It’s the most simple, complex, and yet most significant word in the lexicon of legalized sports betting.
“When” – As in “when is the best time to place a bet?”
It’s become an intriguing question in an age for which the answer has changed. Timing a bet is no longer simple.
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Is There A Best Time To Place A Bet?
The initial answer:
- Whenever one feels the price is fair, the outcome is realistic, or, best yet, whenever one perceives an edge.
The deeper answer:
- It’s important for a bettor’s research to reveal a feel for a game now that PA sportsbooks have substantially enlarged the board.
- When all of one’s hunches line up, that’s the “when” it’s probably the best time to place a bet.
There is no longer one sports betting line for a game. There are close to 500 possibilities for just one NFL contest. Multiply that by 16 games and one can peruse up to 8,000 choices in any NFL week.
This allows more sports betting options but requires a gambler to narrow the choices. This is a big part of determining when to play.
Drilling Down to The Sweet Spot
The new array of choices, born from competition among books, requires due diligence to determine the moment of a bet launch.
Let’s start with the NFL…
See The Game First
It’s best to first have an opinion on the game first and then seek the line.
Examine the teams straight up, as if everyone would play, and incorporate a slight home-field advantage for the host team.
Come up with the score you think is possible if both teams played to the level you think they should.
Then see the line. If there is a considerable disparity, there is your edge. If there’s a Grand Canyon-like disparity, say a touchdown or more, there’s a good chance you missed something like an injury or suspension. Recalculate.
This is no different than reading a Racing Form and watching a post-parade to determine one’s opinions in a horse race. Or, for that matter, interviewing job candidates in the business world.
The Early Bird
A good time to unload some of the bankroll is Sunday night for the following week’s games. Books have just posted them based on power ratings and data.
These lines have likely not been addressed yet by big-money “sharp” players, a historical dynamic. They are waiting to make one big pop.
For decades prior to PASPA repeal, serious Las Vegas gamblers paid for the privilege of standing in line on Sunday night to get the first shot at newly-posted odds for the following week.
They immediately started wagering, giving the books a guide to how “sharp” bettors viewed the game. Operators adjusted the line and it often stayed near that new spot the entire week. The betting odds throughout the week were referred to as “The Line”.
There’s no more “The”. Lines are numerous and volatile. That’s why it’s important to hone in on one you like.
Shop The Sportsbooks
BetMGM and FanDuel are usually one-half a point difference on the early NFL lines than DraftKings. This is perfect for a bettor. One book has the underdog +3. Another has the same at +2.5 and you like the favorite. Go where you have the edge.
Here are some examples featuring a variety of NFL divisional round betting odds:
The Mid-Week Move
When spreads fluctuate throughout the week, injuries are often involved.
Quarterbacks are usually worth three points to the line. Exceptions like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers can be eight or nine points. Has the line moved too much either way according to your expectations? This can be a time to buy-in.
A general guide on injuries: a player listed as doubtful will rarely suit up, a player listed as questionable usually will, but at reduced capacity. Hamstring and high-ankle sprain injuries are punitive. Rib injuries are bad too. Players may perform through these, but their output may be a bit low.
The Late Move
This is where data intersects with instinct. The absence of Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens moved the line in the neighborhood of four points when it was announced on game day in a couple of games this year.
But here’s what savvy bettors realized: Tyrone Huntley is nearly as good as Jackson. He runs nearly as well as Jackson and throws a better deep ball. With Jackson out, the Ravens covered the spread in one-point losses to the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers. The Jackson injury news had helped keep the lineup, making the Ravens attractive.
Weather belongs in this category too. December games involve rain, wind, and snow. Wind changes totals (over/under bets) the most.
The “when” question for the New England Patriots-Buffalo Bills game a few weeks back was prominent.
Three days before the event, the over-under was roughly seven points higher than at kickoff. Wind gusts of 40mph reduced the effectiveness of both offenses. It was in the forecast three days earlier but didn’t hit the lines until one day before the game.
Sharp bettors rode the under into a payday.
This is “when” on steroids for many gamblers. American bettors are catching up to the European phenomenon, in which perhaps 75% of all wagers occur in-game.
Here’s the in-game betting reality: you can’t get ahead of the books. The key to finding value is to make a leap of faith.
Here are two examples:
When the Kansas City Chiefs faced the Los Angeles Chargers a couple of weeks back, they trailed 14-13 in the fourth quarter. The favored Chiefs were at +240. That made no sense until you realized the Chargers were at the Chiefs 1-yard line, about to punch it in.
