For those who have followed me or read the old blog much you know how I preach if your going to learn to win in this game you need to set your own lines. I don’t really see any other way to do it long term. I get a lot of questions about how I do it. So I have decided to write this comprehensive article on methods, a little about how I do it and some the tools you NEED to have to do it.
Where do you come up with that line?
This is probably the most common question I get in the last 3 years I have been releasing plays on Onside and Twitter. So I am going to go thru a few methods of making lines and Power Ratings. Some resources. And a few must haves to do it correctly.
First let me take a shot at the why of the whole thing. The why of Power Ratings is basically to get a line of your own. The reason this is so important is when you have this line of your own making you can compare this to the Vegas line to find perceived value in a game you wish to bet. Then you can look into the market (future article) and find your bets. And hopefully do so successfully. Lets look at a few tools you may need first.
1. A Rotation book.
This is a must have. I personally have a yearly subscription to Dons Best rotation schedule. It cost about 50 bucks a year and is delivered to my house every few months. They are great. Some sports books will send you books when you join. They are not nearly as good but are free. VISN.com has daily sheets you can print out for free from the Southpoint. Problem is you can only get them that day. You kinda need them sooner.
2. Get In and Win. A book written by William Hall
He wrote this gem a few years back. In the book he goes thru how to build your own Value Ratings he calls them. He has example sheets in the book to use. Now I don’t personally follow his methods anymore. But what I learned from this very good book morphed into all the methods I use now. It is a great read and he does explain the how and whys very well. He use to provide all sheets for free online but I do not believe so anymore. His website has kind of went tout now.
So there are a few resources you need to have in my belief. Next I will go over where to start. First let me say to do this takes time. You will not come up with solid lines over night. Most guys will hate to here this next statement but it will take years to become good at this where you can see/trust value on a consistent bases. The upside if you start where I am going to tell you below you will become a better sports investor almost immediately.
Start Here, the road to building your own lines.
Now you have your rotation schedule sitting in front of you. Before you look and any lines for the day open the book to todays games and write what you think the line should be. Do this for every game that day in any sport you bet. Yea even Baseball ML bets. If you bet OV/UN got to do them to. This is reason I basically just bet full game ML in bases or Spread in other sports because it is what I know and what I work on. After you have wrote down all your lines it is time to look at a odds page such ad Sports Insights (best in my opinion). Compare what you wrote down to what the line is. The goal of this exercise is to get you thinking like a bookmaker.
A few notes about this exercise. One, do it for every game on the board. I don’t care if you don’t know where Long Beach ST even is let alone how good they are at basketball. It doesn’t take a long time to do. The goal is to get better at getting close to the real line. And the longer you do this the better you will get at it. Fishy lines will start to pop out to you. Two, do so in pencil. Believe me as you start taking notes and shit over the days and week you will be doing a lot of erasing.
If you find it to overwhelming focus on maybe a sport or even just a few conferences with in a sport. BUT I still believe it is best to do it all because you will learn it faster. After doing this exercise for a few years you may discover you have become a decent bookmaker without even making power rankings. I hate to admit this really as much as I preach and preach about Power Rankings but for CFB and CBB this above method is the only one I ever use. I have done Rankings in past for football but with the number of teams it is a nightmare to keep them. Takes a lot of time. But after doing so for such a long time and spending years staring at odds pages I can usually spot funny looking lines. Now just because you line is different than the posted line doesn’t mean you should play it using this method. This is a training exercise. It is also just one piece of the puzzle.
I know I personally find this fun. You will learn to love the days when you hitting 75-80% of lines close. The better you get at it the more you can depend on it.
Something else to learn to help you along the way doing this. There are many articles on the internet about key numbers in each sport. Read these a few times and learn them. They are key for a reason. Another thing to do is listen the the Guessing the Lines podcast done by Gill Alexander and Chris Andrews. It is a NFL show where Gill guesses the lines as a gambler and Chris as a Bookmaker tells him where his ratings are and where the line actually opened. It is truly a great show and I have listened every year since it started. On my favorite hours of the week.
So you have spent a season or two guessing lines and you getting better. You part way to being a bookmaker yourself. Your winning more bets. Having more fun. And starting to get a feel for sports betting beyond what the talking heads yip about on a daily basis. Now it is time to make Power Rankings of your own. I do keep power rankings for NFL and NBA. Mine are not traditional where I list them form 1-whatever. I will go into that more below. Where do you start.
What every set of Power Ratings need to have to be effective.
There needs to be a numerical value. Rather you use a 100 type scale or any other numerical scale each team must be assigned a number. In Get In to Win he uses sheets to do so. Meaning if you have a team as number 1 it is worth a determined amount of points. He provides sheets for different sports. He came up with the numbers by historical scores and shit. I don’t know that I really agree with his numbers. But I imagine he has many guys who use them with success. I use the 100 type scale I spoke of earlier. A average team is 100. Bad teams go down and good teams go up. I am not going to go into all the ins and outs of this because these need to be YOURS. Not mine. Starting out I will say this. There are 1000s of power ratings available online to give you a starting point.
There needs to be a home field advantage for each team. Some believe it is the same for each team in each sport. Some do it by team to team basis. Some use complex math. I am somewhere in between. I read articles on the subject each year and adjust mine a little here and there. But I do keep one for each team.
So now you have a number. How ever you decided to go with it. Next you use it to get a line. Say the Patriots are playing the Browns in Cleveland. You have the Pats at number one in a sliding scale or they have the highest point ranking on your 100 scale. Say it is 106.5. Then you have my Browns at #2 (lol). No really you have them last. They are a 96.5. And you have determined they are worth 2.5 at home. Below average home field. With that example your line would be Pats -7.5 in this game. The books post Pats -9. Your line shows a 1.5 point advantage. You see that the Browns have some value. Once you become good at this most NFL/NBA games you should always be with in 2 points or it could be a crazy line your looking at.
Another aspect of Power Ratings is they must be fluid. Meaning they need adjusted weekly. But THE most important aspect of this is NOT to overreact to any single game. This is the biggest mistake made by guys starting out doing this. The second biggest mistake is over reacting to injuries. Any adjustments to your ratings should be small and gradual. The best in the business know these two things and you need to understand them.
Getting started preseason can be done by some complicated math model or by a lot of reading. Or finding decent ratings out there to use. I do a combination of the last two. I will look at a bunch of what I consider decent ratings and combine them in a way to initially get a set. Then I read about each team a good bit and decide if I believe I need to move them a little myself.
Okay guys, now that is the best I can do at explaining the how and why of line making. There is so much that goes into it. Honestly I could go on forever. But that would be a book. I hope this helps you to get started though. A root to build a tree I guess. Hit me up on Onside (SharkyGroup) or Twitter (@sharkygroup) with any questions or comments. You want my line on a game just ask. Have fun with it and I hope it helps you to get to the window more often. Good Luck guys and until next time when I write a comprehensive guild to reading the market take it easy and guess those lines!