The Pinnacle Pulse 2/15/2006

The Pinnacle Pulse
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 Mr. Noble then gives insight into the early line movement on this weekend’s Stanford/Gonzaga basketball game and the NFL Pro Bowl. He goes on to discuss the line movement on the Men’s 20km Biathlon at the Winter Olympics and a unique Pinnacle prop on Tiger Woods’ Major wins in 2006.

Money Magement for Small Sports Bettors
Although much has been written on “money management”, most of these ideas focus on larger players with $100,000+ bankrolls. In my experience, the majority of players don’t have this kind of capital and have always been neglected when it comes to money management theory.

Before you decide what your bankroll is or what risks are acceptable, you first need to make a serious evaluation: what is your goal? Is your emphasis recreational – do you bet on games to add a little excitement to your favorite sport, while hoping to win some extra cash? Or are you an aspiring sharp who hopes to move up to the big leagues one day? Depending on your objective, there are very different styles of risk management that should apply.

The bad news first… No one likes to think about worst-case scenarios, but this is where any bettor (recreational OR professional) must start. For recreational players, think in terms of a single sports season. How much are you comfortable losing during the course of the season? Naturally the goal of any bettor is not to lose this amount – you’d obviously rather win this plus interest, but being realistic at the beginning will make your life simpler if you hit a nasty losing streak.

Assume Joe Public decides he’s willing to lose up to $1,000 during the entire baseball season. Next he must ask himself; what is the most Joe can bet and still be playing at the end of the season? Joe can always bet less, but he needs a firm ceiling on the most he should ever bet on any game during the season. The more games he wants to play, the less he should bet. A quick way to find out the ceiling is to guess how many games you will bet during the season and divide the bankroll by the square-root.

For example, if you were going to bet 100 games, the square root is 10, so Joe could risk as much as $100 per MLB game ($1,000/10). This is not to say he should risk $100 every game, but this is the most that he should ever consider betting on a single play.

Ignoring vigorish, a player has about a 1/40 chance of being down more than $1,000 after making a hundred, $100 bets. As a recreational player, you can almost ignore the vig at a reduced juice sports book like Pinnacle Sports. At Pinnacle Sportsbook we use an 8-cent line in MLB, so Joe Public would only pay about $200 in vigorish for the entire season compared to $500 at a traditional bookie using a 20-cent line.

The needs of aspiring sharp players are very different. Joe Public wants action and hopes to win, whereas most sharps could care less about the action and bet to “beat the man” – some for money, others for the excitement of outsmarting the bookmaker. The above strategy won’t work for someone trying to win long-term, although it will keep you out of trouble.

If you’re an aspiring sharp, you already know what your bankroll is (the amount you are prepared to lose before you would quit betting). The next question to ask is how much should you risk per play? The answer is: it depends.

The number one mistake gamblers make is overestimating their advantage. Conventional wisdom suggests never risking more than 1-3% of your bankroll on a single play. This is good advice if you are betting the NFL/NBA/MLB for example. The information out there and the volume of betting make these markets deadly accurate (unless you are playing into opening numbers early).

Instead of firing bombs on these sports, a mid-sized player (with a bankroll from $1,000-$50,000) would be better off price-shopping and promotion hustling than handicapping these giants. If you hit the bonuses, free half-points and stale numbers, you can almost guarantee a year-end profit without picking a single game.

Another mistake bettors make is being timid when hitting small markets. Whereas 1-3% risked might be a good rule for pro sports, the rule for props and niche markets should be “How much will they take?” If you analyze in depth a prop or obscure market and think you have a 10% edge, there’s a good chance you probably do.

Similarly, college sports and areas with no large following provide great opportunities as long as you become an expert in that particular area. If you’re an expert on Portugal Liga TMN basketball or a Winter sports specialist with a strong opinion on Saturday’s Men’s 1000m final in short track skating at the Olympics (both available now for Internet betting at Pinnacle Sports), your estimates of high advantages could be correct and justify 5% or higher plays.

Normally I would give you a run down of the week’s sharp moves at this point in the column but after receiving some great questions from readers I thought it would be a good idea to share my answers in this column.

Chris wrote:
My question for you regards the following of “Sharp” or “Wise Guy” action. I have noticed that they seem to do very well. My question is: Can I win by simply following their plays?

To answer your question, there is no guarantee that you’ll win by simply following sharps, but it can certainly give you a better chance to be a winner in the long run if you;

1. Make the same plays as the sharps;
2. Get the same number that they did when you place your wager;
3. Manage your money properly.

That being said, it’s usually tough to get the same number as the sharps unless the public opposes them or you have a local out with consistently stale numbers. Money management is also extremely important – we have many players at Pinnacle Sportsbetting who win more than half their plays, but lose money long-term due to poor money management.

Dave wrote:
What is the real win % of sharps? Also, do the sharps believe in playing high volume or being selective?

Knowing what percent of bets a sharp wins will not tell you much – a player could easily win 55% of the time in baseball and still be a long-term loser. Alternatively, they could win 15% of the time and be a winner depending on the odds and the prices they play.

At Pinnacle Sports betting when we evaluate players and handicappers we look at two things: their win/loss record and whether they consistently get the best of the number (the market moves agree with their selections). A handicapper who is 55-45 on the year, but is always on the right side of line moves is far more dangerous than a capper at 15-5 with no market agreement.

Despite what many handicappers claim, on major league sports no one person ever consistently holds more than 5-6% long-term, although syndicates can do slightly better than this. Only a small fraction of players are sharp and even they do not win every year. Outside the major pro sports, some of our best players hold 15%.

As to playing high volume or being very selective, different players use different approaches. The full-time professionals tend to be volume players, whereas the “weekend warrior” sharps with normal 40-hour jobs are more selective.

If you have any sports betting related questions that you would like answered in future columns, please feel free to write to me at

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