Favorite Phobia is a form of psychosis that afflicts otherwise reasonable and rational bettors during baseball season.  Victims of the dread Favorite Phobia are filled with fear and loathing at the mere thought of a money line set at 2-1 or higher.  As the line on a favorite rises above –160, sufferers begin to shake.  The closer the line gets to 2-1 the worse the shaking becomes.  At –200, the Favorite Phobic hits the wall.  He is so beside himself that he becomes paralyzed.

The victim exists in abject fear that the big favorite will lose and cause him to lose more than he can comfortably afford.  But at the same time the poor sufferer cannot bet the underdog either for fear that such a huge underdog will never win.  The obvious contradiction in all this never enters the sufferer’s reality. 

In desperation, victims have devised various means of release from their overwhelming fear.  Some simply avoid all big favorites.  These are often the same people who, as children, believed that if they just avoided looking under the bed at night, the gremlins who lived under there couldn’t get them.  

Others try a hair of the dog approach.  They believe that if something is bad, more of it is the cure.  These people try to overcome their phobia by finding two or more big favorites and combining them into a parlay.  These are the same type of people who worked for the bond rating agencies and decided that if you put a whole bunch junk-rated sub-prime mortgages together in one package, the package is magically transformed into a Triple-A rated security.  We all know how that theory worked out.  I have never understood why a person who thinks one big favorite is a bad bet will believe that 2 x bad = good.  When you combine two high odds favorites into a parlay, what you have is twice as many high odds favorites combined in a bet that will win less frequently than if you bet just one big favorite.  You are actually doubling the effect of the high odds, not halving it.

Finally, there are those who take the ostrich approach.  These sufferers simply ignore the fact that the money line exists, and bet the run line instead.  The problem is that the run line reduces the win percentage and, in most cases, fails to adequately adjust the odds to compensate for the reduced win percentage.  Thus, as with the parlay players, the fear of losing causes the run-line bettors to make losses more likely. 

Diagnosing Favorite Phobia

Favorite Phobia can often be diagnosed, in advance, by the statements of the sufferer.  If you hear someone make any combination of the following statements, you can be almost certain you are dealing with a Favorite Phobia:

1.  You can’t win betting favorites above –180 in baseball; or
2.  Pros never bet favorites above –180; or
3.  You should always bet big favorites on the run line because that’s the only way to win; or
4.  The only way to bet big favorites is in a parlay.

In fact, high odds favorites are often among the best bets on the board. The quality of a bet is not determined by the odds in a vacuum. 

Rule:  The quality of a bet is determined by a comparison of the odds to the probability that a team will win. 

If the probability that the favorite will win is less than the odds you must lay, then betting the favorite is a bad bet.  If, on the other hand, the probability that the favorite will win is higher than the posted odds, you have a good or even an excellent bet no matter what the odds.  There is no difference between the quality of a bet involving a -120 favorite with a 60% probability of winning, and a -200 favorite with a 72% chance of winning.  Both have a probability of winning that is 5 percantage points higher then the percentage needed for breakeven at the odds.
You can calculate the win percentage necessary to break even at any posted odds by adding “1” to odds quoted to “1,” or adding “100” to odds quoted to “100,” and then dividing the odds by the result of your addition..   

Here’s an example: 

If the odds are  2-1,  you add “1” to the odds of “2.”  The result is “3.”  Divide the odds of 2 by the result of 2+1.  That’s 2 divided by 3 = 66.7%.  The win percentage you need to breadk even at odds of 2-1 is 66.7%.  You get the same result if the odds are quoted as –200.  You add 100 to the odds of 200 to get 300.  Then divide the odds of 200 by the total of 300.  Again the result is 66.7%.

At –250 the break even is 250 divided by 350 = 71%.  At –300 the break even is 75%. 

If you believe a team has a 75% chance of winning, you have an excellent bet at odds of –200, you have a fair bet at –250.  At –300 you have no edge and consequently you have a bad bet. 

Contrary to popular opinion, it is often easier to find profitable bets at high odds than at lower odds.  The reason is that there are a great many bettors who simply won’t bet on a big favorite.  The job of the bookmaker is to get an equal amount of money bet on both sides of the game.  The bookmaker knows that most amateur bettors do not like to lay odds of –200 or higher.  Thus, to attract action to the favorite, the line makers will often set the odds lower than they should be based on the probability of the favorite winning.  This attracts extra smart money to the favorite and helps the bookmaker stay in balance. It is that skewing of the line that creates an advantage when betting high odds favorites.  If you examine the results of betting all favorites from –200 to –220 you will find that such a procedure will produce blind profits most seasons with no handicapping at all.

Of course, there are odds that require such a high win percentage to break even that no game will ever provide enough of an edge to make for a good bet.  No team ever wins 100% of its games, and thus no team has a 100% probability of winning.  I normally make the assumption that no professional team will ever have more than an 85% chance of beating any other professional team.  If the best chance a team has of winning is 85%, and since there must be an edge to have a good bet, there can never be a good bet at any odds that require more than an 80% winning percentage to break even.  An 80% win percentage corresponds to odds of –400 or 4-1.  The conclusion is that the highest line that can be bet is –400.  No team can provide enough edge to warrant a bet at odds above that. 

You will, however, rarely see odds that high, and you will also rarely see any team that has an 85% probability of winning.  In most practical circumstances, the highest probability of winning will be 75% and the highest odds you can lay and still have a big enough betting edge to warrant a bet is –275. 

Cure for Favorite Phobia

The main reason for favorite phobia is a fear of the bigger risk most bettors take when playing a big favorite.  The best cure for favorite phobia is a realization that the risk is entirely in your control.  Where is it written that you must always play to win the same amount?  If you are comfortable risking only $50, nobody is forcing you to risk $100 on a –200 favorite.  You can risk the $50 with which you are comfortable to win $25.

No matter what the odds, when you have an edge you should always bet it.  Control your fear by controlling your risk.  It is better to risk less and win less money than it is to make a bad bet, such as a run-line or parlay bet, that lowers your chance of winning, or to make no bet at all and fail to take advantage of your edge.      
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