Once a virgin line is posted, the fun really begins. One of the more intriguing tasks the handicapper undertakes is that of analyzing line movement -- when is it moving, how much, and most importantly, why? Let's break it down into three time frames: early, normal, and very late moves.
The first people to get a crack at the virgin lines at the Stardust are big time bettors, not average Joe's. Before the 'Dust opens their lines to the public, the 'lottery' occurs. Any bettor who is willing to wager at least $1000 per game can get in the lottery for first crack at the numbers. The term 'lottery' is used because these bettors must pre-register, and the order in which they are granted access to the betting window is randomly determined. On Sunday nights during football season there are usually between ten and thirty lottery bettors; at 8AM every day during basketball and baseball season there are often fewer participants. Once the lottery period is through, the adjusted lines become available for everybody to wager on.
Virgin lines are moved exclusively because of money. But it's not necessarily the amount of money wagered that determines when and how much a line is moved. Many bookmakers respect the opinions of various sharp players. A $1000 bet from one of these fellows (and, yes, they are almost exclusively men) can move a line before a $10,000 bet from a less respected individual. Often the bets are made by 'beards', people who are placing bets for others. They are easily identified by their shabby dress and wads of hundred dollar bills wrapped in rubber bands. It's quite a sight to watch, and I recommend that anyone visiting Vegas should make the effort to view the spectacle.
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I consider the first few hours after the lines are posted to be the "early" line moves. These moves occur primarily for three reasons: somebody (or a group of somebody's) sees a line significantly different from the one they projected, and see immediate value on one side. arbitrage .... lines open offshore or somewhere else with a difference of a point or more. These lines move around until they are fairly even across the board Key numbers .... 'Cappers anticipate lines crossing key numbers, they grab the value where they can.
These early line moves are important to track for several reasons: They generally act as a good indicator of which direction lines will continue to move, allowing the educated bettor to get the best line available. For example, during football season, if a line opens -8 and moves to -9, and you like the favorite, you must take it ASAP, but if you like the underdog, you can wait until later in the week, as the line could continue to creep up towards -10 They can be viewed in comparison to normal moves during the week. For example if a line moves strongly during the early period and then heads in the other direction in the normal movement period, you can have a case for the public on one side and the sharp bettors on the other; a definite scenario for respecting the early move Late breaking injury information can also be a reason for an early move, as books post a number bettors bet against the team with the key injury Normal line moves occur from the end of the early period until perhaps an hour or two before gametime. These moves again occur exclusively because of money, but it is a different type of money. Whereas a line can move a full point or even two or three very quickly during the early movement period, during the normal movement period they have a tendency to creep in on direction or the other, often at different paces in different places. This is where the public is influential - oftentimes a thousand $20 bets can push a line ? point as opposed to the early period when large wagers are the line movers. Here books are trying to attract money to the unpopular side. When books respond to one sided betting by steadily moving a line in one direction they are risking the house's worst nightmare - being sided or middled.
A middle occurs when a game finishes on a number in between the opening and closing numbers. In effect both sides win the bet, and the house has to pay almost everybody. For example, if a game opens at -3.5 and moves to -4.5, and the game finishes with a 4 point margin, the house has to pay both those who laid 3 ? and those who took 4 ?, resulting in a serious problem for the house. Being sided occurs when the book has to pay all those who took one side, while pushing with those who took the other. For example, if a line opens at -4.5 and moves to -6, and the game ends with a 6 point margin of victory, the house will be paying most of those who took the favorite, while pushing with those who took the underdog. So, when a line is slowly adjusted during the normal period, it is done with some risk for the bookmaker. Thus, lines will not move unless one of two factors occurs:
The linesmaker is getting extremely one sided action or The linesmaker is reasonably sure the game won't finish right on or between the number Normal line moves are therefore important to track because they offer a decent indicator of which side the public is betting. Late line moves are those in the timeframe immediately preceding gametime. Again, here, there are a number of factors in play: Betting syndicates or wiseguys feel that the line has moved as far in one direction as it is going too, so they pound it the other way, either because they like the side OR they are trying to hit a middle Injured players that were 'questionable' have had their status determined (either they are in or out)
When lines move off of key numbers, somebody knows something about this game that is not necessarily available to the general public. Often very late line moves go in the opposite direction of earlier moves. These are moves that I generally respect a lot, and they can help me pull the trigger on a wager for games that I was considering, but not certain of, or they can cause me to lay off or even buy back my original wager on the opposite side. I will rarely bet a game that has moved a point or more towards the side that I like. The value is gone from that side, and the house beats the player more often than not. Usually I prefer to bet against the line move, but I'll damn well track it as it meanders it's way towards gametime.
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