Measuring the Accuracy of Pinnacle’s Sharp Plays

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***Note – this article first ran on bettorsworld somewhere around 2007 or so. At the time,  Pinnacle Sports was providing bettorsworld with this fantastic weekly article by entitled the Pinnacle Pulse. These articles will never lose their value. Enjoy!

Since the first issue of the Pinnacle Pulse, we’ve focused a lot of attention on the methods and selections of “sharp” players. Each week we highlight the markets where they are most active. At Pinnacle Sportsbook we consider a ‘sharp player’ to be a client that is consistently on the right side of a Game, gets the best of the number and consequently wins over the long-term.

Therefore it is reasonable for bettors to ask how accurate these “sharp plays” have been, but before going back and checking, bear in mind two bits of advice we have repeatedly stressed: 1) always play at the best price and 2) pass on a Game if sharps have coNFLicting opinions at the same price. With these two rules in mind, you would have gone a whopping 47-31-2 following sharp plays since we began listing them last year.

Handicapping sports is a search for the truth. That truth is the chance of a given team winning on a given day. Professional players typically set their own line before looking at the market prices, and know what edge they expect at any given price. They view investing in a Game as a simple commodity — they will buy either team if the price is right. In many instances, bettors will play both sides of the same Game due to line moves or new information.

Many handicappers set their original line, and use an ROR (return on risk) hurdle to determine plays. For example, if a model predicts that Team A will beat Team B 75% of the time in a match-up, that player might look for a bet priced for Team A to win just 70% of the time, or Team B to win 20% of the time. Once that piece of truth is found — Team A’s win percentage for that match-up — the sharp player bets it only if “the price is right”. This might be by playing Team A at -233 on the moneyline, or making an “equivalent” play identified with conversions, such as Team A -5½. That same player would just as happily play Team B at +400 or +8 points.

In most Games the market price will be close enough to the handicapper’s fair price to suggest that the Game is a “pass”. Due to the commission a bettor must pay on each wager (traditionally 10% at most sports books), there’s a dead zone where neither side can be played profitably. For example, a sportsbook might offer both sides of an NFL Game at Pick’em -110. In that instance, no play could be profitably made unless a team was expected to win more than (110/210) = 52.4%. With traditional 20 cent lines, there is a fairly wide dead zone at most other bookmakers.

There are two obvious ways to reduce the impact of the dead zone. The simplest is to open an account with a reduced-juice sportsbook like Pinnacle Sports Betting. With Pinnacle’s -104 style pricing on NFL sides, the dead zone is much smaller and a team expected to win just 51% could be profitable. Pinnacle Sports’ reduced juice not only has more favorable prices with 8 cent lines on NFL sides, but you have more possible plays as well.

The second way to reduce the dead zone further is to use multiple sportsbooks and shop lines. If you have an array of five plus sportsbooks, which includes a reduced juice sports book like Pinnacle Sports, you can frequently reduce the dead zone further — in some instances eliminating it entirely (e.g. if you can play either side at +100). When professional players count their profits in terms of 2-4% of their total betting volume, shopping to get the best number will frequently make the difference between a winning or losing season.

Modern Caveman recently contacted AskTheBook and asked:
Should a bettor really be taking advice from a bookie? In chess, I used to say “never listen to your opponent.”

My advice would be, “Trust, but verify”. In sports betting, like stock investing, you should never put money at risk on the strength of anything ANYONE says until you’ve researched the subject to the best of your abilities. This is especially true if your sOurce has a vested interest.