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Betting on Weather

Large amounts of money are lost each season by sports bettors who do not fully understand how to account for weather in their sports handicapping. Extreme weather presents the player with two types of profitable opportunities:

1) to play ON a condition that will have MORE effect than the public realizes;

2) to play OPPOSITE a condition that will have LESS effect than the public realizes.

Whenever we judge any effect on a game we must determine to what degree the effect has already been accounted for in the point spread. An obvious example would be if a team’s starting quarterback is out due to injury. Such a fact would most certainly be built into the point spread, so blindly betting against a team playing a backup QB offers no edge. This same obviousness would apply to playing the under on a football game when a bad weather is expected. In these cases, as always, a sports handicapper must compare his assessment of the effect with the way it is accounted for in the point spread. Only when there is a discrepancy in assessment can there be a true edge.

The most over-considered weather condition is snow. Being easy to see on TV and easy to understand (we’ve all walked on slippery sidewalks) makes snow hard to ignore. Such conditions are typically associated with lower scoring. But in reality snow has little effect on game-play a vast majority of the time. Constantly improving grass/turf fields, footballs made of advanced synthetics, and the perpetual rotation & sideline maintenance (keeping them dry and warm) of those same balls has significantly diminished in recent years the effect of snow on game-play.

In fact, often the effect that does exist is to the advantage of the offense! Why? Because on a slightly slick field the offense knows where it is running to while the defense is force to react abruptly. If a receiver slips the offense may lose one play; if a defender slips the offense can easily score a touchdown. Since defenses want to attack rather than react on a slick field they become more aggressive, causing (and, in turn, giving up) more big plays. Snow presents the sports handicapper with game conditions the public believes will lead to low scoring when in reality the opposite is true.

Extreme snow, though, is another matter to consider. A few games per year are affected by snow to such an extent that normal game-play is impossible. The simple act of dropping back to pass is too dangerous to attempt. Kicking a 30 yard field goal is an iffy proposition. In these rare cases the under is often the play simply because the point spread cannot be adjusted downward enough (Imagine a total of 17.5 on a NFL game). Also keep in mind in any low scoring game a big underdog gains value.

The most under-considered weather condition is wind. You can’t see it on TV, but it can affect game-play in extreme ways. Today’s 21st century passing games are based upon timing, and when the wind is blowing hard timing can’t help but be thrown off. The following is a little known fact: wind that blows ACROSS THE FIELD affects play much more than wind that blows from end zone to end zone. This is because on passes and especially field goals wind is harder to compensate for when blowing side-to-side. (And even lesser known fact is that over 90% of football fields are set up with the end zones directed north to south; so, though it would be best to learn about each field individually, you will be correct most the time if you assume north/south wind will be blowing from end zone to end zone while east/west will be cross-field). Note that windy conditions affect all teams, but even more so teams that rely on the passing game. Wind, then, presents the sports handicapper with conditions that will tend toward low scoring, tend toward the underdog, and tend against passing teams while most likely not being properly accounted for in the point spread.

Extreme temperatures must also be considered. Cold weather football teams playing in high heat occurs most often early in the season; the effect is typically one of fatigue. A wise (and creative) play for the sports handicapper would be to consider playing against the cold weather football team in the second half.

Warm weather football teams playing in the cold seem to have even more trouble. Ultimately it comes down to what a football team’s players are used to. The effect of cold weather on warm weather football teams is well documented; one only needs consider the stats on the Packers at home or Tampa Bay in the cold. These well-known situations rarely offer value. The sports handicapper MUST ALWAYS assess the effect while considering how the line is accounting for it.

The most valuable information (and the type many players dream about) is knowing something most people don’t. Finding out before the lines maker that there will be 3 feet of snow in Buffalo next Sunday would make winning easy. Realistically, though, in today’s Internet age such a scoop in nearly impossible to come by. What is not impossible, and what can be equally as profitable, is the ability to find weather situations the point spread has overcompensated for to play against while finding others the point spread has under compensated for to play on.

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