Second Half Betting
by Jeremy Martin
For sports books in Nevada and overseas, NFL halftimes can be the most hectic 15 minutes of the week. The first halves of many games are ending at the same time, especially for the early games, and bookmakers are faced with the task of setting second half lines for all the games on the board and then managing their odds due to the action coming in.
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The professional bettors - referred to as 'wise guys' in the industry - are looking to attack a weak number. Informed recreational bettors, who are making their wager after watching the first half of a particular game, are loading up on the second half. Others are looking to hedge their bets or middle the book (attempting to win both sides of a bet by having the game number fall in the middle of two lines wagered on opposite sides) by going against their straight bet team in the second half.
In situations where many games are entering halftime concurrently, the books have only a couple of minutes to chose their position on a multitude of games. If they make the wrong choice on even one line, it can cost them big time.
"As quick as you put (a bad number up), you have 10 guys on the phone wanting to take it," said Doc from Rio, the head oddsmaker for Skybook. "Halftimes in the NFL are just as busy or busier than the actual 10 a.m. (PST) rush. When seven or eight games are going it's also more hectic because you have to be more on top of (the numbers). You really have to be paying attention."
"You have to be real sharp on your opening second half number," added Leo Shafto, head oddsmaker for Royal Sports. "You can't really afford to have a lot of movement on your second half number or you kind of defeat the purpose of what you were hired to do, and that's to manage the risk. By moving the number too much for the second half you create exposure for the sports book. You learn pretty quick that (the professionals) are like vultures waiting on a branch. As soon as you have a flaw in the number they are ready to pounce."
There are a few shops that post the initial second half numbers then, once the wise guys have flattened them out, the rest of the industry usually goes off of those lines. Books can keep tabs on the numbers posted by their competition by monitoring the Don Best odds service, which most of the bookies in the industry subscribe to. This service allows books to track posted odds and line movements for Nevada and offshore books.
According to oddsmakers, a combination of several criteria is used to come up with second half lines. The original line for the full game is always a consideration, as is the result of the first half of the game. Bookies also set the number according to the betting patterns of their clientele. If they have unbalanced action on for the full game, they may try and use the second half to balance their action or even attempt to middle the majority of their clients in a particular game.
The public prefers to bet the second half rather than the first half, said Shafto. In certain cases where bookies know that the public is going to go after a certain second-half side, the number will most likely be shaded towards the favorite.
"A lot of times we book more second half action than first half action because I think the public likes to bet the second half more," he said. "They like to watch the game and see how (the first half) goes. A lot of times they are trying to hedge or try and (get the middle). Or if their side is winning the first half, it might influence them to bet a little more (on that side) in the second half."
The professional bettors tend to play first halves more because those numbers are available for most of the week while second half numbers are available for only roughly 15 minutes. This gives the wise guys more time to shop around for numbers and get the best value for their wagers. Public bettors prefer the second half because they often believe they have an edge because of what they watched happen in the first 30 minutes of a game.
"(The public) is not so much influenced by the math and the numbers as they are by the performance on the field," commented Shafto. "I am not saying that's right or wrong. But generally people take into account what happened in the first half and maybe that is going to be very indicative of what is going to happen in the second half. I don't necessarily believe that to always be true because the coaches are a little bit smarter and they do make adjustments at halftime."
Since so many public bettors are betting second halves, there are obviously opportunities to get value by going against them. Books tend to overvalue the favorite in the second half just as they do the full game because they know that is where the public money will fall. Many public bettors will jump on a big favorite for the second half that is down heading into halftime. This is exactly what the bookmakers would like to see happen.
"(We) know the public is going to bet that side," said Doc from Rio. "Usually the underdog that has played well in the first half is probably going to continue to play well, especially in the NFL."
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Be sure to check out Martin's article on NFL sports betting.
Also read Rob Gillespie's article about NFL halftime point spreads.