There are dozens of popular clichés in the gambling world that are interspersed within our daily conversation. Most are useless and often can project us on a losing path. But one of the most reliable and definitely valuable sayings is listen closely "when the line tells you something". It's especially golden pertaining to wagering football.
In definition this means when something in the betting odds doesn't look exactly right, please pay attention. It's different than "you get what you pay for" in that it more reflects something going on within the player roster and more important a betting trend that can't be easily overlooked. You should also put aside your PERSONAL bias as to what the line should accurately be. For example, if you think the Denver Broncos should be -6 against the Kansas City Chiefs and the line at most of the respected offshore sportsbooks has the Broncos at -3, it's not a flag to go full-throttle betting Denver.
One major aspect to consider is how the wagering line is formed. As opposed to several years ago before Internet wagering, the pressure to put out a very quick line plus the popularity of offshore wagering has created an earlier and earlier start. Barring a starting quarterback injury, it is not uncommon today to see lines for the following week online virtually immediately after a current week's completed play.
Tip #1 – Watch the Early Money
When you went to the horse races together, dad or grandpa used to school you on watching the early money. It was often called "the first click" or "sharp money" bet on a horse race. They weren't always right but this angle can't be completely ignored, especially in betting football. Many of top offshore sportsbooks including Bovada, Diamond Sports or Heritage simply cannot anticipate the public's first take when setting the initial line. Their dream goal is to receive even wagering and have no risk collecting on the vig or vigorish. I've seen many games jump a full 2 points and potentially more from the opening line to kick-off by sharp bettors taking advantage of miscalculated early lines.
Another huge difference between the major online sportsbooks and Las Vegas books is their inability to create a network to minimize risk. Throw in the public's appetite for traditional favorites like the Cowboys, Steelers and Notre Dame. No, the early bird might not get you the worm but could be very valuable information on a sharp early wagering trend.
Tip #2 – Forget Logic When the Line Screams at You
A greater example couldn't be more blatant than last Saturday evenings Eagles-Packers game at Green Bay. Last season the Packers destroyed the Eagles 53-20 as a -8 favorite after the Eagles were coming off a three game winning streak.
Yes, it was public knowledge that QB Aaron Rodgers was not going to play for the Pack. But Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was non-committal on expected starter Sam Bradford getting more than a few series. The game was in Green Bay, the Eagles had already proven themselves in two prior playoff romps and just needed to stay healthy. And after all, the Packers were reeling with the giant loss of WR Jordy Nelson and had to find new starter incentive offensively.
Add it all up with the fact that is supposedly the lone important "third" pre-season game for both teams. Why were the Eagles a stunning -6 favorite at Diamond Sports and incredibly a half point higher at some other respected offshore books?
The answer came quickly, pre-season or regular season. The Eagles raced to a 25-0 lead in the 1st quarter as if Bradford was playing the Super Bowl. The lead could have been larger if they weren't auditioning failed Tim Tebow 2-point conversion plays and a back-up kicker who will be cut on Wednesday.
Still, bettors received their suspense fix in the second half when Coach Kelly ordered the Eagles on lockdown and the Green Bay fought back in embarrassment mode. The Packers closed to 39-26 before the game ended on boredom and inept third stringers. But the betting money on the Eagles seemed safe and secure from the opening kickoff.
Tip #3 – The Line Can Sometimes Lie to You
The most obvious underlying reason the betting line seems out of whack is due to the one-sided nature of money flowing to one side and the inability to receive even wagering for both teams. Plus an obvious injury to a key player. But often it can be a trap and play games with your mind.
Illustrating this example, the Minnesota Vikings play the 49ers in San Francisco in the first Monday Night Football game of the season. The Vikings have looked great in the pre-season while the Niners have been dreadful on the field and trying to keep players out of jail. The wagering line has noticed. What started as a pick-em game will likely end up as the Vikings a full -3 favorite or -3.5 by game time on September 14th. Is the line telling you something here? Are the mediocre Vikings that improved or are the 49ers that bad playing on a Monday night at home in their opening game?
As they say, that's why they call it gambling. But before you make your final decisions this season, remember to not to just look at a betting line – listen to it.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding NFL previews and picks from Glenn, click here.