Many people will place bets relying wholly on statistical data for a team or individual, crunching as many angles as possible. They will diligently line shop to get the best price. But did they make a good bet? One of the best ways to evaluate a bet you made is to compare it to the closing line.

The closing line refers to the final average market price at the major books (like Pinnacle, Bookmaker and 5dimes) before they stop taking wagers when the event begins. This line is actually the most accurate representation of the ‘real value’ of the predicted outcome and it can be said that market forces have moved the line to where it should be.

This movement can be attributed to a number of things. The closer we are to an event’s start, the more accurate our information becomes. Notably, the status of injured players becomes more certain, and weather projections becomes more accurate. The line moves as this information develops, and bettors that can assess this information correctly bet more and more.

Just as in the stock market, sports betting lines can be moved by investors (bettors) through the amount of money being wagered on a particular line. Bettors may see value in a line that they believe to be mispriced and are looking to take advantage of the opportunity. On the other side, sportsbooks are constantly adjusting the line to ‘balance out the book’, and keep their prices in line with the market.

This concept is crucial to beating the closing line. When sportsbooks see sharps or large amounts of the public (who will often follow sharps or key investors) betting a line, and see other competitors adjusting a price on a game, a sportsbook is alerted that its price is inaccurate. If the book fails to adjust its price, it will continue to accumulate many bets at a price unfavorable to the book (and favorable to the player). Books moving “on air” understand this, and do not have to give out equity to bettors before adjusting their prices.

The sharps and the public see value in the line; they think the books have mispriced it.  Their prediction gives them a different probability and therefore a different price on an outcome; this gives them the chance to make a winning bet at the expense of the books, who are just like bad investors, paying for getting it wrong.

Remember that in the world of sports betting, the books often rely on either following other sportsbooks or watching their own bettors. Only a few sportsbooks have their own oddsmakers capable of setting lines (notably Pinnacle and Bookmaker). Even those with their own models can only estimate a fair line; early line movements are evidence of errors in openers. For most other books that follow the market, they are always at risk of getting “beaten on the move” by steam chasers.

Consider a professional handicapper who has predicted a probability for the specific outcome of a game, and believes that the fair price on this event is +105. If he or she sees that the book has assigned a different value to the line – such as +140, the sharp will bet this line repeatedly, until the book adjusts its price to where their model has predicted (+105), or where the handicapper no longer wishes to bet.

It is this predicted probability of an outcome that is so essential to sports betting. If you can predict outcomes with greater accuracy than the books, then you can find value. You can confidently place money on wagers that will win in the long run.

You can also take advantage of lag between movements at different books. It is possible to watch a line at a book that moves faster that most others, and use that information as a guide to bet at a book that moves its line more slowly. Sometimes of course, a line moves at one book but not another. Some books disregard market moves, and are confident in the position they wuild with their current price. For many bettors though – especially “steam chasers”, line volatility offers a great.

There are a number of ways to try to beat the closing line. You can bet the line you expect will see most action by the masses and get in early, or you can bide your time and watch which way it goes and then jump on board. Both methods, whilst they can work, are no guarantee of success. Of course, using tools on SBR to study current prices, or analyze the historical line movements of games still up for betting can maximize your chances.

The best method for beating the closing line is to create a more accurate model than the books. If your analysis is better than the books, you will identify mispriced markets, and you will consistently win long-term.

Not easy, but then nothing worth it in life ever is!