My birthday is Aug. 2, and every year (except for 2020 due to the pandemic) I get to celebrate with the NFL’s Hall of Fame Game kicking off the preseason to mark the return of football.
Yes, these are exhibition games, but it’s pro football and there’s just something about it that can’t be replaced, even with the success we’ve had with the recent run of spring semi-pro leagues (AAF, XFL, USFL, etc.).
But first I want to discuss my recent conversion to First 5 Innings bets in baseball.
Tuley’s Take on MLB betting
I first want to say that I prefer handicapping and betting full games in all sports. I think that’s natural as it’s what most of us have done all of our adult lives from a time when there weren’t all of these other options.
But the main reason I still prefer full-game betting is because it’s what I call a natural result. It’s the ultimate goal of the two teams that are playing. While every team hopes to get off to a good start, no football or basketball team is saying “we need to be winning at halftime” and no baseball team is saying “we need to be winning after the fifth inning.” As Herm Edwards famously said when he was coaching the New York Jets: “You play to win the game.”
I like the fact that our goal is the same as the team we’re betting on. This is also part of my “dog-or-pass” philosophy because the underdog is trying to win the game, and if it’s losing, it’s at least trying to get close (and might get a back-door cover in the process). However, a favorite isn’t concerned with covering the spread as its main goal is to just win the game.
So, if I’m making money with my straight bets, I usually don’t dabble much in first-half wagers, props, in-game betting, etc., unless we stumble on something like NHL First Period Overs as we did in the winter of 2019 (though, again, that was also a result of not looking at regular-season hockey wagers because they hadn’t been profitable for me in the past).
It’s only when my regular wagers are struggling that I look to diversify my portfolio and look for other ways to bet a sport.
And that brings us to baseball.
This spring and summer, it’s been tough for dog bettors as MLB favorites have been hitting at better than 60%. I’ve been documenting this daily with my nightly recaps on Twitter (@ViewFromVegas) and in my “Tuley’s Takes Today” columns at VSiN.com. That means that four out of every 10 dogs are still winning, but you need to average + 125 if hitting at that rate. I haven’t done the math, but doing those recaps every night, I can tell you that few dogs are cashing in that range and even fewer big dogs.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of First 5 Innings wagers because you can shorten the game (which often helps when betting dogs in general). How many times have we bet a live dog and watched as they stay in the game for a while before the cream rises to the top, ultimately wishing we had just bet the first half? In baseball, this also means that you can just rely on the starting pitchers and not worry about the bullpens. That’s a big part of handicapping baseball these days because you have to know how well a team’s bullpen has been performing, but also if the manager has used key relievers (especially the closer) multiple times in recent days and if those relievers are even available for that day’s game.
If you’re betting First 5, you don’t have to worry about bullpen stats at all (and if your starter has to turn the game over to the bullpen before that, well, you’re not betting on the right starter).
So, last week I made the concerted effort to look at First 5 Innings wagers for my best bets each day, starting on Wednesday. I pushed on the Rangers First 5 + 105 versus the Mariners and also on my secondary play on the Diamondbacks First 5 + 100 versus the Giants. A troll on Twitter did post, “Celebrating pushes. Sad state of affairs,” which I thought was funny, but I also was seeing progress after my recent losing streak.
I pushed on my best bets on Thursday and Friday as well (yes, three straight days), but my secondary plays hit with the Rangers First 5 + 200 versus the Angels on Thursday and the A’s First 5 + 155 versus the White Sox.
I broke through with a best-bet win on the Rangers First 5 + 105 versus the Angels on Saturday. They led 5-4 after the fifth inning. The Angels rallied to win 9-7, but that only served to validate our approach. We swept our top plays on Saturday as we also cashed with the A’s First 5 + 140 at the White Sox.
We actually lost our top plays on Sunday and Monday with the Marlins and Giants, but we still had profitable days as we used the Royals First 5 + 234 versus the Yankees on Sunday and then used them again (Royals First 5 + 140) versus the White Sox.
From Wednesday through Monday, that’s a record of 6-2-4 for a net profit of 7.64 units. Not bad when you’re trying to build the bankroll up for football.
If you’re on board with us in the First 5 approach, check out our picks in the daily version of this column, “Tuley’s Takes Today,” at VSiN.com.
Tuley’s Take on Hall of Fame Game
On VSiN’s “The Lookahead” show on Sunday night (my spot is at 10:15 p.m. ET/7:15 p.m. PT, or about 15 minutes into the archived version), I talked with host Greg Peterson about Thursday’s NFL Hall of Fame Game between the Raiders and Jaguars.
In the coming weeks, we’ll talk more about betting preseason football (how some coaches take it more seriously than others, how they openly discuss their QB rotations and game plans and how Unders are usually the way to go), but I usually pass on the Hall of Fame Game because we see even less of the starters than in other preseason games and more players that won’t be on the final roster.
However, since it’s no secret that Unders have been the way to go in recent years, I felt that the oddsmakers had shaded the Over/Under too low as it was 32.5 at all Las Vegas books on Sunday night. I didn’t know it at the time, but as of this writing on Tuesday morning, the total has been bet down further to 30.5 at all Vegas books as the public seems to agree that the Under is the way to go based on a lot of what I said above.
But I’m still going contrarian as I expect that new Raiders coach Josh McDaniels will be putting an emphasis on offense, and it doesn’t take much to get to 31 points in a 60-minute game, even if it’s the scrubs playing.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not going nuts on this or even betting a regular unit, but it looks like the right side to me. Besides, even though Jarrett Stidham probably won’t play much for the Raiders, they also have former 49ers QB Nick Mullens and he’s certainly capable of putting up points, as is Jaguars backup C.J. Beathard in what could be a battle of former 49ers QBs.
Bring on football (and MLB 1st 5 wagers).