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Spot bets that can help you beat the sports betting odds: Gaels a bad bet before Gonzaga

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Layering situational handicapping into your daily sports betting picks can help you uncover hidden value to play on or against certain teams, whether that’s coming off a big win, looking ahead to a tough opponent, or finding themselves at the mercy of the schedule makers.  

This practice, also known spot bets, are all over the place during this point in the sports schedule with NCAA basketball winding down and the playoff races in the NBA and NHL heating up. Covers’ Senior Industry Analyst Jason Logan scours this week’s schedule for his favorite letdown, lookahead, and schedule spot bets.



The Tigers are scratching and clawing to stay in the conversation for the NCAA tournament and Saturday’s win over No. 22 Houston gives Memphis life in the final games of the AAC schedule. The Tigers entered 2019-20 with huge hopes and were among the favorites in the odds to win March Madness before the season started, but star freshman James Wiseman was suspended then subsequently left the program due to NCAA violations.

Since then, Memphis has struggled to gain any traction in the conference with many of those woes coming on the road where Penny Hardaway’s program is just 4-4 SU and 5-3 ATS on the season, including back-to-back road losses at Cincinnati and UConn earlier in the month.

The Tigers could be tamed by a potential letdown spot Tuesday following their big win over the Cougars. Memphis travels to Texas to take on the SMU Mustangs. Southern Methodist is back home after two straight road losses and is one of the better home teams in the country, going 14-1 SU and 8-6-1 ATS inside Moody Coliseum. The Mustangs defeated Memphis 74-70 on the road back on January 25.



The Gaels appear to be among the 68 teams pegged to hear their name on Selection Sunday and a win over a ranked rival would all but book those tickets to the Big Dance. St. Mary’s has a shot at just that with a trip to Gonzaga on this weekend’s schedule.

The Gaels and Zags have one of the best mid-major rivalries in the country, even though the Bulldogs blasted St. Mary’s by 30 points in their February 8 meeting. Revenge is definitely on the minds of the Gaels – and not Thursday’s opponent: the Santa Clara Broncos. St. Mary’s must make the trip to the Leavey Center before making its way to Spokane for Saturday.

The Broncos are just 5-9 SU and 7-7 ATS in WCC play so far but have a win over the Gaels already this season, knocking off St. Mary’s 67-66 as 12-point road underdogs back on January 11. Santa Clara will be catching points again Thursday and could be a solid line value play against an unfocused Gaels squad looking ahead to Gonzaga. St. Mary’s is 9-0 SU but just 3-6 ATS in regular season games that immediately precede a matchup with the Zags since 2015-16.



A spot bet had better be pretty good if you’re going to suggest putting your faith – and money – in the Knicks. The Hornets will be playing the second game of back-to-back outings on Wednesday, coming off a road game in Indiana on Tuesday night and traveling overnight to Charlotte to get ready for New York.

The Hornets have actually been betting gold when taking the court on zero rest, posting a 7-3 ATS mark in those contests. However, a closer look at those second nights of back-to-back outings sees Charlotte as an underdog in all 10 of those games (nine on the road) with an average spread of +9.7 and catching double digit points in six of those situations.

At home, the Hornets are just 10-15 ATS including 2-3 ATS when set as rare home favorites. They’ll likely be giving the points to the hapless Knicks on Wednesday, who have a 15-12-1 ATS mark as visitors this season. On top of this schedule spot, the Hornets could get caught in a tasty sandwich spot Wednesday, as they look ahead to a road trip to face the Toronto Raptors Friday.


The bones of situational handicapping or spot betting is to not only factor in current form, injuries, and other factors like weather into researching a bet but to see how each team’s schedule could impact performance as well. You measure that against the odds for that game and determine if the spot provides any added value to follow or fade a team.


For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on three popular methods for situational handicapping:


A team has a notable game ahead on the calendar against a top contender or hated rival but before that big matchup they must play a weaker opponent or less-weighted game. Teams can often overlook that upcoming opponent and lack focus, instead planning and looking ahead to the more important game.

A good example of a lookahead spot was West Virginia’s recent outright loss to Oklahoma as 2.5-point road favorite on February 8. The Mountaineers lost 69-59 to the Sooners and could have been looking ahead to a huge matchup with Kansas on February 12, leading to a poor performance against a weaker opponent.


A team is coming off a big matchup, most often a notable win of importance or an upset victory and runs the risk of falling flat in the following game. Teams can have a hard time finding the same intensity as the previous performance and can also get caught “fat and happy” with a sense of accomplishment coming off a big win.

The North Carolina Tar Heels’ recent loss to Wake Forest is a prime example of a letdown spot. The Tar Heels were blown out 74-57 by the Demon Deacons on February 11, just days removed from an intense rivalry game versus Duke. North Carolina suffered a crushing overtime loss to the Blue Devils, falling 98-96 as 7.5-point home underdogs in a game that could have helped turn the program’s season around.


While all spot bets involve scheduling in some form, the schedule spot focuses more on challenges of travel and quick turnarounds between games. Schedule spots are more prevalent in day-to-day sports like basketball, baseball and hockey – with teams playing many times per week and hitting stretches of multiple home and away contests – but still do apply to sports like football and soccer, which have larger spacing in their schedules.

