If your approach to this industry is to “bet it and forget it,” you are doing this wrong. The business has changed over the last several years because of live betting and an increase in derivative wagering. The ability to bet in-game or make additional wagers at halftime adds more bullets for bettors to fire. It also requires a lot of discipline but can really help your bottom line when applied correctly.
During Week 1 of the NFL season, I watched the games with Dave Sharapan and a group of his buddies at Green Valley Ranch. A situation popped up that caused the wheels in my brain to start turning. A couple of texts later and I was sitting at my laptop writing about it after the game.
One of the guys had a three-team moneyline parlay that was live going into the Broncos-Giants game. Two underdogs came through with the Steelers and the Texans on a $100 ticket that had a payout amount in the $2,000 range. The last leg was the Broncos against the Giants.
The first decision was whether to let it ride. It would have been a simple hedge to take the pregame Giants moneyline at the best available price and lock in profit that way.
To go that route, the question to ask is: “What is the minimum I want to win?” Take whatever gets you to that point and bet it on the Giants.
The call was made to let it ride and the game was followed closely, as others in the group had their own tickets on Denver minus the points and also on the moneyline.
As halftime approached, the talk among the group became about the second-half line and the hedging options available. Denver had clearly been the better team but had made enough mistakes to keep the game close. The Broncos were even trailing 7-3 late in the second quarter.
A wide variety of opinions were shared. With Sharapan, a longtime risk manager offshore and in Las Vegas, among the group, we certainly had some expertise in the discussion about where the second-half line would come out. It all hinged on what happened with Denver’s last possession of the half, but the wheels were turning even before that point.
A 7-3 score was the worst-case scenario. Denver would have been a sizable second-half favorite because the full-game line was -3 and the sportsbooks wouldn’t want to get middled badly on the side, which happens when the final score falls between the full-game line and the second-half line.
A 7-6 score would have been most interesting, as the Broncos would likely have been -3.5 or -4 for the second half, as the full-game line was -3. With the Broncos moneyline on the parlay, there would be a decent chance the Giants could cover the second half and Denver could still win the game to cash the parlay.
As it turned out, Denver scored a late touchdown to go into the second half with a 10-7 lead. The halftime line came out Denver -0.5.
The option was there again to lock up profit simply by betting on the Giants. If the Giants won outright, at least the second-half winner would count for something. The game could fall to Denver by 1, 2 or 3 and both bets would cash, the big ML parlay and the second-half bet.
The other option, preferred by Dave and me, was to let it ride. The rationale was that Denver was getting the ball to start the second half and that the Giants had 112 total yards in the first half. Why cut into the winning parlay if you don’t really have to given the game state?
The final decision from the bettor was to put $500 on the Giants + 0.5. If the Broncos manage to lose the game and the $100 parlay ticket, the bettor still had something to show for it. If the Broncos win, the parlay was essentially $100 to win $1,500 instead of $100 to win $2,000 because of the $500 hedge.
Two schools of thought were on display in these discussions. The old-school mindset was to lock up profit right away. The new-school mindset, with more experience and exposure with live betting, was a little more risk-tolerant. Don’t hedge unless it looks like you have to because the game is going awry.
What would you have done?
Being faced with these real-life scenarios, whether they are yours or somebody else’s, are chances to evolve and improve your critical thinking skills as a bettor. The best bettors are always looking for opportunities. You might not have control over your bet once you hit the submit button or hand over your cash to the ticket writer, but you do have control over what you do to maximize that position.
Pregame betting is an exercise in guesswork. There are a lot of unknowns before kickoff. We try to do all kinds of research to account for matchup advantages and coaches’ game plans. All we can really do is get the best available number to have the best chance at cashing a ticket.
Once we see the game and get a feel for how things are going, there are ways to capitalize, whether that means a new wager, a way to piggyback off an existing wager or a way to cut the potential losses.
As we know, the Broncos won 27-17 and basically controlled the game in the second half. It wound up being an unnecessary hedge, but all sides of the argument make some sense.
There will come a time when you are faced with some sort of live betting decision. Consider all the options. Consider your level of risk tolerance. Consider the game state and the potential advantages for either side. Make the decision that is the most sensible for you and your bankroll. These scenarios are part of the maturation process as a bettor, and understanding what to do and why to do it is vital to success in this business.