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Handicapping 101: The Art of the Live Betting


Live, or in-game sports betting has seen tremendous growth and popularity over the last few years. In a society where consumers demand products faster than ever, sportsbooks have gladly accommodated those desires by offering the ability to bet on sports during games. Unfortunately, the platform for live betting varies greatly from sportsbook to sportsbook. Some are very user friendly while others are clunky and difficult to use even for the most skilled of bettors. Increased juice, delays, and lower limits are other hurdles sportsbooks force bettors to endure. But even with its imperfections, live betting offers some of the best opportunities for profits of any sports betting option.

The key to being a successful live bettor is to focus on staying one step ahead. Like anything involving sports betting, if you’re reactionary, it’s very tough to win long term. The luxury of live betting is that you have more to work with than what you had prior to the start of the game. But it all comes down to being able to apply what you’ve gathered in an accurate and timely manner. Let’s take a look at how to approach the three major sports from a live betting perspective.

Baseball – Stay a half inning ahead. Let’s say the Washington Nationals have Max Scherzer on the hill and he’s a -250 home favorite over the Miami Marlins. Through the first three innings, Scherzer is rolling but in the top of the fourth, he runs into trouble. After allowing a base hit, the second basemen boots a routine grounder, and boom, the next batter pokes out an opposite field homer. The -250 home favorite now trails 3-0. The natural reaction to this is to bet immediately Washington especially considering that prior to the home run Scherzer was absolutely dominant and the Nationals were poised to score in each of the first three innings but ended up stranding five base runners. But before you place a bet you notice the Nationals have 7-8-9 scheduled up for the bottom on the inning. That’s not the optimal time to place a wager. Instead, you wait until the top of the fifth. The main reason is you’ll get a better price — the game is closer to the end and the Nationals obviously can’t score on defense. And you also have a much higher probability of producing offense with the top of the lineup facing a tiring starter for a third time. The difference in price with those two options (bottom of the fourth vs. top of the fifth) isn’t much, but it’s enough to really impact a bettor’s bottom line over the long term. In terms of totals, the look-ahead philosophy remains the same. Ask yourself is the following inning conducive or not for offense? By simply paying attention to where at team is at in the lineup and/or where a pitcher is at in terms of pitch count/fatigue — the ERA for most pitchers rises each subsequent turn through a lineup — it becomes much easier to identify the optimal time to make a wager. Another angle to consider with MLB live betting is knowing the status of both bullpens. If the underdog’s bullpen is rested and the favorite’s is not, you may find a situation late in a tied game where the wrong team is favored.

Football – In keeping with our look-ahead philosophy, with football you ideally don’t want to wait until the team you’re wanting to bet gets the ball. Auburn closed as a touchdown favorite over Ole Miss but the game is tied 7-7 midway through the second quarter. Auburn is moving the ball with relative ease but a tipped pass interception in the red zone and missed field goal left as many as 10 points off of the board for the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Rebels scored their only points on a broken play in which a defensive back got tripped up and allowed the receiver to spring for a 50-yard touchdown. In order to lock in the better point spread, bettors should look to bet Auburn after the interception or missed field rather than wait until the defense forces a three-and-out and the offense retains possession. It’s also important to know coaching tendencies. Does the coach like win by outscoring opponents or by milking the clock with a lead? One profile to look for is the UNDER in the third quarter when a defensive-minded college football coach extends a lead to three or more touchdowns. Even with college stopping the clock after every first down to move the chains, the game moves quickly when one team is running the ball every play with less than five seconds left on the play clock.

Basketball – No matter what the level, runs are a common occurrence throughout a basketball game. If a team goes on a 10-0 run, bettors can expect the opposing team to call a timeout and out of that timeout a go-to offensive play and/or defensive adjustment to be executed. That’s generally not a bad spot to bet the team that surrendered the run. But be patient. A competitively lined game could see the pregame favorite as an underdog and favored by double-digits at different points during the contest. Because there are so many possessions in a basketball game, live betting takes super quick reflexes. Most bettors must deal with a TV delay meaning what is truly “live” and what you’re witnessing on your HD TV are two different things. Depending on your feed, you can be as much as 10-15 seconds behind the sportsbooks. This can be frustrating when you’re frantically trying to bet and the bet gets canceled because something occurred that forced oddsmakers to change the point spread and total. Perhaps the most important thing to look for when betting in-game basketball totals is how the game is being called. If I see a lot of whistles being blown early on, there a good chance at least one team is going to spend a fair amount of time in the bonus which is in turn a bonus for OVER bettors. Another great betting angle is when a key player gets into foul trouble and is forced to sit. Without him, the two teams are now even but placing a proactive bet knowing he’ll be back in the second half can offer value.

Have a Game Plan – Regardless of whether you have a full game wager or not, it helps, especially for less experienced bettors, to at least have an opinion on a game you plan to live bet. Using basketball as an example, I couldn’t pull the trigger on Creighton -4 for the full game, needing instead -2.5 or better. But because I handicapped the game beforehand, I’m now in the position of simply watching and waiting for my “strike price.” There’s obviously a chance that doesn’t occur or I see something from Creighton that I don’t like but at least I’m prepared. Bettors should also not be afraid to play a “worse” in-game point spread or total. Things can change dramatically once the ball is tipped or kicked off — weather, fouls, penalties, injuries, etc. I’ve live bet college basketball games OVER 165 that I wouldn’t have played OVER 145 prior to the game. Remember, just because a team closed as a -2.5 favorite doesn’t mean they can’t offer value at -5.5 during the game.

Andrew Lange

With significant market influence, Andrew Lange has produced a decade-long 58% winning rate on over 750 selections in college basketball. Using a low volume, high return approach, Lange's results in the NFL have been equally impressive with a 61% mark and over +49 units of profit on a 1, 1.5, and 2-unit scale since 2012.