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Five betting tips for the NFL playoffs

St. Louis Rams v Seattle Seahawks
The St. Louis Rams beat the Seattle Seahawks in their two regular-season matchups, but are the Rams a smart team to bet on this wild-card weekend? Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images file
/ Source: Forbes

It's St. Louis versus Seattle this weekend in the NFL Wild Card Playoffs. Neither have stellar records: 8-8 for the Rams and 9-7 for the Seahawks. So which team do you put your money on in the office football pool?

You could look at the teams' last meetings, their streaks and their home and away records, but will that really tell you anything more than past history? Alternatively, here are a few tips from gurus who have researched gambling. And while we're not encouraging gambling, if you're going to bet this playoff season, you might as well get all the advice you can.

The experts will all tell you the same thing: The sports betting market, much like the financial market, is extremely efficient. “[But] it's a lot more fun to bet on football than on Wal-Mart,” admits Steven Levitt, a distinguished economics professor at the University of Chicago and author of “How Do Markets Function? An Empirical Analysis of Gambling on the National Football League” published in The Economic Journal. For the entertainment, sports bettors are willing to lose a little on average, he explains.

But Jim Mahar, assistant professor of finance at St. Bonaventure University and coauthor of “Using Football to Teach Finance,” warns that efficiency does not imply perfection. Exceptions do indeed exist — and thus, so do opportunities to profit.

So while it is unlikely that you'll break the bank, there may be some money to be gained this playoff season. Not to mention the bragging rights when you win the office pool.