With his book title 20/20 Sports Betting: Think Like a Pro, author Logan Fields is making the dual reference to a gambling vertical where everything is clearer in hindsight and to an industry that is booming in a year in which positivity has been otherwise hard to find.
Fields left his day job in 1999 to become a professional sports bettor, long before James Holzhauer took that career choice mainstream or the Supreme Court made it more easily/legally accessible. In this new book from Huntington Press*, Fields recounts the angles and edges he’s found over the years, then concludes most sections by asking, “How can I win money today?” — often admitting that the methods he used to beat the house in the past are no longer applicable in 2020.
Fields is honest about the fact this is not a “here’s how to get rich betting on sports” book. Rather, he’s telling readers how he found success wagering on sports, and shares his insights into how to think about sports gambling if you want to have a shot at coming out ahead in the long run.
The book has an informal tone rather than an academic one. It’s not about the math (although Fields provides his share of calculations). It’s about the path.
As the library of sports betting books available grows exponentially during this boom period, 20/20 Sports Betting won’t compete with, say, 2019’s The Logic of Sports Betting in educating the public on how to be a winning — or at least more slowly losing — bettor. But it will hold its own from an entertainment perspective for those who enjoy tales of a gambler beating the books, one small edge at a time.
‘Don’t ever pay anyone for picks’
There’s a strong sense of self-awareness to Fields’ writing. Early in the book, it begins to feel like you’re listening to a “tout” pitching you by recalling all his bets that worked out and omitting the ones that didn’t — but as soon as that impression develops, Fields addresses it directly, and he does get around later to opening up about some lengthy losing streaks.
Speaking of touts, you have to respect anyone who prints these words:
Moral of the Story
Don’t ever pay anyone for picks.
Fields advises specializing in second-tier sports to make money, as extremely mainstream leagues like the NFL tend to have lines that are tough to beat. For him, one of those second-tier sports is golf, and he devotes an enormous section — 84 pages of a book that checks in just under 300 pages total — to the action on the links.
For those without much interest in golf, this is the part of 20/20 Sports Betting that drags, especially when Fields focuses on his history of betting against injured golfers. There is, however, an enjoyable anecdote about his decision regarding whether to fade Patrick Reed when the golfer’s pregnant wife was nearing her due date.
It’s in that lengthy golf section that Fields offers his take on an issue that polarizes the sports betting and DFS communities: whether watching the games matters. Some statistical modelers believe in the numbers and don’t see value in studying video or sweating their action. Fields takes the opposite stance:
For some odd reason, I actually enjoy watching golf on television, even without anything riding on it. If you’re serious about becoming a successful sports bettor, you must pick a sport you enjoy watching, as you’ll spend countless hours doing just that. You can’t just wake up one day and say you’re now going to make money betting NASCAR if you don’t enjoy, or know anything about, racing.
Sports, blackjack, the lottery, and even Jeopardy!
While golf represents Fields’ most in-depth detour, he veers farther off the beaten path with a few other topics.
There’s a whole speculative section on how props would change if the NFL narrowed the goal posts by two feet. There’s a sidebar titled, “Why Taking Arbitrage Bores Me to Tears.” There’s a chunk of the book dedicated to blackjack card counting, and even blackjack tournaments. There’s a chapter on playing the lottery and how to maximize your winnings if you should ever happen to win.
There’s even a section about the game show Jeopardy! and how many contestants make strategic errors with their “Final Jeopardy” bet sizes.
The book is something of a mixed bag when it comes to references to offshore sportsbooks. In this new era of regulated U.S. sports betting, those unregulated operators are less vital to a career wagering on games than they used to be. Still, Fields uses them and, for the most part, speaks highly of them. But he also writes frankly about the times he’s run into problems betting with these outfits, including when one book changed ownership and flat-out stole his $29,000 bankroll, and he had no legal recourse for pursuing his funds.
Fields never seems to lose perspective on what he does for a living. He writes toward the end of the book that what he does can be summarized as, “I make predictions on the future based on results of the past.”
In 20/20 Sports Betting, the past is the focus because there are so many unknowns in a sports bettor’s future. The industry is changing rapidly, the sportsbooks are always getting sharper, and Fields is left to throw his hands up in the air sometimes when asking aloud whether ways he beat the books 10 or 20 years ago can be replicated today. The best he can do on that front is to take readers inside his thought processes and let them decide whether to try to apply his mindset in 2020 and beyond or just kick back and enjoy the stories.
*Full disclosure: The author of this article wrote a book published by Huntington Press in 2014.