"Weak lines" during sportsbooks' busiest times are a thing of the past
The common misconception that other lines get "weak" around big events like March Madness and Super Bowl games actually had some merit a long time ago.
In fact, it just wasn’t around large public events up for consumption – such as Super Bowl or the opening day of the NCAA tournament – but even huge college basketball Saturday schedules that featured your big TV games and lowly held games from conferences you probably never heard about back then.
But the reason this came about was not from the time spent studying for each game, rather, it was the available information we could get about the teams involved.
One of my first big responsibilities I had as a newcomer to the Las Vegas Sports Consultant team back in 1987 was to hand-log every player for every team for every game. Sunday mornings started with a thick dot matrix pile of box scores from every game played on the day before. We printed them off from the files of Computer Sports World and that’s how my day began. It usually took me close to six hours to finish the task as sometimes the printing skipped or smudged and I had to make the best of it.
The first five names were the starters. I circled those points on the logs and whenever a name was not listed, we had to make phone calls to the colleges and (as coy and innocent as we could) ask what happened to the player involved.
Back then, we usually talked to a student in the athletic department who picked up the phone who was mostly very helpful. Unfortunately, bettors were doing the same thing and probably weren’t as polite as we were. That quickly raised flags to schools and the information they released.
But as technology evolved, our hand logging days became extinct. Box scores were already logged into databases we could scan with ease and from there we could research and evaluate every game with the same scrutiny and efficiency. Today, every game is looked at with the exact amount of facts, scores, logs for every team with beautifully laid out match-up files.
With Don Best unifying the schedule in order of game/rotation number, we could simply run down each matchup as they appeared in order. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter if we’re looking at a Duke-versus-North Carolina game or Cal State Northridge-versus-Pacific game: all of the information is presented the exact same way and takes the exact same amount of time to peruse.
On big game days such as the Super Bowl or the opening Thursday of March Madness, the schedule of events from the other leagues are quite small so no game is overlooked when we know the sportsbooks will be packed with squares that will be betting on every game before the marquee matchup kicks off.
Now, it must be stated that my working day for a huge Saturday schedule of basketball games starts on Thursday night. The size of the schedule we have to cover for one day is simply grotesque. My only relief came in the fact that knowing when I was done sometime early Friday morning when the numbers were released to our clients, we were done. The sportsbooks had to manage every game on Saturday from 9 a.m. PT to closing. We were done Friday morning.
To that end, I have to admit, I fell asleep at my desk more than a few times. But that’s the reason I had five separate oddsmakers and three different computer programs that evened out the opinions and came up with a pretty accurate number for every game.
In fact, with the technology available today, a huge Saturday schedule may take about an hour and a half to do and that length of time is no problem to stay focused.
I remember huge articles that came out back in the day that bettors were going to dominate the sports betting field because of all of the new computer databases available, the speed of information, the outlets available, etc.
Those factors, however, were a tremendous boon for oddsmakers and bookmakers as well. No injury at any level gets by now. If a player who averages 20 points a game is sick and isn’t going to play, that information is kept secret for about three minutes and very few gamblers get a crack at the “bad” line before it is updated.
With fans of every sport holding a phone and documenting every athlete - college or pro - information is exposed so fast. With that, the job of the oddsmaker, who now has the most information about every team large or small, each game can now be researched with the same veracity and accuracy as the next.
Peter Korner is a long-time Las Vegas oddsmaker and analyst, working at the Las Vegas Sports Consultants and operating his own odds service, The Sports Club. Find out more about Pete and his storied career in the sports betting industry here.