When Colorado sportsbooks set their betting lines for a game, their overall goal is to make money. The lines have to be accurate to limit exposure to getting crushed with one side of the bet. In a perfect world, sportsbooks would see a balance of bets on both sides to limit liability but leave enough profit.
But that rarely happens, so the book will need to adjust the line to keep cash flowing to the side that could harm their potential winnings.
There are five broad reasons why sportsbooks move their lines to stay competitive. While most variables are under their control, others, such as late-breaking news, can create a frenzy that changes the game’s dynamic.
Let’s take a look at five reasons why Colorado sportsbooks move the lines and point totals of games.
Reasons Colorado Sportsbooks Move Lines
One-Sided Public Action
Remember, the sportsbook wants to make a profit without too much liability. One of the ways a line moves is that a popular team receives a significant majority of the bets.
Teams like the Dallas Cowboys or the Los Angeles Lakers will see heavy action, especially in the hours after a line is released. For teams that routinely garner a large percentage of bets, the sportsbooks may intentionally set the line further away from the popular team to maintain more balance.
While this play does involve risk for the sportsbooks, experience shows that the public will pick up the slack and even out the liability.
The top professional bettors, otherwise known as “sharps,” have the power to move the line with their bets. What sharps lack in quantity, they make up with volume. And when we talk about volume, we are referring to the size of the bet they make. And that is why they are so scary to sportsbooks.
A large bet, say mid-to-high six figures, can also swing a line as the book takes on more liability toward a specific team. This adage is especially true on low-volume games where the books do not see a lot of bets.
Say you have a Thursday NFL night game with two mediocre teams. Chances are high the public will not heavily bet the game due to lack of interest. But a well-funded sharp could affect the moneyline and spread with a large bet.
The sudden injury announcement, causing a star player to miss an upcoming game, can also violently swing the spread and moneyline at sportsbooks.
Last year, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton played through several injuries over the first two games. His performance suffered, but going into Week 3 of the NFL season, Cam signaled he would continue to play.
With the news that Cam would play, the Panthers were favored by three to their upcoming opponent, the Arizona Cardinals. But during the week, Newton’s condition became untenable, and team doctors ruled the quarterback out for Week 3.
Another reason why the lines move at sportsbooks is the ill-timed suspension. In the 2016 NBA Finals, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5 after scuffling with Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James in Game 4.
The suspension’s announcement came after most sportsbooks had set the opening line for Game 5. With the Warriors up 3-1 in the game count, Golden State found themselves favored by eight points moments after Game 4. But once the news broke of Draymond’s suspension, the line quickly dropped to -5.5 points.
With most of the public money coming in on the Warriors, the 2.5-point drop moved bettors to Cleveland’s side. Cavs bettors cleaned up in Game 5 as Green’s departure opened the door for a Cleveland win. Fueled by James’ superior performance down the stretch and Green’s suspension in Game 5, the Cavs pulled off a historic comeback, winning the final two games and the NBA title.
The fifth big reason that could cause line movement is the weather. While baseball games usually do not play in the rain, sports like football and soccer fight the elements. Heavy wind, snow, and steady rain can significantly affect the performance of players.
If a football team with a high octane offense plays in high winds, their expected point output could suffer. An impediment like that could take a toll on the spread and point total for the game.
While sportsbooks continue to create computer systems and analytics to anticipate these variables, smart bettors, who anticipate these five reasons for a line to move, can create an advantage that benefits their bottom line.