Part I of II
Let’s assume you know nothing about MMA. You’re watching a UFC event with a friend who likewise knows nothing about it. The difference is you’re a regular sports bettor and he’s not. He offers you an even money bet. You load an online betting website and discover they are offering the fighter your friend is offering you even money on at odds -200 (risk 2 to win 1). What your friend is offering is an off-market price. Even though you know nothing about UFC, you are of course going to accept the bet.
Though they are less generous, online sportsbooks offer off-market prices too. Taking advantage of such is the easiest and of one of the best ways to make serious sports betting profit. It is however not as straight forward as you might assume. There is a learning curve involved. A lot of that has to do with knowledge about specific sportsbooks. The rest is understanding the market, and knowing the math. It is something you will only get good at with experience. In this article I provide a solid orientation to help you get started. A lot of this is linking to other articles, most of which are near must reads.
Sharp Books vs. Square Books
The first thing to understand is most online bookies do not service advantage players for very long. There are many where if you get lucky and win, then… sure, no problem. However, if all of your bets involve chasing steam, stale lines, and/or crushing them on props and small markets, most are going to ban you, or give you a personal limit collar. This is extremely common. At many online sportsbooks my own accounts have maximum bet limits of only $1.00. It is essentially the same as being banned.
There are however a small number of professional friendly sites. Pinnacle Sports (no US players) is well known for having the largest betting limits, lowest margins and fastest payouts while never limiting a player for winning too much. Their lines are considered the sharpest for the reasons covered in our site’s article called fading the public.
If you’re serious about betting off market prices you should also read that article linked above. It explains the betting market to an extent. Having an understanding of the betting market is a key to winning the most via betting off market prices. For now let me just tell you that for American sports NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and college NCAA football and basketball Pinnacle’s odds are the most efficient. What this means is they are the toughest to beat, because they are the most accurate.
Why Websites Offer Off-Market Prices
Every online sportsbook has their own level of risk tolerance. With Pinnacle that risk tolerance is massive. You can make multiple max $10,000 to $30,000 bets on many different sports without getting cutoff or slow paid. The opposite extreme involves books with a very tiny risk tolerance.
Sites like MarathonBet, StanJames, and PaddyPower (none of which takes US players) offer tons of +EV bets. The problem is if you bet the good sides on their already tiny limits, it takes only a day or two to be cut to $1.00 max bets. As a result these sites with small risk tolerance end up servicing only recreational players who lack any sports betting talent. These players bet only the most popular team. However, these are still well know sites ran by major companies. The volume they take in, due to thousands of $25 bets adding up, is significant. These books almost always have lopsided action too.
All of the above in mind, it should be easy to understand why when the best team in the league is playing the worst team in the league the recreational books shade their lines. This is in such as way the odds are not as good on the favorite and better on the underdog. As someone looking to bet sports for income it is our job to exploit that when the sites take it too far.
Those unfamiliar with the sports betting industry may find it very difficult to learn what you can and can’t get away with at certain sportsbooks. You need to also understand that not all online bookies are reputable. A couple of important lessons:
- Super Bowl XXXVI was played on Feb 3, 2002. The teams playing in it and their betting odds were New England Patriots +14 vs. St. Louis Ram -14. Not many knew of it at the time, but then one of the oldest and most popular sportsbooks AcesGold was having a tough season. What they did in hopes of recovering was offer the Patriots +14.5. Everyone betting the Patriots wagered with them, while almost no one betting the Rams did the same. AcesGold built a huge position. Had they won they would have gotten out of financial difficulty. Well the Patriots ended up winning the game outright. AcesGold filed for Bankruptcy the following month and didn’t pay players.
- In 2009, SBG Global offered 70 to 1 odds on Jenson Button to win the Formula 1 World Championship. This was slightly better than what competitors were offering. They booked a lot of bets expecting he likely wouldn’t win (true odds were about 98% that he wouldn’t). When Button did win SBG Global claimed it was a line error and retroactively cancelled the bets. After much bad press they reinstated the wagers at 10 to 1, even though about 50 to 1 was the fair market price at the time these bets were taken.
The above are only two famous examples. In my article on recommended books about sports betting, one making the list is Conquering Risk: Attacking Vegas and Wall Street by Elihu Feustel. In this book the author warns that many sportsbooks consider advantage bets an act of violence directed at their bottom line and that most treat it as such. This is truth.
Beyond just the scams mentioned, there are sites such as Oddsmaker.ag, VIPSports.eu and Dimeline.eu that just outright steal from winners. You attempt to cash out and they find a reason not pay. Or you might just find your user log-in no longer works and they refuse to communicate period. Sites like these do make payments to clients that appear to be profitable and just got lucky. However, when it comes to advantage players betting off market prices, often their defense is not to limit and ban but to just flat out steal.
This is where it becomes vital to understand the risk level involved with each book you are dealing with. Truth be told, I still bet on occasion bet at scam books that offer good bonuses. I don’t trust them at all. However if the EV is such that it is worth it I’ll take the risk. My goal is to clear their bonus while making the bets look recreational and to not build my bankroll up with them too large.
Now the good news for those just starting out is there are reputable books that offer off market prices too. www.bovada.lv has decent ratings across the web and has a great history for payouts. www.sportsbook.ag is notoriously for slow paying as their checks take about 6 weeks. However, it has been this way for more than a decade, and they always pay. With these sites I’m willing to take bigger risks.
For those outside the US for some reason or another www.williamhill.com has tons of off market prices on NFL football. I have no idea why but they are notorious for this. Also www.betvictor.com often has the best openers on NFL, pricing both sides at -105, and being slow to update as the lines adjust. Again, both these books do not take US players.
At all the books mentioned in the two paragraphs above, unless it is a gross error (the line is so far off market it must have been a mistake) you’ll be paid no problem on your off market bets.
Avoid Getting Freerolled
A freeroll is a situation where there is no way to lose, only to win. This would be if someone offered you a free bet such as “hey, I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you…”. Getting freerolled is the opposite. This is when someone else has a freeroll on you, thus you being in a situation where you can’t win, but can lose. This is quite common when betting off-market prices. If the line is too far off the book will void the line if you win. Many books will void it regardless either way. However, some otherwise reputable sportsbooks will take a wait and see approach. If your bet loses, it stands. If it wins, they void it citing bad line.
I wanted to make sure to cover all this as betting off market prices is not easy for someone very green to the industry to do. However there is a truckload of money to be made if you understand there are risks and manage those risks properly. This all said, here is the exact how to.
Continue to Part II: Beating No Vig Sharps
Author: Jim Griffin