In-Play…a Sharp Bettor’s Best Friend! (Basketball & Football)

The below discussion occurred in TSP Daily on March 7th & 8th, 2022. I felt the strategy discussion was one that would be great to refer to in the future, especially with the tournament coming up. Below are two separate TSP Daily Briefing articles. The first is finding value on a sharp side using in-play. The second is finding value FADING a sharp side using in-play. Both use real games covered in TSP Live to illustrate the ins and outs. Hope you enjoy!

Beating the Sharp Side to a Better Price In-Play (published in TSP Daily on 3/7/22)

Yesterday the Oddsmaker’s Report covered a group buy on Winthrop/Longwood UN144 down to UN140. My advice in the alert, despite the group being small even at UN140, was to wait for in-play to get a better number. The number I was targeting for in-play was 149. My rule of thumb with this type of in-play strategy is to take the best price that sharp money grabbed pregame and add 5 points (sides and totals). The solution to that equation then becomes the minimum I will accept in-play. Yes, I am more of a passive gambler than most and I wait for the perfect setups with maximum value. The problem is waiting for the perfect setup takes discipline and patience…two things gamblers usually lack. Not to mention a lot of occasions when waiting for maximum value you will see winners occur in games you ended up having no action. So, what could a bettor do if they didn’t want to be as passive as me…but still capture strong value?

Based on my value calculation and performance assessment…the minimum I would accept on an in-play line’s difference is 3 points in my favor from the best price that sharp money bet pregame. Yes, you would technically be expected to grind a profit even if you got the same line as the group or known bettor during in-play. However, like anything it will just be more of a grind and over a larger quantity of wagers. So, instead of quantity, I like to go with quality and wait for at least 3, preferably 5 points of additional value beyond the optimal line (optimal line = best price sharp money secured pregame). Doing so minimizes the action I need to place while giving me a very healthy ROI because I end up securing so much value when I do get my desired price.

So, what would this more aggressive strategy have looked like yesterday for Winthrop/Longwood UNDER? Simple math. While I was waiting for Winthrop/Longwood UN149 (144+5), if you jumped at UN147 (144+3) you would have secured a solid amount of value. The same three points on the Manhattan game on Thursday (Oddsmaker’s Report in-play content) would have also net a winner (whereas the best line sharp money bought in Manhattan would have been a loser). So, as you can see just in this small two game sample, a minimum of three points of bonus value in-play resulted in 2-0, whereas if you settled for the best price sharp money got pregame you would be 1-1. I personally tend to target 5 points, but more aggressive traders would secure a strong edge by taking just 3 points better on in-play.

In the future, if a sharp report from the Oddsmaker’s Report is off from the current price, don’t panic or be disappointed…you may have some great in-play opportunities using that same information. Frankly, there will be Oddsmaker’s Report alerts that will be issued solely with in-play opportunities in mind (like Manhattan on Thursday). In-play is a great second chance opportunity to follow sharp action…and often get better prices than the sharp money did pregame. We had two of these such alerts this week…Oddsmaker’s Reports where I suggested waiting for in-play instead of pregame betting. If you waited for in-play and secured 5 points of value you were 1-0 like me. If you were comfortable with just 3 points you would have gone 2-0…and in both cases performed better than sharp money did on their own plays (1-1 record)!! Pretty cool…your patience had you beat the sharps on their own plays!!!

One caveat…if a key player goes out for injury or foul, this changes the pregame dynamic and the above math would not apply. You would now need to add points for the key player going out…unless of course that key player was on the other team. If the player were on the other team I personally would still hold to the 3 and 5 point minimum requirements…but some might cut a little off to account for the loss.

FADING a Sharp Side using In-Play (published in TSP Daily on 3/8/22)

There’s obviously a clear time where a sharp side becomes an immense value (best sharp pregame price plus 5 points or plus 3 points for aggressive traders)…is there a time when the opposite side of sharp money becomes a value. Why yes there is! So, let’s discuss it because this now opens two opportunities in-play…the ability to get a better line than sharp money on the sharp side or the ability to fade the sharp side due to immense value in the fade. Where does that value lie? I have been discussing the past week tin multiple TSP Live alerts and TSP Daily that the magic number for me is 5 points. I will show you how using 5 point swings (3 points for aggressive bettors) comes into play. Let’s use Wright St from yesterday as an example…

1) So, Wright St +1 was attacked by sharp bettors (per Oddsmaker’s Report). Theoretically, this means that Wright St +1 has about 3-5 points of value to make it interesting for sharp money to attack at that +1 price. Based on this, we can then reasonably assume Wright St -4 is likely the end of Wright St value for the sharp bettors. Granted value can be as slim as two points (meaning Wright St -1 is the end). However, given we don’t know the sharp bettor’s exact value calculations, we will assume the largest average differential to play it safe (5 points) in all cases.

2) Once we get to the end of value for one team (Wright St) then we enter a zone of neutral value (where there is no value for either side based on the price). Neutral value is the optimal line for the book to hang because it does not provide value to either the favorite or the dog bettor. This zone is no more than 0.5 to 2 points wide. So, Wright St -4 is value (albeit very tiny)…BUT between Wright St -4.5 and -6 is neutral value.

3) OK, so this would now mean that value on Cleveland St begins (albeit small value) at Cleveland St +6.5. Which means material value for Cleveland St is about 3-5 points away at +9.5 to +11.5. Notice even though material value is 3-5 points away, I have been using 5 points for maximum value both on the Cleveland State side (this section) and section #1 above for calculating the end of Wright St value. Being aggressive with my calculation helps to ensure I am indeed on the value and not cutting it too close. So, we see Cleveland St as a material value at +11.5 (+6.5 points…first sign of Cleve St value…plus 5 points = +11.5).

