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College Football Betting: Buying Points – Updated

In an article we published before the 2014-2015 college football season, we explored nine of the most common college football betting line “hooks” (half-points) from the 2003-2013 seasons. The intent was to suggest when a sports bettor should “buy the hook” in college football, based on historical betting outcomes. In this article, we revisit our pre-season hook-buying recommendations and see how they fared in the 2014-2015 college football season.

 

The Two Considerations to Buying Points

As we explained in another article about buying hooks, there are two considerations for determining whether or not to buy points:

1) the expected edge (i.e. the calculated, historical advantage to buying the half-point) and

2) the price (i.e. what it costs to buy the half-point).

Both elements are critical, but it should be noted that there are some prices that should NEVER be paid for buying any hook in college football. By way of example, there are sportsbooks that charge an additional “35 cents” to buy a half-point! What that amounts to is a bettor having to pay $1.45 to win $1 (after buying that expensive half-point) instead of paying the usual $1.10 to win $1 (without buying the half-point). For the hook-buyer to benefit from such a costly half-point, the advantage would have to be at least 13.61%. In other words, in order to justify paying such a premium on a half-point, it should be the case that more than 13.61% of the time the against-the-spread outcome differs when buying that half-point compared to just betting the given point spread without buying any points. Based on the past 12 years of college football betting data (well over 9,000 games), there is literally no half-point that comes close to making a difference in at least 13.61% of its matchups. We conclude, therefore, that it is never worth buying a half-point when the price is $1.45 (-145).


Hooks and Their 2014-2015 Advantages

Comparing the 2014-2015 season results (below) to those of the 2003-2013 seasons, recommendations for four of the nine point spreads (-10.5, -14.5, +6.5, +9.5) were spot-on (meaning that our previous chart indicating when to buy and not to buy the half-point was perfectly predictive). For the other five point spreads, just one game for each kept them from being perfectly predictive. The strangest-looking example is that of -1.5: Based on our previous chart, we recommended never buying the half-point for -1.5. The 2014-2015 chart appears to recommend buying the hook for -1.5 at both -120 and -125. In actuality, only once out of the 15 times that -1.5 was the closing point spread in 2014-2015 would it have been beneficial to buy the hook. Since 1/15 = 6.67%, that one game makes it look like buying a half-point is a good recommendation when, in fact, we believe the larger sample size (of the results from 12 seasons) to be more reliable, and those results recommend against buying the half-point for -1.5 at any price.

HOOK 2014-2015 EDGE BUY THE HOOK AT THIS PRICE?
-120
(must be >4.33%)
-125
(must be >6.35%)
-130
(must be >8.28%)
-1.5 6.67% YES YES NO
-3.5 9.1% YES YES YES
-7.5 3.03% NO NO NO
-10.5 0% NO NO NO
-14.5 5.88% YES NO NO
+2.5 6.06% YES NO NO
+6.5 7.14% YES YES NO
+9.5 0% NO NO NO
+13.5 0% NO NO NO

Conclusion

In terms of how the results of the 2014-2015 season affect our recommendations going forward, there are only two point spreads listed on the 2003-2013 chart that we would change: We will no longer recommend buying the half-point for +2.5 when the price is -130 (or more) and we will no longer recommend buying the half-point at any price for +13.5.

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