Pinnacle Pulse 12/29/2005

Pinnacle Pulse
The inside line from
by Simon Noble
12/29/2005  1:29 PM EST

Welcome to the Pinnacle Pulse where the line managers at look to give you an insider’s view of the point spread movement on key games each week and provide you with a little gambling theory to help you find a smarter way to bet courtesy of Pinnacle Sports.

BCS Bowl Games
The college football season will reach its climax with next week’s BCS Bowls. On premier games such as these, players have an additional tool to make money at Pinnacle Sports: live betting. On all of the BCS Bowl games, Pinnacle sportsbook will offer live betting with reduced juice wagering that offers up to 50% better value to the player than other sports books.

Live betting can be very lucrative for two reasons. First, the line is set on the fly by one linesman. Whereas a normal NFL line is the product of 20 different odds makers, you are testing your wits against just one linesman in the hot seat. Second, the public often misunderstands live betting, which creates even more opportunities. When these two factors interact, you’ll frequently find great opportunities in live online betting at Pinnacle Sports.

If you want to be a winning player at live betting, you do need to approach the game differently from how you would normally handicap. First, you must decide what you think the fair spread and total for the game is, so most of your analysis should still be completed before the game kicks off. We usually assume that the closing betting lines at Pinnacle Sports are accurate, but your handicapping could improve on this number.

Second, you need to estimate the probability of a team scoring on each drive. There are two key pieces of information you need to know – a typical football game has about 12 possessions per team and a scoring possession yields an average of 5.6 points in college (or 5.4 in the NFL). This means a little over 60% of offensive scores are touchdowns in college football. With these two pieces of information combined with the game spread and total, you can estimate the odds of a team scoring on each possession.

Consider the Rose Bowl: Texas versus USC. At the time of writing, the Pinnacle Sports betting line is USC -7.5 with a game total of 71. The line suggests an outcome of 32-39 in favor of USC – this score comes as close to tying the spread and total as possible. If you assume the Longhorns will score 32 points in 12 possessions, you can expect Texas to score about 5.7 times (32 pts / 5.6 pts per possession) or on about 48% of their possessions. Similarly, the Trojans would be expected to score 7 times (39/5.6).

Once you have done this initial homework, you can estimate a fair line at any point during the game by estimating how many possessions are left for each team so you can set your own reasonably accurate line. This will allow you to attack any odd spread a book chooses to throw at you during the game.

For example, assume Texas is up 31-24 at the start of the 4th quarter. What would the fair line be at that point? Using the lines above, Texas has an expected score of 8 points for the 4th quarter, while USC has one of 9.5 points. While USC is a small favorite in the 4th quarter, they are still a large underdog for the game at this point. The public will often bet heavily on the team that is “supposed” to win, even late in the game. If you saw Texas -4 -108 for the game offered at the start of the 4th quarter, you would recognize this as a value bet against the public.

Regardless of the approach you choose, there are a few adjustments you can make to improve your accuracy. In general, favorites tend to score more points in the first half – which is why the first half lines are typically more than half of the game spread. If a team is up from 8-13 points in the 4th quarter, it tends to score less while running the ball more. Similarly, a team down 9-14 points in the 4th quarter is more likely to score on each possession – the opponent is trading time for yardage. If the game is truly a blowout with a team up by 17 points or more, the scoring distribution doesn’t change as much. In high profile games such as Bowl games or playoffs, a team won’t hold back when up by 21 points as they might during a regular season game.

At Pinnacle Sports we will be offering live betting on the Bowl Championship Series. Take a look at how the sharps are playing them before the game starts to help you adjust your line.

Rose Bowl – Texas (+7.5) v USC
This year’s National Championship game features the only two undefeated Division I teams in the country. This type of match-up bodes well for the BCS given the controversies in recent years. Last year four teams finished undefeated, which renewed calls for a college football playoff. In 2003 two different national champions were crowned, when LSU finished 1st in the BCS rankings and USC finished 1st in the media and coaches’ polls.

We opened this game at USC -6.5 and saw a flood of public money on the Trojans as the line pushed out to -7.5 when it was announced that there may be possible suspensions on the Texas side. Although we are accepting twice as many bets on USC, the larger bets have been on Texas. Although the sharps are in disagreement on this game, they slightly favor Texas.

Orange Bowl – Penn St. (-9.5) v. Florida State
This match-up features Div I-A’s two most winning coaches: Penn State’s Joe Paterno with 353 wins and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden with 359 wins. Penn St.’s remarkable season has been led by its offense, which averages 35.2 points per game. It won the Big 10 with the help of tiebreakers over Ohio State. The Seminoles path to the Orange Bowl was less direct – FSU finished 5-3 in the ACC Atlantic, which was enough to advance to the ACC championship game where they upset Virginia Tech to secure this bowl berth.

We initially opened the game at Penn St. -7.5. Some of our sharpest players played the Nittany Lions early, buying the favorite down to -7. The public also favored Penn State, forcing the line to creep up to -9.5. At this point, we’ve started getting buyback from sharps, which has stabilized the line.

Sugar Bowl – West Virginia (+6.5) v. Georgia
The Sugar Bowl has been held in New Orleans since 1935 but in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Superdome will be closed until early November. With the site moved to Atlanta, the Bulldogs will travel just 70 miles from Athens for this game.

After opening at WVA+8.5, we have once again seen the sharps divided on the game. Our early players took the Mountaineers, buying them up to +10. We also had a surprisingly large number of early bettors taking Georgia -8.5. The market has crept downward and now stabilized at West Virginia +6.5 -105.

Fiesta Bowl – Ohio St. (-4.5) v. Notre Dame
Notre Dame backers have had a good year, as the Irish have gone 7-4 against the spread, but when will the Bowl drought end? Notre Dame has not won a post-season game since 1993, when it defeated Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Since that time, it has lost seven consecutive bowl appearances. These teams have played four times in the past with the honors split evenly.

After opening the Buckeyes at -5.5 -116, we have seen heavy two-way volume with the sharps clearly favoring Ohio State. The public likes Notre Dame, which caused the market to drift down to OSU -4.5. Despite the movement, we find ourselves in the enviable position of having taken a larger volume on Ohio State at the worse number.

Detroit (+13.5) at Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has three ways to advance to the playoffs. The most straightforward is to simply win at home. San Diego hosts Denver a full day before this game and a San Diego win would also advance Pittsburgh due to tiebreakers. If both of these fail to occur, a Kansas City loss at home against Cincinnati would suffice.

Therefore pay very close attention to the San Diego game. If they pull off the upset, Sunday’s game becomes almost meaningless for Pittsburgh. While they are still at home and will play for their crowd, expect the line to plummet.

In our highest volume NFL game of the week, we opened the Steelers at -15. The public favored Pittsburgh, while the sharps favored Detroit. Our best players always get the best number and this game was no exception with some of them taking Detroit +17. Despite the public favoring Pittsburgh, the market has shifted down to Detroit +13.5.


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