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Why You Shouldn't Bet On Football

NFL fans are excited about the start of football season tonight. But the excitement of the common sports nut is nothing compared to the anticipation coming from casinos, which raked in a grand total of $3.4 billion on sports wagers in 2012. Bets on football made up more than 40 percent of that amount, according to the New York Times.

Last year, the New York Times Magazine profiled several participants in the football betting Super Contest run by the casino formerly known as the L.V.H. (and known before that as the Las Vegas Hilton). Contest front runners in the story consist of a mixed-bag of math nerds and football obsessives who wager tens of thousands of dollars on football alone. The story goes heavy on the glitz, money and math, mentioning one contestant's Ferrari and lavish vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and another's advanced degree in statistics.

But the takeaway, if you read closely, is that the only real edge in football betting comes from inside information -- some unpublished intelligence about a star athlete's health, or conditions on the field.

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Without that kind of information, you might want to take a pass on football betting. Brendan Koerner writes about sports betting (and a lot of other things) for Wired, The Atlantic and other publications. Last year, he talked to KNPR about betting on the Super Bowl.

Betting on football is a mug's game, he says. If you want to make a bet you can win, you might want to stick to baseball or horse racing. Koerner's relative makes a living by betting on sports and primarily wagers on those two contests.

"It takes research," Koerner says. "You have to spend time at the track. You have to observe workouts. You have to understand the various bets you can make at the track. But if you know what you're doing, those two sports give you the best odds of turning gambling into a job really."

The baseball season is winding down, but if you've got a hankering to put some money on an athletic contest, you've still got time. So instead of offering our best bets for this football season, we gently suggest you sit this one out. That will give you more time for research when the Triple Crown kicks off in May.

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