Moving with the Line: Why Only Betting An Hour Before Kick Off Is Smart28th February 2019 / Julian
When a bookmaker sets their prices, this is a reflection of the odds they believe are fair and reflective of the teams involved – with a nice little margin thrown in to protect them from being completely bashed! So many factors are considered, from current form and home/away record to league position and head-to-head stats, that typically the bookies very rarely get it wrong, despite odds compiling being a particularly inexact science.
But often there are factors beyond their control that ‘move the line’, i.e. cause odds to move to a shorter or longer position. This is often related to large-scale investment in a market, and the bookmakers have to act fast to avoid a) being financially taken apart by quick-thinking punters, and b) being left behind price-wise by their quick-off-the-mark rivals.
An extreme example of a line movement would be if Arsenal’s players get struck down by a flu bug just prior to their match with Spurs. Clearly, a lot of money would be wagered on Spurs in this scenario, and the line would move accordingly. Often though, line movements are caused by factors rather subtler than this. Remember, the bookies set the odds but the public almost certainly dictates what the final price will be as the book closes.
As a consequence, we can surmise that in certain circumstances it is much more efficient to exclusively place your bets an hour or so prior to kick off.
So what causes line movements?
Has a key player failed a fitness test? Perhaps he’s been rested with an upcoming European match in mind? Has the manager been forced to play a rookie debutant goalkeeper? Maybe he has had to change formation due to a lack of personnel?
These are all factors that can cause a movement in the line, as canny punters keep abreast of all the latest news and happenings. New technology, including social media, has opened up another window of information to punters, and so now they can wager even more intelligently than before. With team news being announced around an hour prior to kick off, keeping an ear to the ground at this time will surely pay dividends in the long run.
More and more tipsters are appearing online to compliment those respected experts offering tips and predictions for national publications, and the upshot of such prevalence is that markets – particularly those more obscure events or those that had lacked investment until now – can move when a well-followed tipster backs a selection.
The ‘wisdom of the crowd’ effect takes hold, and it is almost akin to a game of Chinese whispers as more and more money is invested in a selection. The bookmakers are forced to revaluate their prices to ensure they achieve a 50% split (juice), or as near as they can, on both sides of a fixture.
Unforeseen and often ‘behind the scenes’ events can cause line movements, but naturally it pays to be wary of line movements that occur for what appear to be completely random reasons.
An example came last season when Middlesbrough travelled to take on Charlton, and manager Aitor Karanka stormed out of a team meeting less than 12 hours to kick off and threatened to resign. Now, this information did not become public until the eve of the match, but the line movement was such that clearly something had occurred. Here the odds would have changed due to significant investment in Charlton (who won, incidentally), but the average punter wouldn’t have known why.
Inside information should be treated with caution, naturally, but occasionally it can create artificial line moves, so act fast.
Steamers and Drifters: Value the Key
There are industry terms for extreme line movements: steamers are those selections who shorten significantly in price, while a drifter is exactly that; a selection whose price lengthens accordingly.
So you might think that a steamer is one to back and a drifter one to ignore, and while there may be a smidgen of truth in that the age-old betting question remains: is the new price value or not?
If a selection shortens from 3/1 to 13/8, then you might assume that information is circulating in the public domain that you have missed. Do your digging by all means, but never lose sight of one critical factor: does that 13/8 still represent value, or is the selection now under-priced compared to its likelihood of being successful?
If you plan on tackling an ante-post market or simply betting as soon as relevant prices are published, have in mind a goal price and wait and see if the market movements make it a reality. If not, never be tempted to back at a price blow your minimum threshold.
Remember also that a steamer can create a drifter on the other side of the equation; maybe the drift that occurs makes that selection a value price….
Timing is Everything
We would argue that, on the face of it, betting as close to kick off as possible is crucial. This will ensure that you have the maximum amount of information at your disposal – including those all-important team sheets – before deciding whether a set of prices represent value or not.
Occasionally though, you may miss out on the best by adopting this strategy. Often the opening prices are the very best; a flurry of bets on a favourite for instance will bring the price down to unbackable numbers, and a shortening of an underdog can make their price less appetising too. Sometimes, striking while the iron is hot, as the old saying goes, is smart.
There is no fast and loose strategy for bet placement – sometimes you will get the best price, sometimes you won’t. It is always worth consulting odds comparison platforms to see how/when movements are occurring, as this will give you an idea of when to pull the trigger.
If you favour an underdog, then it is often well worth sitting tight and waiting for the drift. The standard pattern of betting on football, with odds published on Monday in readiness for the weekend’s fixtures, is that in the vast majority of cases the favourite will shorten and the underdog will drift. Not always, but often.
The most important thing to remember is that price movements are generally rather stagnant, and only minor changes will occur unless something extraordinary happens in the meantime. But knowing your market will help you to maximise your price – and your profit.
The tip is based on the personal opinion of the author. No success is guaranteed. Please gamble responsibly. 18+
* All mentioned odds were valid at the time of writing. Betting odds are subject to fluctuations. Please check the current odds with the respective bookmaker!
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