09/27/2005 12:00AM

A profitable angle for second-half bettors


LAS VEGAS - Many of you will remember when the only horse wagers you could make were win, place, and show - and maybe a daily double on the first two races.

Now there are any number of ways to bet a race or series of races.

Football betting is the same way. Where once we could only bet the side, and then the total, now there are countless other wagering opportunities that past generations didn't have.

One of the more popular areas is first-half betting and second halves, which basically make it a game within a game. If you handicap a game and think a team will get out to a big lead but don't want to worry about a late back-door cover, you can just bet the first half. If you watch the first half of the game and see things that lead you to believe a certain team will dominate in the second half, you still have a chance to bet it.

I bring up this topic because there's a red-hot trend that has been highly profitable. I have to give credit to a poster named Jabjazz at the fezziksplace.com posting forum, who brought up an old Card Player article by Nolan Dalla. If that name sounds familiar, he's the media director for the World Series of Poker and has appeared on numerous poker shows, plus he's the author of "The Rise and Fall of Stuey 'The Kid' Ungar, The World's Greatest Poker Player." But he obviously follows football, too.

Here's the angle: "When one team is ahead at halftime by 15 or more points, bet the under in the second half."

The logic is that the winning team will be trying to run the clock, thus shortening the second half, plus they will be playing a lot of prevent defense and allowing short passes that also keep the clock running.

But how does the theory work in practice? Well, the article cites that those second-half unders went 24-10 (71 percent) in 1997 and 21-13 (62 percent) in 1998.

Okay, that is old data, so how is it doing this year? A perfect 8-0.

The eighth instance was Monday night when the Broncos led the Chiefs 20-3 at the half. The second-half total was around 24 at most books, and the Broncos outscored the Chiefs 10-7 in the second half to win 30-10.

Obviously this angle won't continue to hit at that rate (and some would argue that it's due to reverse), but it's certainly something to keep an eye on and possibly add to your betting arsenal.

NFL betting trends

Two weeks ago, I wrote that the winning favorite of an NFL game usually covers the spread. That was certainly true the first two weeks of the season, as only one game in 16 had a favorite that won the game but failed to cover. This past week, with only 14 games, there were a whopping five non-covering wins by the favorite: the Rams 31-27 over the Titans as a 7-point favorite, Eagles 23-20 over the Raiders as a 9-point favorite, Colts 13-6 over the Browns as a 14-point favorite, Buccaneers 17-16 over the Packers as a 3-point favorite, and Cowboys 34-31 over the 49ers as a 7-point favorite. That's very unlikely to happen again.

* Home underdogs continue to excel. They went 3-1 against the spread this past Sunday (despite going 1-3 straight-up). For the season, home dogs are 9-5 (64 percent). This week's only home dog is the Titans +7 vs. the Colts, though the Bills-Saints game is at pick-em and could go either way - though an argument could be made that since the Saints are in their temporary home in San Antonio, it's more of a neutral-site game.

* The Browns covered as 14-point underdogs at Indianapolis on Sunday to make double-digit dogs 1-1 on the season. If you extend the big underdog role to teams getting 7 1/2 points or more, they are 3-1 against the spread after going 2-0 this past Sunday (the Raiders +9 vs. the Eagles being the other one). If you're looking for more plays, all NFL teams getting 7 or more points this season are 6-2 against the spread. The only potential double-digit spread this week looks like the Texans +10 vs. the Bengals, while slightly smaller dogs are the Jets +8 vs. the Ravens, Titans +7 vs. the Colts, and Packers +7 1/2 vs. the Panthers. Some books have the Lions +7 vs. the Buccaneers, though a slight majority of books have it at 6 1/2.

* All home teams are 26-19-1 (58 percent). All underdogs are 24-21-1 (53 percent) so far this season.

* The early-season trend of unders reversed this past week as the over went 9-5. For the season, unders still lead 25-20-1 (56 percent).

* The AFC and NFC split six interconference games Sunday on the scoreboard, but the AFC went 5-1 against the spread. For the year, the AFC is 8-4 (67 percent). This week's interconference games are the Chiefs -2 1/2 vs. the Eagles, the Bills pick-em vs. the Saints, and the Raiders -3 vs. the Cowboys.

Bankrolls have winning weekends

My college plays went 2-1 last Saturday with wins on Wisconsin +3 vs. Michigan and North Carolina +10 vs. North Carolina State. Both of them not only covered the spread but pulled outright upsets. The loss was a very ugly one with Georgia Tech +11 1/2 vs. Virginia Tech. But I will take the 2-1 record to improve my overall college bankroll plays to 8-4 for a net profit of 3.6 units (based on laying 1.1 units to win 1).

In the NFL, I finally had a winning week as I went 4-1, highlighted with a 2-unit best bet on the Raiders +8 1/2 vs. the Eagles, for a net profit of 3.9 units. I also won with the Browns +13 1/2 vs. the Colts, Patriots +3 vs. the Steelers, and 49ers +6 1/2 vs. the Cowboys while losing with the Bears +3 vs. the Bengals (when I lost last weekend, it was a doozy!). For the season, NFL bankroll plays are 6-9-1, including 1-1 on best bets, for a net loss of 4 units.

I'm not out of the early hole I dug myself, but at least now I can see light at the end of the tunnel.