Ins and Outs of Odds

By Loot, Sports Handicapper,

Sports Betting Advice: The Ins and Outs of Odds

There are a lot of misconceptions about odds. If you walked into a sportsbook and asked 10 people to break it down for you, you’d be lucky if 2 guys knew what they were talking about. The odds are the playing field and obviously, we need to understand the battlefield before we can thrive in the war that is sports-betting.

Books usually have one of three ways they determine odds for an upcoming sporting event. One way is by relying on a service. Books can also set their own line, though that is more rare and opens them up to the possibility of getting hammered with bets due to the different odds being offered. And some books merely follow the lead of other books.

Each way has its pros and cons. If looking for a great price on your bet, you’d like to see what the more maverick books are offering, the ones who buck industry standard and form their own lines. If looking for an early jump on what you perceive to be good odds, you would perhaps hop aboard a book that uses a service and has an early line. When looking for line-movement, there might be a gap where the books playing “follow the leader” are slow to react to the move.

When looking at the odds, don’t look at it like it’s the bookie’s prediction. If the Packers are favored by 5.5 over the Bears, that is not the book necessarily saying they believe the Packers will win by between 5 and 6 points. The sportsbook is interested in making profit. That happens when there is a close-to-equal spread of bets on both sides of the wager, leaving them to scoop up all the vig. If you have thousands of people betting $110 to win $100, it’s easy to see how an even amount of bets on both sides equals big risk-free bucks for the book.

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So when you see a line or a spread, the book is not casting so much a prediction, but more what number they think will yield equal betting action. When bets start inordinately coming in on one side, they adjust the line to make the heavily-bet side less attractive, while giving the opposite side more betting appeal. It’s a whole dance. With added experience, we can learn how to dance to this tune and get better odds for our wagering buck.

Just be careful not to misread the line movement. If you see a point-spread listed on Monday like the St. Louis Rams are going to play the Dallas Cowboys and you want to bet the Rams, what should you do? You might reason that the public favors the Cowboys. They might bet Dallas heavily late and you can get the best price on the Rams by waiting until the last minute. But what happens if the Rams went from +7 on Monday to only +5.5 on Wednesday. That would suggest that a lot of smart money poured in on St. Louis. That should make you confident that the smart money favors your pick, but then again, you’re no longer getting the best price because the smart money sucked some of the value out of it.

Each sport has its own dynamic. In sports like basketball and baseball, the line has a shelf-life of well under 24 hours. That’s just how the sport works, with games going on everyday. In boxing or MMA, there is no schedule. Odds come out when they come out. And in football, the lines sit there for nearly a week.

In sports where the lines are posted for such a short time, there is theoretically a higher chance of finding a soft line. There are just so many more games for the bookies to deal with and the action is back-to-back. The bookie gets no rest. In football, though, there is time to tweak and modify the spread. By the time the game goes off, chances are it’s a pretty tight and market-tested line.

Knowing a little about how odds are created and what causes them to switch can only help. It teaches us that it’s not all about who we think will win the game. That’s how fans think. As bettors, we have a whole different kettle of fish to deal with. Our success will boil down to how we handle the odds.

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