The art of setting the number is like scotch, it's an acquired taste. Professionals who learn for example to construct football futures odds do not wake one day and say, 'I think I can do that'.
While a few Joe Schmooze's might be correct on a few numbers on teams they know, to accurately assemble college football odds on 128 teams for future's wagers and not leave the company you work for left open to exposure for a mistake made is imperative.
Professional bookmakers put up their futures odds awhile back and Todd Fuhrman of Sportsline.com and former Caesar's oddsmaker probably said it best about making odds, “It's data, numbers and an understanding of the market.”
Here is the breakdown of each category.
Everything Starts With the Numbers
For any oddsmaker, sharp bettor or quality handicapper, they have power ratings they build. Often this takes years of fine-tuning and really is the lifeblood of setting odds on individual games or futures wagers.
These individuals tend to be extremely confident in what they put together and if questioned, they will come at you like an attack dog, firmly believing they are correct. All 128 teams are assigned numbers, but only the top 45 to 50 even make the cut to be wagered on, because realistically, only 25 to 30 teams even have a chance to win the championship and the number of teams that are truly bet on by volume is half that.
Data Drives Adjustments
While most of the material oddsmakers look at is available to everyone to view on the internet, the fact is most do not comprehensively dig deep enough to find unique nuggets of info that can make a difference or they do not have the time.
This is where those setting lines or futures odds have the edge over those placing college football picks. We have all heard the expression, "They (oddsmakers) must know something we don't know." And while that can true, this mostly because it is their job to do so, which is not true of the majority of those betting football.
Elements like returning starters (and at what key positions), coaching, schedules and the programs themselves all are part of the data used to formulate numbers.
Understanding The Market
This is another invaluable asset in the linemakers arsenal, which allows them to generate numbers based on perception through their knowledge.
This season, there again is very public teams that will attract the majority of action. It is easy to rattle off Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, LSU, Ohio State and Michigan. Talking to some sources in Nevada at more public sportsbooks, Michigan is drawing a lot of attention for futures, with Jim Harbaugh in the news consistently and belief bettors have in his coaching ability.
Make no mistake, each team just mentioned has somewhat lower odds than they probably should, but the director of the sportsbook wants to limit possible payouts and pulls the numbers down to levels which do not draw attention and sends football bettors away scurrying for longer shots.
The best way to level the playing field is preparation, because the books can place the odds in their favor, but cannot fend off a sharp bettor who knows what they do and sometimes more.