by Simon Noble of Pinnacle Sportsbook - 03/02/2006
What are the three most important things a professional considers when betting a game? Price, price and price. Getting the best number on every game will turn a 50% handicapper into a net winner and allows a 53% capper to show a handsome profit at season's end. Every penny you're able to shave off of a price adds to your bottom line.
We price shop to save cents on a gallon of gas and smart bettors are just as price sensitive with sports betting and use comparison shopping to find the best lines. playing at the best available price is one of the easiest ways for any player to increase his potential winnings.
In addition to your existing bookmaker, you should ideally hold accounts at one or two reduced juice bookmakers like Pinnacle Sportsbook, along with a couple of recreational books, where you'll find inflated favorite prices and therefore attractive odds on the underdog.
Using an exchange is another option, but one question I'm often asked is how do you compare the cost of playing on an exchange, versus playing at Pinnacle Sportsbook? The easiest way is to look at the total juice paid if you play both sides of the same game.
If you see a line on a game listed on an exchange you need to adjust the price for any commission charged to get to the true price for comparison purposes. Exchanges generally charge between 2% and 5% in commissions on bets placed. Every 1% in commission is the equivalent to 2.2 cents on the moneyline.
At Pinnacle Sports we use an 8-cent line on MLB. So if for example we listed the Yankees -112/Boston +104 and an exchange listed the same game at what appeared to be a 6-cent line at Yankees -111/Boston +105, is the exchange offering the best price on the game? If the exchange charges a 2% commission on winning wagers, the equivalent moneyline is 6 cents + (2.2 * 2) = 10.4-cent moneyline.
By way of comparison, a wager to win $100 on the Yankees at Pinnacle Sports Betting would return $212 ($112 risk amount + $100 winnings) while an exchange would return $206.78 ($211 - 2% commission). Conversely on the Red Sox, a customer at Pinnacle would see a return of $204 ($100 risk + $104 winnings) while on an exchange it would be $200.90 ($205 - 2% commission).
If exchanges at times are not all what they seem, is there another way to beat Pinnacle's already low prices? The answer is yes, by using the Pinnacle Sports Wager Order Form. First, you'll save money compared to the market price and unlike exchanges, Pinnacle Sports never charges commissions on either winning bets or matched offers.
How do you use the order form? On all major sports, the Pinnacle sports betting menu has a "Wager Order Form" option on the top-right of the page. This takes you to the same sport-specific page where you can select a wager you'd like to customize by adjusting the spread or moneyline in your favor.
Once you've selected a team to wager on, you can adjust the spread, price and enter the wager amount. One extra feature is a cutoff time, where you can set your order to expire anywhere from one minute all the way up until game time. If the line on the game moves for even just a fraction of a second to the price you have set on an open order, your bet will automatically be accepted and you'll have action at the enhanced price and line you set.
Pinnacle's order form can save you a lot of money, but you must be careful with orders open for a long time. Consider this: The market price on the Chicago Bulls is -6 (-110). PinnacleSports.com is offering -6 (-105). You place an offer for the Bulls at -6 (-102). If the market price moved to Bulls -6 (+100) which is the equivalent to -5.5 -110, your order would get filled at -6 (-102) as the market drifted. You will still beat the initial offering of -6 (-105), but if you spent 3 hours in front of a service like Don Best, you might have been able to get a better deal.
If you're a full-time professional that already watches the screen, this isn't a problem. If you see the market drifting down, you can simply cancel your order at any time. Most bettors don't have that kind of time and those players have another option - set the cutoff time for 5 minutes, 30 minutes or however long you plan to spend making your bets. If at the end of that time it isn't filled or only partially filled, you can always cancel your order and take the best market price.
Another method any player can use is to offer very close to the market price. Orders that are 1-cent cheaper than Pinnacle's price (e.g. we are offering Bulls -6 -105, and you order -6 -104) will often get filled and if it does, you've taken another step towards being a pro by getting a better price. If it's not filled, you can still play at Pinnacle's reduced juice pricing. If you have more time and patience, you can start with larger discounts and lower them until you fill your order.
We regularly receive questions about the Wager Order Form, so hopefully this week's column helps players understand how it can save them even more money on their bets. Although I try to provide insight on general gambling theory in the Pinnacle Pulse column, if you have a question that you would like answered, please feel free to send it to email@example.com like these players below.
Why is the order form offered in some sports, but not others? I'd also like to know if the Pinnacle clears a lot of orders during the last flash because it often looks like that could be profitable to me.
It's practical to offer the order form when two requirements are met. First, there must be moderately high volume - we don't want our players frustrated by placing orders that are never filled. Second, the prices dealt must be somewhat stable, or no one will want to risk leaving an order up long-term. For these reasons, the pro sports (NBA, NFL and MLB) will always have order forms available after the openers have been sharpened by early players.
Regarding your second question, we see a LOT of volatility in the last 5 minutes before post. It's common to see a market fluctuate wildly, even by 5 or 10 cents in the last few minutes. Some savvy players will offer a price way off market (e.g. Yankees -180, when -200 is the market price). They monitor what gets filled and can often scalp this with other books right before post. These opportunities arise because many of our largest players make multiple limit bets in the last 5 minutes. To balance our action, we move aggressively which provides patient players using the order form with an easy way to make a buck.
I was interested in betting on the Soccer World Cup. Would you explain the difference between "1x2 Coupon" betting and "Handicaps"?
A 1x2 line gives a player 3 choices: (1) Team A to win, (x) the draw or (2) Team B to win. If regulation plus anytime added on for stoppages ends with the teams tied, the draw wins (overtime, golden goals or penalty shoot-outs do not count for betting purposes). If the draw wins, wagers on either team will lose regardless of whether a team eventually goes on to win the game in overtime, on golden goals or in a penalty shootout.
A Handicap wager or 'Asian handicap' is similar to an NFL spread. For example, at Pinnacle Sports we're currently offering Germany -1 (-156) versus Costa Rica +1 (+148). If Germany wins by exactly 1 goal, the wager is a push. If Germany wins by 2 or more, $156 wagered wins $100 on Germany. If Costa Rica ties or wins, $100 risked wins $148.
Another feature you'll often see with 'Asian handicaps' and totals are "quarter-balls". In the German Bundesliga this week, we're currently offering Bayern Munich -0.5 and -1 (-111), or Hamburger SV +0.5 and +1 (+107). When a handicap lists 2 spreads, half of your bet is wagered at each spread. If you bet on Bayern and they won by exactly 1 goal, half your bet would be graded as a push and the other half would be graded as a win (paying 100 per 111 risked). Quarter-balls are used on totals as well - if you bet over 2.5 and 3.0, a game total of 3 would be half a push and half a win.
If you have any sports betting related questions that you would like answered in future columns, please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.