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Sep 13, 2018

The importance of looking ahead in the NFL

When is the right time to place a bet?

Why it’s important to think ahead

An example of anticipating market movement

The importance of looking ahead in the NFL

Modern-day sports betting is built on complex models and large data sets. While the process might be more advanced, the aim is still to find value in the market and bet when the time is right. In his latest article, Adam Chernoff has explained how bettors often make things more difficult than they need to be. Read on to find out more.

In my two previous articles for Pinnacle, I focused on the importance of simplifying your approach when betting on the NFL; what I like to call “the simple handicap” method. These articles explained how to break games down to determine upside as well as the basics of estimating price and identifying value.

Regardless of whether you’ve placed one bet on the NFL or spent decades watching the lines at a sportsbook, everyone can learn. The final step of this method, and the one I believe to be the most important, covers market lifespan and the idea of forward thinking.

Strike when the time is right

Sports betting is all about timing. The most excellent analysis and price estimation can be rendered useless by a poor market entry decision. Auspicious market timing comes with understanding the life cycle of a betting market.

Here are the significant points of an NFL betting market lifecycle:

  1. Look ahead odds open 10-12 days in advance of game day
  2. The betting market is off the board during present week games on Sunday
  3. Markets reopen following current week Sunday afternoon games
  4. Dramatic movement often follows a betting limit bump on Sunday night
  5. Medium volume betting from Monday to Saturday of game week
  6. High volume betting day of the game leading up to kick-off

The majority of bettors reading this place their wagers at points five or six in the week, while the majority of profitable bettors place their bets at points one, two or three.

NFL markets start much earlier than most bettors would believe. Bookmakers, odds compilers and traders put a considerable amount of effort in before releasing look ahead prices two weeks prior and reopening on Sunday evening.

When a look ahead price is opened to the market, influential money shapes the odds. In 2017, point spreads moved an average of 1.5 points per game between the open of the look ahead price, and the reopening of the primary market immediately following the Sunday afternoon games.

Incredibly, 18% of games last season moved 2.5 between look ahead open and reopen on Sunday night. Any bettor who placed a wager on look ahead odds last season had a 1/5 chance of getting at least 2.5 points of value on the bet. 

This, however, is not a blind betting strategy.

Why it’s important to think ahead 

Before beginning to place bets in advance, it is vital to understand the most critical aspect of anticipating movement is that the result of any game will have a push and pull reaction.

It can often be straightforward to predict a big favourite to have a strong performance. Placing a bet a week in advance on the favourite can be rewarded by the mass market reaction pushing the price up, but the upside is minimal because the market accounts for much of the movement prior. 

The most value when entering the market early comes from targeting a matchup of a team pushing the market up with strong performance against a team pulling the market down with poor performance. This will allow for a more significant swing in price and create more equity in the early market entry.

An example of anticipating market movement 

On September 4, the Denver Broncos were 1-point favourites in their Week 2 matchup on September 16 against the Oakland Raiders. At the time of release, the majority of the market was focused on the Broncos Week 1 matchup against Seattle. Likewise, for the Raiders, the focus was on the Week 1 matchup against the Rams.

In 2017, point spreads moved an average of 1.5 points per game between the open of the look ahead price, and the reopening of the primary market immediately following the Sunday afternoon games.

In anticipation of Denver exceeding expectations and Oakland falling short, professional bettors were quick to bet Denver -1 early in the look-ahead markets. As it played out, Denver won by a field goal, and Oakland lost by double digits.

Shortly after the Raiders game finished, Denver reopened as a -5.5 point favourite against Oakland. Professional bettors who took Denver at -1 now have a full 4.5 points of equity. The price continues to climb, and those bettors are left with a decision to create a middle opportunity or arbitrage to guarantee a profit - two strategies encouraged by Pinnacle.

This idea of getting ahead of the market may seem like an enormous shift in judgement for many reading but only a fool would complain about the results. If given a chance, I guarantee that looking at markets in this fashion will change everything. Scenarios like the Broncos Handicap shift for the game against the Raiders occur each week. But, unless there is attention given, the opportunities go by unnoticed.

A simplified approach will help bettors make more informed decisions when it comes to analysing the betting market. Staying ahead of the market and planning bets in advance is an extremely profitable and valuable way to think. Even if it is uncomfortable at first, I encourage all to continue on with it. Combining forward-thinking with simple matchup breakdowns and price estimation is a combination for long-term success in betting.

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