Hype Trap Bet: Life moves pretty fast ... Timing is critical in betting

ByKevin Pulsifer ESPN logo
Thursday, December 7, 2023

It's fun to jump on the bandwagon. To board the hype train as it leaves the station, heading for greener pastures. Sometimes those pastures include some extra green in your pocket. Other times, it's a one-way ticket to disappointment along with the rest of the public.

In the sports betting world, it's essential to know the difference between a smart bet that the public is on and a line that has taken on so much public steam that it has moved past the point of being good value. That's what I'm setting out to do for you this season -- help you spot those differences and think critically when you see something on tv, hear it again on a podcast, and then see it all over your social media feeds the rest of the week.

The Hype

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

That classic existential quote from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is a constant reminder to take advantage of the moment and not let time pass you by. But it's also extremely applicable to betting in the futures market.

Looking at an odds board for an event or award taking place months away can be daunting. How can you predict exactly what will happen? The answer is simple: you don't.

The most effective way to successfully bet futures is by building a portfolio of bets, collected throughout the season at different times, with the idea that taking smart value over time adds up and you're left with a great chance at a win without having to pay top dollar for it.

  • Start by taking a favorite in the preseason, when the odds aren't too short for some of the popular names.
  • React quickly to early season storylines, before the public takes notice.
  • Pay attention to changing team dynamics (we'll hit on this with the Dallas Cowboys in a bit).
  • When you hit the final few weeks, take stock of your progress and find your liabilities -- players or teams that can hurt you down the road

Get enough bites at the apple (or the bratwurst, if you're Abe Froman, sausage king of Chicago), and maybe one day, you too could celebrate a big futures win by sneaking onto a parade float in the middle of downtown Chicago with "Twist and Shout" blaring in the background.

Don't get trapped

Let's put this plan into practice by looking back at the everchanging MVP market this season.

Here's how the odds currently look at ESPN BET, with Brock Purdy recently cemented as the new favorite after a blowout win over the Eagles a few days ago.

It's a short list of competitors at this point, but do you know how many different times this season there's been a new leader or co-leader after a week of games? Nine times.

Nine times!? Yes, Ed Rooney, nine times.

At this exact moment, maybe those odds feel appropriate, but we know they will change.

Brock Purdy was a +4500 long shot entering the season, even as the starting QB for one of the few teams competing for the NFC's No. 1 seed (remember, six straight MVPs and 14 of the last 18 have come from a top seed). If you needed to see a bit of success first, you could still get him at +1400 following a 4-0 start.

Purdy gained buzz after beating Dallas 42-10 in prime time in Week 5, jumping from +1400 to +550 and nearly becoming the favorite. He became the talk of every show, and it was too late to get any kind of value on him at that price, especially as the Eagles also started 5-0.

Then the Niners lost three straight games without Deebo Samuel and Purdy's odds plummeted to +4000 entering their Week 9 bye. Another opportunity to buy low if you believed they would win with Deebo back. After beating the Jaguars by 31, he only moved to +2500. In my mind, this was the time to buy back in.

He was +1000 entering last week's pivotal matchup with Philly in which the 49ers were favored. You could project if San Francisco won, his odds would slide back down significantly. Now he's the favorite and it's too late to get value on him.

Let's run it back with Dak Prescott too.

I wouldn't fault anyone for hesitating on Prescott as a 50-1 long shot, but think back to how the narrative unfolded. One of the worst performances of his career, and the Cowboys never doubted him for a second. Instead, Dallas came out of the bye with a new offense against the Rams. It could have been a fluke, though. Then against the Eagles, they trailed enough and needed to pass all game, so there was still no guarantee this offense was here to stay.

By the end of the Giants game, however, Dak had thrown 11 touchdowns in three games and was approaching the league lead. With a successful, QB-centric offense not afraid to run up the score, that was the perfect moment to take a flier on Prescott for MVP. It was highly likely the Cowboys would beat Carolina and Washington, and his drop to +800 seems so obvious in hindsight.

Now Prescott is +325, and he's very popular. The media, writers, talking heads, players, fans, they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude. But he doesn't have a 24% chance to win MVP right now (and that's what +325 implies).

To put it all together, here's an example of an NFL MVP futures portfolio you could have by jumping in at a decent time (but not even close to the best possible time):

Now, there's a few tickets in the bunch that have lost a bit of value, but are still better than their peak. Maybe you put down a few other fliers along the way that have no chance. But with this portfolio, you've cornered the market and should nab the winner at great odds without having needed to speculate. Simply reacting quickly -- and not waiting for public perception or overwhelming evidence -- can put you in a great spot to profit.

The Bets

Jalen Hurts to win MVP (+350)

Forget that portfolio for a second and let's just look at the current lines. In the MVP market, Jalen Hurts currently ranks... anyone?... anyone?... Bueller?... Third at +350. And Hurts has how many touchdowns... anyone... anyone... 31 combined passing and rushing touchdowns, the most in the league. And where does Hurts' team sit in the standings... anyone... anyone... First in the league at 10-2.

Then there's the schedule the rest of the season. Philly ends the year with the Giants, Cardinals and Giants. Where'd I hear that? From my best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend who heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at "31 Flavors" last night.

If the Eagles beat the Cowboys on Sunday night, they will move to 11-2 and will likely finish 15-2 or 14-3, locking up the NFC's top seed and home-field advantage, and I'd be hard-pressed to find another QB to match his stats. Grab a "Save Ferris" button to help spread the word -- you can essentially get +350 odds on the Eagles to win this weekend.

Eagles at Cowboys (-3.5), O/U: 51

Half-unit each: Tony Pollard under 61.5 rushing yards (-125), over 3.5 receptions (+115), same-game parlay of both lines (+289)

A couple of bets here based on expected game flow and what we've seen from these teams recently.

The Eagles face the second-fewest rushing attempts and are one of three teams to not allow a 30-yard run this season. With Dak chucking left and right because of the inefficient Cowboys run game, it's hard to see Pollard having a good game on the ground Sunday night.

He is, however, still effective in the pass game, with an 84% catch rate and five targets per game average over his last three outings. Even at a low end 4-5 targets, I think he can still get over 3.5 receptions, which is currently plus-money at ESPN BET.

That's all from me this week; good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor!


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