In-play betting on the NFL has become increasingly popular, but do bettors know how to find value when live betting on football? What should bettors look for when betting during games? Is there any value to be found in the in-play NFL odds? Read on to find out.
For many bookmakers, in-play betting is generating as much volume as pre-game betting markets. The demand from bettors has led to more markets and availability. There is no longer a game played without extensive in-play betting options.
In-play betting markets are often treated as knee-jerk bets by many gamblers. A lack of data and knowledge of how the markets work leads to many bettors making misinformed in-play wagers.
Most bookmakers that offer in-play betting will rely on a combination of math models, algorithms and human trading teams to control in-play prices and offerings.
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In-play pricing for all sports tend to follow a similar trajectory based on time decay. As time applies to a market, the range of possible outcome narrows and prices become more efficient.
For example, the range of possible scorelines for an NFL game is vastly higher in the first quarter than the fourth quarter.
NFL in-play markets are unique. The combination of fixed scoring, situational influence and frequent tie/lead change scenarios mean markets tend to require more human intervention than usual.
Tie game scenarios act as a direct re-evaluation of the betting market by bookmakers. In-play positions can be easy to spot in tie game scenarios when keeping the following points in mind:
- Key numbers (3,4,7,10,13,14) cause resistance and open up middling
- Every in-play market has a liability side and a house side
- In-play markets are an extension of the pre-game market
- Possession will always dictate the position
- Beware of the market flip
NFL in-play betting example
Here is an example of how I would analyse an in-play market.
The Miami Dolphins are playing the New England Patriots. The New England Patriots are 7.5 point favourites pre-game.
My first note is that the point spread is on a key number. Key numbers are significant because bookmakers will be hesitant to move the odds through them. Doing so allows any bettor with a pre-game bet to middle and win both wagers.
If the price shoots up through the next key number, I will begin to keep an eye out for overinflation and a runaway market.
My second note is that New England is most likely the liability side. Bookmakers will be very quick to adjust in-play based on the amount of liability.
I will watch for the price reaction to an early New England score. If the point spread holds tight below the next key number, I will keep an eye out for a potential position by bookmakers holding the price down against the liability. If the price shoots up through the next key number, I will begin to keep an eye out for overinflation and a runaway market.
When I have a feeling for how sensitive a market is and the range of the movement, I will look to time an entry if I see bookmakers taking a position against liability or if there is overinflation. In-play prices must always account for possession. The instant a team begins a drive, the price is higher than market value and requires a score to put the bet in a profitable exit position.
Finding value in the NFL live odds
I always bet the NFL in-play when the team I identify value on is playing defence. Since the team with possession is already inflated, a score impacts the market much less than a defensive turnover or a defensive stop followed by a score. I prefer to limit my downside and maximise my upside.
The most telling of all in-play moves is the market flip. Bookmakers will always be extremely hesitant to flip the point spread through PK (+/- 0). Anytime a market flips, a large portion of bettors with pre-game tickets will have an option for instant cashout or profit by betting the opposite side at an equal or higher price.
- Read: How to bet on the NFL
A market flip - especially in the first half - is rare but can produce an extremely profitable betting opportunity, especially if the non-liability side is the team flipping the market.
I find bookmakers and the market can price deficit recovery much more accurately than they can price lead retention
Successful in-play betting comes with experience. Confidence and familiarity can only be developed by spending time in the markets. My favourite in-play betting scenario is opposing a side leading by two possessions where the market has not flipped through zero or increased by more than one touchdown.
I find bookmakers and the market can price deficit recovery much more accurately than they can price lead retention which is why I prefer to make my market entries early in the first half on teams trailing with the goal of removing my liability shortly after a move to create a risk-free bet.
I buy and sell very quickly (maybe 2-3 possessions maximum) just as a wave of money begins to enter the market. I use the above factors to determine my entry and wait on the money to come in, either it will move me, or it will move right through me.
I encourage all bettors this Sunday to take a few minutes to monitor key numbers, identify the liability side and acknowledge time decay. Price movements will take on a whole new meaning.