Have you every went to your free football pick em contest site on Monday morning anticipating seeing your name in the #1 position in the standings only to find you are in 27,345 place? You picked 15 correct out of 16 possible selections and you were so far down the list that you felt like hitting the delete button on the contest site. Yep that is normal for the more popular contests like ESPN and the major sporting publications who draw hundreds of thousands of contestants each year. But don’t panic, if you really look at the above situation, you are really in 2nd place and only 1 game out of being in first place. If the maximum picks available were 16, and you had 15, the most the leader could have is 16 thus putting you in 2nd place.
There is little doubt that going up against that many people will make the contest closer to the odds of a lottery than a contest of skill. Some of these “free” contests offer some very nice prizes, but usually the big cash prizes come from the contests that carry some sort of cash entry fee. Of course now your chances of winning are enhanced as the number of participants is drastically reduced, but then again these contests are usually the ones that draw the very good sport handicappers, the ones who are the serious players in sport betting and handicapping. Personally I would rather take my chances with fewer people and put forth a little effort to research the schedule and pick the winners.
There are two types of football pick ’em contests, the ones that require you to only pick the winner of the game outright, and then the type that are played “against the spread”. Again you have a huge difference in the number of entries you are up against and the odds of someone getting a “perfect” card on a given Sunday are extremely remote. A very good football handicapper is hard pressed to win 60% of the games he picks against the spread. The spread is a number assigned to the weaker of the two teams to even the score so to speak for betting purposes. The Sport Books in Las Vegas would not exist if they allowed bettors to just place wagers on who will win the game. So they establish a point spread to try to even out the betting on each team as much as possible.
To win a on-line contest of any kind is quite difficult because of the number of people you are playing against. But you can cut the odds by playing in the contests that have a small fee and you can cut it even further by playing against the spread. Either way the goal is to pick as many winners as possible and hope between your doing your homework and a little bit (a whole lot of luck) you can get more winners than everyone else. Here are a few tips for picking winners in the no point contests:
You can determine which of the two teams is the better team by just looking at the point spread at one of the online books or sometimes in your local paper. USA Today also posts point spreads on all games. The team that is showing the (-) minus before the number is the favorite. Example: New England -7 over NY Jets means the oddsmakers believe the Patriots to be 7 points better than the NY Jets in this particular weeks game.
Once you determine who the favorites are, look for the all the favorites with point spreads of 7 points or more and just automatically pick them in your contest. These teams will only lose the game straight up about 20% of the time. You then want to look for those teams that are playing at home and are either getting 3 points or less or are favored. These should be automatic picks. Now the fun starts. Every week there are 3 or 4 games that do not fall into these scenarios, and these are the games that usually make the difference between cashing in the money and racking up the season as just having a lot of fun.
Finding those 3 or 4 teams to pull off the upset will take doing some research. Reading news articles, reviewing injury reports, looking at game situations, weather conditions etc…..Of course now we are getting into hard core handicapping, and unless you are experienced and have the time try, your best and have fun. There is a sources that can help such as sport services and betting advisors, but you certainly don’t want to pay for services for a on-line contest unless you were getting close to cashing in on a big win, but then you came this far without them, why switch now.
You might like to attend the “Las Vegas Sport Handicappers Workshop” which is free and with a panel of experts each week, you could get a big edge on some of the games for your contest, it is also a great resource for the serious sport bettor. The workshop is held each Wednesday at 9pm Eastern – 6pm Pacific. It is a free conference room with live chat and audio. For registration details, more football handicapping articles and to receive a free Best Bet selection and newsletter each week go to: http://www.tonydiamond.com