Here is what a professional baseball bettor might do in his head. After looking over statistics from MLB (kept religiously by all sorts of bloggers, data archives, and magazines) between the years 2000-2010, he notices a particular statistic pop out. For example: when the home team starts a left-handed pitcher the day after a loss, that team wins 59% of the time. Good sports bettors can do this sort of math in their head or very quickly on paper. From that bit of information comes a new betting theory—look for game situations that mirror the above example and bet on them. That means he’ll only bet games where the home team starts a left-handed pitcher the day after a loss. Does he just jump in and start betting based on this back of the napkin math? No way. More statistical analysis is required—he may find that this was a fluke for that particular decade and isn’t a trustworthy statistics, or he may find an even more advantageous bet based on his original theory.
Some of this is easy enough to read. The Redskins -4 means the Redskins are favored to win and must do so by at least 5 points for a bet on the ‘Skins to pay out. The next number (-200) is the moneyline, in this case the Redskins are a 2/1 favorite. The last number (38) is the total, the over/under of the expected number of points scored in the game.
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