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BETTING ON SOCCER MICRO-LEAGUES - BETTING RUNLINES

Betting On Soccer Micro-Leagues - Betting Runlines
by Pinnacle Sportsbook

Part I: Betting On Soccer Micro-Leagues

While Locke is busy teaching you how to bet on that most American of pastimes, (no, not competitive eating...baseball) it seems like a good time to mention that the world's game has still been going strong all summer long. Nearly all of the world's biggest soccer leagues take a summer hiatus' but one look at the betting menu of Pinnacle Sports will show you that there is still plenty of action to bet on. Aside from the large summer tournaments like the Copa America' games are also being played in most of Northern Europe and South America. Granted' many of these leagues don't have the big name players to capture the imagination of most bettors' but by ignoring the so-called 'micro-leagues' you are missing out on a lot of potential betting value.

Why should you bet the micro-leagues? Well for starters you get the same low commission margins we deal on the big soccer leagues. At -104/-104 (that's 1.96/1.96 in decimal odds style) on sides and -105/-105 (1.95/1.95) on total goals scored' it only takes the smallest edge for you to show a profit from your handicapping.

Now' combine the low margins with the fact that many of these leagues are untouched markets and the potential for profit really shines through. When we first start accepting bets on a micro-league' the limits are too small for the big professional players to notice' which means much of the action in the early days comes from recreational players. This is a huge benefit for the average bettor. Since the limits are small and the leagues are not widely tracked in the mainstream press' any amount of research you do means that you gain an edge on the field. Without any professionals to take aim at the lines and sharpen them up' you are more likely to get soft lines' which will help your profitability in the long-term. Thus' with just a small portion of your time spent studying the field' you could become a sharp for these leagues.

Granted' being the sharpest guy in a league where you can only get in fifty dollars a pop isn't exactly a get-rich-quick scheme' but what we have seen with many of our micro-leagues is that they quickly graduate into full-fledged betting markets. Areas where you once could only bet fifty dollars often see limit increases to $500' $1'000' and even $5'000 a bet as the volume goes up' and the very act of new bettors (like yourself) getting involved in a league makes it bigger. Thus by getting a handle on the leagues when they are small' you can pinpoint areas where you are sharp when the market is weak and then take huge advantage of what you learn when the league graduates to the big time for betting purposes.

Some of you might be a bit lost about how to go about tackling a new' completely unknown league' but the basics are very similar to what you would do for La Liga' Serie A' or the Premiership. Look at the current results table. Examine how strong the teams are' how many goals they score at home and away' and then look at the odds posted for upcoming games and figure out if anything seems strange to you. Asian handicaps are sometimes difficult to predict when you are just getting familiar with a league' but over/under total goals scored in many of the micros are exceptionally soft' and winning on totals bets in the micro-leagues often seem to come down to some simple mathematics. Expect us to have a lot more to say about soccer handicapping in a future column.

For those of you looking over our massive offering of leagues and finding it difficult to determine where to start' my advice is to pick something local. Any news you read about these small leagues gives you an edge over the field' which should increase your chances of winning. Even when the big leagues get rolling in the coming weeks' micro-leagues will continue to offer value that you likely won't get anywhere else.


Here's a look at what our sharps have been playing lately in three of the micro-leagues that graduated to bigger limits:

Icelandic
One of the things you notice from seeing a lot of bets come through is that the team at the top of the table rarely seems to earn value plays from most sharps' especially in smaller markets. This is because typically the line already includes a lot of general public action/opinion on the favorite in these games' meaning most of our sharp players steer clear. Meanwhile' undervalued mid-table clubs are the sharp's bread and butter. This is particularly true in Icelandic soccer' where FH Hafnarfjordur (the team at the top) sees almost no sharp bets' while mid-table clubs like Fylkir' HK Kopavogur' and Breidablik are earning consistent sharp attention' especially when playing at home.

Lithuanian A
Lithuanian A can get surprising amounts of volume' depending on which teams are playing. The sharp plays in this league recently have mostly been heavily fading (betting against) FC Vilnius and Interas' while taking the Over in these games also seems to be yielding dividends.

Brazil Serie B
Overs in Brasiliense's games have been on fire lately' while bottom-half club Avai has been enjoying a good run of form recently and has merited a lot of side action in July. Additionally' despite giving up 33 goals in their away games' Unders for Avai have not only been seeing sharp play recently' but have also been paying off. Finally' Portuguesa is a side that has seen occasional sharp play over the last month' mostly in their away games' which is an intriguing twist.

Moving back to the big leagues' soccer futures for all the major European leagues are now available for betting on Pinnacle Sports' as are week 1 fixtures. Next week' we'll cover all the action in the futures market and the kickoff of Ligue 1. Until then' may the soccer minnows in the micro-leagues make you a mint.

Sharp Plays: Baseball Pitcher Focus

Bartolo Colon:
Colon has been a matter of debate amongst our sharps for some time. Almost every game he pitches we get two-sided sharp action. Some of them think that Colon is an ineffective pitcher' and there is evidence that he's lost a good deal off his fastball. Others think there's nothing wrong with him' or at least nothing serious enough to reflect how low his stock has fallen this year. All this sharp action offers Pinnacle Sports the opportunity to deal these games with confidence' knowing that we have a good number once both sides are accounted for.