One play later, the Chargers fumbled. The Chiefs recovered. Great time to jump on the Chiefs now, right? But the books denied it. That game came off the board almost faster than the fumble came out.
One moment later, the Chiefs were -135.
Result: that bet had to be made when the Chargers had the ball, and that would have been a tough bet to make. Anybody who made the wager prospered, however. The Chiefs did win in overtime.
Last year, the New York Mets were playing the Boston Red Sox. New York was +340 at DraftKings in a tie game and the Red Sox had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth inning. The pitcher threw a double-play ball, the Mets get out of the inning and their odds plummeted to -120. Two outs, 220 basis points. That’s living on the edge.
The reward was playing the Mets when the bases were loaded. The risk was that an extra-base hit would have broken the game open against them. They later won.
These are tough decisions for players. The books anticipate faster than the gamblers can.
How to contest it: think longer. Some oddsmakers advise watching one complete series in a football game. See which team looks like it showed up and then make a moneyline or spread bet.
What’s In Your Database? Patterns.
This may be one’s best ally in determining “when” to bet. Patterns reveal insight that only you have and should be trusted regarding how you bet.
Watch enough games, interpret enough past performances and you will see a pattern that says “I have seen this game before.”
It can be anything.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ slow first halves, followed by strong second halves, became betting opportunities in recent weeks. Take opposite teams to win each half. It worked three weeks in a row.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are just average, but they went 6-0-1 in their last seven home games, all low scoring. They were suddenly playing a Cleveland Browns team that was eliminated from the playoffs this past week. It was Ben Roethlisberger’s last game at Heinz Field.
Where was the value? Pittsburgh won the race to 10, 15, and 20 points. Their 26-14 triumph provided separate winning bets at all three junctures, ranging from +125 to +175 across the books. It was a good bet to make, along with the moneyline.
Some Hunches Are Hidden Gold
New England quarterback Mac Jones looked as poised as the Dallas Cowboys Dak Prescott when the New England Patriots lost an overtime game to become 2-4.
But the Patriots had found something. And so did bettors who sensed this team was ready to break out. They went on to win, and cover, for seven subsequent weeks. What kept the line down was that the Patriots were perceived as a mediocre team based on record. But they were really a strong team and betting lines eventually reflected that. But for seven weeks, Pats bettors had some ride.
That’s the advantage of instinct over data. Data is no match for momentum.
The Information Base for Other Sports
NHL – When the TIME is just right
The NHL is all about props. For several games, Conor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers tallied at home. With that hook, a bettor can time other wagers around it.
- McDavid to score first was roughly +800 across the books.
- To score last (empty-net goals?) was bout the same.
- Or to score anytime was +100 or +105.
- For him to score and the Oilers to win in 60 minutes often paid in the +300 range.
That worked much of last season and early this year. And then suddenly, he grew cold. That’s what happens.
NBA – Who is playing? Who is sitting?
The best time to place a bet on NBA games is usually right before tip-off. There is a tangible “when” bet here.
Check the injury reports in the final hour before the game. Players coast through the season and just decide not to play some nights. This affects over-under, moneylines, and totals.
There’s an element of “catch up” here too. Personal example: I rode the over on many NBA games in the 205-212 range for the early part of the season. It did well. Many games have since been pushed up into the 225-235 range.
I can’t get a feel for it now. That’s no-bet territory until I match up more patterns.
MLB – Use Futures to Help Isolated Bets
When it comes to baseball, the best time to place a bet usually depends on isolation. Make some season-long win-total props at the books and watch the patterns of the teams. Patterns do emerge.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, for instance, have a scheduling quirk. They play many four-game series. Their season-long pattern was often to split the first two games of a series and win the final two. If you watch it long enough and feel confident, that can be wagered into.
The Colorado Rockies were a bad road team and an awesome home team last season. One profitable angle was to take them to win each individual home series. The “when” in this case, was before the first game.
Best Time To Place A Bet? – SIZE MATTERS
Across the books, the question of when to bet has never been important, and never more individualized. But the bigger one’s database, the better the chance to find an opportunity.
One can peruse numerous websites to get someone else’s pick. One can subscribe to handicappers who charge for their five-star selections and if that helps, fine.
But the real edge, the inside track, is the one individual bettors create for themselves. That guides the “when”.
Good luck with yours.
Featured image credit: Steven Senne – AP