It’s silly to ask readers questions before we have a comment section installed, but does anyone else experience “seasonal” sports-fan delusion?
During pigskin season I’m convinced that American football is the best game on Earth, and can’t even remember why I liked basketball or hockey. When college basketball takes over the handicapping world in March, the incredible atmosphere of the gymnasiums makes me wonder why I ever stood in the freezing cold to see whether or not some teenage QB would fumble on the goal line.
Same goes for a pleasant day at the ballpark when it’s nice outside in the spring.
Then, just when I think I’ve had it with “frozen” sports, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Gagarin Cup and IIHF World Championships draw my interest back to the ice. College basketball? What’s that? Why would anybody ever watch that? Or football? Who even cares anyway?
But by September I’m all about the gridiron again.
Sports promoters know that people grow tired of things, then miss them when they go away. That’s why an offseason isn’t just designed to rest the players. It’s there to rest the fans too.
Gamblers probably need rest most of all. I feel bad for dedicated soccer handicappers who have to deal with The Beautiful Game all year ‘round. Don’t they ever get sick of soccer? I don’t, because I watch and gamble on most of my soccer in the spring and summer.
There are so many sports held during the warm months of the Northern Hemisphere (and the cold months of the Southern Hemisphere) that bettors can lose track of where the best action is.
Here’s a list of the 10 best spring and summer betting sports. Since we’re counting down in reverse order, I’ll start off with the honorable mentions.
Best Gambling Sports of Spring and Summer: 1-Unit Side Bets
European tour golf not only provides betting action for state-side gamblers in the AM, it gives the viewer an alternative to PGA Tour events in which the golf ball might as well be square instead of round, because it never rolls. A few weeks ago I was playing a video golf simulation and happened to hit a devilish running 3-iron at Royal St. George (a “links” course in the UK) that did exactly what I wanted it to do, rolling up a slope in front of the green and settling down next to the flag. “Good job with zero style points!” commented another player who was hitting big, high, soft “American” shots and wondering why he was 3 over par. Don’t be that guy. Appreciate the links.
I will never understand cricket. In fact, every time I’ve heard a cricket update on the BBC it sounds like a match between England and India (2 of only 3 cricket teams in the world along with New Zealand) began in 1995, continued for decades, and will conclude sometime in the 22nd century. But cricket is such a popular gambling sport that it can make a bettor feel good just to get in on the circus. There are also lots of juicy stories (along with visual evidence) to demonstrate cahoots between players and gamblers.
I’m partial to women’s ice hockey, and in non-Olympic years the IIHF holds a Women’s World Championship in April. Since the NHL isn’t the most popular betting genre, there may appear to be no reason why a sportsbook would bother to offer odds on even less-watched pond shinny. But guess what? The fact that not all hockey fans like the NHL means that lots of bettors are looking for alternatives to the NHL. Bovada Sportsbook offers lines on individual games and futures throughout the International Ice Hockey Federation’s cycle of elite world tournaments, which begins with the Women’s WC and concludes with the men’s Worlds in May.
Gambling Sports of Spring and Summer: 2-Unit Standard Bets
#10 – Professional Wrestling
“Why would anyone gamble on TV wrestling? Isn’t it fake?” Well, not exactly. Wrestling isn’t fake, but wrestling is fixed. If wrestling was fake, then when a “WWE Superstar Diva” was snared in a Boston Crab, she wouldn’t actually be in a Boston Crab. It would just be some kind of optical illusion. In reality, she is in a Boston Crab, but her opponent (usually) is secretly being a friend and will make sure not to injure the grappler in a defensive position.
WrestleMania is fun to bet on because almost every match will have a dramatic finish. But the best reason to wager on TV (or Pay-Per-View) wrestling is that (at last!) the handicapper is not under pressure to determine who the better athletes are. He simply must determine which direction the WWE is bound to take its storyline next – and that’s often easier than predicting the Super Bowl.
