Tuley's Takes on dog-or-pass approach


After returning to the Tuley’s Takes home office Sunday night after a week away from the Las Vegas heat in San Diego, I didn’t have a column idea for this week.

But then I woke up early Monday during “Follow the Money” to hear Mitch Moss saying that “Dave Tuley in the NFL, 99.5% of the time he’s betting dogs” and Matt Youmans followed up with, “You can’t ignore the favorite column, you’re taking out half your options” (it’s at the 47:30 mark if you download the FTM archive at VSiN.com). Believe me, I wasn’t offended in the least that they were discussing my “dog-or-pass approach.” Heck, I’ve worked hard to gain my reputation as the “dogmatic” underdog bettor around here.

However, with football season coming up, this seems like as good a time as any to clarify my position, especially as we have new readers joining all the time.

I won’t dispute Mitch’s comment except to say it’s closer to 98.9% if you consider I averaged around one favorite a year in contests such as Circa Sports Million and the Westgate SuperContest, which averaged 85 picks a season when there were 17 weeks in the NFL season.

As for Matt’s comment, I agree with what he’s saying. I know there are good favorites and I always try to point those out in Point Spread Weekly when I believe the value is on the side of the chalk (note: I’ve had many readers tell me over the years that when I can’t make a case for the underdog, they see it as an endorsement to bet the favorite). However, the reason I’ve adopted the dog-or-pass approach is because far too many times when I’ve bet favorites, they’ve let me down. When that happens, I feel doubly bad because 1) I lost money when going against my own dog-or-pass mantra, and 2) I wasn’t able to sniff out the live underdog when I’m the supposed dog whisperer!

I prefer to pass in those situations. There’s another adage that also applies: “Sometimes the best bets are the ones you don’t make.” Passing is a valid betting choice as the goal is to not put our money down when we’re not getting the best of it.

Having said all that, I’m not as all-dog as most people paint me. I’ve appeared on countless shows on VSiN and elsewhere where I pick an underdog and the host says “of course you took the dog,” but again I’m only taking the dog because I truly believe we’re getting value and I’ll pass when that’s not the case. For instance, I’ve had a lot of success with underdogs in the Super Bowl in recent years, but I didn’t take the Rams against the Patriots in 2019 or the 49ers against the Chiefs in 2020 when everyone was assuming I’d be on the dogs.

And I’d like to make one other point. Even though I rarely, if ever, list a favorite with my published picks, I actually bet more of them in real life as part of my overall sports betting portfolio. I don’t consider these “best bets” from a handicapping standpoint but more like “market” buys. For instance, when I made my NFL Week 1 bets when the schedule came out, I included the Jaguars -2.5 at the Texans as I fully expected the line to move in my favor and set up a potential middle if I play back the underdog closer to game time (as I’ve done with success in recent years once or twice a season).

So, yes, I’m going to stick with the overall dog-or-pass approach, but there are exceptions to every rule.

Takes on various topics

Of course, I shouldn’t have worried about having something to write about this week. Even though we’re in the dog days of summer, the sports betting world always delivers. It’s one of the reasons Brent Musburger and his nephew Brian launched VSiN in 2017 as the first all-sports betting network and the plan to broadcast (and publish this weekly digital magazine) year-round. There’s always something to discuss.

* Aaron Rodgers has been in the news the entire NFL offseason with all the speculation about  where he would play in 2021, his stint as guest host of “Jeopardy!” and, of course, the “leaked” story last Friday that he was going to retire. Many books took Packers games and futures off the boards while others raised Green Bay from 12-1 to 40-1 to win the Super Bowl. Of course, that all changed with Monday’s announcement that the Packers were reworking Rodgers’ deal and he was staying in Green Bay after all and the odds went back to 12-1.

I’ve been asked if I’ve ever seen anything like this, and my reply is, “Yes, last year with Tom Brady.” There was widespread speculation about whether Brady would really leave the Patriots, and then news leaks caused adjustments to the Buccaneers’ future-book odds before and especially after it became official that he was taking his talents to Tampa. There used to be a time when Hall of Fame QBs rarely changed teams, but even then there have been plenty of times when oddsmakers were kept on their toes when it came to monitoring future-book prices.

In the 1993 offseason, Joe Montana was traded from the 49ers to the Chiefs. Of course, the 49ers still had Steve Young, who was the MVP the prior season with Montana sidelined, so their odds were unchanged. As early as 2002, speculation about Brett Favre’s retirement began and affected the Packers’ future-book prices for several years, escalating after the 2006 season and lasting until he left for the Jets in 2008 (and, of course, further uncertainty leading up to him joining Vikings in 2009 before finally retiring after the 2010 season). In 2012, Peyton Manning left the Colts for the Broncos in a move that shook up the future markets.

But this Rodgers situation feels different, though, because, well, with the increase in overall sports coverage, especially social media where every bit of minutiae is overanalyzed and the proliferation in the coverage of sports-betting future odds for our purposes, it just seems like everything is bigger news nowadays.

As for the betting implications, I’m not too bummed about not grabbing the Packers at 40-1 (though I guess it would be nice to be selling it on PropSwap for a quick profit) as I’ve long maintained that Rodgers has been carrying the team on his shoulders and the Green Bay defense is overrated. It’s a credit that he’s taken his team to the NFC title game the past two years, but I wouldn’t be thrilled if holding a Super Bowl future ticket on the Packers at any price.

* The other big sports betting news this past week has been the U.S. men’s basketball team losing its Olympic opener to France. There were warning signs with the team struggling in pre-Olympic exhibitions, but those were written off as meaningless. The U.S. is still expected to get out of pool play and was seen as value at -200 to win the gold medal before the Tuesday night/early Wednesday game vs. Iran. That is, if we believe coach Gregg Popovich will be able to right the ship.

This is a clear case of buying low on bad news if betting the chalk, which again I endorse despite the dog-or-pass mantra. I’m sure there are many readers who joined me back in the spring when I recommended future bets on the Lakers and the Dodgers as the Lakers were falling in the NBA Western Conference seedings late in the regular season with injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, while the Dodgers were falling behind the Giants and Padres in the NL West. We obviously lost our bet on the Lakers and are waiting to see if we made a good bet on the Dodgers at + 310 to win the World Series (currently around the same price).

Good luck in navigating your way around the sports betting minefield.

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