How to Find Value
OK, this is a little out of sequence, but this was the original question from one of our readers which led to this article on Preparing for the 2014 college football season.
Here is the question:
Pez, during our downtime and off season prep is it possible to have a writeup on “Value?” Like searching, recognizing and capitalizing on value – Dennis H.
I actually wrote a related article last year on “How to calculate expected value.” In the last section of the article I ask “So how does one determine if a wager has value?”
I answered by saying that some cappers try and determine value by looking at the numerous handicapping variables that are involved in a game. Match-ups, motivation, situations, skewed stats, etc., are all variables that one can use to determine if a wager appears to have value or not.
However for me, the primary determining factor of whether or not a game/bet has value is the point spread. After all, it may look like a great match-up or situation, but ultimately it’s the number not the team that should determine whether or not you believe you have value.
Comparative Line Value
Trentmoney is an absolute master at this concept and he basically breaks it down like this:
To determine market value, you need to consider what the market has been offering, not what the result has been…anything can occur on any single event, but the market takes into account “all possible events”…
This is a great idea to keep in mind when trying to find value. As handicappers, what we are trying to do is find that edge that will give us that value we seek. However this edge does not guarantee we are going to win a particular wager (a single event).
A great example from last year is the Arizona State at UCLA game. ASU opened as a 3 point road favorite in a game that would almost certainly determine the winner of the PAC 12 South.
I simply could not figure out why UCLA was a 3 point home dog in a game that I estimated was a pick ’em on a neutral field. More importantly, I couldn’t figure out why ASU was a 3 point road favorite based on the point spreads of the four common opponents played.
Here is what I saw based upon four common opponents:
@ Stanford …. ASU +6, UCLA +4
@ Utah ….. ASU -7, UCLA -4.5
Home Colorado ….. ASU -28.5, UCLA -28.5
Home Washington ….. ASU -3.5, UCLA -3
Now how is this game, based on these LV lines, not a pick ‘em, or at best ASU -1 on a neutral field? The spreads are almost identical.
So depending on how much value you give to HFA, shouldn’t the home team (UCLA in this case) be at least a 2.5 to 3 point favorite in this game?
As it turns out, ASU did in fact win this game 38-33 (UCLA missed a 30 yard chip shot FG with less than 5 minutes to play). Which I believe makes this example even more relative in explaining value.
As Trentmoney mentions, “anything can occur on any single event,” and in this case ASU won and covered the 3 point spread. However, anyone who watched these two teams play all of last season, especially each teams final two games, would be very hard pressed to convince me that UCLA wasn’t just as good, if not the better football team in 2013.
The point being we are looking for value. No one can predict that a team will win they can only predict the probability of a team winning, and based on everything we saw from these two teams last year, if this game were played 10x on a neutral field, each team” probably” ends up winning 5 games each. So UCLA +3 at the Rose Bowl had exceptional value in my opinion.
Beating the Closing Line
Another indicator of value, and one we have discussed on the site several times, is whether or not you beat the closing line.
As I mentioned earlier it all comes down to getting the best number you can. If you are consistently beating the closing line you will be a profitable bettor in the long run.
If you are consistently getting the worst of the number, you are going to end up losing in the long run.
I believe this to especially be true if you are getting (or not getting) numbers that cross and eventually close above or below key numbers. Trent and I are constantly talking about key numbers.
If you are wagering sides at -6, -13 or +7.5, as examples, and the lines are closing at -8, -14 and +6, your wagers have value. If you are on the opposite side of these moves, you have lost line value.
Neither position guarantees you are going to win or lose, but being on the right side of these line moves will pay off in the long run.
There are many ways to determine “value” when wagering on college football games. Some people are able to identify and take advantage of mismatches, situational opportunities or misleading stats. But ultimately the “number” is the one constant that determines whether any of these variables holds value.
A good example from last year was GoSooners identifying some great situational spots in several of the Big 12’s premiere match-up: Texas +14 against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State +7.5 against Baylor and Oklahoma +10 at OSU.
Not only did Texas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma cover these large spreads, they won the games outright by significant margins. However, how attractive would any of these teams been if the lines had been set at Texas, OSU & OU -7?
Not nearly as attractive. In fact, not very attractive at all.
The point being that despite the final scores justifying the great “situational” spots that all three teams appeared to be in, ultimately it was the point spreads that determined whether or not the play had value.
Let me know if you agree or disagree with my assessment of value. What other variables constitute value in your opinion?
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