#9 – Champions League Soccer
Not every football league in Europe is as hotly-contested as the English Premier League. French soccer has become something close to a farce, with the “Parisians” of Paris Saint-Germain locking-down almost every domestic title of the era with weeks or months to go in the season. Bovada even trolled gamblers earlier this season by putting a ridiculous (-100000) futures line on PSG.
The UEFA Champions League is a remedy for such shenanigans. Nobody in the Champions League can simply buy-up all of the best talent from all of the other clubs. In fact, most of the clubs playing in the CL compete against the top teams from the other domestic leagues to sign more superstars, having already soaked-up most of the fat contracts in their own country.
Manchester United was our long-shot pick prior to the Round of 16 this season, and as of early April MUFC is still alive in the last eight after whipping the great French club right next to the Eiffel Tower.
#8 – Major League Baseball
As a rebellious kid who grew up in a baseball town, I’m not supposed to have a fetish for hardball gambling. But there’s a lot to like about MLB action at betting sites…not just my oft-recommended tactic of picking “futures” bets and living through the entire season with your boys.
Baseball is a “game of failure” – even the greatest batters of all time can’t get above 40% success at the plate. That makes Over/Under total betting into a fun gambit.
“Over” bettors on the MLB must chew off an awful lot of fingernails, but they get to cheer like there’s no tomorrow at every RBI single. “Under” bettors can relax for most of the game and take solace in sleepy scoreless innings.
#7 – Aussie Rules Football
To the modern eye, Australian Rules Football looks like a crazy mix of rugby, American football, basketball, and volleyball. But the game is largely an original – it was invented in the 19th century and remains one of the most popular gambling sports of the Southern Hemisphere.
American bettors like the AFL too, especially when their jobs keep them busy in prime time. Tip-off times and first pitches throughout spring are designed to appeal to a majority of TV viewers in the afternoon and evening. If you work until 10 PM every night, there’s very little opportunity to sink your teeth into the action when it comes to domestic sports.
That’s where sports from Australia come in. Whether it’s the AFL, the horse races, or Australian club soccer, state-side bettors who keep weird schedules can find daily Aussie events to wager on late at night, and to watch in the wee hours.
Gambling Sports of Spring and Summer: 3-Unit Confidence Picks
#6 – NBA Basketball
There are a few aspects of the NBA that seem almost specifically geared toward creating fun betting action. Is that an accident? You be the judge.
The 24-second shot clock means that the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarter (and sometimes the 4th quarter) will provide non-stop offense and few stoppages or slow minutes. If individual games aren’t your thing and all-season futures create too wide of a time gap between wager and outcome, there are always a million other markets to choose from.
You can wager on a potential MVP or NBA scoring leader, for instance. Take caution, however, when betting on a Stephen Curry or James Hardin to score a ton of points. If you like the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets, you’ll wind up conflicted, cheering for opponents to hit 3-pointers and keep the games close to that the stars play longer and are more aggressive with the basketball.
#5 – NHL Hockey
I recently posted a screed on how to try to get around the “empty-net goal” problem when betting on National Hockey League games. Sportsbooks often handicap NHL face-offs with a standard 1 and ½ goal spread, so that when a club is leading by 1 goal late in the 3rd period and the opposing coach “pulls the goaltender,” a tie game and a 2-goal win are each somewhat likely possibilities. It introduces yet another element of random chance into a hobby that already has too many of those.
But almost everything else about betting on the Good Old Hockey Game is a winner.
Hockey doesn’t always make you stare at the screen in anxiety like an NBA game might, but goals and chances can come in a heartbeat. Intermissions are shorter than soccer halftimes and commercial breaks are tiny compared to the take-a-nap TV ad blocks of the NFL.
And of course there’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of a Stanley Cup playoff game, especially when you’ve got a little sumpin’-sumpin’ riding on the outcome.
