The edge of steam betting while line shopping on other sportsbooks

Michael DC discusses the strategy of monitoring pre-match price movements and profiting from ‘Line Shopping’ between books

Categories: All Sports, Execution & Getting On, Funding, Prices, Professional, Tools

Steam Movement is defined as a fast and strong line movement in the majority of books. It is an aggregate result of smart players’ trades, one sided bets from ‘the public’ and/or substantial bets from betting groups and syndicates. It is fundamentally a shaped public opinion that makes the risk of a sportsbook very heavy on one side.

Technically, a steam move can be considered as a move of greater than 5% of previous odds and occurred in a 12 hour period. Other price moves can usually be considered as normal odds movements, price calibration, or line shading in lower betting limits of a particular sportsbook.

Chasing Steam is a futile effort in the long-run, all bets are roughly 50/50 plus the ‘vig’ or commissions charged and you’ll get a negative Expected Value. In the previous article on Sports Trading Network by the highly respected Joseph Buchdahl; Do Steamers Provide an Edge? Analysis from the English 1×2 Football Betting Markethe concluded that Steam prices relative to closing lines are indeed a losing cause much more if value betting against the public or drifted price.

Line Shopping in sports betting means looking for better odds for a certain trade across various sportsbooks. It includes maximizing shaded lines and knowledge of different vig, ‘juice’ or commission. Many years ago, odds for handicaps are set to 1.85 or -118, sometimes lower, as a normal occurrence. Today, 1.90 or -110 is the acceptable price for either side, as some sportsbooks are offering as high as 1.952 or -105.

For example, the correlated market Line Shopping for a particular sportsbook in 1×2 and -0.5 Handicap in football, which in theory the moneyline of the favourite team must be equal to the -0.5 price of its handicap. However in practice, many sportsbooks put up the -0.5 handicap odds in +2% lower/higher. (Home: 1.95, Draw: 3.25, Away: 4.00, while HC are Home: -0.5|1.90, Away: +0.5|1.90) The same is true to other sports; a certain handicap has a corresponding Moneyline value which is exploitable for players.

In general, Line Shopping can be the difference between a winning or losing season for traders, let alone the many thousands of picks for handicappers or high volume or high frequency trading strategies of players and groups. Cherry Picking among the highest odds in the market preceded if a player has already formed an opinion, otherwise he is prone to unnecessarily picking the underdogs most of the time.

Combining Steam Betting and Line Shopping can be your winning strategy in sports betting without personal knowledge of any sports. Thus, giving a trader a wider range of sports and leagues to wager, skipping the in-depth analysis of a particular market.

First, a reference sportsbook must be set. The reference should have a high limit/high volume trading, they moved the prices in a laddered pattern and must not simply copy prices to its close competitors after they open their market. The sportsbook may be specialized in regional sports or particular sports thus can open and move prices at ease without strong influence from other sportsbooks. The reference sportsbook is the one which will tell you the steam moves as it happens.

Next, the trader should set up accounts in various sportsbooks, preferably with a competitive vig or commission. These sportsbooks are likely to be simply copying prices from various leading sportsbooks or adjusting prices enough not to offer arbitrage in the betting industry; otherwise they offer arbitrage most of the time which is great.  These are the ones practicing line shading on favorites and offering enough value for underdogs. These are the exploitable among the market.

To run the strategy, traders look for the odds which are steaming in your reference sportsbook then compare it to the prices of other sportsbook with which you have an account. You can see now the discrepancies of prices, as the other sportsbooks are too slow to adjust prices or protecting some risk on their own that Steam movements is a little importance at the moment until Line shoppers swamped them. The -4.29% expected value in the following steam moves in Do Steamers Provide an Edge? Analysis from the English 1×2 Football Betting Market can now be mitigated by the 5% or better odds offered in the other competing sportsbooks.

But be wary of various sportsbooks’ terms in betting limits. Continuously winning against them may result in lower betting limits. Further, some sportsbooks specialize in regional sports so that they have the edge even if they are offering better odds, like if you have an Asian book and betting on Asian football.

The strategy can be aided by various websites that offers odds changes with time stamp and percentage of dropped odds for a particular reference book. Meanwhile, some punters are guided by software for better viewing or execution. If arbitrage betting is risky with various sportsbook terms and the lifespans are really short, thus Steam Betting plus Line Shopping is the optimal way of wagering without delving into statistical analysis of the sport. And you are guaranteed that you can beat the closing line, most of the time.

5 Thoughts on The edge of steam betting while line shopping on other sportsbooks
    Joseph Buchdahl
    5 Dec 2013

    Good article. But as you have identified, the biggest problem will come in the shape of limitations from bookmakers. All brands that will not tolerate winning strategies will have means of detecting traders who target inefficient market outliers. These outliers exist for marketing purpose (to attract new custom) and to allow customers to “pit their wits” against the bookmaker’s trading team. If this is found to be abused by betting smarts, the risk model used by such bookmakers invariably leads to the closure of the betting account. Fine in principle, much harder to make it work in practice (unless you’re happy to use methods to ensure account closures don’t present a problem).

      5 Dec 2013

      Hi Joseph. I appreciate your input. As a trader at the backend of the Sports Trading, I really agree and aware of, that corporate sportsbooks do practice such harsh practice against the players. On the lighter side, it is the common practice of punters organic to the company who are really successful on this strategy. Specially the Asian bookies, aside of taking bets they exploit the prices of their competitor either to hedge their existing exposure or systematically line shopping, as they have all the tools to do so.

      The strategy presented are hardly detected in short period of time, as the wagers are spread in various books, given the fact that placed bets on steam moves will not consistently win as you presented in your article; but when it does the odds shopped outweighs the losses. Although, it is still traceable when the players bets are checked and confirmed when it was triggered. In the long run, players’ account will be limited and as harsh as closure, but before it happens we all know that there are hundreds of sportsbooks willing to cater fresh accounts, with exploitable bonuses.

      Thus, it is not just a principle offered to be practice. It is a practice that was put into theoretical perspective.

        Jimbo Jones
        14 Dec 2013

        The strategy would require using pinnacle for tennis and US sports and SBO/Asia for football. With SBO its possible to estimate the amount of money stake on an offer from the magnitude of the price move. Pinnacle and SBO(on the even money handicaps and over/unders) offer great great payback, often <2%, these books take bigger stakes and are useful as references, European bookmakers compiling odds for events where they don't have an opinion always try to maintain their prices under pinnacle/sbo. Cherrypicking the top prices from the better European bookies is easy to detect, as they use the above mentioned sportsbooks as a references when accepting bets larger bets that go through to manual traders. If a punter's average bet is low, and enables them to stay under the radar then this can be a profitable strategy but in reality I cannot see this working.

    5 Jan 2014

    Glad to find this article! I had done the same test with (only) 500 games from various leagues and found pretty much exactly the same results.
    What I found interesting is that away picks seemed to work better than home picks there. The 205 away picks in my sample would have resulted in a yield of +4,1%. That was just 205 games though, so it could just be a random finding. However, it would make sense to me because home odds dropping might come from a lot of money coming in on the home side simply because “squares” prefer the home team, while away steamers might rather represent a real value pick.
    So before taking the effort of testing this with a much larger sample myself, I hope you still have your data and can look at whether there’s a difference between home and away picks there?

      5 Jan 2014

      PS: The +4,1% yield on home games referred to the closing lines, of course.

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