Schedule spots can include teams playing on back-to-back nights, a bulk of games in a short period of time, long trips and games played in foreign time zones, as well as an extended hiatus from action, such as bye weeks in the NFL or breaks in the schedule.

Longshots to consider when betting the Shoemaker Mile

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Monday’s Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a great race for a number of reasons. For starters, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and the NBC Sports app.

The race also features last year’s Preakness Stakes winner, War of Will, making his season debut. Despite his triumphs on the dirt in 2019, War of Will started his career on the turf and his pedigree suggests that he’s very likely to be just as successful on the grass. That said, the Shoemaker Mile will be his first start off of a six-month break, and I’m going to try to take a swing or two with some horses who could upset the apple cart at longer odds.

Let’s start out with the horse on the rail, Without Parole. He won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes going a mile at Ascot back in 2018. His three other career wins have all came at this mile distance as well. Granted, he hasn’t won in six races since the St. James’s Palace but he did finish a fast-closing third two starts ago in a much tougher U.S. debut in the TVG Breeders’ Cup MileIrad Ortiz Jr. rode Without Parole in that race and he will reclaim the mount on him again on Monday.

Without Parole has only had one race this year and it was in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in which he finished second to last. However, he had several excuses right from the start of that race when he got squeezed coming out of the gate. He also raced in traffic throughout and got cut off several times in the stretch before Frankie Dettori — who had come from Europe to ride him at Gulfstream — finally just wrapped up on him. The Pegasus World Cup Turf also was a race that didn’t allow him to run on Lasix (furosemide) after he’d shown significant improvement racing on Lasix for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.

Stream the 2020 Shoemaker Mile live here

How much of a factor might Lasix be for some horses? Well, let’s next look at the horse who finished last in the Pegasus World Cup Turf: Next Shares. In his following start (back on Lasix) in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, Next Shares finished third (beaten just a neck) to River Boyne. Both Next Shares and River Boyne return in the Shoemaker Mile and I prefer the former as a pace play who has plenty of back-class. If you rewatch the Kilroe Mile, Next Shares covered a lot more ground than River Boyne. With a similar effort, Next Shares could certainly turn the tables.

The other thing to like about Next Shares is that his trainer, Richard Baltas, has entered speedster Neptune’s Storm in the Shoemaker Mile. That horse, along with Voodoo Song, should ensure a very brisk pace up front — they’ll also be kept honest by Blitzkrieg and War of Will, both of whom usually race on or near the lead. All of that speed adds up to good news for Next Shares. He’s a Grade 1 winner who has always done his best running when he’s had some pace to run into. The other two keys for him (like all stalking or closing-type runners) is clear running room late, and hopefully he’ll get that with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez taking the mount.

Lastly, we should take a look at True Valour. It’s hard to make much of an excuse for his flat finish in the Kilroe last out, but he’s truly performed better than what his results on paper might indicate. In the Thunder Road Stakes in February, he looked pretty keen early and it took him a few strides to settle down without throwing his head around and fighting his rider. Turning for home, it was clear that jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him but was just waiting for some running room. It ended up coming too late because River Boyne was in a better spot and had already taken command. True Valour did split horses nicely in the closing stages and was half a jump away from finishing second.

If you go back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, True Valour had excuses there, too. He was up on heels early and he again took a little bit of time to settle down into a comfortable stride. Then, turning for him, he was just waiting for running room but instead got stuck behind a wall of horses. True Valour ended up steadying pretty badly and lost all chance at that point. I’m a little worried about how headstrong he tends to be early in races, but there’s a scenario here that could have at least two horses battling for the lead early and opening up some daylight on the rest of the field. That means he’ll be less likely to be running up on anyone’s heels and it also ensures that he’ll have a nice setup. Whether he can navigate clear passage late in the race is a separate matter.

Longshot Selections

#1 Without Parole

#3 Next Shares

#2 True Valour

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, and the NBC Sports app.

How to bet an exacta on a horse race

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Betting an exacta can present a challenge on several levels.

There is, of course, the primary need to analyze past performances and decide which horses are going to finish first and second.

Yet because of the inherently lower payoffs as opposed to what you’ll find in a Pick 3 or Pick 4, you’ll need to structure your wagers effectively in order to turn your selections into a profitable wager.

For starters, an exacta can be a simple wager. If you like two horses equally, you can just box them in the exacta and collect so long as they finish 1-2 in any order. If you like one of them a little more, you can then bet more on the one you prefer, say $10 on a 1-2 exacta and $5 on 2-1.

If you’re a little more uncertain, make sure you structure your bet around the size of the field and the probable payoffs.

If you like a longshot, the higher probable payoffs give you the cushion you need to wager on more combinations and still turn a nice profit.

But if you’re dealing with favorites or horses at relatively low odds, you have to wager more efficiently to preserve your profit.

In a field of six or less, you’re best to either focus on one horse or box two of them instead of boxing three or more horses because of the small payouts the bet will most likely generate.

In a field of seven, a wise strategy would be to box your top two choices and then, if you are worried about other horses, play them top and/or bottom other the other horses. For example, box 1-2, then bet 1-2 over 3-4 and 3-4 over 1-2. This way you are getting coverage on four horses without having to box them.

Once you get an eight-horse field, as long as there is not an overwhelming favorite, you can expand the number of horses you box since the payoffs will typically be higher, giving you a better opportunity to offset the inevitable array of losing tickets in a boxed wager.