Bettors take all different kinds of approaches to gambling on sporting events. Some use tremendously thorough statistical data to ascertain probabilities, and then translate their probabilities into odds and pointspreads. Others use situational analysis. They study trends and angles. Many seek the advice of persons they assume to have more expertise and information than themselves. Then there are the palm readers and stargazers. To them, the outcome of a game is a matter of fate.
Whatever philosophy, or combination of philosophies, a handicapper uses to bet sports, he must understand he is fighting a battle on several fronts. He fights for accurate information, for meaningful data, for expanded opportunities. He fights for time, knowledge, luck, a few good calls from the blasted refs. He fights public opinion, probability and -110 odds. Most importantly, and often overlooked, he fights the point spread.
Now, we all know the basics about the point spread or sports betting line:
• It originates in Las Vegas on Sunday afternoons, and is disseminated to legal and illegal bookmakers throughout the country within a matter of minutes of being publicly released.
• It is based on probabilities, and is intended to divide betting between two teams involved in a game. By dividing the action evenly, and charging -110 odds, bookmakers assure themselves of a profit of around five percent.
• Bettors either play the favorite and lay points, or bet the underdog and get points.
• Bookmakers change the point spread according to the betting, and they do so to invite betting on the side that has taken less action.
• Some sports betting line movement is considered smart and should be closely followed. Other line movement is considered dumb and should be played against.
Function and Shape Of Sports Betting Lines
Bettors must realize that sports betting lines function in different ways and that they can take advantage of these differences. First of all, the line is viewed differently by bookmakers and linemakers. Bookmakers, in general, merely want to divide the betting evenly between the two sides in a contest. They are not gambling and merely want to broker a deal between two bettors who have opposite opinions.
Bettors take a different view. They are looking for spots where the probability of a certain outcome occurring exceeds the offered point spread, which is generated at least in part by an expected probability. It’s a simplistic conclusion, but bookmakers and linemakers handicap public opinion and attempt to find the pointspread at which half the bettors will bet on one side of a game and half on the other. Bettors, at least good ones, are attempting to find the games in which pointspread and probability do not mesh.
Now, of course, no one is right all the time. Linemakers, bookmakers and bettors all make mistakes. Linemakers misjudge public opinion. Bookmakers change their lines at the wrong time. Bettors use the wrong data to predict probability. Chaos and luck play a part in everyone’s decisions and in the outcome of most contests. Thus, we can see the sports betting lines are essentially created by a variety of decisions made by fallible individuals, and that the shape of the line can take several forms.