If you’re like most sports fans, you’ll be parked in front of the TV watching the Masters golf tournament from today through the green jacket ceremony early Sunday evening.
Have you ever thought about betting the Masters?
Now that betting is legal in Mississippi, bettors can take their shots in the majors…or on a weekly basis throughout the PGA tour season. Unfortunately, thus far, the industry hasn’t found an entertaining way to bet pro golf that catches the fancy of casual fans the way that the NFL or March Madness has.
The most common option is betting futures. Pick the winner…earn a nice payoff if your man wins the tournament. Here are pre-Masters odds for some popular betting choices from the Westgate in Las Vegas. (Note that percentage win equivalents for those odds are in parenthesis.)
7/1: Rory McIlroy (13 percent)
10/1: Dustin Johnson (9)
12/1: Justin Rose (8)
14/1: Tiger Woods (7)
16/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm (each 6)
20/1: Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood (each 5)
25/1: Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson (each 4)
(If you’re wondering how to turn odds into an equivalent win percentage, simply divide the denominator…by the sum of the two numbers. Tiger Woods is 14/1. One divided by 15 is 6.67 percent, which we rounded up to 7.)
Problems should jump out at you right away. First, the composite win percentage of those 14 popular betting choices adds up to 87 percent. Nearly 90 golfers will tee it up in Thursday’s first round. So, sports books aren’t paying off at “true odds.” They build a universe much larger than 100 percent to create a house edge.
Betting futures isn’t just trying to pick a needle out of a haystack. If you DO find the right needle, you’re not being properly rewarded for the accomplishment.
Even bettors who aren’t probability specialists instinctively sense the difficulty. Many try to improve their chances of picking a winner by spreading their money around a few different choices. Maybe bet a player around 10/1, another around 20/1, and an appealing longshot at 100/1.
While it is more fun to root for multiple players, that strategy actually hurts your return. At least two of your bets are guaranteed to lose! Say you bet $10 to win $100 on Dustin Johnson at 10/1, and took a couple of other fliers. If DJ wins, you only win $80 instead of $100 because of those other lost bets.
Because golf betting wasn’t attracting much appeal, sports books also added head-to-head match-ups where the odds maker pairs off two golfers and prices a “battle” between them. These offer more fair odds, with just a slight vigorish (same as you’d see in baseball betting, or in football or basketball money lines). But, you’re at the mercy of odds maker pairings. You don’t get to bet Tiger Woods against whoever you want, or your favorite long shot against a big name you think will have a bad week.
Though it’s a niche, some sports fans LOVE betting golf. And, there are golf “sharps” who study player and course tendencies very closely to find an edge. Maybe you have the expertise to beat the market. Check out the offerings this weekend at your favorite sports book to see if you can make the most of the Masters.
▪ The NHL Playoffs dropped the puck Wednesday night. If you enjoy the emotional roller coaster of rooting for your bets, hockey is the sport for you. Game odds work the same as baseball money lines. There’s also an option to “lay” or “take” 1.5 goals at adjusted prices. If you believe a game favorite is likely to win handily, you can often earn an underdog-like return by laying -1.5 goals. Maybe a last-second empty-net goal will bail you out.
Tampa Bay is the favorite to lift the Stanley Cup after a dominant regular season. But, this sport is known for hot goalies and surprising surges that lift underdogs deep into the brackets. Games will be televised this week by the USA Network, the NBC Sports Network, CNBC, and NBC.
▪ This past Monday night, Virginia won the NCAA basketball championship with an 85-77 overtime victory Texas Tech. Congrats to all of you who had the winner, or took a shot on the Cavaliers at futures prices earlier this season.