4) Cleveland St may be a value at +11.5, but what do I tell you about in-play? I said I like to get at least 5 points of additional value in-play. I said more aggressive bettors could settle for 3 points in yesterday’s discussion. So, this would mean that aggressive bettors would want Cleveland St +14.5 and I would be targeting +16.5 in-play as a value. Yes, that’s a big swing in the line from pre-game. However, if I am going to fade a sharp play…a sharp play that likely has strong value at pregame price…I need BIG VALUE to warrant a fade! If sharp money is betting Wright St +1, I sure don’t want Cleveland St +7 or +9. That’s WAAAAAAY too tight. Sometimes sharp value can extend on a team by 6-8+ points from the pregame price (in this case potentially Wright St -5 to -7). So, I need to account for those situations too…which is why I use 5 point swings for all my calculations.

Now, did I just use the above math because it fit the fact that Cleveland St lost to Wright St by 15 yesterday? No, that is coincidence. I use the above math because it fits with my maximum value calculation. As you can see though, more aggressive bettors would have lost by the hook whereas my price (5 points versus 3 points additional in-play) would have given me the cover! It is important to note that my +16.5 price was achieved only twice during the game. The first was at the 3:37 mark when the score was 69 to 51. So, if you are doing this sort of trading, it requires you to commit to watching the in-play like a hawk. If my 16.5 or better price would not have gotten hit…I would not have bet a worse price due to FOMO (fear of missing out). Betting on in-play requires discipline and not settling because you need action. If you get your minimum price and no major variables changed in the game (key player injury or fouling out on the team you are eyeing up for a play…because then that needs to be worked into a price calculation) then you bet. If not…no bet!!!! It’s OK not to have a bet on both sides in a game. Many games the key fade price will never be achieved. It just so happens yesterday the fade value price did hit. So, this setup for a great lesson for today…and to get you ready for some good tournament action ahead.

So, do you have to break down the steps above when calculating value? No, we had Wright St +1 to Wright St -16.5 (maximum in-play value as calculated above). It’s a difference of 17.5 points. So, there’s the only number you need to worry about…17.5. The number for more aggressive traders would be 15.5. So, if today Louisville -1.5 is a sharp side (IT IS NOT…right now at least) then that would mean Georgia Tech +19 (1.5+17.5=19) would be the minimal price I would accept in-play. More aggressive traders could target +17. Again, those are huge swings but they do hit as you can see by yesterday’s play and when they do it is worth assessing.

Lastly, let’s look at one more using Sunday’s Group Buy with Longwood UNDER 140. Longwood UN140 would have equated to a play on OVER 122.5 (140-17.5=122.5) or 124.5 (140-15.5=124.5) for more aggressive traders. Obviously, once again the sharp side of UN140 cashed as did both OV122.5 and 124.5…two prices which did arise during in-play thanks to the low early scoring. Does this work in every game where you can get a good middle…nope. Often you won’t get the price you need on the fade side. Then when you get that price it does not guarantee a perfect 2-0 for the middle. It just so happens though that it did occur and play out perfectly the past two days for both games to cash the 2-0 middle. I bring all this up just to give you another tool for your arsenal as the tournament approaches! In-play is an incredible yet often overlooked method across all sports…don’t disregard it like so many casual do!

The above is for basketball, what about other sports price differentials for in-play?

For the sharp side/total in basketball, I want to get 5 points (3 for aggressive traders) above the best pregame price that sharp money attacked.

For the sharp side/total fade in basketball, I want to get 17.5 points (15.5 points for aggressive traders) more than the worst pregame price sharp money attacked.

For the sharp side/total in football, I want to get 10 points (7 for aggressive traders) above the best pregame price that sharp money attacked.

For the sharp side/total fade in football, I want to get 21.5 points (17.5 points for aggressive traders) more than the worst pregame price sharp money attacked on the opposite side.

Although, you tend to want to lean on the higher side when it comes to NCAAF versus NFL. I will dive more into the above for other sports when they are in operation. At which time I will add the discussion/betting parameters to this article.

The Short (sort of) Version of this Strategy…

The in-play strategy qualifications are simple…

1) Must be a full game sharp/value angle that rises to the level of generating a TSP Live alert or is covered on Twitter/Telegram (Oddsmaker’s Report, Hermes, positive LJP Scores, Known Bettors, algorithms).

2) Must achieve a price in-play that provides an additional 3 (for aggressive bettors) or 5 (for me and the other passive bettors) points on top of the BEST line that was available pregame. Following those two parameters has resulted in a PERFECT performance across NBA and NCAAB (someone correct me if I am wrong…at worst it’s damn close to perfect) using the paid and free content since this strategy was first discussed last week!

While this strategy has essentially printed money since being covered last week…it CLEARLY DOES NOT work for any random betting angle you like. It did not work for Marquette (1st Half Hermes play) and it did not work for West Virginia (a bet I liked for my parlay here) as examples. It’s not a coincidence either. The strategy requires full game angles to have a material level of sharp/value interest at a certain price. Thereby a clear valuation is established. The strategy does not work for handicapper selections, Book Needs, my personal opinions on games, public concentrations, etc. Sure, there will be plenty of times where it does work for those types of angles. I mean getting 5 points of value in-play on a fade of a public concentration or book need is not a bad thing…but using that type of content for the in-play strategy is not the optimal method. Non-sharp/value content DOES NOT provide the inherent fair value assumptions necessary for the strategy.

Good luck in your action!