Some sports bettors like to take favorites, some like dogs. Others look for situational spots in the schedule. David Frohardt-Lane is a numbers guy, and that’s working out pretty well for the 36-year-old Chicago trader who recently took home $557,850 after winning the 2013 LVH SuperContest.
Frohardt-Lane topped more than 1,000 other entries in the LVH Superbook’s annual NFL handicapping contest, posting a 55-26-4 record (57 points) using his statistical betting model. And it isn’t his first big betting score either. He won $75,000 in the Cantor Football Handicapping Contest back in 2011.
Frohardt-Lane melded math and sports betting while studying at Carleton College and holds a graduate degree in statistics from the University of Chicago. He’s lectured on mathematics at Boston University and even does statistical consulting with an unnamed professional sports team.
We caught up with him before this weekend’s NFL Championship Sunday and asked him about his SuperContest win, this weekend’s championship games and who his model projects will be holding up the Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl XLVIII.
You’re a numbers guy but did you ever ignore the stats and go with your gut during the SuperContest run?
I wouldn't ever say that I ignored the stats. I have a basic stat model that I ran for each game, and would always at least look at the result. But certainly, sometimes, I wouldn't put much weight on it and the line that I'd make for each game would occasionally be far off from what the stat model said.
The biggest two reasons were adjusting for injuries and motivations. When somebody like Aaron Rodgers or Tony Romo gets hurt, the biggest thing to worry about is how much of a dropoff there will be with the backup.
One game I made a pick that went against my model was the last game of the season, when I picked the Eagles -6.5 at the Cowboys. I made this pick for two reasons:
1. My thought that there was a big dropoff from Romo to (Kyle)Orton - Orton is solid, better than most backups, but I think of Romo as very good and pretty underrated due to some high-profile interceptions.
2. I figured that the Eagles were a hit-or-miss team with a smart coach, and more likely to be on than off for the biggest game of the year. Obviously, that pick didn't work out. There were probably some other games where I won by going with my gut, but that's the easiest example that comes to mind since it was Week 17.
This is your second big Vegas contest win. Have you received offers from pick sellers or handicappers to join their team? Would you ever consider making a day-to-day living betting on sports?
I'm really not interested in that, for a couple of reasons. The biggest one is that I can probably pick only a little bit over 50 percent long term by picking my spots, but I'd be dealing with clients expecting much higher. That would be way too much pressure to deal with.
What team was the toughest to get a handle on during the season? Which teams went against your numbers consistently?
Certainly the Eagles were a very tough team to get a handle on because they were so hit-or-miss. Normally, my model doesn't put excessive weight on recent performance, but the Eagles felt like such a unique team with the Chip Kelly offense and then the quarterback change. I kept wanting to override the model and place extra weight on the last few games.
But the Jaguars were the team that I probably lost on the most. I kept betting on them in the first half of the season, because the model refused to believe anybody could be as bad as they were. Then, in the second half, the model finally decided that the Jaguars were awful and started betting against them, and they did much better in the second half.
The stubbornness of the model did pay off in Week 17, when I went against them a final time and they got blown out by the Colts. But on the balance, I mostly just lost when they were involved.
As a numbers guy, which sport lends itself to your way of handicapping and which one doesn’t match up with the numbers as much?
Baseball is great for number crunchers because it's a series of one-on-one matchups between batters and pitchers. Fielding is less straightforward, but batting and pitching are straightforward to model at a player-by-player level.
I've never looked at tennis, but that should also be a good one, since again it is a bunch of one-on-one matchups.
All of this being said, when a sport is easier to model, it's also easier for other market participants. So, I'm sure some find edges in "harder" sports like basketball or hockey.
Now that the Super Contests is over, are you continuing your capping in the postseason? How are you making out so far?
Yeah, I'm always curious what will happen so I still try to think about who I would bet on even when the contest is over. And so far... it's not going so well.
I picked Kansas City +2.5 and Green Bay +2.5 in the Wild Card Round when a sports talk radio host asked me for picks. Then, in the divisional round, I liked Saints +9, Colts +7, Panthers +1 and Broncos -8. So 2-4 overall on my opinions.
I'm just glad the run didn't end until the SuperContest was over.
Do you change the way you handicap playoff games compared to the regular season?
Very little. There's more likely to be bad weather, which would slightly affect passing teams a little more. Additionally, when both teams are very motivated, I think that's a slight help to the favorite. So I might tweak my lines very slightly, but rarely more than a point or so.
Are there any numbers or info our Covers Community should know about heading into this weekend’s conference championship games?
Nothing comes to mind. I'm worried about the Broncos’ injuries, but still tend to think -4.5 is a good number to bet them at.
Who do you have in the Super Bowl and do you have a statistical model to factor in the possible cold weather facing Super Bowl XLVIII?
My model doesn't differ much from the market. I think the Broncos and Seahawks deserve to be small favorites to get there.
I saw some projected lines for the Super Bowl that made the Niners or Seahawks less than field-goal favorites over the Patriots, and a pick’em against the Broncos. I'm not sure those are good projections, but I would probably be taking the NFC team if one of those ended up being the line.
I don't have a model for weather, only a gut feeling. I think bad weather is bad news for passing teams like the Broncos, but I wouldn't shift the line more than a point or so away from the Broncos should they be in the Super Bowl.