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Betting Advice

Masters 2024 picks: A non-gambler’s guide to winning (or surviving) your Masters pool

April 09, 2024
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Yong Teck Lim

For the most part, I don’t bet on golf. The thought of me losing money because someone can’t make a five-footer when it matters doesn’t sit well with me. What’s more, knowing who is going to play well on any given week in professional golf, in my non-gambler opinion, is laughable. I know you have the data to prove me wrong, but this is what I tell myself.

One week that I make an exception, however, is during the Masters. Like many of you, I see the friend and office pools as low stakes chances to get in the action on the weekend. If nothing else, it’s a social necessity. And with Augusta National being such a familiar course that favors a specific type of player, this is the week where I feel like it is possible to pick correctly.

That said, as a non-gambler entering these pools filled with far more experienced sports bettors, it can be intimidating. That’s why I’ve asked Golf Digest’s golf gambling content editor Steve Hennessey to help me out. Even if his advice might not net me a return (but seeing his correct pick of Akshay Bhatia to win last week, it might), it will help me keep my sanity over the weekend.

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Drew Powell: First off, Steve, you’ve heard my logic against golf betting. What’s your quick elevator pitch to get me on board more regularly?

Steve Hennessey, editor of our gambling content: No other sport provides as much bang for your buck as betting on golf. If you’re a golfer and you pay attention to the events and the players, you need to dip your toe in the muddy waters.

You're entertained for four days, and the odds are typically great. If I put it to you like this, maybe you’ll come around: If you bet on an NFL game, it’s three-ish hours, and the odds for the spread will be just slightly worse than even. In golf, you get an entire weekend—plus the odds for a winner can be extra juicy (i.e. my Akshay Bhatia bet ... $20 to win $1,300!). Hitting one bet can set you up for months and months of extra cash.

DP: I hate that I’m wavering already. OK, back to the Masters. With various office and friend pools this week, what’s your advice for deciding which to enter?

SH: It depends on what your goal is. Do you want the best chance of winning? Enter the pool that you know has the most casual gamblers/golf fans. My buddy’s golf pool is one that he runs for his dad’s golf group—and no offense to them, but they aren’t the sharpest group. I feel like I can gain an edge in that one. But if your goal is just to increase your enjoyment of the Masters and get in a pool with buddies or family members, enter the Masters pool where you know the most people. The group chats and banter are priceless. Also bonus points for pools that feature a live leaderboard. Again, that’s the beauty of a golf pool—you can track your results in real time for four days.

DP: How many entries should I make in each pool?

SH: It depends on several factors: A) The amount of money you want to invest (please gamble responsibly); B) The format of your pool; C) The conviction of your picks.

Again, if you have more knowledge than the other pool participants, you’ll gain an edge by having a second entry. Instead of making a tough decision between two players, just play them both. The key is nailing the right combination.

You also need to play game theory if the pool size is big. For instance, the large majority of people playing pools will use Scottie Scheffler this year. You will gain a ton of leverage by picking anyone other than Scheffler. It’s risky because if he wins you won’t have a chance to win. But if you have doubts about Scheffler and think another elite like Jon Rahm or Brooks Koepka could outperform him, you’ll increase your chances of winning.

DP: I try to have one “heart submission” and one “head submission.” In other words, I’ll pick a few guys I think have a good shot, and then a few others that I just want to play well. My logic is that regardless of who plays well or poorly, I’ll be happy. Good strategy?

SH: I can’t say that your strategy of picking guys who you don’t think will play well is a sound strategy, but again, it depends on the purpose of your pool. If you want to increase your chances of winning, I’d encourage you to maybe roster one or two guys in your “heart” lineup that are just hunch plays ... but the rest better be backed by conviction. Otherwise, you’re lighting money on fire.

DP: OK, fair enough. Now for my picks this year. Tell me why I’m a genius or why I should consider my $50 lost money.

Head:

Scottie Scheffler
Joaquin Niemann
Min Woo Lee
Erik Van Rooyen

Heart:

Jordan Spieth
Ludvig Aberg
Shane Lowry
Corey Conners

SH: This is what I’m talking about. Your heart lineup has some solid picks—Shane Lowry has been playing great golf just like he did when he finished T-3 here in 2021. Corey Conners remains one of the best ball-strikers in the world and has nice success at Augusta. I think if you swapped out Scottie and Niemann for Spieth and Aberg (I’m down on Spieth and Aberg), you could have a really nice lineup.