The College Football Betting Notebook
In my mid-20’s I discovered the fact that I had been living with a pretty big learning disability. Basically, I have a difficult time absorbing what I read. Re-reading something over and over was obviously time consuming and many times I would get bored and simply give up.
After establishing myself as a winning poker player I took an interest in sports betting but unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of information on the basic fundamentals. At the time, I had a tiny bankroll but went out of my way to interview every sports bettor and bookie I could find. I remember one bookmaker showing me just how many people lost and never hung on to their bankrolls.
Shortly thereafter Black Friday hit and my recreational wagers on Monday Night Football took on the utmost importance. I was ultra-motivated to learn but quickly discovered the advice I received, while great, wouldn’t work for me. Instead, the library became my salvation. I would go every day with a poker player friend of mine and brainstorm on how to build our bankrolls. While killing time, I browsed the forums at twoplustwo.com and came across numerous threads on sports betting theories. I printed off and poured over every post. I then gathered my poker playing friends and we formed a sports betting partnership. Despite limited bankrolls, we all had access to bookies and experience with variance and gambling with and without an edge.
We went into this with a strictly experimental approach. I remember making black and white copies of a single Phil Steele so we could save money and literally highlight what we felt was usable information. We had no clue how to create a power rating and one member didn’t even know what over/under meant! Each of us took two conferences; staying away from the small conferences because according to one sharp bettor we knew, they were all fixed! Again, we were total noobs.
For me, it was difficult. Others in the group could read an article and form a solid opinion on a team or a game. I, on the other hand, constantly had to re-read the same article over and over. This made it difficult to pin down high percentage plays — I would go back and forth multiple times throughout the week. But, despite being completely exhausted, the group won. I stumbled upon my first big “edge” when oddsmakers failed to catch on to Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. He simply couldn’t be stopped, the offense scored a ton of points, and the defense was a sieve. The Bears ended up going over the total in nearly every game.
I subsequently lost whatever menial amount I won in college football on college basketball but in the end, I was in love. After another season, the rest of the group moved on but I knew this is what I wanted to do. The only problem was that my workload was about to quadruple. That’s a tall task for anyone but if you struggle to process what you read, you’d better compensate by getting an early start. I began by writing notes on everything I read and by mid-June, I was literally running out of room. A woman (and blackjack dealer) I was dating at the time was impressed by my approach and dedication to gambling. One day while I was gone she surprised me by cleaning the house. When I returned, all of those papers jammed full of notes were put into five binders. I could actually see my desk! They weren’t organized but the concept helped spawn The Notebook. I essentially created my own preseason preview; a written documentation of everything I could find placed in a binder.
Nowadays I create one notebook for the preseason. It will grow to three by the end of the year. Each notebook is 260 pages. And I admit, like one unnamed, popular publication, I jam way too much stuff into a small space. Nevertheless, I don’t mess with what works! The preseason notebook, which gets sent to three close colleagues, takes around 235 hours to put together. I try to emulate the exact hours I work during a football season. On Sunday and Monday nights, I spent eight hours looking at games, matchups, strengths, weaknesses and injuries. Wednesday I put in five hours to see what the market did with my opener bets. Friday morning is the last push; seven hours of reviewing bets, the market, and reaching out to those I respect to hear their opinions. I then grade my confidence level on each wager. I might get off a bet or add one but it’s mostly a review of my work.
The Notebook starts every year on March 1. The first few weeks are nothing more than evaluating coaches. I look back at the coaches who won and cost me money and find out as much as possible about the first-year hires. Next, I tackle assistants which can take upwards of a month. When mid-April rolls around I do a review of last year’s results for each team; a quick look at every score, ATS, O/U and line move result. I then log every team’s basic offensive and defensive stats; I have an advanced stat notebook from the year before that I can always review if needed. Up next is tracking transfers and returning starters/lettermen by unit.
May is when the fun starts! I dive into previews and podcasts. I change my sources every single season with one lone exception. I do a minimum of five schools per day once I feel confident the source is not cookie cutter or with bias. This will continue for 10 weeks. I do my best work when on vacation. Ever notice how happy you are at work when you have a vacation planned later that week? I work for three hours in the morning and reward myself the rest of the day. By mid-July I’ll start to look at schedules and make my own regular season win totals using the final power number of last year. After coming up with 6-8 key points on every team, I then assign a power rating, being sure to account for any biased opinions I may having due to likeable and unlikeable coaches. I then head to the Kinkos, make three copies, head to the post office, and ship them to my three (lucky!) associates.
Throughout the season, The Notebook takes a beating but never leaves my side. It’s very satisfying to create and the reason why I’ve become such a successful college football bettor.
Thanks for reading and good luck this college football season!