Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Sports Betting: Linemakers activity and the baseball playoffs

Link to an article by Dave Tuley

Interesting article about the linemakers' busy season of baseball playoffs, regular season football and the hockey season starting. Baseball betting is small compared to football, but with the playoffs coming,there will be more money on each game than the regular season. In particular, I found this interesting:

"Baseball betting has been dormant since the NFL started, but now people who don't usually bet baseball will be getting involved in the playoffs," O'Brien said. "There's more pressure to set a good line, because each individual game gets more attention. It's not like a Detroit-Tampa Bay game in the middle of August. You can't make a significant error and have it go unnoticed. Even with fewer teams, we do as much work, because we're doing stuff like props that you don't do during the regular season."

With the public betting on games in the baseball playoffs, it is now possible to see games skewed too much towards the favorites in must-win situations. For example, if the Padres win Game 1, the line will probably come out too high for the Cardinals in Game 2...but it won't be the right time to bet it. That's because the line will only drift up as bettors will simply think "there's no way the Padres can go up 2-0 on the Cardinals". If the true line for Game 2 should be STL -180, it may open up STL -210 and drift up to STL -230 (just using those numbers to illustrate the point). The same goes for the Angels vs Yankees. But not so for the Astros vs Braves since that is a even money matchup.

There is a theory in the NBA playoffs called the Zig Zag Theory. The idea behind it is to bet on the team that lost in the previous game. So if Team A loses in Game 1 of the series, then bet on Team A in Game 2. This can be seen reflected in the lines. If the line for Game 1 was Team A -5, then if they win, the line may go down to Team A -4...but if they lose, it will go up to Team A -6. Historically, this theory is accurate (to some degree). If the linemakers did not move the lines based on what happened in previous games, they would get killed by the bettors - public and professional. However, it is my opinion that the Zig Zag Theory does not hold in baseball. Why? Because it is a completely different game. Basketball is a team sport where energy and focus as a team means a lot. Baseball is an individual sport disguised as a team sport. Individual focus is important. But the focus is different in the two sports. In basketball, the team needs to be focused all the time. In baseball, the players on defense (other than the pitcher/catcher), when there is no men on base, don't need to be all that focused until the pitcher is about to pitch. It's not as hard to maintain the focus in that way. Meanwhile, the pitchers and batters are always focused, no matter what, so there is no fear of losing focus ... like a team may in basketball. A study on how the zig-zag theory works in baseball is difficult because the starting pitchers change the probability of who should win the game so much. I believe it is not existent in the baseball playoffs, but I do believe the bettors think it exists.

The last section in that article is interesting too - regarding the sportsbooks early lines on Sunday night. Despite all the talk about the importance of offshore books, Las Vegas is still important and useful for professional bettors.

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