In Vegas We Trust
There was a heated twitter debate that started a few weeks ago on the topic of Las Vegas sports betting lines. Many DFS players use Las Vegas or online sports betting lines, like the moneyline and over/under, to help them choose pitchers and look for specific teams to target for hitters. But some people are skeptical of the usefulness of these lines. The question is this: are sports betting lines predictive of the outcomes of games, or are they flawed numbers based on the manipulation of big sports bettors and the bookies trying to make money?
As a professional poker player and someone who lives in Las Vegas, I’ve interacted with hundreds of sports bettors (good and bad) in my lifetime. While I only sports bet on occasion and for fun, I would consider myself more knowledgeable on the topic than most people in this world. Here is what I know:
Profitable sports bettors do not bet on moneyline or over/under. Are the moneyline and over/under numbers perfect? No. But they are close enough to the point where sports bettors stay away from the moneyline and over/under most games and feel as though they can’t beat the vig. Given that we are not as good at sports betting as professionals, it is wise to listen to the lines that are set by the bookies and the bettors.
The o/u and the moneyline take all considerations into account. If you look at some numbers and realize the Cubs are much worse against left handers than right handers, but a lefty pitcher isn’t that much of a favorite against the Cubs, it does not mean that you’ve discovered something no one else has. Sports bettors and bookies are running much more advanced statistical analysis than we are, so if they are projecting that a pitcher isn’t going to do that well, then he probably won’t. If the wind is blowing in hard from right field in Texas, but Vegas still projects to o/u to be 10, then the wind clearly isn’t going to have that much of an effect even though it seems like it should.
Player Props are not as accurate as some of the more popular bets, but they are still very good predictors of outcomes. Bovada has some really cool player props that come out a few hours before every game, and have things like strikeout o/u for specific pitchers that night and player vs player bets. If Bovada is offering even odds on o/u 6 strikeouts for Jesse Chavez against the Mets, he’s probably going to get around 4-8 strikeouts. If you think you can outsmart Bovada, then I suggest you go ahead and start sports betting there. But you’ll probably lose money.
It’s nice to think that we’re smart enough to outsmart Vegas and sports bettors, but the reality is almost all of us are certainly not. It’s not always going to be right, sometimes the Astros are going to score 8 runs off of David Price when Vegas projected they’d only score 2, but in the end it’s going to be more accurate than any predictions we’ll ever make. The Vegas lines can be very powerful tools to help you win in DFS and ignoring this great information sports betting provides us will cost you big time.View all posts by Max J Steinberg