The World Cup is upon us! For me, like many Americans, my general interest level in soccer is somewhere between the WNBA and the Spelling Bee. I think soccer's unpopularity has to do with the fact that it boasts WWE-like fake injuries where the acting is worse than a Telemundo soap opera, low scoring, and ties. However, thankfully the World Cup has two things that can make it very exciting: day drinking with scantily clad women and gambling.
If you have read my gambling columns so far, I have had mixed results. On the bad side, I predicted the Broncos would beat the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl. So close. However, I also had Bubba Watson winning the Masters. If you had $100 on every bet I laid out this year, you would be up $1380. Even Warren Buffett or Jordan Belfort can't claim those type of returns.
I have done my research and here is how to make money betting the World Cup.
Bet on the draw
In the preliminary rounds, you can bet on either of the teams or on a draw (a tie) after 90 minutes. For example, in the U.S. vs. Ghana, the current odds are: USA +190, Ghana +145 and Draw + 190. This means if you wager $100 on the USA and they win, you receive $190. If you wager $100 on Ghana, and they win, you receive $145. If you bet on draw, if they tie you win $190.
Now betting on draw clearly isn't very fun unless you are a total degenerate, in which case it's awesome. There are many bars that advertise, "Come to XYZ Churrascaria for half price Caipirinhas and root on Brazil." There are no bars that advertise, "Come to the Raj Mahal Pub and root on the DRAW!!!" So, that's why you should bet it.
There are 48 teams in the first round, or group stage. In 2010, there were 13 draws. I particularly like betting draw when the teams are pretty even. Remember: Soccer features low scoring and ties. Also, watch for teams that only need a draw to advance in their third game.
I remember the first time I bet on soccer. I was in the Greek Islands in 2004. The Euro Cup was going on and the semi-final game was Greece vs. Czech Republic. Not only did my friends are I bet on draw, there was a prop bet of "Who would score more goals in this game?" It was between some random Greek guy and some Czech guy. Of course, I bet on draw between the random guys and the game ended 0-0. My friends and I partied that night like Odysseus and his boys after winning the Battle of Troy. It felt especially good because we felt we ran a Trojan Horse on the unsuspecting bookmaker.
Nowk, let's profile which teams to bet on in this tournament. Here are facts to know: In the last 19 World Cups, on only three occasions, has the winner come from a different continent than the host. That includes 2010 in South Africa where the African teams had very little chance. Also in the seven World Cups held in the Americas, a South American team has won every time. So I am not saying Spain or Germany can't win but you aren't getting good odds there. Let's examine the teams to wager on.
I know it's easy to bet on Brazil. Everyone knows they are the betting favorite and it's in their country. However, if you believe famous prognosticator Nate Silver's odds, they are still undervalued. His analysis gives Brazil a 45-percent chance to win. I see them +275 in some places which implies they have a 26.7-percent chance of winning. So, there is still value there.
Here is another way to bet Brazil - but not for the faint of heart: Silver gives them a 99-percent chance of advancing to the round of 16. You have to lay down $3,000 to win $100 for them to advance. I don't like selling lottery tickets, but there is still value here.
Here is another reason to like Brazil: It has some of the prettiest people in the world. There are a lot of fun Brazilian bars and bikini wax places in NYC. Why not root for Brazil and celebrate with them like you are in Rio for Carnival when they win??!
Argentina and Uruguay
Argentina is the second favorite, but Silver gives them only a 13-percent chance to win. They certainly can win and a lot of people are picking them. However, most places have them +300 to +350 so you aren't getting any value there.
Same goes for Uruguay. Silver gives them a 2-percent chance and they are +2500. Also, no value.
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Colombia is a team I am surprised isn't getting more love from Wall Street. After all, its biggest exports are loved by Wall Street guys -petroleum, gold and coffee. Hey, hey, hey - what did you think I was going to say?? Shame on you for stereotyping Wall Street!
Colombia has an easy opening-round draw and Silver gives them a 3-percent chance of winning. They are +3000. Worth a flyer on a live underdog. Plus, Sofia Vergara and Shakira are Colombian, so if they win, at least those two will get a lot of air time.
If you had to pick one team outside of the Americans with value, it's the French. Nobody outside the French enjoys rooting for them, unless they're a Spurs fan because of Tony Parker and Boris Diaw. So that's why there the odds are fair.
Silver gives them a 4-percent chance to win and they are +2600. Plus, there have an easy draw to the knockout round and once they get there anything can happen, because we all the know the French are good at cheating.
Chile is the real deep value in this tournament. They are in a tough group with Spain, Netherlands and Australia. However, if they get through, they will be battle-tested. Silver gives them a 4-percent chance to win and I see places where they are +4000. That is excellent value. Place a bet on them.
Also, the betting lines predict they don't even make it out of their group. Probably because Spain and the Netherlands played in the final in 2010. Netherlands is much weaker this time around. Silver gives Chile a 70-percent chance to advance to the knockout round. I see places where you can get even money for Chile to advance to the knockout round. Also, a very good wager that I recommend.
If you haven't had enough betting on the World Cup, there is the always the US Open this weekend. My play here is Jason Day. He has been nursing a thumb injury but he says he is "100-percent healthy." Despite not having a played a lot lately he has four things going for him.
He has played in three US Opens and has finished second twice, he won the Match Play Tournament earlier this year so he can win on a big stage, his wife is hot, and his mom is Filipino like mine is. Clearly those four things make him a good play at 25-1.
Raj Malhotra (Raj Mahal is his stage name) is a former Wall Street trader-turned-stand-up-comedian. He has worked at Wall Street firms covering three continents, including at Bank of America (NYSE:BAC - News), BNP Paribas and Nomura. He draws from his unique ethnic background and Wall Street career to entertain audiences nightly, highlighting the struggles of the 1 percent. He can be seen at Gotham Comedy Club, Broadway Comedy Club, NY Comedy Club, Greenwich Village Comedy Club, and the Tribeca Comedy Lounge. Follow him on Twitter @RajMahalTweets.
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