Pinnacle Pulse 11/29/06

Inside the Wagering Line
Simon Noble

The Pinnacle Pulse, a column highlighting betting strategy and line movement on key games. In this edition, Simon Noble of discusses handicapping college basketball games before discussing line movement on a variety of betting options at He then gives insight into the early line movement on this weekend’s big games.

All you need to know about NFL Props (Part I of II)

While many players have found Props easy to beat, this market has traditionally been the domain of smaller players. This year NFL Props have increased immensely in popularity at Pinnacle Sports, creating two new advantages. First, there is a lot more two-way action causing line moves. Second, other sportsbooks are trying to offer many NFL Props as well and some are even copying the Pinnacle Sports betting lines. These two factors combined mean that (1). Larger players can bet more on a single Prop; and (2). Smaller players can get a better price by shopping and watching the lines move. With Pinnacle Sports -108 style pricing on NFL Props and up to $1,000 game day limits, you will find consistent value and more often than not, the best price at Pinnacle Sports.

The popularity of Super Bowl Props, which have been available for a long time now, has led to a gradual increase in the number of regular season games that proposition betting is available on. Most sports books like Pinnacle Sports regularly offer them on the Sunday/Monday night games for example. With so many chances to bet on these props, and with so many players betting on the wrong side through poor handicapping, sharp players can capitalize now more than ever on NFL props.

One of the most common props you will see is ‘Which team will score first?’ Many recreational players like betting on the favorite, regardless of the price. Frequently there are not enough professional prop players to keep the lines in shape, so the price on the dog will gradually creep up. I am not advocating that you blindly bet on the underdog on this prop – I just want you to understand why the opportunity is there.

The best way to price any prop is to find thousands of occurrences of similar situations. If you found enough similar games, you could simply count how many times a similar favorite scored first. There are however, two problems with this approach. First, many props do not have enough similar situations to give a meaningful comparison. Second, even if there are enough games to evaluate, it is too time consuming to collect and analyze all the data you want.

So what is a more practical way to price the ‘Which team will score first?’ prop? Whenever you are trying to price props, ask yourself: is there a logical way I can analyze this problem without looking at lots of games? With the right approach, most proposition bets can be priced just by using team and/or player statistics from or

‘Which team will score first?’ actually has a straightforward solution. Look at the line for the first half of the game, and use it to figure out how many average points a team will score in the first half. For example, if the first-half line is ‘Dallas -3/Atlanta +3’ with a first half total of 23, the market price would ‘suggest’ that the first-half score would be Dallas 13, Atlanta 10. You got that score by subtracting the spread (3) from the total (23), getting 20 total points. You then split the total points (20) between the two teams, and then add the spread (3) to the favorite.

Once you have your predicted score for the first half, the moneyline for the favorite to score first is -100 * (Favorite Score / Underdog Score). In this example, it would be -100 * (13/10), or -130 for Dallas to score first. The underdog is the opposite: +130 for Atlanta. While pricing Props is not an exact science, this approach will provide you with a very good estimate.

Why did I use the first half, instead of the game line? The first half-lines almost always favor the favorite by more than half the game-spread. For example, a 7-point favorite for the game might be a 4-point favorite for the first half. Better teams play to score on every possession in the first half, but may sacrifice scoring to eat-up time when winning in the second half. The first half line is a better reflection than the game line of what will happen early in the game.

One way you can improve this method slightly is to look at the moneyline price on the spread and total. For example, if the first half total were ‘Under 23 -110 / Over 23 +100)’, you might treat that as a total of ‘22.75’. Similarly, a first-half spread of -3 -110 / +3 +100 might be treated as -3.25.

Next week, we will take a look at some other popular NFL Props, including ‘Will the first score of the game be a TD? (Yes/No)’.

What are players betting at Pinnacle Sports this week?

Baltimore +3 +109 v. Cincinnati

As a bookmaker, there are times when you look at what the players do and think ‘how did they know the line would do that?’ In this case, we opened the Bengals as a 2-point favorite. The early sharps played the Bengals, and some of those later played the Ravens for a nice scalp AND middle at +3 +109.

While even the best players rarely get a position as nice as this, it does exemplify one concept: any side can be the sharp side, at the right price. Winning players have a knack for knowing which way a game will move, and establishing their position at a good number. When we review a risk profile for a game, we frequently see the same winning players getting the best price on a side, or sometimes on both sides of a game.

USC -12.5 -106 v. UCLA

As this game alone can conclude the BCS National Championship picture, it is not surprising that it is our most heavily traded game. We opened the Trojans at -11 -105, where the price drifted up to -13.5 due to public money. At that point, some sharps played UCLA plus the points, with a few buying the ’14’.

Some casual players were surprised that USC is such a small favorite over the Bruins, which are only 6-5 this year. UCLA fares well in computer rankings thanks to a tough schedule including 9 games against Pac-10 opponents. Of all the conferences, the Pac-10 is rated as the strongest by Sagarin ratings. Where does Michigan and the Big Ten stand? At #4, behind the S.E.C. (#2) and the Big East (#3).

Arkansas +2.5 -104 v. Florida

In what might be the last piece of the BCS puzzle, we opened the ‘Gators as -3 +100 in the SEC title game. The number of bets and volume has been heavy, but flat on both sides. The market price crept up, forcing us to ‘move on air’. Our sharper players have not given us any clear guidance on this game.

It is a little unusual to see a higher ranked team at home that is favored by fewer than 3 points. If the home field advantage is worth about 3 points, it would suggest that Arkansas would be a small favorite on a neutral field. Why is this, if Arkansas is #9 in the BCS, compared to #4 for Florida? Injuries. The Gators might be without several starters including RB DeShawn Wynn (shoulder).

Dallas -3.5 -108 v. New York Giants

Coach Parcells keeps taking chances with his roster, and they keep paying off. The skeptics challenged his decision to sign Terrell Owens. 11 games later, with 8 TDs, 831 receiving yards and 46 first downs, that decision looks pretty good. Five weeks ago, Parcells benched 14-year veteran Drew Bledsoe in favor of Tony Romo. In Romo’s first 5 starts as an NFL QB, Dallas has gone 4-1. What is Parcells’ latest change? He gave former Pro-Bowl kicker Vanderjagt the boot in favor of Gramatica.

After opening the Cowboys as 3-point favorites, the early sharps kept backing Dallas, pushing the line up to -3.5. The line moved up, notwithstanding the public favoring the Giants by a 7:4 margin.

BCS National Championship: USC +5 -110 v. Ohio State

Although USC has not been selected for the big game yet, we can still trade it at Pinnacle Sports (all bets will be cancelled if USC does not play in the Championship game).

Trading for most games falls into recognizable patterns which are defined by the level of interest by different groups, from public to syndicates. This game is a bit of a puzzle so far, despite the early heavy volume. We have twice as many wagers on Ohio State, but nearly twice as many dollars on USC. With that type of profile, we would expect the sharps to be on USC. However, the sharps are split fairly evenly on this game. The heavier volume on the Trojans thus far seems to be just ‘noise’.

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