at least we hope so this spring) and the Masters and the Kentucky Derby and the NBA and NHL playoffs and so on.
This past football season, starting on Monday, Sept. 13, we added my “Tuley’s Takes Today” column at VSiN.com in which I recap the prior day’s betting results and then make a best bet (or two or three) for the current day. This Tuesday’s column was the 170th straight day of “Tuley’s Takes Today.” That’s right, I haven’t had a day off since August, so even though we were a little concerned about continuing the column after the Super Bowl because we didn’t have the built-in weekly football schedule to rely on, we didn’t need to worry because — as we alluded to above — the sports-betting gods always provide something to write about and something to bet on.
Our regular readers have been rewarded as I went 14-1-1 ATS with my top best bet of the day over the last 16 days of February, starting with the Bengals + 4.5 in the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.
As I discussed in this space last week, we’ve mostly relied on streaks (winning and losing) and our “swagger” and “anti-swagger” plays when those streaks end. We back a team ATS after it snaps a six-game or longer losing streak (getting its swagger back) or fade a team after it ends a six-game or longer winning streak (anti-swagger). Those don’t happen every day, but they’ve been golden the past month. We don’t have any current plays, but we’re waiting to see when the Nuggets’ six-game winning streak (heading into Tuesday night) or the Rockets’ nine-game losing streak end.
Finding live underdogs in college basketball is a lot tougher, as I openly admit that I don’t get involved with handicapping college hoops until football season is winding down. But the best approach I’ve found over the years is to fade Top 25 teams when I can find a dog that isn’t overmatched, especially if it has the extra motivation of being a bubble team ahead of Selection Sunday. This is especially true in the upcoming conference tournaments. I’ll write about that more next week — I was going to write about it this week, but Adam Burke, Steve Makinen and others were already tackling that subject — but it's been working like a charm these past few weeks.
For those wondering how there have been a lot of days where chalk has dominated in the NBA and with ranked teams, the humble part of me certainly wants to admit that I’ve been lucky, but the other side of my ego likes to think it’s been skill in making the right decisions on which to make my best bet of the day. As any longtime sports bettor knows, we all suffer our share of bad beats when we say, “I hope these even out,” so there’s no need to apologize for winning.
So that was a little window into what it’s like covering the sports-betting beat. I’m not a professional bettor myself, but I certainly try to approach my bets like one, looking for value with every wager and getting the best number possible.
I’ve always said that when I’m winning, it’s a great second job and supplements my income nicely. When I’m losing, I’m grateful that I have a steady paycheck! I’m blessed that I do this for a living. If I had any other job, I would be handicapping and betting just like all of my readers.
So, thank you for following our columns here and at VSiN.com (and, if you’re not reading those every day, why not?). I know there are dozens of other options out there as it seems everyone is making picks and trying to act like they know what’s going on, but you’ve found the best resource here at VSiN to help keep up with the sports-betting lifestyle.