Using NFL Derivatives to Profit in an Efficient Market

There are many ways to wager American football including point spreads, moneylines and totals as well as first half betting, betting by the quarter, team totals, alternate point spreads, teasers, pleasers, and a plethora of propositions. One of the most powerful concepts to profiting from all this is a rarely discussed betting strategy, called derivative betting.

In short a betting line derived from another is called a derivative.

The most common example is first half odds; these are derived from full game odds. In this article I’ll cover the handicapping behind a simple derivative and explain how this derivative can be wagered profitably.

Understanding the Betting Market

A prerequisite to successful derivative betting is an understanding of how the overall betting market works. For NFL football, oddsmakers handicap games well in advanced and sometime between Sunday late afternoon and Tuesday early AM point spreads, totals and money lines are posted for all games. When the lines are first opened they are considered rough and have rather low maximum betting limits. The initial bets placed on them are taken for the purpose of sharpening the line. As time passes the sportsbooks keep moving their lines and increasing limits. Their goal is to find a point spread and price for both teams that large smart money has no interest in betting. Once achieved, the odds are efficient enough that sportsbooks are willing to accept large bets. Around this time they begin opening derivatives for betting such as half times, quarters, team totals, and various props.

A key point to understand is come game time, if the consensus no-vig point spread closes as Jets +7 +100 / Patriots -7 +100, the betting market gave each team a 50% chance of covering. For reasons covered in my article on fade the public the betting market is dominated by professional sports bettors, so there is a pretty good chance the betting market prediction of 50% is very close to the true probability. Knowing this, even a recreational bettor can profit by following line movement and betting derivatives.

Which Team Will Score First

The easiest NFL derivative to handicap is the proposition which team will score first. This particular prop is a derivative of the games first half point spread and total. The best method to handicap this prop is to look to sharp bookmakers and see what their first half lines are. Sharp betting sites are ones that open lines first, allow for the largest betting limits, and/or operate on reduced juice. A good line up to use for this is Pinnacle Sports, and 5Dimes. To give an example Week 13 of the 2011 NFL season Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints had the following first half time lines:

  • Pinnacle Sports: Saints -6 -109 / Lions +6 -101 (o27.5 -115 u 27.5 +102)
  • 5Dimes: Saints -6 -103 / Lions +6 -108 | (o28 -105 / u28 -115)
  • Bookmaker: Saints -6 -110 / Lions +6 -110 | (o28 -110 / u28 -110)

To explain a bit further: Bookmaker is a high limit full juice book so their lines make sense. 5Dimes and Pinnacle are reduced juice and differ a little on the point spread with one siding +6 is more likely and the other that -6 is more likely. For reason Pinnacle takes the largest bets on this market I’ll give Pinnacle slight credit and say the market price here is Saints winning by 5.9. For the over/under I can see 28 too high and 27.5 too low. It looks safe to predict this one at Saints by 5.9 with 27.8 points scored. So my next step is to come up with a predicted score that fits. I do this by taking 27.8-5.9= 21.9. I then give half these points to each side and then give the Saints the 5.9 to come up with a predicted first half score of:

  • Saints: 16.85
  • Lions 10.95

To confirm we see these total 27.8 and have the Saints winning by 5.9. From here I just need to use the magic equation: -100*(Favorite Score/Underdog Score), so in this case -100*(16.85/10.95)=-153.9. This tells me the fair prices on the proposition which team will score first is Saints -153.9 / Lions +153.9.

How to use this information for wagering on football games is simple. Let’s say you’re monitoring point spread at, Don Best or a similar service and all of all of a sudden the lines at every betting site are moving in a hurry for a given game. There are many reasons this could be the case, perhaps a key player is out, or maybe the sharp bettors were waiting until later in the week to place their bets. Whatever the specifics might be, there is always going to be a valid reason for the line movement. If you can act fast you can take advantage of the move at recreational betting sites such as Bovada or BetOnline which are much slower to move their lines. If you find yourself too late, the which team to score first prop is a strongly correlated derivative you can turn to. So for example if you watch the Patriots go from -7 to -7.5 to -8.5 in a hurry and are unable to bet -7. Here take a look at props using the handicapping methods I just gave you, you’ll very often find Patriots to score first is +EV, because the line is still based on the old line of Patriots -7 for the game.

What I shared in this article is enough to help you make extra profits this season via NFL derivatives. Similar derivatives exist for all sports, but due to the nature of the betting market, don’t expect anyone is going to give you full handicapping advice on all derivatives. The good news is you now have the full keys to one of them, and in time you’ll get sharper and start to find many additional derivatives you can beat. We at wish you the best of luck with that and will hint often has the most value on NFL props.

Author:  Jim Griffin