With the college basketball season about to start a lot of sports bettors are thinking about season long props – like who will win the national championship. Originally, my plan was to write an article about what to do and what not to do when it comes to making prop bets. To be honest, though, there’s not much that I think you should do when it comes to these bets. They have their purposes, but there are very few reasons for college basketball handicappers to legitimately use them as a serious bet. I’m not suggesting that you absolutely shouldn’t play these bets, but if you are going to bet them then here are six things you likely shouldn’t do:
Bet on favorites – When you make a season long bet like this then you are obviously locking your money up for the entire season. Because you are tying it up for so long it only makes sense that you have to give yourself a shot at realizing a big payoff if you are correct. No matter how strongly I may feel about a favorite and their chances to win I just can’t justify making a bet on them. The problem is that because that money is tied up for so long you can’t bet it again and again during the season like you normally would. A winning bettor would be able to generate more profit over the course of the season from that money by using it to make normal bets than they might realize from making the bet. Besides, the public loves favorites, so the value has almost certainly been bet out of any team at low odds.
Bet unless you have a massive edge – You obviously never want to make a bet unless you have an edge. In the case of these bets that edge has to be really, really big. If it’s not big then it only makes sense to hold off on making these season long bets and wait to invest the same money in a bet with a better edge and a shorter time frame.
Bet too much of your bankroll – Even if you think you have a big edge in a lot of bets you probably want to limit the amount of money you tie up in these bets. The more money you have tied up, the less money you have to bet on the games during the season. That leaves you with two options, and neither is attractive – you either bet bigger betting units than you should based on the size of your remaining bankroll, or you bet smaller units and grow your bankroll slower. In either case, a sports better tying too much money up in the season long bets has increased your risk and decreased your potential profit.
Bet when you can get a better edge on a team easily – Often times the season long bets aren’t the best way to capitalize on a strong opinion about a team. If you think that a basketball team is really strong then you can probably make more money on them by betting on them repeatedly during the season than you would if you bet the season long bets. As an added bonus, if you have an opinion and act on it by betting on them during the season and your opinion proves to be inaccurate then you can quit betting on them, and perhaps even bet against them. Once you have made a season long bet it’s tough to change that opinion.
When there is too much uncertainty and what-ifs – Uncertainty is the enemy of any sports bet, but especially one when you are locked in for a long time. For example, Duke was solidly favored to win it all in 2010. They looked in all regards to be the best team in the country, but they were only going to realize their potential if Seth Curry proved to be as good in the major spotlight as he was at a tiny school no one cared about, and if Kyrie Irving was the super-freak at the point that he looked like he could be. That’s was a lot of uncertainty about that team – more than you can accept when you are betting at low odds and tying your money up all season. Prop bets only really make sense when you can be reasonably sure of what a team is going to play like.
Get emotionally involved – It can be far too easy to place several of these prop bets on your favorites teams, or for the players you really like, or for the coach you like who is with a new program, and so on. These bets aren’t likely to pay off, and they almost certainly have no real value because you aren’t making them for good reasons. There’s nothing wrong with buying a championship ticket on your favorite squad, but it shouldn’t be done as part of your normal betting, and it shouldn’t impact your betting bankroll. Emotions have no place in effective college basketball handicapping and sports betting.