Good and Bad Sports Betting Lines
When the Sports Betting Line is Good
The pointspread on a game is a measure of what linemakers think the betting public will think of the two teams in a given game. Much thought is given to what the richest and best bettors will think of the matchup, but the general public’s opinion is also taken into consideration. The richest and best bettors, wiseguys and professionals, have a greater effect on the line because they bet more money and are thought to have a better opinion then the casual player. The casual player though, has an influence too, especially in certain games. This is because the casual bettor is more likely to bet certain teams— popular teams like the Dallas Cowboys, the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers in the NFL, and Notre Dame, Florida State, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State. Texas A&M, Nebraska and Colorado in the colleges. In certain games, and with certain teams, the casual players, called squares by bookmakers, will have as much influence over the line as the professionals. In fact, in many games the casual players will line up to bet one side, while the wise-guys and professionals line up to bet the other. Because there are so many more casual players than wiseguys and professionals, bookmakers could have balanced action in this situation.
It is understanding why and how the line is made, and what makes it change during the week leading up to a football game, That is important to the gambler, This is because a sports bettor can make sports betting decisions based on line movement or the lack of line movement. He can also make decisions based on his anticipation of line moves. For instance, we can look at a specific NFL game played between team A and team B say, team B, playing at home, opened as a three-point favorite. Given That team A is not very good on the road and that team B does well at home and the history of close games let’s say between the teams, this seemed to be a right line. Upon further examination, we find other reasons why team B should be favored by three. Likewise, team A had played good games in opening the season 2-1. Their only loss was at against a tough opponent, and they didn’t deserve to be too much of an underdog versus team A. The line was also good in that action was equally divided, if we can Judge from the lack of Line movement in what was a game that saw more than moderate action. So what we have here is a right line and a good line. Bettors looked at this game, analyzed it up-and-down, and either divided themselves on each side or, like us, decided That the line was tight and left the game alone. The important thing is not that we examined the game, but that we examined the line in relation to the probabilities of the game producing a certain outcome and made a decision.
The same Sunday, we find a similar situation with Kansas City at Cleveland let’s say. The Browns were a 3.5 point favorite and had been all week. The Chiefs were undefeated and had looked great the previous week against Oakland. The Browns had opened with a loss at New England and had looked uninterested when beating Tampa Bay and Houston, teams that they clearly outclassed. Still, when it seems obvious that most bettors would love the Chiefs. the line didn’t move, Now what actually happened here was that the wiseguys and professionals thought this line was wrong and loaded up on Cleveland. They did so because they figured Cleveland would improve against competition they could take seriously, be-cause the Chiefs had lost six straight against the spread in games after they played the Raiders, and because the Chiefs looked like a candidate to bounce after come-from-be-hind wins against the New York Giants and Oakland in the previous two weeks. The casual players, meanwhile, backed Kansas City strongly. So what we have in this situation is a good line, one that divided action, but that after some statistical and situational analysis can be called wrong in that it is unlikely to predict the actual outcome of a contest .
When the Sports Betting Line is Bad
Linesmakers, of course, are not perfect. Some contend they are nowhere near perfect. Whatever the case, point spreads for sports betting are occasionally posted that do not divide action. Bad lines sometimes move by eight or 10 points through the course of a week and still do not get balanced action. What bettors must do is put themselves in a position to take advantage of lines and situations when those lines and situations will be to their advantage. Many football bettors lose opportunities, if not bets, because they join the party too late. So, here is our program for taking advantage of line:
Use Power Ratings — We cannot put enough emphasis on the use of power ratings, the distillation of a bettor’s opinion into a numerical form. Good power ratings should be able to give a bettor, at least, an initial assessment of a line. You can find two different sets of power ratings on this website via Raw numbers (paid) and our regular pcg power ratings (free).
Lines That Move — Many bettors follow line movement vary closely and bat either for or against certain kinds of movement. Betting on movement alone, though, will not produce enough winners over a lengthy period of time to satisfy most bettors. Always attempt to investigate why a line has moved before betting, and make an informed decision based on what was learned during the investigation.
Lines That Don’t Move — It might be better, anyway, to closely examine lines that don’t move. This situation can produce winners as easily as those that are produced in games that display fine movement. Many bettors, when they think about line analysis, think that they only need to concern themselves with line movement. But all lines deserve scrutiny. Anyway, the games in which there is no line movement are the ones that are most often overlooked. A bettor can sometimes find solid reasons for betting them.
Work in Advance — This is one of the 10 commandments of handicapping. Bettors will have to prepare and work hard if they want to win. If a bettor hopes to identify good plays based on line analysis, he will have to be ready to go as soon as the lines are posted. If he is not prepared at this time, he will certainly miss opportunities and may ruin his potential for profit.
Bettors and Linemakers — Remember that the pointspread performs different functions for bettors than it does for linemakers and bookmakers. Bettors look at the line as an indicator of the relative strengths or each team, Linemakers view the point-spread as a method to evenly divide action on each side of a game. Sometimes the pointspread will effectively serve both functions. Other times it will not. When the probability of a certain outcome exceeds the offered pointspread, the bettor can feel confident with his wager.