by Simon Noble of Pinnacle Sports - 11/09/2005
If you're a fan of a certain team, you're probably more familiar with the team's nuances than the team itself. How can you turn your specialized knowledge about a team into winning wagers? The answer is easier than you think. Instead of just betting the game spread or total, you should focus on halftime and quarter lines in addition to your game wagers.
When a sports book sets a line for a first half or quarter, the entire match-up is reduced to a set of numbers based on the game spread and total. Using those two numbers, most sports books look at a chart and set spreads and totals for the first half and quarter. The identity and style of a team is lost and are translated into a simple number. So if Notre Dame and USC are both 20 point favorites in two games with similar totals, the first half spreads and totals will be very similar. A knowledgeable fan will know the numbers are off, presenting a great opportunity to win.
Knowing a lot about teams allows you to identify situations where a team will play at a different level in a first half or quarter than the expectation for the game. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis scripts his offense's entire first two series before the game with a strategy tailored against his opponent. The fan knows to play Notre Dame in the first half, where they have outscored their opponents in 7 out of 8 games. On the other extreme is USC, which tends to start slow against good teams, but is great in the second half following Pete Carroll's halftime adjustments.
Betting games you're watching can present golden opportunities for second half wagering. Linesmakers typically use the score of the game, as well as the closing game spread and total to set second half lines. If time permits, they may also briefly look at the box score. Unfortunately for the sports books, there are simply too many games to watch them all closely. If you're watching a game, you're in a better position to measure the ebb and flow than the book.
Is a normally strong team playing flat? Were there a few minor injuries (i.e. two offensive linemen) that should affect the line but didn't? Or is a key skill player out? Any of these factors should change a line significantly, but often do not, giving you a tremendous edge. To turn that edge into the most money, you should bet at Pinnacle Sports where we offer a 10-cent line on second half spreads and totals compared to a 20-cent line at most sports books.
Occasionally a player is watching a game he bet and his opinion changes on the team he bet on. For example, you bet the underdog at +6 points, and the teams are tied at halftime. Even though your team is covering, you think their play is sloppy and the score is based more on luck than outplaying the opponent. That is an ideal situation to "hedge out". At halftime you check the line for the other team and it's listed at -3 where you hedge out. With a wager on the dog at +6, and the favorite at -3, it's impossible to lose both bets, but possible to win both. You probably don't want to hedge out of every game with a possible middle, but you should be aware of this option, especially when your opinion on the game has changed while watching it.
While fans and spectators of a game have an inherent advantage in quarter and halftime lines, you don't have to watch the game to profit. Some professionals create a database showing how often certain results occur to play middles. For example, Pinnacle Sports might have a first half line at -3 -105, while another sports book offers +3.5 -110. Playing +3.5 -110 and -3 -105 is an attempt to "middle" the game. You will either lose an average of $7.50 or win $100, but you cannot lose both bets. These two bets together are giving you 13/1 odds on "Will the favorite win the first half by exactly 3?" If this actually happens more than 1 in 14 times, you'll be on the winning end.
Another way to make easy money is to watch the lines of many sports books during halftimes. It's not unusual for a second half line to move 20 cents or more. There are often perfect scalps for the taking like playing one team at +3 +105, and its opponent at -3 +105 for the second half. Due to our 10-cent lines, most scalps will involve Pinnacle Sports because we'll always have a better price on one side, if not both, compared to any other book. When playing these scalps, your attention should be focused on the beginning of each halftime, where the scalps tend to occur because the market quickly synchronizes within a few minutes.
While the focus of this article has been on wagering on halftime and quarter lines, there are still opportunities to win playing game spreads and totals by following the line movement. So let's take a look at some of the weekend's biggest movers.
LSU -3 at Alabama
Alabama's defense is ranked first in the nation, allowing only 8.2 points per game. Despite their 9-0 record and #3 ranking in the BCS, 'Bama is the underdog here due to their offensive woes. Since the loss of playmaker Tyrone Prothro, Alabama has averaged just 12 points in its last 3 SEC games. The Crimson Tide offense has accounted for just 7 points per game in that same period, with defense and special teams scoring the rest.
We've already had tremendous volume on this game - nearly 5 times the average for other college games. This game opened at LSU Pick -109, and the sharps and public initially backed only LSU. Alabama money started trickling in once the line hit +2.5 and the sharps started playing Alabama when it hit +3 -105. Some of our scalpers were taking Alabama +2.5 +106 or higher, and selling it off at other shops. The price has stabilized at -3 -108, at which point we raised the early limits to $10,000 per wager.
Auburn +3 -111 at Georgia
Georgia is coming off its only loss of the season against Florida. Without starting QB D.J. Shockley, Georgia was held to just 10 points and 288 yards of offense versus the Gators, compared to 31 points and 420 yards of offense per game with Shockley starting. He is probable for Saturday showdown against rival Auburn.
This has been another high volume game early on. We initially opened at Auburn +4 -105, and took 2 bets on the dog for every favorite bet. The sharps took the dog early at +4 and +3.5, and later took Georgia at -3 -103. The line has leveled-off with the dog players taking +3 -110 or better, and the favorite players laying -3 +103 or better.
St. Louis at Seattle O/U 51
Seattle and St. Louis have the #1 and #2 offenses in the league, gaining 387 and 370 yards per game, respectively. St. Louis manages an impressive offense, despite having the second worst turnover differential in the league at -9. If Seattle wins, it will have a three-game lead over the Rams in the NFC West, and will own the tiebreaker due to head-to-head results.
We opened this total at 49 flat, and received early sharp action on the over. The pros were playing Over 50 -103 all the way to -110. Some of the scalpers were taking under 50 +106 as the market lagged. We have taken about 3 times as much volume on this total compared to a normal NFL total.
Minnesota +9.5 -112 at New York Giants
With Daunte Culpepper at quarterback, the Vikings started poorly going 2-5 partly due to his 12 interceptions thrown compared to just 6 touchdowns. Culpepper's injury forced Brad Johnson to start at QB last week, where he breathed new life into the Vikings offense. He completed 15 of 22 passes for 3 touchdowns with no INTs. The Giants have won 3 straight and are now alone atop the NFC East at 6-2. A matured Eli Manning has continued to improve, tossing 14 TDs to just 5 INTs. Expect Manning to be sharp against the Viking defense, which is ranked 27th in points allowed.
This game opened with the Vikings at +9 flat, where the price has fluctuated between +9 and +9.5. We have opposition at this point between sharps with many are buying a half-point to take the Vikings at +10, while a different group is taking the Giants at -9 and selling down to -10. If the game lands on the "10", it will be a slightly bad result for us.