BOZEMAN - No matter the status of Terrell Owens' leg or the accuracy of Tom Brady's arm, it's a safe bet that Montana State University finance professor Greg Durham can predict the likelihood of a winning bet on Sunday's Super Bowl."There is statistically a 50-50 chance of winning any point-spread sports bet, just as you have with making an unfair return on an investment," said Durham, a professor of finance at MSU's College of Business.Durham
has an insider's knowledge of what he
has studied eight years of patterns of legal sports wagering behavior for an article on behavioral biases among football bettors.
said financial analysts and researchers often study gaming, which has patterns similar to stock market investing.Durham
says that, although sports wagering depends on unpredictable sporting events, bettors often adhere to consistent and predictable behavioral patterns.
It is those patterns that first attracted Durham when he
was looking for a research subject for his
doctoral dissertation in finance at ASU.He
said that among the parallels between legal sports wagering and the stock market is that both depend on a market maker.On Wall Street
, the market maker uses a stock's price to balance the buyers and sellers of stock.In Las Vegas, the sports book uses a point spread, or the margin of points predicted between winning and losing teams, to maintain the balance of bets for two teams.
Both markets have so-called "experts" who sell expertise and predictions about the eventual outcome.
While many gamblers associate luck or magic with gaming success, Durham
said research indicates that gamblers who play in the legalized gaming industry behave in predictable patterns.He
said researchers who study stock-price patterns think the patterns can be applied to sports gaming and vice versa.
"Any finding that arises from studying sports wagering markets might also have meaningful implications for stock markets," he
research compared how gamblers and stock investors looked at past patterns in performance to predict future performance.
"Prior research seemed to indicate that investors expect stock-price performance trends to continue," Durham
said."Investors incorrectly believe that a trend of upward price movements is representative of the overall pattern, when in actuality the stock-price process is fairly random.These beliefs become stronger as the trend becomes longer."Durham
colleagues found sports bettors' behavior differed - gamblers are more likely to believe that a long-term streak will be reversed.Durham's
study found that sports bettors "come to expect a reversal in performance as streak length grows."He
said that his
research indicates that the probability of winning any point-spread wager remains 50-50, or completely random.Durham
said that familiarity bias, another type of behavioral bias, is particularly strong among gamblers, who will rely on familiar things or experiences.
For instance, in sports wagering, people will bet on teams that they think they know about.Durham
said that his
research into years of gambling outcomes has proven there are no short cuts.
"No trading (or wagering) strategy can yield abnormal profits," Durham
said of the markets.
"At least that's what I've found, though some of my nonacademic buddies like to disagree," he
While gamblers often spend a great deal of money and effort scouting information about a team that will give them an advantage, Durham
thinks the best predictor, on the average, is the point spread.
"Point spreads are uncanny predictors of actual outcomes of games," Durham