Before every sporting event, people look forward to the opening line. Whether it is sports gamblers looking to place an early bet, or the general public trying to gauge how competitive the event might be, people take note of these early numbers right away.
Most take these numbers for granted, but where exactly do they come from? Who is in charge of the betting lines?
Every major sports betting company uses a team of individuals working together to put together the best lines possible. There is a heavy reliance on math and statistics, but there is also that human element that is likely never truly to go away. For smaller companies and bookies, the lines might be set by a single person, or borrowed from a competitor.
Setting the lines
Crunching the right numbers tell the vast majority of the story before a contest takes place. There are many different pieces of data companies can dive into to set a great opening line. Statistics and data take away any bias towards one team or another, but there is a human element to it as well. Understanding the betting public and how they react to certain teams is a skill in itself.
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The biggest sportsbooks are going to make their odds, but others will outsource the work. That is why a lot of places will offer the same betting opportunities. Even if a company does not use the same oddsmakers, there are adjustments after looking at others once released. If one company has vastly different odds, they might react right away not to set anything off.
Adjusting the opening line
An opening line is the best guess by oddsmakers to create equal action on both sides. A lot of effort goes into getting that opening line as correct as possible, but oddsmakers do not need to be perfect in that regard. In fact, sometimes it helps to be a little imperfect because money will start to come in initially and give the house an idea on how everyone feels.
A lot of people are under the impression that the odds are 100% accurate with who will win and he will lose. However, big markets and other factors play into this not being the case. For example, a team like the Dallas Cowboys going up against a much smaller franchise with less history might get as much as one or two points in their favor because they have so many supporters. That means if they are favored by 6 points in a contest, they might actually receive a line of -8.
This is an opportunity for some shrewd sports gamblers to put money down on the underdog. Some gamblers’ entire strategy is indeed based on hunting for underdogs going up against popular franchises.
The changing of odds
Using machines and statistics is already extremely prevalent in sports odds, and that will likely increase as time goes on. There is still a human element to it to a certain degree, especially when it comes to understanding just how popular specific teams might be. At the same time, their numbers can help quantify the amount of influence a particular team might have on the betting public.
The most significant change will likely be the evolution of live odds to keep up with demand. There is always a little bit of lag when doing something live, which can be problematic for many reasons. For example, someone inside the stadium will see play in real-time while someone watching on television is going to be dealing with some delay. Finding a way to close that gap and make it equal for everyone will open up so many more opportunities.
Will odds ever be 100% automated?
It seems highly unlikely that odds will ever be completely handed over to machines spitting out numbers. There is just too much of a human element to the betting public, and someone needs to be behind it to make those little tweaks. Companies want to make sure that they are making money, and the technology is not there to 100% be sure that a machine can handle everything.
Companies rely heavily on machine learning and other bits of technology already, but not every piece of information is there to process in statistics. Just like humans are placing bets, humans will need to help with setting precise lines.