3 Tips for Identifying a Trap Game

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Avoiding Trap Games

You’ve heard the term a million times before, but the enigmatic “trap game” still feels like a question mark for most sports gamblers.

It’s easy to talk yourself into, and out of, considering any random matchup one of these types of games. Perhaps the most difficult question to answer of them all is, “If I recognize this is a trap game, is it really that big of a trap?”

The reality is that identifying these games is a science, but it’s still very much an art as well. In this article, I’ll explain what a trap game is and how you can identify it for yourself while you’re betting on sports.

Understanding the Trap Game

The easiest and most succinct way to describe a trap game is to say that it’s one where a team might potentially be overlooking its opponent. This could happen for a number of different reasons, but the end result is the same—a major upset that nobody saw coming, even though there were some clear signs.

Sports bettors, more than any other group of people, have developed a natural instinct to find trap games and use them to their advantage. From the NFL to the NBA and beyond, it’s a phenomenon seen in all sports at all levels.

If you’ve ever been a victim of the trap game, your goal should be to never get caught sleeping again. These tips will help you avoid falling into the trap and capitalizing on it instead.

1 – Good Team, Bad Team

When looking at a team’s schedule, determining which games are the most important is a fairly straightforward process. It’s well-known that upon their first look at the schedule, NFL players mentally (if not literally) circle games that are probably going to be wins, games that are probably going to be losses, and the ones remaining are the contests which will determine the level of success a team has that year.

Nobody’s expecting you to have each team’s schedule memorized. But before you place a bet, part of your evaluation process should be taking a look at each team’s previous and future games. As a side note, when I say previous games, I mean staying updated with the team and every game they’ve played that season. When I say “future” game, I simply mean the next game on the schedule.


One of the most common scenarios that could indicate a trap game situation takes place when a good team is coming off of a hard-fought game against another good team. If this tough game is followed up by a lower-tier team the next week, which is then followed by another game against a good team, you might have a trap game on your hands.

The concept of the trap game, more than anything else, revolves around human psychology. It’s natural to have a letdown after a big week, and it’s understandable why a team would overlook a bad team because they’re concerned about a tougher matchup the next week.

If you’re able to recognize the good-team, bad-team, good-team order on a team’s schedule, that middle game could be your opportunity to capitalize on the underdog.

2 – The Hangover Game

Sometimes, a great game can simply make it hard to have a quality follow-up performance. In football especially, the wear and tear that a hard-fought game has can linger on long past the final whistle both physically and mentally.

Each season, there are a few matchups that feature division-leading teams, and can even have major implications for playoff seeding and more. More often than not, these games go down to the wire and may even result in overtime.

If a team is looking at the schedule and recognizes that the next game (after this quality opponent) is going to be a weaker team, they’ll put everything they have into the current week knowing that they can let up a little bit the following week. Again, this is a sign of regular human behavior that we so often forget about when looking at professional athletes.

As a sports bettor, it’s your responsibility to make a note of the week’s biggest matchups and pay attention to the following week’s schedule.

For example, if Pittsburgh and Baltimore match up late in the season with big time playoff implications, your “big week” could be the following one. Without question each team is going to leave the initial game a little beat up, and next week’s underdog could be the beneficiary of the residual impact a highly-contested NFL game has on the body and the mind.

Keep in mind, you’re not necessarily looking for a letdown so significant that it results in an outright loss for a favorite. All you’re truly looking to gain is a slight edge that will help you win with the points on the spread for a particular game.

To stay on the same example I gave previously, if the Steelers go down to the wire with the Ravens but are a 13-point favorite the following week against the Jets, you should recognize the opportunity the Jets have to cover.

The bottom line is that a game that goes down to the wire is likely going to impact a team’s next matchup in some way. A team coming off a hard-fought win is especially vulnerable to having a slight let down at (at the very least) the beginning of the following game. Seek out these games and take advantage.

3 – Off-Field Distraction

Despite what head coaches say on a regular basis, as sports fans (and bettors), it’s clear that there are times when off-the-field problems start to impact the final score of games. Now, obviously the degree to which an off-field distraction will disrupt play on the field can make it much more difficult to calculate odds, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still take it into account.

The “off-field distraction” can take shape in many different forms. It might be a disgruntled player in the midst of a contract dispute, it could be a QB controversy where each option is looking to beat out the other for the start position, or it could be friction between the head coach and the players in the locker room.

When any professional sports team isn’t on the same page, it shows. Despite what many think, the margin between the first place team and the last place team is not quite as big as it would seem. Any distraction from the task at hand could spell disaster for even the best teams in a given league.

Sports Betting

It should be pointed out that the concept of off-field distractions impacting games is nuanced. For example, if the same issue has been lingering on throughout the season, you’ve probably already adjusted for its impact by mid-season.

The opposite of the scenario above can be much more useful. If something controversial happens mid-week, it’s not unreasonable to think it will have an impact on the game. This is especially true if the team having the issue is considered a good team, and their upcoming opponent is considered inferior.

To state the obvious (but it’s still worth stating), the severity of the off-field issue can vary wildly. It’s on you to use your best judgement. Meaning don’t go taking that 14-point underdog on the moneyline because someone found the backup quarterback’s off-color tweets from high school—that probably won’t be a big issue in the locker room. With that being said, something like the Saints’ Bounty Gate or Patriots Spy Gate scenarios can reasonably be expected to have an impact on the outcomes of games.


The “trap game” is one of those theories that is admittedly hard to prove with data, but if you talk to someone who bets on sports enough, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who denies its existence entirely.

The most difficult aspect of trap games is that they’re often not recognized until the game is over. In fact, even the oddsmakers can slip up from time to time.

When you’re evaluating your next betting matchup, ask yourself if the game checks any of the boxes in this article. If it does, the underdog might just be a lock.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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