It was 19th Century German statesman Otto von Bismarck who famously opined, "Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made."
It's doubtful any sports bettor worth their salt would feel that way about the creation of the day's betting lines -- after all, a quality player wants to know everything about the game he's playing. (As for sausage gourmands, they're probably content to remain ignorant of the process.)
To that end, here's an overview of how the betting lines explode from an oddsmaker's brain into the world, and what happens once they get there.
When setting the odds for any sporting event, the oddsmaker will offer a starting line they created utilizing all the information at their disposal, e.g., team or player ratings, statistical analysis, past and recent performances, injuries, and even weather predictions.
It takes a bunch of work to deliver these initial odds, but remember, they're just that -- initial odds. The line will fluctuate right up until game time, thus the oddsmaker's work is never done.
Speaking of fluctuating, a betting line will generally move for three reasons: A change in conditions, volume of wagers placed, and sharp money.
The "conditions" in "change of conditions" refers to any event that alters the metaphorical playing field: A key injury, nasty weather, an off-the-field incident, etc. Anything that can impact the game's outcome is taken into consideration.
Volume of wagers is all about heavy betting by the public. Let's say the Dallas Cowboys open as two-point favorites over the Philadelphia Eagles. If the public goes bonkers for the Eagles, the oddsmaker -- who doesn't want to take a bath on the game -- could think, "Hmm, the public might know something I don't. Let's move the spread."
As for sharp money, oddsmakers are quite cognizant of who their long-term, winning bettors are, and if those sharpies are betting on the Cowboys, the oddsmaker will be apt to have the odds drift towards Dallas.
At some point near game time, the line closes and the betting is done. But the action remains fast and furious right until to the very end...because that's the way the sharps want it.
The sharps will oftentimes place wagers right up until the last possible second, and if they like what they're seeing from the closing line, some of those wagers could be huge...as could their impact on the betting field. If the public sees the sharp money is leaning in the Eagles direction, they'll lean right with the sharpies.
The point of all this is when it comes to sports betting lines, it's not just a matter of slapping together some numbers and calling it a day. There's a ton of hard work and study involved in concocting the betting sausage, and contrary to the opinion of our pal Otto von Bismarck, it's better for the bettor to see it being made.
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