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Top-10 events to bet with your heart and not your head

1 October 2012

Anyone who watched the completion of the Ryder Cup on Sunday saw one of the most historic comebacks in the international golf competition's history. And depending on which side you were rooting for, it was either a thrilling victory or a gut-wrenching defeat.

If you bet on the action, you were on pins and needles as the entire match was extremely tight. But if you didn't back your own side, you likely had very mixed feelings about the unfolding events. If you're European and picked the U.S. to win, you couldn't really enjoy the win, knowing that it was going to cost you. And if you're American and you picked Europe, did you really feel good about yourself, profiting from an epic U.S. collapse?

Most of the time, sports bettors should make their picks with their heads and not their hearts. But there are times when you should ignore what the stats and your gut are telling you and make a small wager on the side that your heart is telling you to pick. Either that, or avoid putting any action on the line at all and root like crazy for your team.

10. Events you are attending live
If you're going to a sporting event and you're not a huge fan of either team, pick the home team to win if you're going to make a bet. There's nothing more fun in sports than getting swept up in the energy of a home crowd, and that can't happen if you pick the road team. On the other hand, when the home team pulls out a last-second victory, the sound of the cheering fans amplifies the fact that you just won your bet.

9. Possible Triple Crown winner
I'm not a big horse racing aficionado, but I do believe that when you have a chance to bet on a historic event, it's worth taking a shot. Sure, when a horse wins the first two legs of the Triple Crown, you probably aren't going to get the best odds when you pick it to win the Belmont because a lot of other people are going to be rooting for history, too. If you want to make a few bets backed by your own careful research, that's fine. But plop down $5 or $10 on the horse that's aiming for the Triple Crown, too.

8. Event where you know someone competing
Not all of us have friends or family who compete in events that are high-profile enough to bet on. But if you do, don't ever bet against them. In many cases (especially in the United States), it may be illegal, against the league or association's governing rules, or at the very least unethical to make any bet on the result at all. However, if it's all kosher to do so and you're so inclined, make a wager on that person to win, no matter how long a long-shot he or she is. If I'd had the opportunity, I would have plunked down $20 on my old college teammate Lawton Redman in the 2002 Olympic biathlon, even though I knew he was the longest of long shots. But I would have had a great souvenir betting ticket after he lost, and I'd probably be about $2,000 richer if he had done the impossible and pulled off a win.

7. Political bets
It's election season in the United States, and lots of online sportsbooks are offering odds on who is going to win presidential, Senate and gubernatorial elections. You can also bet on which political party will claim control of the House and Senate. If you're a faithful partisan and you're feeling the need to plunk down a wager, pick the side you're going to vote for. No one should have mixed feelings about the results of an election because of a bet that was won or lost.

6. Cricket World Cup
While it seems unlikely that I'd ever have the opportunity to pick the United States to win the Cricket World Cup, I will say that if the U.S. ever does field a team and I'm in Las Vegas and have the opportunity to pick the U.S. to win, I'll put $10 down on the off chance that it happens. Sure, I know that the odds will be long and the chance of a U.S. victory even longer, but national pride means something. For much of the rest of the world, the Cricket World Cup is a thrilling six-week competition. However, buyer beware on all cricket bets, as the sport has recently been rocked with match-fixing scandals.

5. The Olympics
Ladbrokes estimates that there was £80 million in bets on the Olympics this year. And both the Winter and Summer Games are getting more and more action, as bookmakers offer more opportunities to punt on your favorite Olympic sports. The Olympics aren't a time to go against national pride. If you're going to make a wager, pick one of your fellow countrymen. Even if the odds are long, at least you're throwing your support behind your flag. Imagine being an American watching the U.S. beat the Soviet Union in ice hockey in the 1980 Lake Placid Games. If you'd pick the heavily-favored Soviets, you wouldn't be able to bask in the glory of America's Cinderella victory.

4. College sports
If you went to a college that has a big-time athletic program, you might see a line where you think your alma mater is favored a little too much or getting more points than they deserve as an underdog. But even if you think it's a good bet, don't pick against your heart here. You might find yourself in a situation where you're rooting for your biggest rival to score late to win your bet, and no one wants to be in the situation.

3. Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup has more emotion than any other golf tournament. It adds a team aspect to a game that is almost always an individual sport. When you add in the drama of the USA vs. Europe, the history behind the matchup and the partisan crowds that are rarely seen on a golf course, it's a spectacle that's tough to beat. And while there are plenty of sportsbooks that offer bets on the Ryder Cup, your best bet is to look for the one that's offering the best odds on the team you want to see win. Don't pick against your rooting interest in the Ryder Cup, even if you think you're getting the right price.

2. FIFA World Cup
The World Cup grabs the attention of hundreds of millions of people very four years, and it also gets the attention of sports bettors everywhere. While there are plenty of matchups to bet on in the World Cup that don't involve your own country, don't ever bet against your national interests in the World Cup, whether it's in group play, in the knockout rounds, or on a futures bet.

1. Championship game for your favorite team
It's one thing to pick against your favorite baseball team during the regular season if you think you're getting the right price. Let's be honest, it's a 162-game schedule, and they're not going to win every game in a season. It's another thing entirely to pick against your favorite team in the World Series. Don't ever bet against your heart when a championship is on the line. It's a philosophy in life that should be right up there with "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line."
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Best of Aaron Todd
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.