Tips on How to Read a Sports Betting Live Odds Screen
For most sports bettors, picking winners is their sole focus. They handicap a game, log on or head down to their local sportsbook, and make a bet. But for bettors wanting to elevate their game and increase their winning percentage, having access to and accurately reading the betting markets are must haves. This of course can be done with a live odds service. Nowadays, there are a number of free odds services available to public including at BettorIQ. Our page offers lines on a handful of key offshore and Las Vegas sportsbooks and the “delay” of the line moves is fairly small compared to the “real time” odds offered by odds service giant Don Best, which costs upwards of $500 a month. Don Best also offers a $120 per month service which includes all of the perks (injuries, alerts, line history, etc.) but with a delay (typically 1-2 minutes). Real time odds are vital for some sports like football and basketball but not as important for MLB so I typically rotate back and forth throughout the year to save a few bucks. Regardless of what you use, having an ability to read and understand an odds screen is in my opinion just as important if not more so than the art of picking winners. Let’s break down some of the things to look for.
Sportsbooks – On my odds screen (see pic below), the first two sportsbooks I list are CRIS and Pinnacle. CRIS is a line originator meaning they are often the first to post. If any other sportsbooks open before CRIS, they generally offer really low limits and will move their numbers immediately in order to fall in line with CRIS. Pinnacle is also very influential due to its willingness to take sizable bets from sharp bettors. I also have a number of smaller offshore sportsbooks that tend to cater to recreational players like 5Dimes and BetOnline. Buckeye and Pay Per Head are very common “clone” shops meaning sportsbooks that operate offscreen (i.e. on credit) copy their lines and software. I don’t live in Las Vegas or bet at any of its sportsbooks unless I’m visiting friends. I still like to keep an eye on what they are doing and compare their market to that of the offshore world. Offshore is typically quicker to move its lines and attracts a sharper crowd due to it being easier to bet larger sums. Las Vegas can be slow to react to market-wide moves and is also more apt to offer an “off market” point spread or total in order to accommodate that sportsbook’s specific needs (i.e. the market is -3 on an NFL game but a Las Vegas sportsbook may offer -3.5 in order to encourage action on the underdog).
Moving On Air – It’s a common phrase used in the sports betting community. When you see a game start to move often times it is triggered by an influential bettor placing a wager at CRIS or Pinnacle. When smaller sportsbooks see this, they’ll move their numbers even if they don’t take a single wager on that game. This is out of fear that if they hold firm, a winning player will eventually step in and bet the game. It’s this method that unfortunately leads to less opinion across the market and why we don’t see much in the way of line variation.
Line History – Seeing the betting pattern of a game can offer clues as to what the market is thinking about a particular team. Say you notice that UL-Monroe was bet the minute CRIS posted openers. The line opened ULM -6 but was bet to -7. As the week progresses, bettors came back on the other side and took +7. The line ends up closing UL-Monroe -6. On the surface, it looks as if oddsmakers lined the game correctly with the opening and closing lines the same. But UL-Monroe also went on the win the game by 30 points. By noticing that initial burst of money — there’s a reason sportsbooks move their lines and it’s because the players making the bets have a history of success — you’ve now uncovered a team that perhaps has some value and more importantly, will likely get bet immediately the following week. On the flip side, the market isn’t always correct. Bettors hitting openers often bet games due to wanting a key number or simply gut feel rather than having a strong opinion. By tracking line history, you can find situations where you may disagree with the market on a team and by seeing a pattern of early money, you’ll know to wait until after the market settles and you can come back on the other side with a better number.
Injuries – For the most part, Don Best’s paid odds service is good at quickly and accurately displaying injury/suspension information. It’s not however 100%. Twitter is your friend in this case. In fact, I’ve come across situations where a local beat writer will tweet that a key player has been ruled out and there is no alert on Don Best. As a result, the market won’t move. Eventually, word gets out, but if you come across a key player listed as questionable leading up to game time, don’t wait for Don Best. By the time they do post it, the market will have already moved.
Alerts – This is probably the best tool Don Best offers. There are a million different settings that you can create to alert you to everything from steam moves to specific numbers becoming available. For example, college football Saturday’s can be very hectic. Let’s say my “buy price” on UL-Monroe was -6 but I missed the opener. Saturday morning, it’s -7 across the board but I put in an alert letting me now (a window will pop up on your screen) if it ever gets back to -6. Sounds simple, but with 60-70 games throughout the day, it’s a lifesaver.
A lot of what goes into reading an odds screen is nothing more than feel. Having done this as long as I have, I can look at the betting pattern of a game (when it gets bet and at what sportsbook) and often times predict whether or not that line will continue to move or get bet back at some point. This of course goes a long ways in ensuring that I’m consistently betting the best number and beating the closing number — two things that are imperative if you want to be a successful sports bettor.