Shopping For Numbers Is Crucial
When it comes to betting on sports - especially football - shopping around for the best number is one of the biggest factors in being successful and making a profit. While most inexperienced bettors have the notion that all sportsbooks offer the same numbers, this is far from the truth. Each sportsbook has its own agenda, and sets its numbers accordingly. This gives the bettor many opportunities to get an edge. An extra half point can make the difference between winning and losing a bet, especially in the NFL where the lines have become increasingly solid over the years.
Since football is the highest-volume sport in the sports betting industry, there are always ample opportunities to get the number you want. But it takes a little research and legwork. Contrary to popular belief, bookmakers don't set the lines in order to get 50-50 action on games. They set the lines according to their patrons' betting patterns and they will not hesitate to have a "vested interest" in games if they feel they have set their lines appropriately. The general betting public likes to wager on favorites and 'overs,' so the books often shade their lines in that direction because they know the public will bet that way. Some books get more "smart money," so their lines are more accurate.
In the NFL, the point spread could differ as much as a full point at two different sportsbooks at any given time, which is huge because of the quality of the NFL line. The key numbers that most football games fall on are three, four, six and seven. Although games that have lines set on these key numbers are less likely to fluctuate, there can be even more value derived by shopping around for a book that does deviate from them.
In college football the numbers are generally not as solid as they are in the NFL because of the high number of games that are on the board every week. As a bettor -- if you do your homework and shop for the right line -- there can be incredible value in betting the NCAA. It is not totally unusual to see a 1 ½-point discrepancy among different sportsbooks in college football. A one-point differential at different sportsbooks is common, especially on games that do not involve key numbers.
Waiting until the end of the week is often a good strategy to use when shopping for numbers. Since most of the action comes in 24 hours before a particular game, that's when the numbers are most volatile and subject to movement.
Since Doc's Sports is releasing its Big Ten Game of the Year this Saturday, lets look at the games on the schedule in the conference this week as an example of how you can get extra value in shopping for numbers. As we don't want to give away any hints on the big play, we will go over all five match-ups and some of the different numbers you can get at different shops.
*All odds are based on the time of this writing and will no doubt fluctuate throughout the week.
Michigan State at Ohio State: Most sportsbooks have Ohio State as a seven-point favorite. Since seven is a key number, most shops are hesitant to move off of this spread. That isn't very good for the bettor who is shopping for extra value. What IS good in this situation the fact that some sportsbooks will go off of this number and getting a half point off a key number can be better than getting two or three points off a non-key number. The Palms sportsbook and the Horseshoe sportsbook in Las Vegas are two books that are offering this game at Ohio State, -6 ½. If you like the Buckeyes this is the number you want them at. If you like the Spartans you can get them just about anywhere at seven. Do the legwork in the hours counting down to the game and you might even be able to find them at +7 ½.
Iowa at Purdue: This is a game that is close to a key number but there is a lot of variation on the options you can get if you shop around. Many of the sportsbooks in Las Vegas have the Boilermakers listed as 2 ½-point favorites. Some have Purdue laying three with reduced juice. If you like the Boilers and live in Las Vegas, you would want to take a trip by Caesars Palace or one of the Station properties where you could get the -2 ½. If you are betting with an offshore book, you could get them at that number at Canbet Sportsbook or if you liked Iowa you can score the three at BetPanAm. If Purdue wins this game by a field goal, the half point could mean the difference between a push and win.
Penn State at Northwestern: This is a game with a wide variety of options among different books. If you like the favorite, your best option would be the Horseshoe or the Palms in Las Vegas. Both of these sportsbooks have the Nittany Lions listed as 4 1/2-point favorites. If you like the other side, there are a variety of books, including BoDog Sportsbook & Casino, which are offering the Wildcats at +5 ½. Although these different lines don't involve the key numbers, there are always crazy things that happen in football and it never hurts to have an extra point to work with.
Wisconsin at Minnesota: There's not much discrepancy in the line for this game, as most sportsbooks have the Golden Gophers listed as eight-point favorites. But if you do like the favorite, there are some shops that are offering the game at -7 ½. Again, this does not involve any of the key numbers, but an extra half point can never hurt.
Illinois at Indiana: This is one of those games where I found a whole 1 ½-point difference in lines by shopping around. Caesars and the Imperial Palace both have the game listed as a 'pick,' which is great if you are on the Illini. But Canbet has the favorites installed at -1 ½, which is what you are looking for if you are backing the Hoosiers. This could be crucial if the game were to be decided by a point.
Although it is a lot of work, it is well worth the time and effort to shop around for points. Anyone who bets on sports has the hope of making a profit, and shopping around could be one of the most important factors in achieving that goal.