What people place a wager on any sporting event, they are doing it in relation to what is known as a “line.” You can also call it the “odds,” or, particularly in the case of football and basketball, the “pointspread.” Whichever way you refer to it, these numbers have to start somewhere. So it is instructive to know how a betting line works and how these numbers come to be.
How Does a Betting Line Work? First, the oddsmaker looks at the data.
The basis of a line involves the oddsmaker, a highly skilled individual, first making an evaluation of the relative strength of the two sides involved. There might be some algorithms that go into it or certain data of other kinds that are put into a computer or mathematical model. But in each case, it is one team measured against another.
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How Does a Betting Line Work? Next, the power rating is considered.
Central to all of this, especially in the case of football and basketball, is what is known as a “power rating.” Using this tool, the oddsmaker will assign a value to each team, and all of the numbers have to be in relation to all the other teams in their particular league. The rating will represent how many “points” one team is, in comparison to the others. At any given time, several factors are critical to this rating, including the records of the teams, their strength of schedule, the injury situation, or various other factors. Two teams might have the same record, but one of the teams may be stronger in the process of attaining that record, perhaps by a point differential.
Oddsmaking is both an art and a science, so these disciplines are both implemented.
Generally, there is a difference between the power ratings of two teams, and that will serve as the basis for the line. Then there is a home field or home-court advantage, which also gets added in. If there is a key injury; that is, one that will have a very definite bearing on the game, or on public perception of it, an adjustment can be made accordingly. But after all that, the difference will be the “number.”
Let’s say that New Orleans, for example, is given a power rating of 95 by the oddsmaker. They are playing on the road at San Francisco, which might have, say, a power rating of 87. The 49ers may be given a home field advantage of three points, which will make this a game where the Saints are favored by five points, maybe 5-1/2 or even 4-1/2, depending on some extraneous factors. If the oddsmaker estimates that the public is going to be on one side or the other, he might make a slight adjustment, but this is pretty much how the number is made.
How Does a Betting Line Work? The oddsmaker’s goal is to induce action on both sides of the line.
After that, the public will start to bet into the line and it will move depending on which way the money is going. There is obviously a difference between recreational bettors in the general public and those were much more serious about it, and the oddsmakers will take that into account when deciding whether the line will move.
What is important to remember is that the objective of the oddsmaker in making a line is not to make a prediction of which team will win, but instead to induce action on both sides. Ideally, they would like to make even skilled sports bettors have to ponder which is the right side. If that happens, there is probably a much better chance of having balance in the money.
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