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Protect Your Unit: Week 1 Pick Thread: Let's Play!

In which we review the Week 1 picks for our Protect Your Unit pick'em game. Also: Yay! Football!

Grant Halverson

(DISCLAIMER: This contest is for entertainment purposes only. No actual money is being wagered.)

The 2014 college football season kicked off Wednesday night, with Georgia State eking out a last-second victory over Abilene Christian. To answer your first question: no, nobody placed a bet on that game. Too bad, because that would have won Degenerate Bet of the Week easily.

In a moment, we'll see the bets people did make. But first, a review of the contest, and an introduction to the bet types for those who may not be familiar:

A pointspread is the most well-known type of wager. Each team in a game has a number of points, which is added to or subtracted from their score in the game. If your team wins the game after the pointspread is applied to their real game score, your wager wins.

An over-under wager is a bet on the total number of points scored in a game. If you bet a Over 60, you win if both teams' scores add to more than 60. It doesn't matter how many points each team scores.

Point spread and over-under wagers pay -110. This means that a wager of $110 will win $100. This is called vigorish, and constitutes the house's fee for taking the bet. We're not playing with real money, of course, but we charge a vig for realism.

A money line is a bet on the outright winner of a game. Each team is assigned a value which represents the payoff. A positive number, such as +200, means that a wager of $100 will win $200. A negative number, such as -150 means that a wager of $150 will win $100. As you may have guessed, underdogs get positive money lines and favorites get negative ones.

Finally, a parlay is a bet on more than one game at a time. You have to win all the bets to win the parlay; any loss makes the entire parlay a loser. A two-bet parlay pays 2.6 to 1 ($260 for a $100 bet); a three-bet parlay pays 6 to 1 ($600 for a $100 bet). Protect Your Unit allows only allows parlays of two or three over-under or point spread wagers, because our 2010 contest was decided by a wacky seven-way parlay that came in.

There's also a type of bet called a split, which you can do in our game. Because our game uses point spreads from many different sources, and updates lines every day, opportunities for splits emerge. A split is when you bet both sides of a game, with differing lines, in hopes that the result is in the middle. This is best illustrated with an example:

Currently, say Louisville is favored by 3 over Miami. You think this is a favorable line, so you bet Louisville -3. But if the line changes from -3 to -6, you might feel that Miami +6 is a good wager. You could then bet on Miami +6. If Louisville wins by exactly 4 or 5 points, you would win both bets, Louisville -3 and Miami +6. If anything else happens, you would win one bet and lose the other, for a negligible loss.

Also worth noting is the concept of arbitrage. It doesn't happen often, but sometimes there will be situations where betting lines will overlap, and it is possible to place a combination of bets that is guaranteed to at least break even.

Of course, no sports book would ever offer you a game they stand to lose. But different sports books can have different ideas of how good each team is, and offer you different lines. Because the PYU game offers you the most favorable line from any of's eight providers, these situations occasionally happen.

For example, there was a game last season where both BYU and Virginia were both one-point underdogs in a game against each other. (Since college games can't end in a tie, this isn't all that useful.) This most often happens with money lines, where you might find one team is +100 and the other is a thin underdog at +103 or so. You could bet both teams, and hope the +103 team wins for a small profit. If the +100 team wins, you would break even. But it is the rarest of casino rarities - a free play.

To place your bets, go to and enter your username and password. If you don't have one, send an email to me and I can set you up with one. If you have any questions on the game or how to play it, please ask!

And now, on to this week's selections:

Remember, this is not the deadline for making picks. You may place bets up until one hour before kickoff. Use the space below to talk about who you picked this week, who you didn't, and explain any $1 dick bets you made. Because this game is all about $1 dick bets. Happy fake gambling!