By Jimmy Vaccaro
“The worst you can do is tell me I do not make any sense and use the halftimes to make a sandwich.”
Let me throw something out to you that might be useful in the way you try and prepare for the upcoming season. There are a lot of approaches in this business regardless of whether you’re pitching or catching. The thought being, you should continually challenge yourself on every aspect of the game.
You have heard from me and countless others about how much time we put in, to try and get some shred of info that might boost our winning percent a few points for the year.
We all employ the basics of handicapping a game. Essentially there are technical, fundamental and situational aspects that must be dealt with. We spend countless hours in front of the computer tracking down any info that might be useful. I constantly update my Don Best screen just to see what activity might be going on. And anything that either has helped in the past or might show some value in the future is grist for the mill.
I will tell you something that I have been doing for so many years, I even hate to remind myself. It is like mental gymnastics. First, you have to go back a few years when getting opening numbers was quite a bit harder than it is in today’s electronic age.
Each time I saw a schedule and looked at a matchup, I would create a number on the game in my head. Even before I did any work on the game I had a basic number. Sometimes I was right on, sometimes I was close, sometimes I was in the next county … but I never stopped doing it. Just constantly creating numbers.
What it did for me was, it kept me in touch with just being in touch. You should try it … and I mean test it on any sporting event that is coming up soon, or down the line, or might never happen.
Now I know some of you might say, “Jimmy, you are living in the past and all I got to do is flip on the screen to see what the lines are.” I do not have an answer for that because it is true, but I think if you try it my way for a while you may see the reason I brought it up. None of us should ever stop learning our business, if you indeed want to be part of it for any length of time.
I will give you a spot where I learned more in four days than I might have learned in the previous 15 years. Let’s go back some 13 or 14 years to the Mirage, during the first round of the NCAA tourney, where there is no stopping for that first round action that begins on Thursday and doesn’t end until late Sunday.
Like everyone else in this racket, we have our pride and want to show that we deserve to keep being considered pretty sharp. The unacceptable alternative is to stop kidding ourselves and go back to where we came from as everyone in the business came from somewhere.
Halftime lines have been around for quite a while but in my opinion were never utilized to their fullest strength. The churn would be unbelievable, with 16 games on Thursday and Friday, and eight each on Saturday and Sunday. People were really starting to get into the tournament and were just looking to see how many tickets they could bet in a day’s time.
So I let it be known that we would book every halftime on every game the whole way through the tourney. I thought we would get a positive response but did not envision a scene like – you know how the malls are after Thanksgiving, on that first Christmas shopping day? It was total mayhem as players jammed the phones and stood in long lines at the counter.
I put up all the games as soon as the half was completed and everybody took their best shot. After four days of frenzied action, my checkered career as a college student at Youngstown State College – which I attended for a long time but never graduated – made me feel like I transferred to Harvard in the middle of the semester and graduated in four days.
The point I am making is that a halftime line is a cold number that the oddsmaker must post in a short period of time, with a lot more angles than making a number on a game seven days in advance.
I get a little amused when I hear young guys, especially in Vegas, saying that they pour over these numbers and sometimes retreat to the war room for three or more hours. Sometimes the feel of the game must be done on the fly in order to truly understand it. And until Las Vegas Sports Consultants started to send these games, no one was putting them up.
I am not putting myself on Front Street, but you must constantly challenge yourself to keep up with the game. I never said it put me in front of the game, just equal to it. So after this dissertation I will get to the point.
Try this out for the next few months. As you are watching the games, as halftime approaches make a number on the second half, both side and total. Do this before you look at the Don Best screen or call your out, or whatever means you have to get the halftime number.
Do this on the all the games. You will actually get more out of making halftimes on the harder ones, as some just come up with an automatic number, especially in the pros.
You will really get a feel on such games as the college games this weekend. If teams like Florida State or Nebraska, or a real stretch Virginia Tech, go into halftime losing the game, this is where the true learning process comes in. Compare your number with the number sent out, and more important see where the number bends to. You really do not have to bet any of these games but you should play a few.
You are now thinking on your feet. It in no way can hurt you and can only help. You can start to see how joints might shade a number and you can tell whether they are looking for buyback on the entire game or they are gambling with you and have put their opinion out for sale. If you are going to try and give yourself a half a chance to make money you must do more than skim the surface.
Like I told you, my first run through with the NCAA halftimes was quite an experience. I made some good numbers and I made some bad ones. I am still kidded to this day by my pal “Alan” on the halftime number I made on the UCLA vs. Princeton game. I got taken out for about a 50 ball in the side pocket but by the time the dust cleared on Sunday it turned out all right.
So get involved with your head before your wallet … but get involved. The worst you can do is tell me I do not make any sense and use the halftimes to make a sandwich.