Most of you reading this have been football fans your whole life. Maybe you’ve also bet some games with your friends for fun.
This season, you’re about to enter the global marketplace more emphatically. It’s critical that you do more than just handicap your favorite teams. You must also read the market to maximize your positioning and profit.
Chief among your tasks is to familiarize yourself with market tendencies around the key number of three. The New Orleans Saints spent most of the week as a three-point underdog at Jacksonville in Thursday’s preseason opener. Ole Miss is getting just below three points in its regular season opener next month vs. Texas Tech in Houston.
That’s the most common final victory margin in football. As a result, public betting often drives a line toward the three. Favorites of -2.5 or less get bet up because the public figures it’s a winner if their team wins by three. Underdogs of +3.5 get hit for the same reason. If the final margin lands on a field goal, those tickets cash.
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An important “tell” for market readers is when an established price sits for a long time just a half-point away in either direction. What does it mean when a line ISN’T pushed toward the most common victory margin?
▪ For favorites of -2.5 … it means the underdog is getting respect from the “sharps,” Vegas parlance for professional wagerers. The most important influences in the marketplace aren’t betting the favorite. If the favorite was the “right” play, it would get pounded immediately by pro bettors. It wasn’t pounded. That means the sharps are looking for ways to bet the underdog. Maybe they’re waiting to see if the public bets hard enough to bring the three into play. Maybe they’re going to take the underdog to win outright on the money line. Bottom line: a long-settled price of -2.5 is telling you that sharps respect that underdog.
▪ For favorites of -3.5 … it means that sharps respect the favorite. Not enough money is hitting betting windows to drop the number down. Oddsmakers are afraid they’ll get flooded with bets on the favorite if the key number does come into play. It’s not uncommon to see settled lines of -3.5 get bet up to -4 or -4.5 in the hours before kickoff. Anyone waiting to see if the three would be available has given up hope. Money hits the favorite late.
The same general rules also apply to the key number of seven. That’s the second most common final victory margin in football. If a line sits at +6.5 for a few days … that tells you sharps are have a lot of respect for the underdog. Those important influences didn’t drive the line higher to the key number. If a line sits at -7.5 for an extended period, you’re probably looking at double-digit result because eight and nine are such uncommon final margins in football. Respected money didn’t want that underdog.
Though sharps don’t win every bet, they are the most respected influence in the marketplace for a reason. It will be hard for you to sustain success betting against their preferences. Be very careful betting large amounts on favorites that have been sitting at -2.5 of -6.5 for a long time. There may be skeletons in the closet you haven’t spotted yet. If you’re considering underdogs of +3.5 or +7.5 when those prices have been available all week, ask yourself why pro bettors haven’t pounded those lines down. A lot of lines move through the week. Those didn’t.
It’s fairly easy to read the market when lines are moving. Always remember that point spreads “frozen” near a key number are speaking volumes as well.
Enjoy the first big night of NFL exhibition action Thursday. VSiN will be back with you Saturday to talk more football.