Taking advantage of line shading

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Taking advantage of line shading

The battles bookmakers wage are twofold. First, they must hang lines that wiseguys won’t exploit early on in the week. Second, they have to anticipate where the public action is going to land by the time the weekend rolls around.

Often, this scenario creates the effect of being the rope in a tug of war.

Because sharp guys and recreational bettors pull in inherently different directions when it comes to their respective action, it’s the job of a bookmaker to find a balance between crafting lines that will give the wiseguys pause and taking advantage of the public’s penchant for betting strictly on high-profile teams and overs.

In the latter case, there’s a tactic the sportsbooks employ to gain an edge over the public. Known as “shading,” bookmakers will inflate numbers on teams they know recreational bettors favor. This goes for sides and totals, with both always shaded toward the side of the public team and the over.

The reason bookmakers utilize line shading is simple: the public bets teams, not numbers. In other words, if the Broncos are playing the Dolphins in Miami and the books believe Denver should be a 7-point favorite, that number will hit the board at -7.5 because they know the public is going to lay the Broncos regardless.

While public teams like the Broncos, Packers, Saints and Cowboys almost always see their lines shaded, the practice is even more pronounced for primetime games. So in the aforementioned example, Denver would likely open even higher – probably as an 8-point favorite – if the game was on a Sunday or Monday night.

The problem with line shading is that sharp guys pay little attention to teams. They are only concerned with numbers. So whereas the typical recreational gambler wouldn’t think twice to lay the Broncos at -7, -7.5 or -8, the difference in those numbers could very well be enough to make a sharp guy switch sides.

Because public money is almost always going to outweigh sharp money – specifically in high-profile primetime games – line shading is and will continue to be commonly practiced by the books. Which is to say profitable opportunities are there for recreational bettors willing to take an adversarial stance.

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