#4 – Golf’s Major Championships
Speaking of “atmosphere,” it’s hard to describe how the atmosphere of major golf championships appeals to the viewer, at least to people who hate the sport and just never watch it.
Let’s put it this way – lots of people ignore the MLB season but watch the World Series. You don’t have to be a PGA Tour junkie to appreciate the vibe of Augusta National or Pebble Beach. Golf’s majors are when the linksmen buckle down and give it their absolute best on legendary layouts.
But who am I kidding? There’s exactly one reason why golf betting sites are taking so much action on futures and 3-balls markets these days, and it’s been the same reason for 20+ years – Tiger Woods.
Tiger is not the most popular “futures” pick at the majors as of April ’19. Rory McIlroy is getting some heavy betting action as a potential U.S. Masters winner, and players like Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth always lurk. But let Woods win just one time at a major championship this year and he’ll become the shortest-odds gamble in several late-season events once the floodgates are open.
Gambling Sports of Spring and Summer: High-Roller Parlays
#3 Grand Slam Tennis
I went through a long phase where I didn’t watch a lot of tennis, and certainly wasn’t prepared to gamble on it. However, a couple of experimental wagers placed over the last few months have taught me that there is a lot of fun to be had betting on Singles competitions.
Favorites’ moneylines are often considered fool’s gold in NFL, NBA, and MLB gambling. In tennis, however, the “live” betting odds can offer reasonable ML markets on athletes who are already well on their way to winning.
When a superior baseline player wears down an underdog in the 2nd or 3rd set, sportsbooks feel compelled to at least offer some type of line on both competitors. Picking a favorite at (-200) once her superiority has been established early in the match makes for a more relaxing experience than selecting a favorite in football or basketball and watching the lead see-saw for 2 hours.
Careful, though – every so often there’s a truly astounding comeback.
#2 – The Grand National and Kentucky Derby
Live-streaming horse racing sites promise track junkies action all year ‘round. But as exciting as it can be to gamble on totally unknown horses and hope for a big win, the allure of Thoroughbred action in spring will always revolve around 2 events – England’s Grand National and the Kentucky Derby in America.
The races couldn’t be much more different. The Grand National is contested on a turf track full of obstacles and death-defying leaps. Stallions can compete into their middle years, making the handicapping scenario one of “rookies” vs “veterans.” The “Run for the Roses” meanwhile is a meeting of the fastest 3-year-old horses on the planet for one mad dash at the finish line around a dirt track.
The types of horse racing tracks involved in sweepstakes are an important factor in handicapping. But equally important is the public’s wagered action, which drives nearly 100% of the line movement at online racebooks and at Churchill Downs.
#1 – March Madness
March Madness really ought to be called “March and April Madness,” since the only NCAA hoops events that actually crown a champion in March are the conference tournaments.
League tournaments actually serve to extend March Madness into a several-week “orgy” for pundits, handicappers, Bracketology gurus, and sweepstakes gambling.
College basketball was written-off as slow, boring, and talentless some years ago. How foolish those criticisms look today as superstars like Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, and Carson Edwards give NBA fans electrifying previews of what they’ll accomplish on pro hardwood.
Yes, they’re all underclassmen who are unlikely to finish school before signing with the NBA. But the 19-year-old and 20-year-old guards and forwards of March Madness are looking more polished, agile, and seasoned than ever before.
Just as Trevor Lawrence and other Clemson pigskin stars are ready to play in the NFL right away, college cagers are developing poise and physical maturity at an earlier age than ever. NCAA fans are grateful and NBA fans sour when student-athletes decide to stay on campus for an extra season or 2 – as opposed to the old days when Association fans were just as happy to let their favorite prospects mature over a 3-5 year span of winter collegiate seasons and March Madness.
The times are changing – but the thrill of the action never goes away. Pick out one of our top 10 betting sports (or honorable mentions) that you’ve never handicapped before and begin a whole new adventure.