Updated on 09/15/2011 1:22PM

Call me a football trip handicapper


At the racetrack, there are many kinds of handicappers.

There are the numbers crunchers, who look at Beyer Figures or running times and compare and contrast them with the competition. They can break down a horse's relative chances without ever seeing it run.

There are lottery players, who play a bunch of exotic combinations to try and get a big score. There are hunch players, who use a favorite color or number (or numbers) or like a horse's name, especially if it is the same as their mother's. There are guessers, who try to predict when a horse is "due."

There are even trend players, who will look for a track bias or avoid certain post positions if they haven't produced winners in the past. There are trip handicappers, who like to watch the races and see if a horse had trouble that didn't show up in the past performances.

A cross-section of football bettors is very similar.

There are the numbers crunchers, who look at all the stats and compare and contrast them with the competition. They can break down a team's relative chances without ever seeing it play.

There are lottery players, who play a bunch of parlay cards to try and get a big score. There are guessers, who try to predict when a team is "due."

There are plenty of trend players, who will bet a team solely because it has covered the last five times it was a road underdog against a division opponent on artificial turf.

I consider myself a football trip handicapper. I feel much more confident in picking a game when I have seen the teams play. Like a trip handicapper at the racetrack, I like to watch the games to see what doesn't show up in the box score. It's also important to see how turnovers can change the outcome of a game so as not to give too much credit or too much blame to a team for a specific performance.

Stats can be misleading, too. For instance, Corey Dillon ran for 184 yards last week against the Lions and averaged 6.8 yards per rush, but if you take away his 96-yard TD on the first play of the game, he had a middling 88 yards and a 3.4 average per rush.

I get the biggest kick out of trend players. They will often use trends that have no bearing on the game, citing results that happened years ago with different players and/or coaches. Also, oddsmakers see the same trends and they anticipate where the public will bet the game, so any line value is gone.

I like to compare two teams' current personnel and how they're performing now. Especially in the NFL, where teams can go from the bottom of the league to the top very quickly. Trends developed at one extreme are misleading when a team is at the other. For trend players, I'll borrow a phrase from my buddies on Wall Street: "Past performance does not guarantee future results."

Unfortunately, that applies to everyone else, too. Just because a team shows me it's capable of winning doesn't mean it will perform the same today when I bet on it. That's why it's called gambling.

World Series Game 6: Bet the 'over'

The New York Yankees' miraculous rally Wednesday night guarantees the World Series will head back to Phoenix Saturday night for Game 6. Trailing 3-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Tino Martinez's homer tied the game and Derek Jeter's blast won it 4-3 in the 10th to knot the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.

Even with the Yankees' late explosion, the game still stayed under the total of 7 1/2, marking the third straight under since the Diamondbacks' 9-1 victory in Game 1.

It will be interesting to see what the line is on Saturday's Game 6, depending on which team wins Game 5 Thursday night in New York. Randy Johnson will be either trying to clinch the series for the Diamondbacks, or trying to stave off elimination. In Game 2 Sunday, Johnson was a -150 favorite against Andy Pettitte and the over/under was 6 1/2 runs.

Assuming the total is that low again, the over would be a logical play. The Diamondbacks reached Pettitte for four runs last Sunday, and the Yankees will be getting a second look at Johnson. Umpire Dana Demuth is fair behind the plate, but he can have a tight strike zone at times, which helps the hitters. In the past six years, the over is 119-109 when he is behind the plate. He worked Game 1 of the A's-Yankees series on Oct. 10, with starting pitchers Mark Mulder and Roger Clemens, and that game went over.

NBA totals slowly going up

Except for some proposition wagering tied to Michael Jordan's return Tuesday night, Las Vegas's sports books report only a modest increase in NBA wagering in the first few days of the new season.

Having Jordan's return on TV helped elevate the action, as bettors throughout Las Vegas cheered or jeered him with bet tickets in hand.

One thing that kept handle from being higher was the lack of NBA totals to bet. Most sports books didn't post totals on Tuesday and Wednesday night, waiting to see how some of the new rules might affect overall scoring.

The MGM-Mirage properties in Las Vegas and the Cal-Neva books in northern Nevada were notable exceptions. The numbers seemed to be pretty fair as the over went 7-5 on Tuesday night, while the under had a 3-2 edge on Wednesday.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which supplies odds to most Nevada sports books, posted over/unders for the first time on Thursday morning for that night's games.

Other books are sure to follow suit and over/unders should be up everywhere by the time you read this.