I have been thinking and writing a lot about the smart money recently. Basically, smart money is the money bet by the most prepared and effective of bettors – the true professionals. One of the more interesting – and often profitable – things to do is to try to figure out where the smart money is being bet on a game, and what that means.
You can’t just ask the sports books where the smart money is, and the smartest bettors typically don’t broadcast their bets to the general public. That means that you have to use careful observation and a few tricks to deduce where the smart money is headed in a particular game. We won’t talk about how to spot the smart money here because we have done it in other articles, but with practice it gets easy to do. What I do want to look at, though, is three situations in which the smart money is interesting, and where it can potentially point you to a profitable bet of your own:
When the odds move rapidly – Sometimes you will see a line that is released and then gets violently attacked – like, for example, a football game in which the line opens up at 10 and drops to six in just hours. Lines can move that far due to heavy public action on one side, but if they change very quickly and soon after the line is posted then it is more often an indicator that the smart money has pounced on the line. The reason they have jumped on it so aggressively is usually because there is a mistake in the line. Spotting these big moves can tell you where that mistake is. There is sometimes a problem here, though – if you spot the line after all of the movement has happened then the betting by the smart money has probably corrected the error. That means that while they have gotten the value of the line error it might be there for you – even if you bet on the same side as them. It’s often not profitable, then, to bet on the same side as the smart money well after they have made their bet. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth looking at these line changes, though. The most value in spotting these moves in my eyes is that you can look closely at the game and attempt to figure out why it is that the original line was seen as a mistake by the sports bettors. The more you look at these games the better you get at spotting the errors, and the better the chances that you can spot them before they have been corrected. In short, looking for these moves and learning from them is a great way to make you a better bettor.
When a game moves in the opposite direction to what you would expect – You can’t easily find out how much money has been bet on each team in a particular game. What you can find out, though, is how many bets have been placed on each team. When we see a game in which a huge majority of the bets – 70 percent or more – are on one team we would typically expect the odds for that team to get less attractive. That’s because the books generally like to have action that is closed to balanced so that they can make profits with little risk, so they will change the lines to attract action to one team to achieve that balance. Sometimes, though, we will see games in which the large majority of bets are on one team, yet the line moves to make that team even more attractive. What that tells us is that the small number of bettors on the less popular team have bet more money than the large number of bettors on the popular team. If the team moves significantly then we know that the smart money has bet the game aggressively. It can often be profitable by betting against the public in these situations. This is also a great way to spot teams that are ready to pull off a big upset – something that can lead to very profitable moneyline bets.
When nothing of note happens in a high profile game – When a game is high profile – a nationally televised game between big name teams – then the betting action will often be significantly higher than it is for most games in the sport. If the line hasn’t moved significantly in a high profile game, and the number of bets is reasonably balanced between the sides, then it is safe to assume that the smart money hasn’t weighed in heavily on one side or the other. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bet on these games just because the smart money may not have. Not at all. What it means, though, is that the line that is posted is probably pretty accurate – if it wasn’t then the smart money would have moved it until it was – so you should only bet on the game if you see a significant edge for one of the teams based on your handicapping.