Meanwhile, I'll take note of an interesting post from Brendan I. Koerner, guesting over at TNC's place, about sports betting. Koerner's relative is, apparently, a successful professional gambler, and he recommends baseball and horses as the two best investment opportunities.
I'll get back to baseball...the first question I have is about this odd claim (my emphasis):
Horse racing, meanwhile, is a great way to make money if you're willing to put in time at the track. As my relative notes, 98 percent of the people who bet on horses have no idea what they're doing; they plunk down money based on gut feelings, past performance, or cuteness of a competitor's name. You can run rings around those folks if you're willing to attend morning workouts with stopwatch in hand, as well as understand when it's appropriate to take a risk on a parlay. (My relative's share in a successful Pick Six gambit is what put home ownership within his reach.)Well, first of all, yes, I suppose that accounts for 98% of action -- but one of those things isn't like the others. I'm confident that my past performance based wagers have an enormous advantage over bets based on hunches, names, lucky numbers, and the like. What I'm a lot less convinced of is that personally collecting workout info beyond what the Form has is going to be a major source of advantage. And, alas, there isn't really enough money wasted on hunch betting to overcome the large track take-out. That doesn't mean that you can't beat the horses, but I don't think there's any huge advantage available to anyone. My main feeling about racing over the time I've played the horses is that over time, the percentage of all possible useful information that is easily available to casual players (which certainly includes me, even when I've been to the track a lot more often than I go these days) has increased dramatically.
Betting on baseball? I don't know. Koerner says "if you have a contrarian notion that a certain ace is about to have an off game, you can really clean up." Well, sure, but that's not exactly a formula for success, is it? Well, unless you can actually predict ups and downs of front-line pitchers, but my sense is that we're talking random variation, not anything that's systematic (and therefore usable for betting).
On the other hand, as a long-time roto player, I've always believed that, over time, my sense of which pitchers were overrated in the league and which were underrated was pretty good. Now, granted, I've never been in an ultra-competitive league, and presumably sports betting is dominated by relatively smart money. Here's what I would do if I were thinking of starting to bet baseball: I'd make season-length, not day-to-day, decisions on teams and pitchers, and then play those decisions throughout the season. In other words, if I thought that Matt Cain was overrated and Jonathan Sanchez was underrated, I'd make a standard bet for the Giants on all Sanchez starts and against them on all Cain starts.
Not that I'd actually do that; I'm not going to bet against or root against the Giants, regardless. I've only played in AL-only roto leagues for that reason; it's bad enough that interleague play has left me with divided loyalties from time to time.
Anyway, I'm not at all convinced. I guess I'd be interested to hear from those who do bet on baseball (outside of fantasy types of betting): do you think it's theoretically beatable?