John McNamara

The 19th Hole

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Two Sides To the Same Coin

Friday, December 06, 2013

Johnny Mac was our lead columnist in 2010-2011. He's remained a friend to the site and to our modest cast of characters that contribute today. He isn't quitting his day job, but he finally accepted the open invite to author a few words once again. This one-off column reaches out to our audience (and the morbidly curious) about the strategic differences between betting on golf and playing the fantasy game. His insight as a guy that understands the dynamics of both is valuable. Enjoy!



Relative Relevance


It's March 23, 2014. Fantasy gamers are celebrating after Tiger Woods' clutch, 25-foot, side-hill putt on 18 to win his ninth Arnold Palmer Invitational. The victim is Ryan Moore for whom gamblers missed a huge payday had the runner-up pulled off the upset.


Obviously, this is a hypothetical prediction, but Tiger winning his ninth API in 2014 would not be a surprise to anyone who follows golf. His 4-1 opening line in 2013 at Bay Hill Golf Club & Lodge is indicative of how prevailing he has been at this event.


Based on this dominance at Arnie’s Invite, it's an easy week for gamers. Tiger will most likely be on every Yahoo! Fantasy Golf Team, he'll be the first player taken in any weekly draft, and he will be a popular choice in one-and-done formats. The same cannot be said for bettors -- known as punters in Europe -- so it isn't an easy week to make a profit.


Legal betting on sports is limited in the United States as only Nevada actively engages in it, but gambling is a big part of the European culture. Regardless if the bettor/punter is in Las Vegas or Europe, we know that they look to Rotoworld on a weekly basis for opinion and analysis.


As surveyors for fantasy golf, we often get this question: What is the biggest difference between fantasy golf and golf wagering? Concisely, very little in principle, but there is a vast difference in the selection of players.


Typically, gamers and punters are utilizing no more than approximately nine players of a typical 156-man field on their fantasy team or on their betting ticket, respectively. Likewise, the top 15 players “on paper” of an event will be very similar amongst most analysts. Gamers will utilize this information to get the best combination of these players on their team as possible.


Breaking down golfers is the same for both gamers and punters, but the latter who are chasing a big payday at Bay Hill are most likely looking for players with higher odds than Woods. They can find value with a top-tier player who is being overshadowed because of Tiger’s supremacy on that track.


Enter Moore.


He came into the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational with mediocre form but finished T40 in ‘10, T12 in ’11 and T4 in ’12 at this event. This type of positive trend is one factor punters notice when they wager. Many will take a shot, especially at a price of 95-1. Had Moore pulled off the upset, a simple $20 wager to win would pay $1,900.



Divisive Decisions


Therein lies the biggest difference between the two factions. Most punters will not lay single-digit odds on a player and many wager only on odds of 25-1 or higher. This likely eliminates a great majority of the analyst’s top-15 players and requires punters to do more research in hopes of finding a dark horse whose has a legitimate shot at winning.


[I am touching on “win bets” only, which is a small segment of golf wagering in Europe. I am by no means an expert, but have been known to place a bet or two in my day and I continue to learn the many options

associated with golf wagering.]


The analysis can go as deep as a player’s record on another course where the architect or course styles are the same. It can be the “Superman Theory”; that is, where a player has “kryptonite” and the course cannot defeat the particular attribute in question.


The most common case of kryptonite is length, but 3,000-square foot greens will put some HEAVY emphasis on scrambling.


Another key factor that punters review is course history.


Seeing a player shoot three rounds in the 60s but experience an untimely 76, for example, in the mix the previous year is typical of a player who likes a set up. The crooked score could leave him off many radars. Obviously, gamers review this information as well but they typically do not have to go as deep into the player pool to field their teams, so the risk is not as advantageous.


Another difference between the selection of players is that the wagering line continues to move based on the amount of action (i.e. money bet) a wagering service has received on a particular player. This causes the player’s odds to change, usually going down after articles tout certain player’s chances at victory. This reduction of odds will force punters to utilize different wagering sites to find the best odds for the player in question. In some cases, a player will be bet down to a number that a punter does not find as a value and will lay off or back another player.


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John McNamara wrote full-time for Rotoworld in 2010 and 2011, but he still maintains the pulse of the landscape. He was FSWA’s Golf Writer of the Year in 2008 and 2010.
Email :John McNamara

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