Friday, September 14, 2007

'Funk's Football Fund'

This is the beginning of a new feature here on FunkyPundit. It's an experiment in progress. Should all go well, it will lead to fame and fortune. If not, it will be quietly abandoned.

Here's the back story. Three NFL seasons ago, I discovered the glory that is online gambling. Going halvsies with my bro-piece, $50 was deposited into a now-defunct online gambling account. Our goal was to bet weekly, but also smartly and conservatively, so that our fund lasted all the way to the Super Bowl. We succeeded, ending up losing around a hundred bucks on the last game.

The next season we did the same, but this time setting a rather more ambitious goal: lasting all the way to the Super Bowl without re-upping, and this time making $1,000 in the process.

We succeeded. Believe it or not, in early February I cashed a check for approximately $1,100.

Last season, the same, though this time the goal was upped to $2,000. And believe it or not -- it worked! Actually, we failed. Badly. We added more cash to the account on more than one occasion and ended up with nothing. It was humbling.

But that hasn't shaken my confidence in the betting strategy we've developed. Last season featured tons of weird upsets -- I don't know anyone who did well.

This season I'm going to try something new. I'm going to start with $100 fake dollars and see how the "investment model" of the 'Funk Football Fund' plays out. Here's how it works: Combining the security of hedge bets with a "wisdom of the crowds," futures-like take on the week's best bets, the model is meant to be conservative yet reliable. Essentially, each week I'll take the top three consensus picks as determined by the users of -- see here, for instance -- and use those as the basis for a series of bets. This week, Week 2, has 86% of Wagerline users thinking Cincinnati will beat its 7-point spread over Cleveland; 84% think New Orleans will beat its 3.5-point spread over Tampa Bay; 79% think Dallas will beat its 3-point spread over Miami.

(These are actually pretty big margins. Having obsessively monitored/used these Wagerline prognostications in seasons past, it's not often there's a 75-plus percentage consensus on anything.)

So that makes this week's picks Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Dallas. The first bet is a so-called 3-game teaser, where the line moves in your preferred direction by, in this case, 6 points. (Teasers can move the spread more than 6 points, but that lessens the payout. We'll use 6 for this imaginary fund.) Teasers also can come in multiple game varieties, whereas the outcome of the bet can be determined by 3, 4, 5 or more games. It's up to the bettor. Again, the harder one makes it, i.e., the more games, the larger the payout. For purposes of the Funk Fund, we'll keep it simple with three games. Because teasers move the line in your favor, they're probably the least risky bets in football. For that reason, the Funk Fund calls for it to be the biggest bet -- $20.

Next, straight bets. Betting straight-up on each of these three individual games provides more hedge security. Should either the Bengals, Cowboys, or Saints be unexpectedly blown out, the teaser may be lost, but two of the three straight bets are still in play. These can cover other losses. (Likewise, it's possible to lose all three straight bets, but win the tease, owing to the line moves.) Because straights are riskier than the teaser, we'll put $10 on each.

Finally, a parlay. Only through these bets can real money actually be made. Unfortunately, this is also what makes them so hard. To win a parlay, a bettor has to correctly pick two or more outcomes. (If the odds-makers in Vegas do their jobs well, the chances of picking a winner is 50/50. A three game parlay, where your bet is now dependent on the outcome of two games, thus reduces your winning probability to 25%.) Accordingly, we'll put $5 on a three-game parlay.

The payout for these bets are: $52 for a winning $20 3-game tease; $10 for each winning $10 straight; $36 for a winning $5 3-game parlay. In all, $55 will be bet for a possible total payout of
$118. On the flip side, $55 could turn into zilch.

This being the first week, things could turn sour quickly. Should every bet fail, continuing this investment model into the second week will be difficult, as there's only $45 left in the imaginary fund. If that should occur, we'll bet in the same fashion and in the same proportions, though with smaller amounts.

Incidentally, this isn't precisely the way I bet. I use Wagerline more as a resource than a guide. If, say, 75% of its users say the Eagles are going to top the Skins (my boys!), I know that's ridiculous and I'll abstain. I also sometimes see bets I consider a lock that Wagerline users seem to think are up in the air.

Current status: $45

I'll check back in Monday to see how things went.

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