Being a successful handicapper will certainly offer you an edge in your sports gambling, but will that be enough to make you a long-term winner? Not exactly. You see, being a successful sports bettor is not only about understanding the sport that you’re betting on perfectly and being able to dissect each and every single match-up right down to the bone. That too is needed but it’s not enough by a long-shot. A sharp sports bettor understands the way the bookmaker works and he is just as good a reverse handicapper as he’s a straight one. Why is it essential to see matchups and lines from the other side of the barricade? Because that’s just about the only way you’ll be able to locate hidden value and thus to secure positive long term EV (expected value).
Believe it or not, square sports betting is a negative EV activity. You get your money in on the favorite and when the fav does come through for you, you win your money back plus almost as much on top of it (minus the vig of course). The vig acts the same way the poker rake does in online poker: it bites into your narrow margin mercilessly. In poker there are rakeback deals, in live sports betting there’s not much you can do about the vig. When you lose, you lose your money. On a perfectly balanced match-up (and believe you me, the bookie will do everything to balance the match-up as close to perfection as possible), that is pretty much the definition of negative long-term EV. There’s only one variable you can exploit to turn your negative EV into positive EV, and that’s the movement of the lines. Before we go any further though, we need to take a look at the reasons why the bookie moves his lines around.
Not all line movements mean hidden value. When the lines move on account of the side notes, then the movements are fully justified and they truthfully reflect the new situation arisen on the court/field. Side notes are player injuries, roster changes, travel problems, suspensions etc. Make sure the line does not move on account of the side notes before you jump all over the perceived hidden value.
Line movements which bring about hidden value are caused by bettor-pressure. Sometimes, square money will come in way too thick on one side of a match-up (usually on that of the favorite) and it will therefore upset the delicate balance achieved by the bookmaker. When the balance is upset, the bookie needs to compensate by moving his lines. He will make the less bet-on side of the match-up more attractive, mostly by inducing undue value to it. That there is the hidden value. The hidden value seldom lasts. Sharps (betting syndicates) may jump on it and erase it in a heartbeat, or the measure undertaken by the bookie may prove a little too successful and the other side of the bandwagon may fill up faster than projected.
The bottom line is that in order to be able to reap the benefits of these line movements, you pretty much need to monitor these movements on a constant basis. Weekly games are easier to track, because you have several days at your disposal to see how the line evolves. Daily games are more difficult to monitor because things speed up for them. The most important thing is to get the opening lines and to remember them, so you have a basis for comparison on subsequent lines. Track just a few games for starters, move up to more as soon as you feel you’re comfortable with what you’re able to handle.