Lessons from Behind the Sportsbook Counter: Fade the Public
by Ivey Walters - 12/2/2014
Working as a ticket writer in a Las Vegas sportsbook, I have certainly learned many lessons that have helped guide my handicapping process. First of all, the general betting public always bets favorites and "overs". It is very rare to see bettors all pile on an underdog or an "under" in one particular game. This is especially true when there is one big game on the board like Thursday and Monday Night Football. As a handicapper, I capitalize on this by looking to pick my spots and take the underdog when public money is pouring in on the favorite.
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There is essentially a lot of value built into the line on the underdog already because the oddsmakers know that the public is automatically going to bet the favorite. Thus, the line is inflated from the get go because no matter how much a line goes up, the general betting public is going to continue to still bet the favorites. By taking the dog, you are more often than not getting more points than you should be simply based on public perception and reaction. Then when the oddsmakers decide to move the line to even the action out, you are not only getting more points but added value as well.
You can further capitalize on these lessons by betting the favorites as early as possible and the underdogs close to game time. The public likes to bet late in the day when they get off work and later in the week during football season. When they get involved, you can get added value and even more points by being patient and waiting to take underdogs later. If you like a favorite, get down on it right away as it is likely to move when the recreational bettors get involved.
A few weeks ago, I was on Duke in college football -5.5. I got to work early on Saturday morning and bettors were lined up and everyone was betting the Blue Devils. I knew my pick was doomed. The reason being is because the most important lesson I have learned is that when the recreational bettors are all on one side of a game, it almost always loses. This realization has taught me why the sports books continuously clean up week after week. This past weekend everyone was betting UCLA. The Bruins were probably included on 90 percent of the parlay tickets I wrote, and despite the line going up from 4 to 6.5, the bettors continued to pound UCLA.
What happened next? UCLA took the field and proceeded to get crushed by Stanford, killing all straight bets and thousands of parlay tickets.It almost never fails that when 80 percent or more of the public are on one side, you should go the other way. It's important to look at the percentage of bets taken on one side and not the percentage of money. This is because the professionals do once in a while agree with the public. However, when the majority of the betting public is all one on side, with a high volume of bets being taken on that side, it is almost destined to fail. One colleague of mine has taken this into consideration and went against the public on one college and one NFL game a week. He's hitting over 75 percent of his games this football season utilizing the "fade the public" strategy.
Another element I have realized to be true is the theory of reverse line movement. This is when the public is all on one side but the line is moving the other way. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was on Duke and continued to see the line come down further and further despite everyone betting the same side as me. When the line is moving in the opposite direction of a heavy, public game, the oddsmakers are showing complete disregard for the average bettor. The sharp or the smart money, as it is often called, was coming in on Duke's opponent, Virginia Tech. Those types of games lose even more often than your typical public side. When you see a high percentage and volume of bets coming in on one side but the oddsmakers are moving the line the other direction , it can be an even greater opportunity to take a look at fading the public.
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