How to consider home-field advantage when betting football


New York native Vinny Magliulo is a VSiN oddsmaker and the sportsbook director for Gaughan Gaming in Las Vegas. He moved to Vegas 40 years ago to pursue a career that included running the sportsbooks at Caesars Palace and Wynn Las Vegas. Catch Vinny with Brent Musburger on “My Guys in the Desert,” weekdays from 6-8 p.m. ET on ESPN 1050 AM.

Time to be thankful for family, friends and … a weekend of footballs, basketballs, pucks and exactas!

I grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island, where Thanksgiving meant two things: the best dinner of the year and betting action. We started with a full Italian menu, including antipasto, lasagna, sausage, meatballs, braciole, potato croquettes and stuffed artichokes. And then it was time for dinner — the traditional American fare of turkey with all the trimmings. We capped it off with pies and Italian pastry and then the family poker game, where Grandma Magliulo and Aunt Olga would take full advantage of my dad, grandfather and uncles’ wine consumption and bravado. Then we would start the meal all over again!

Here in Las Vegas, Black Friday gives way to slots and slap shots, dice and daily doubles, felt and field goals — and like my childhood’s Thanksgiving dinner, we repeat it all weekend long.

So mangia, and remember there’s something for everyone, but don’t get carried away: Stay within your means. It’s easy to overindulge at the dinner table and the betting counter. And though a little Brioschi can help with agita, a disciplined bankroll is always a winner.

Is the home-field advantage a set number? For instance, is it always 3 points for the home team in football? Zachary, Massapequa, N.Y.

Vinny: Not all teams are created equal, Zachary, and neither are home fields. There was a time when the home field in football was a bit more uniform, such as a field goal. I have a power rating (numerical value) for each team, and I also assign a home-field value to some, but not all, teams. In fact, some teams’ only advantage for a home game is that they don’t have to travel, such as the Chargers. Visiting teams’ fans have far outnumbered Chargers fans at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. Teams like the Vikings, Patriots, Chiefs and Seahawks have a stronger home-field value, but not a full field goal. Professional players handle travel much better than college teams, where the home field has a stronger value, especially for teams like Ohio State, Notre Dame and LSU, to name a few.

If books were allowed to offer buyouts on future bets with large liabilities, would they? Keith, Raleigh, N.C.

Vinny: The practice you’re referring to, Keith, is sometimes called “surrender,” when an outcome is paid at lower odds before an event’s conclusion. European books sometimes offer this, and some did when Leicester City won the English Premier League Championship in 2016 at as much as 5,000/1 odds. This is not a practice that’s done here in Nevada (it would have to get regulatory approval), though it’s actually a way for books to minimize higher exposure. With the expansion of sports betting in the U.S., we may see this introduced. Remember that as a bettor you have the option to hedge if you have the bankroll and “outs” — locations to hedge. For me, there have been some instances when long shots have come in — like the 1991 Twins at 200/1, the Rams in 2000 at 300/1 and, most recently, the Vegas Golden Knights winning the Western Conference in 2018 at 200/1. I didn’t lay off, I managed the risk. When these types of bets cash, people bet more, and it’s good for business in the long term.

Is there a correlation between the spread and money line? Bob Kelly in Florida

Vinny: Yes, there is a correlation, Bob, but not a set formula. Note that the bigger the point spread the higher the money-line. The correlation/straddle will vary from book to book. The straddle is the difference between the price of the favorite and underdog. As an example, the Giants are catching 6 ¹/₂ points from the Packers (opening line) at home this week. The money-line on the game opened Packers -290, Giants +245. The Jets opened as -3¹/₂ point favorites at Cincinnati this week. Their money-line opened Jets -185, Bengals +165. Let’s remember that in the case of money-line wagers, your selection must win the game outright, regardless of the point-spread.

I hear you talk on VSiN about the continued expansion and growth of sports betting around the country, Do you think we’ll see it in the five boroughs & Long Island? Al G. in Wading River, N.Y.

Vinny: Great question, Al — sounds like a holiday wish! When you consider the great response to sports wagering at the few places in upstate New York and especially across the river in New Jersey, I believe that it’s only a matter of time before it expands to the five boroughs, Nassau and Suffolk counties. I’m always hearing from people in your area saying they are commuting to New Jersey on a regular basis just to bet on sports. That’s not a knock, New Jersey has done a nice job. But from a convenience and especially revenue standpoint, I think it will happen.

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