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Beware the regression to the mean

LAS VEGAS -- We talk about "regression to the mean" all the time here at the Tuesdays With Tuley home office.

Nothing lasts forever. What goes up must come down. Yada, yada, yada.

We see it all the time with betting trends. How many times have you heard of a 90 percent betting angle, bet it and lost? We've all been there, right?

Relying too much on trends is just like investing in fool's gold. Given time, all trends move back toward 50 percent. Even if there aren't enough trials for us to see it happen, those crazy trends never keep up with their lofty hit percentages.

If betting trends like that were the road to riches, we'd all just bet those games and put every bookmaker out of business.

We've seen it again this season in the NFL. We haven't had really lopsided results with favorites and underdogs, but chalk had been starting to pull ahead and the overs were also taking over with scoring on the rise. Then Week 11 happened.

Week 11 recap:
Home: 8-6 SU, 8-6 ATS
Favorites: 7-6 SU, 4-9 ATS (SEA-KC closed pick 'em)
Home Dogs: 2-3 SU, 4-1 ATS
Double-digit Dogs: 0-1 SU, 1-0 ATS
Over/Unders: 4-10

Season to date after Week 11:
Home: 94-63-1 SU, 77-77-4 ATS (3 London): 50%
Favorites: 105-51-1 SU, 78-75-4 ATS (3 PK): 51%
Home Dogs: 16-28 SU, 20-23-1 ATS: 46.5%
Double-digit Dogs: 0-1 SU, 6-6-1 ATS: 50%
Over/Unders: 82-78-1: 51.3%

The same thing goes for handicappers. People fall all over themselves to get the picks of a handicapper that they hear is hitting 75 or 80 percent, but the inevitable happens that the capper regresses back toward .500. And even though those followers lose money, they go off in search of the next hot handicapper.

On the other end of the spectrum, I've taken my share of grief this year for my "Tuley's Take" NFL picks record that was 28-39 ATS (41.7 percent) heading into Week 11. And that's fine; I know it comes with the territory. But I laugh when I hear people say that they're going to fade me, because I know I'll bounce back -- and I did with a 5-2 ATS mark over the weekend.

Critics are sure to say I rebounded because underdogs did so well in Week 11, but part of the reason that I was having a subpar season was the 'dogs weren't barking as much.

My poor record also gave people ammunition (they called it proof) that my dog-or-pass philosophy was flawed because I was losing in this one sport. The funny thing in my mind is that no one was criticizing the approach when I was 19-2-1 ATS (90.5 percent) during March Madness at ESPN Insider, 20-13 ATS (60.6 percent) in the NBA playoffs on my website (though I certainly regressed after being 19-7 ATS at one point and going 1-6 ATS down the stretch, further illustrating my overall point here), going 4-0 in MLB playoff series bets, or hitting better than 60 percent in college football this fall on my website -- all with underdogs in all those sports.

But I know this is a what-have-you-done-lately business and plenty of people only bet on the NFL and/or didn't see those other plays. I'm just advising everyone to not jump to conclusions whenever they see short-term results one way or the other.


Q&A ...

This column was created to be interactive (just like we're having a sports betting conversation among friends), so each week we ask for reader questions, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@ViewFromVegas) as well as on our weekly Spreecast (Thursdays, 3:30 p.m. ET) and chats (Fridays, 1 p.m. ET). Here's a few from this past week:

John from MIT (from Friday's SportsNation chat)

Q: Crazy game last night [Thursday's Miami win over Buffalo], fits in with this season's filthy "just bet every favorite and win" protocol. Is this gonna keep up for the whole season?

Tuley
A: Favorites are obviously hot right now (six straight since the three "afternoon" games on Sunday), but I believe we've already seen the numbers getting shaded higher this week and I definitely don't think it will keep up for the whole season. The dogs may or may not bounce back this week, but they will at some point. [As we saw this weekend, they did bounce back.]

Tom from Long Island (from Friday's SportsNation chat)

Q: What's your take on hedging a three-team parlay? Can it be profitable in the long run?

Tuley
A: I'm assuming you mean a three-teamer that has the last game at a later time such as SNF or MNF. My take is that if you're not committed to "letting it ride" on the last game that you're usually better off just betting the two-teamer and cashing out early. There can be times where you bet the parlay on the assumption that the line will move before the last game (such as MNF with a popular home fave) and that you can try and hedge with a middle that makes it more appealing, but in general I avoid "open-ended" parlays like that.

Kelly from Las Vegas (from Friday's SportsNation chat)

Q: I like to watch football and bet on it. I'd like to become a professional someday too but I can't find enough games that I like to bet. I usually bet five or so. How many does a typical professional bet on a football weekend?

Tuley
A: The true professionals don't bet a set amount; they bet when they feel they have an edge. If they feel great about 15 games, then they play 15 games. If they have zero games (more unlikely), they bet zero. Selectivity is the gambler's friend. It's like if you go out to play blackjack but only see tables paying 6-5 for a natural 21. ... Would you still play just to play? I hope not.

Sports book news and notes

This last section will be where I clean out my reporter's notebook (and hopefully items relevant to sports betting aficionados):

• When last we checked the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest standings two weeks ago (we skipped this column last week as I was covering the final table at the WSOP Main Event), an entrant using the alias CH Ballers had taken over sole possession of first place from previous leader Alcatraz Holdings. Well, CH Ballers is still in the lead with a record of 42-13 ATS (76.4 percent) and has a one-point lead over Briefcase2 and General TSO (who went 5-0 ATS in Week 11).

For those who don't know, SuperContestants pay $1,500 to enter and make five NFL picks against the contest spread each week, earning one point per win and half a point for each push (note: there haven't been any pushes against a SC line so far this season). There were a record 1,403 entrants this year and first place will be worth $736,575. The most interesting thing for me this week is that there's a three-point gap from the top three to seven contestants tied for fourth. We'll see how this all plays out here in the coming weeks. And, no, for those wondering, I haven't reached CH Ballers yet for an interview.

• Kevin Harvick won NASCAR's Sprint Cup Championship with a victory Sunday in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Harvick was the 9-2 favorite to win the Ford EcoBoost 400 and 3-2 to win the Cup title at the Westgate last week. He was the 15-1 co-seventh choice before the season started back in February and the 4-1 third choice when the "Chase" qualifiers were set last month.

• Speaking of future-book odds, let's take a look around the major team sports: As mentioned in our NFL Vegas Rankings on Tuesday, the Patriots and Packers were the Super Bowl co-favorites at 7-2 as of Tuesday morning. In college football, Alabama is again the favorite at 9-4 with Oregon at 4-1 and Florida State and Ohio State both at 6-1. In college basketball, Kentucky is the overwhelming favorite at 7-4, while the Cavaliers are still the 5-2 favorite to win the NBA title with the Spurs at 4-1. The Blackhawks are the lukewarm 6-1 favorite to win the NHL's Stanley Cup while the Dodgers are also 6-1 to win MLB's 2015 World Series.

Until next Tuesday, happy handicapping!