by Simon Noble - 02/08/2006
As the NFL season winds down, many football bettors are left with a sense of emptiness. Other than this weekend's Pro Bowl, NFL fans must wait until September for the next competitive games to kickoff. If you're contemplating where to channel your handicapping energies in the meantime, you could do a lot worse than taking a long hard look at college basketball.
Professional bettors will tell you that pro sports (NFL, NBA and MLB) are becoming progressively harder to beat. The lines are becoming more accurate due to an increasing number of professionals betting into them. The end result is that these once easy-to-beat sports are now far more difficult to record a consistent profit.
At Pinnacle Sports betting we employ a fairly sophisticated player profiling system and by taking a quick look at the reports, it's clear that our sharper players are having a tougher time beating the NFL, especially in the past few years. On the other hand, some of our most dangerous players focus on NCAA basketball and from a player-profiling perspective; at Pinnacle Sportsbetting we have far more players capable of winning long-term in NCAA basketball than on any of the major pro sports.
If you haven't handicapped NCAA basketball before, now is the perfect time. Most teams have played more than 20 games, giving sharp bettors enough to get a feel for the team. With March Madness rapidly approaching, you may simply want to focus your attention on teams likely to be invited to "The Big Dance". Not only can your analysis pay dividends through winning bets, but it can also help you gain a year's worth of bragging rights when you enter your office pool or bracket.
In college hoops, it's not uncommon for a total to move as much as 10 points, or for some spreads to move five points. The early NCAA basketball sharps that pound these openers have seemingly a virtual license to print money. If an accurately priced whole-point spread pushes about 4.5% of the time in NCAAB, betting into an early number which is off five points will win at more than a 70% clip. A total will land on a well-priced number almost 3% of the time in college totals, making an opening total that is off even easier for a player to beat.
With over 300 Division I teams, linesmakers simply don't have the time to analyze each game and team in-depth. Most basketball fans have a favorite conference, which gives them an advantage over a book like Pinnacle Sportsbook. If you're a specialist in one conference and know the players, coaches, playing styles, injuries and suspensions for all the teams in that conference, you have invaluable insight on match-ups that feature those teams that bookmakers like Pinnacle Sportsbook, simply do not.
As we open our lines early, we often find that we have to resort to making an educated guess when we first put the number up for lower limits that are good for $1,000 on sides. This is where players who've done their homework on the conferences have the advantage. We rely on these "$10 Geniuses" and other early players to quickly sharpen the Pinnacle Sportsbook line, at which point we are then able to raise the limits to $2,000 overnight.
Occasionally, you'll see a total that is extremely off - for example, it might open at 140 over -105 and then close at 140 over -170. When an opener is off by five or more points, we sometimes choose not to move the total and look to adjust the moneyline instead. This is because it can be hard to assess how much a half-point is worth when your opener is that far from the fair total.
A standard half-point change for six cents on the moneyline doesn't get the job done when you're dealing a 10-cent line on College hoops as we do at Pinnacle Sports. We might take more than twenty limit bets to find the right number if we are off a full 10 points. By adjusting only the moneyline, each bet will raise the moneyline progressively, so we can find the fair price much quicker.
Pinnacle Sports now opens lines on several NCAA basketball marquee weekend match-ups early in the week and while you think about NCAAB, look at how the sharps and public have played these offerings below:
NCAAB: Stanford (+7) at Gonzaga
The fifth-ranked Zags have won 10 straight games, going undefeated since late December. Despite a poor start to the season, Stanford has reeled off five straight PAC-10 wins, including an upset over Washington. This is a much improved Cardinal team attempting to end Gonzaga's 35-game home win streak.
A general rule of thumb in college is that the home court advantage is worth around 4 points. There are wild variations though - empty unemotional stadiums might be worth only 1.5, while some of the noisy "jungles" with fans mere feet from the players can be worth as much as 7-8 points to the home team. Understanding the different arenas is one way to gain an advantage against the public, whose money shifts the spreads.
In this match-up, we initially offered Gonzaga -6. Several of our smaller-betting sharps took the Zags without any significant opposition, driving the price to Gonzaga -7 -103.
Pro Bowl: NFC +4 vs. AFC Over 67 -124
The Pro Bowl has been an offensive showcase in recent years. Since 2000, this game has averaged nearly 74 points per game. This is in stark contrast to the 90s, where no game had more than 53 total points scored. Another unusual pattern is the relationship between the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl. In the last 30 years, the conference winning the Super Bowl has won the Pro Bowl less than half the time.
We opened the total at Under 67 -108 and took heavy lopsided action on the over. Any time a number moves at least 10 cents with our -104 style pricing, one of the numbers must be wrong - as the movement was enough to scalp our opener. The sharps have been inactive despite this steep move, and will either be looking to play late or perhaps passing on the game altogether.
Winter Olympics: Biathlon - Men's 20km: Bjoerndalen (NOR) +221
Although Pinnacle Sportsbetting has active players from more than 80 countries world wide, we always find it amazing that our prop players can know so many things about such a wide variety of different sports. Despite the broad range of offerings, the same prop players consistently win.
We opened Bjoerndalen as the favorite at +300 and our professional prop players corrected our price with multiple limit bets. We saw similar action on Bjoerndalen for the Men's 10k Sprint and the 12.5km Pursuit. With the Olympics starting this weekend, smaller bets have continued to dribble in on Bjoerndalen across all markets.
Tiger Woods 2006- Majors won in 2006: Grand Slam +5000
Bets involving Tiger Woods always attract a lot of attention from the public. This is even more so due to Woods' hot start in 2006 - winning the Dubai Desert Classic and the Buick Invitational. Both were great events from a fan's perspective as each was decided by a playoff.
In this multi-way offering, players could wager on how many Majors Tiger Woods would win. We initially opened the "Grand Slam" at +8000. This has attracted a lot of public money, which has driven the price down to +5000. However, we are still favoring Tiger to finish with only one major title in 2006 although the price has drifted out to +160.