James Holzhauer Talks 2019 NFL Playing Ideas & Worst Bets

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James Holzhauer

As NFL training camps get ready to open this, NBC Sports’ Peter King sat down in Las Vegas with Jeopardy! champion James Holzhauer, the professional gambler who won $2.4 million in his 33-episode winning streak on the trivia series, and asked him advice in regards to betting on football this upcoming season.

Like his Jeopardy! prowess, Holzhauer is so good at betting on football, that most Vegas sports book have put a limit on how much he’s allowed to bet. And while he’s a Chicago Bears fan, Holzhauer grew up in Naperville, Illinois, the gambler wouldn’t ever make the rookie mistake of betting with his heart. In fact, the 35-year-old would feel more comfortable playing on the field, you know, if he could play the sport.

When speaking of his time in the hot seat on Jeopardy! he said, “It’s a lot easier when it’s me doing the work than when I’m watching a player fumble away my bet at the last second. You get the idea that money comes and goes especially in this line of work I’m in. I’m a pro sports gambler. You have winning days and you have losing days. But you know if you’ve got the right strategy, you’re going to get it in the end.”

As the NFL training camps set to open this week, here’s what Holzhauer had to say about the best bets for teams in the 2020 Super Bowl and more…

1. Don’t Believe the Hype Surrounding the Cleveland Browns

Holzhauer is not buying the hype when it comes to the Cleveland Browns, in fact, he laughs at the thought. He said, “If you’re looking to invest in a futures ticket, I would say that the big thing to avoid is look away from the teams that have all the hype surrounding them. I can’t believe we live in a world where the Cleveland Browns are the most hyped team in the preseason. But I would say they’re probably the single worst bet to win the Super Bowl right now.”

2. It Will Likely Be These Two ‘Boring’ Teams in the Super Bowl

Super Bowl LIII – New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams

When it comes to Super Bowl LIV, which is scheduled to take place on February 2, 2020, Holzhauer can’t help but name the two best bets being a repeat from last year. “If I had to pick a team or two to make it to the Super Bowl, win the Super Bowl, the boring answer is the Patriots and the Rams,” he said. “Everyone knows these guys are the best teams out there.”

3. The Trick to Picking Futures Bets

Holzhauer likes to bet on teams with playoff byes. “If you dig deep into the numbers,” he said, “you can get an idea of which teams have the inside track at the bye weeks and the tiebreakers come into play. There are times where there’s a decent chance that two teams will end up tied for the second and third spot, but one team has the tiebreaker locked up and you don’t always see that reflected in the odds.”

“The one seed, just by virtue of having to play only two home games, would win the conference about 35 percent of the time and make it to the Super Bowl,” he said. “The two team makes it about 29 percent, and the three seed makes it like 11 percent. That’s just an enormous gap between the two and the three. At least the past five or six years, something like that, you keep seeing the one and two seeds advancing to the Super Bowl.”

4. Bet on Sundays or on College Football

Like Jeopardy!, in which he always started from the bottom of the grid, and was always being strategic, he has a specific routine when it comes to betting on the NFL. “If they put the odds up for next week’s football games on a Sunday night, there’s not a lot of thought that goes into that,” he said. “But you give people a week to bet on this, the odds are going to be a lot more efficient.”

If you can’t make it the sports books on a Sunday, Holzhauer suggests betting on college football, since there’s not as much attention paid to those games.

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