Carlos Zambrano:
Zambrano is one of Baseball's most volatile and unreliable pitchers' but when he is at his best' he shines. Partially as a result of that' he has an extraordinarily high split between his value on the road and his value at Wrigley. The sharps will often back him at home' then those same sharps turn around and disrespect him on the road. Most of the time home/road splits are considered random fluctuations or too small to worry about in the case of position players. Be very wary of someone pointing to such statistical splits as part of their handicapping on a regular basis.

Braden Looper:
The Cardinals have fallen on hard times' but Looper has big problems of his own. No one's stock has fallen more than Looper's in the eyes of our sharps' who have little memory of his earlier successful conversion to a starter. It is looking more and more doubtful he will bounce back' and bettors have begun adjusting to the new reality of the situation.

Part II: Betting Runlines

Although many bettors only bet the money-line in baseball' betting the run-line (also known as the handicap) can offer better value in some cases. Bettors have historically avoided the run-line markets for several reasons: the inability of the player to comparison shop money-lines versus run-lines; the high 'juice' or commission often carried by run-lines; and the double margins attached to run-lines (-110' bet $110 to win $100 on both sides at pick'em versus -105' bet $105 to win $100). The key to success with run-lines is being able to make the proper conversion to a money-line equivalent so as to use simple price comparison to find the best value.

Our first piece of advice: If you only have access to one dime line (-105/-105) and one standard run-line (-110/-110)' and nothing else to go by' never bet the run-line. Stick to the money-line. However' even rough guidelines can be enough to uncover value in run-line markets.

Some basic statistics: In baseball' the home team wins by one run about 17% of the time' and the road team wins by one run a little over 10% of the time. This disparity is due to the fact that in the bottom of the ninth or later inning' the game is immediately over when the home team is ahead by one run. This turns a lot of games into one-run wins' which in turn makes that one run extremely valuable. That run gains even more value when the total is low' which makes it much harder to win by more than one run. Conversely' that run is less valuable for high totals. The value of the run also varies slightly depending on the money-line for the game.

Do other factors count? For some time' we here at Pinnacle Sports have been debating whether other factors can have a substantial impact on these probabilities. Even when you have a good model for run-lines under standard conditions' this is still a very hard problem to analyze. Common sense' though' says that a strong closer would increase your chance of winning by one' a poor bullpen would tend to reduce the chance. Similarly' teams with power and a tendency to put up crooked numbers would blow out more than the normal share of opponents' which teams that focus on small ball would sacrifice blowouts to get the runs that matter.

In fact' this debate is not just going on within Pinnacle Sports - it's going on all around the baseball world. 'Sabermetricians' like the ones at Baseball Prospectus argue that Pythagoras is king and that all that matters is runs scored and runs prevented; they contend there's no such thing as a team that excels at winning close games' or even one that tends to wind up in more of them than usual. On the other hand' old school baseball guys talk about the pressure of hitting and pitching in the clutch' and how some teams can get the job done while others don't.

Most of the time though' the market thinks the sabermetricians are right. A run-line can bend' but it almost never breaks. Beyond a certain point' there will usually be bettors happy to correct it on the theory that any potential abnormalities are small enough to not be worth worrying about. Yet' there's no doubt that while they are likely small' such effects do exist. And all things being equal' it's worth your while to take advantage of them.

Study run-lines: It's extremely important to get a sense of how run-lines are priced to see if a new line offers value. Even studying one day's worth of Pinnacle Sports's lines will give you a handle on how run-line prices change as a function of the game money-line and total. Our bettors will do the work for you - they sharpen our lines' and you can use those sharp lines to sharpen your own tactics. In addition' by expanding your range of market choices by comparison shopping both run-lines and money-lines at every book' you can substantially improve your expectations. A sharp baseball bettor can find ways to capitalize on any form of handicapping that is even slightly better than random.

The importance of low commission markets or 'reduced juice': Pinnacle Sports's reduced juice makes our run-lines a worthwhile way to bet. Instead of the normal -105 (1.95) for money-lines and -110 (1.91) for run-lines' Pinnacle Sports only charges -104 (1.96) for money-lines and -105 (1.95) for run-lines. With favourites on run-lines often being in the -160 range or even higher' the effective juice charged will frequently end up being lower than the money-line juice or commission. (Use the multi-way calculator at Pinnacle Sports to carry out juice calculations.) Because the low juice both allows and forces Pinnacle Sports to refine its run-lines' one can often take advantage of the so-call "Pinnacle lean".

If someone is offering a better price than Pinnacle Sports' there's a good chance value is there' if you like the team. For example' if Team A +1.5 runs (-105) was offered at Pinnacle Sports and available five cents cheaper at +1.5 runs (+100 or even money) elsewhere' more often than not Team A represents value.

That does it for the basics of baseball run-lines. Next week' we'll delve into tactics that allow you to exploit these values further.