Head Fakes; Not Just A Basketball Move
By: Mike Quinn
Every week, you see the board "light up" as players big and small, sharp and square, bet games. Sometimes the money is so overwhelming, the oddmakers need to adjust the number. Other times, the money is coming from an advantage player(s) and they move the line based on respect for their opinion. And sometimes, the lines move just on "air"; meaning because other books have moved their number, a shop will move theirs, even though they received no wagers to warrant the move. The main thing for bettors to remember is…all line movements are not the same.
The sharpest syndicates in the world understand the inner workings of sportsbooks and use it to their advantage. Line manipulation is one of their tactics to aid in their fight for long term profitability. The practice of manipulating the line, or "Head Fakes", has gotten infinitely easier over the years because more and more books move on air and not on actual wagers. This allows the sharpest bettors on the planet to change numbers around the world with little risk and little effort. This gives them a huge advantage over the bookmakers.
Here's how it works…say Team A is an 8 point favorite against Team B. A respected syndicate wants to wager on Team A because they believe the number should be 10, but they don't want to lay eight points because the key number of 7 is not covered. They will wager on Team B and using their money and their clout, will drive the number below 7 until it gets to a place where they feel comfortable betting. This process is very simple for them because they know the books respect their opinion and there will be plenty of bettors and groups lower on the "food chain" that will piggyback the move and help the line get driven lower. This is great for the big guys, because now they aren't even using their own money to move the number into position. After this process has taken place, they can now bet into a number they want with significantly more money than they did to get it lowered. The piggybaggers will now drive it the other way as well.
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So you might see a game open at 8 on Sunday night or Monday morning, get "steamed" on Monday or Tuesday down to 6.5 or even 6 and then close on gameday at 8 or 9. This is, a lot of times, the big guys moving the number lower, only to bet over the top to get the advantageous spread they wanted in the first place. The real key is that they are betting the game at 6 and 6.5 and the steam chasers are getting 7, 8 or 9. What if the game lands on 7? Well, that is a double whammy that makes the books' stomach churn.
Always remember, this game is about getting the best of the number and betting numbers and not teams. In the example above, the syndicate locked their true position in at the best of the number, having a key number covered and left a potential middle situation open if the game landed on seven. Now of course, this doesn't always work and they might lose their true position on Team A. Nevertheless, this puts them in position to win more often than not because they are getting large closing line value and getting the best of the number in the process.
You might ask yourself, "If the books know this is one of their tactics, then why move the number in the first place?" Because, these groups do a great job of hiding their true position. Sometimes a move on Monday might be their true position. Sometimes there is no manipulation at all until gameday and with the flood of public money in the market in the hours leading up to kickoff, it is easier to conceal. Sometimes they don't bet until minutes or seconds before kickoff with little to no time for the books to react. It's a cat and mouse game each week, however it is vital in order to make money long term in this business.
For the bettor that isn't part of a sharp syndicate, there are many ways to profit from this and incorporate it into your own handicapping and betting approach. A lot of it comes down to patience, experience and information. Knowing what the "real" position is, or most likely will be, comes with understanding the marketplace and monitoring it closely all week…having a sense of when a number has reached one end of the spectrum and seizing the moment while it's still available.
No one ever said that sports investing was easy. It takes a considerable amount of time, effort, thought, money, patience and experience. Developing contacts in the food chain is essential, because information equals money. Study the marketplace, learn the signals and track the wagers. You will begin to see the board in a whole different light.
Good luck and keep cashing!
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