Bettors make up market sharper than ever

Feb 26, 2013 3:00 AM

The betting favorite won 5 of the 6 major awards at the 2013 Oscars (with second choice Ang Lee winning in the director category). To many this is but one small example of a general trend toward betting market lines getting sharper.

If that perception is true, then what can the bettor do about it?

I make the effort to talk to as many professional bettors as possible on a regular basis in trying to “take the temperature” of the market and the industry. Right now, more than any time since I moved to Las Vegas in 1998, the professionals feel as if the betting market has grown significantly tougher in the recent past.

There’s no real debate that odds are more accurate now than they were 10 years ago – but what I’m talking about is a sense they are more accurate today than even last year!

Don’t mistake this with thinking the sports books have gotten sharper. If anything, the general impression is the opposite: most believe there are less high quality-bookmakers with a genuine market opinion working today than any time in the past few decades (the reason for that will be covered in an upcoming article).

No, it’s the market that has gotten sharper; and the bettors comprise the market. The world opener from the first sports book that puts a number on a game is the biggest influence any bookie has on the market. After that, the bettors dictate. So this question naturally follows: Why are the bettors smarter today?

The conventional answer is the Internet has democratized information. On more than a few occasions I’ve heard the old-timers talk about legendary bettors from the 80’s who made herculean efforts to gather info: calling press boxes to get injury information; or paying workers at air points around the country to gather local newspapers.

Today, the old-timers lament that information is a click of the mouse away for any schmuck at a Starbucks.

True enough, but I for one am a skeptic and believe the average bettor actually bets much smarter than in years past. Sure, they know more – both about the games that day and about general best practices theory on betting concepts. But knowing and doing are the difference between good intentions and execution.

Most of us know losing weight can be as simple as eating mostly fruits and vegetables in moderation, and exercising. Only a minority who know it’s best do it (I can speak from personal experience!). More bettors today know you shouldn’t bet all Monday night games, and parlay cards hold more vig than straight bets.

Only a minority who know those facts follow those rules. Rules are not fun and sports betting is supposed to be about a good time.

The bigger influence on the bettor market is the extremely sophisticated professionals who wager big and early. The Internet in this case connects the sophisticated pros to each other and varied bookmakers who make up the 2013 betting market (Nevada, online post-up, Europe, Asia, and per-head shops).

In most cases, other than the NFL, the betting market for American sports is dictated by the professional bettor. The opinion of the average bettor does not hold much sway on a San Diego State at Wyoming game.

Next week: The mechanics of how these pros are making it harder for you to win and what can be done.

RJ Bell is the founder of - and co-host of FIRST PREVIEW, heard Sunday through Friday night at 11 pm on ESPN 1100/98.9 FM. Follow on twitter: @RJinVegas. NFL Vegas Rankings updated every Tuesday at Contact RJ at [email protected]

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