Advice on Not Losing Your Shirt as Legal Sports Betting Launches in Ohio

An experienced gambler offers four tips to help newbies who want to gamble on sports in the Buckeye State.

Aaron Marshall
Hollywood Casino Columbus on the city’s West Side will soon open a sportsbook similar to this one inside Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, where sports betting became legal on Sept. 1, 2022.

For many Ohioans, 2023 brings their first crack at throwing down a few bucks on their favorite team. But for others in the Buckeye State, the Jan. 1 launch of legal sports betting in Ohio is merely a new chapter, a chance to finally bask in the warm sunshine of legitimacy. These longtime sports bettors—let’s just call them my people—have paid (and paid) some dues over the years. But now we are here to help you greenhorns. Follow these gambling tips and you’ll be well on your way to, uh, breaking even. Possibly!

1. Hello, Mr. Wong

All numbers are not equal, especially in football. If you’re looking to bet NFL games, the Wong teaser (named for author Stanford Wong) is perhaps the most profitable bet in NFL gambling history. A teaser is a form of a parlay, a bet with two or more wagers tied together. In teasers, however, gamblers are allowed to move the point spread a fixed amount. In the case of a Wong teaser, it’s a 6-point shift that involves favorites of -7.5 to -8.5 and underdogs of +1.5 and +2.5. Since most games are decided by 3, 6 or 7 points due to scoring rules, when we “tease” or move the spread through those numbers, it substantially increases our chances of winning.

Say the Bengals are -7.5 point favorites to the Steelers and the Browns are +2 point underdogs to the Ravens. If you tease the Bengals down to -1.5 and the Browns up to +8, you have just made a Wong teaser.

2. Pick your spots

The biggest edge a sports bettor has over those across the counter is that while they must have a spread on every game, you don’t have to bet anything. You can specialize in one team, conference or region. For example, on Jan. 7—the first Saturday of in-conference college basketball—there will be more than 150 games to bet on. How much time do you think the sportsbooks are spending making the odds for Akron at Ball State? You’ll never know more about the NFL than the sportsbooks, but if you do your homework, you can know more about the Mid-American Conference.

3. Respect (but do not fear) the live-betting gods

Widespread legalization has brought the adoption of live betting, which really means betting against a computer algorithm that is constantly updating. Be on the lookout for a situation that a computer algorithm can’t anticipate, like a player getting pulled for foul trouble or an injury. The computer doesn’t know how good the replacement will be. But if you know, you’ll need to fire quickly because other people are doing the same.

4. Don’t be a parlay patsy

Increasingly popular are same-game parlays and other bets where you plunk down a couple of bucks at long odds in hopes of a big payout. Long shot parlays are lottery tickets, good for dreaming but a drain on your bankroll.

This story is from the January 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.