The Public Doesn’t Move Lines! Yes, They Do!

The below commentary first appears in Week #3 of The Sharp Plays Football Newsletter. However, since it is a topic that comes up all the time, I thought I would give it a spot in the articles section. Enjoy!

On a regular basis this season I will be posting sides and totals as being “public” and the line will be moving in concert with the labeled public side. Undoubtedly, when I post this wager as “public” and people see the line move on the public side, I will get responses which all essentially mean… “the public doesn’t move lines”. I didn’t realize so many of my readers have actually worked in oddsmaking at sportsbooks and definitively know why the lines move as they do. I am not trying to be an arrogant asshole. I just want to be blunt in the hopes that people will think for themselves. Unless you have worked in oddsmaking (which now everyone will say they do to avoid admitting they have no intelligence on the topic, but were merely repeating things they heard through the years… from other people who had no real idea or experience either) you have no idea. There are so many gambling misconceptions out there that people have stuck in their heads. Another is that parlays are bad bets. Fortunately, this premise is so wrong it is easy to dispel. How? Through math! Because parlays are based on hitting 50%, if you can hit higher than 50% you can begin to and eventually overcome the edge and turn parlays into positive expectation bets. Parlays are losers for most people because, despite what people will claim, most people don’t hit 55%. I already posted another article on the website regarding parlays with a mathematical breakdown. So, let me get back to discussing how the public DOES move lines. To do it, I have to take you back a little!

I got into gambling offshore when I was in high school. I saw an ad for an offshore sportsbook in a sports magazine. I filled out the form, submitted a money order for $100 in the mail and my offshore gambling journey began. I filled out the form and mailed it in because this was before the World Wide Web (a.k.a. Internet) made it even easier. Yeah, I am dating myself here. Anyway, a few weeks later money was in my account and I could begin to bet! It was quite exciting. I never could have imagined where those first steps in my journey would take me over the next couple decades! However, as an aspiring professional bettor, I had one goal in mind… some day I wanted to be such a player I would move the line in Las Vegas because of one of my bets!

I didn’t have much success with that $100 from my first offshore deposit, and I inevitably had to make more deposits. However, it did keep me busy for high school and fed a deep passion for gambling. After high school and during my college years I got involved in the business side of offshore sports betting. I get into all of this on the Background page here at the website, so I won’t rehash all that stuff. However, after college I was doing well financially thanks to working in the industry. I would often take a break from my work in offshore gambling by getting away to where else… Las Vegas of course! LOL!

On one trip to Vegas, I was doing my handicapping (which I remind you sucks) and I decided to place a bet at the sportsbook. I remember it as though it was yesterday. I walked up to the window and, on an evening back on December 1st, 2006, I bet an NBA game! I took the Wizards -7 over Charlotte. To make it lucky I placed this bet for $7,700. It was my first bet of any major size at a Las Vegas sportsbook. I asked for the bet, the book manager went to his computer to decide whether he would approve or deny it, and ultimately accepted my wager. I didn’t expect the following would happen, but as soon as I stepped back from the window I looked up at the board and saw the line change. Wizards were now -7.5. Holy shit… I did it!! I moved a line at a major Las Vegas sportsbook. I immediately stepped back up to the window and placed a small random parlay with the Wizards so I could take a side by side picture of the tickets showing the line move from my $7,700 wager. As silly as it is, this moment of moving a Las Vegas line is still on my list of crowning achievements. Don’t believe me? Here’s the picture I took with my smartphone at the time. Mind you, smartphone cameras back 14 years ago were not anywhere what they are today. However, despite being blurry you can see the Wizards -7 on one side of the picture for $7,700 and Wizards -7.5 with Blazers +2.5 (1st Half) on the parlay ticket next to it (picture). I didn’t even want the parlay (it lost), just needed it so I could save my moment for posterity in a picture. I had done it! Not to mention, the Wizards beat the Charlotte Bobcats 121-109 allowing me to go and pickup $14,700! I wasn’t looking good at the half with the Wizards, but a 36-25 third quarter for the Wiz got the job done!

So, what’s the point of this whole story? Up to that point in my Las Vegas betting I would usually just play the tables. I was an unknown to the sportsbooks. To them, I was just a square with money given my table games action. However, as a square, I was able to place $7,700 on an average NBA game and move the line a half point. Now imagine dozens of other squares with a few bucks like me and what we could do to any line. Whether a random NBA game one weeknight OR even an NCAAF or NFL game.

Of course sharp money moves lines a lot, but my point is so does the public. To simply state that every line move of 0.5, 1, 2, 3 points etc. is 100% attributable to sharp action is laughable. Yes, I would say 60-80% of line moves are due to sharp action, BUT the other 20-40% are all thanks to the public betting en masse on one side. When there is a tsunami of public money on a side or total, it can easily move a couple points as the books try to attract sharp money buying value to help them limit their exposure. So, next time I post something that is public, and the line moves on the public side, instead of just relying on all those sound bytes about sharp and public money that you have heard in the past… use your own mind. You don’t have to believe me, but at least I can show you one case where a square, bet a side for large money, and moved a line in Las Vegas!

Good luck in your action!
~ The Sharp Plays