The art of linesmaking for the 2006 World Cup
June’s 2006 World Cup will be the 18th world tournament to proclaim soccer’s best nation, its inaugural event taking place in 1930. Held in Germany, this year’s World Cup is generating a great deal of hype and could go down as one of the most anticipated tournaments in quite some time. The buildup comes not just from soccer fans excited to watch their respective nation in action, but the betting world has also opened its eyes to soccer and this is the crème de la crème of the sport.
In order for gamblers to have the chance to bet on the matches, the linemakers must first come out with accurate lines for competing teams. Two sportsbooks were willing to share with us the process of creating lines for the 2006 World Cup and some of the criteria that goes into this procedure. Greg Jorssen from Bodog and Tony Delgado for SportingbetUSA are both spokesmen for their companies and gave us direct insight to setting the World Cup lines.
Jorssen from Bodog said certain criterion is used for the World Cup lines. Bookmakers set their odds to percentages. The first percentage is the “juice” or commission the sportsbook is going to earn with the lines. If the bookies were not aiming to make a profit, they would operate at 100 percent. But because their aim is to make money from bookmaking, their prices typically run at 110-120 percent. The second percentage they establish is the odds for a result to happen. The odds set are based on statistics and special information for injuries, suspensions, etc. Jorssen did admit that lines do get shaded occasionally, but the main purpose of the odds is to draw balanced action from the three betting options (Home, Away, Draw).
Delgado at SportingbetUSA explains that his lines are created through decimal odds. If one of these lines were to get shaded for a various reason, then that line may not become open for the public as he cites “minimizing the risk and maximizing the profits.”
When setting up a moneyline for a draw a similar percentage is used that was mentioned previously for Bodog, also considering other information such as the defensive form. Jorssen states, “The better a team is defensively, the more likely for that team to draw. In leagues like the Italian Series A, where teams excel at defense, the odds for the draw are smaller compared to the teams in leagues such as the La Liga (Spanish Premier) and the English Premiership where play is geared towards the offensive side of the ball.”
Totals lines are set the same way a bookmaker sets the moneyline for the game. Jorssen explains that a standard 2 ½ goals total is used by the industry. After that, the bookmanagers establish the percentages for the “juice” and the odds for a result to happen in a moneyline attached to that total of goals. Delgado, on the other hand, says his sportsbook does not offer totals on soccer games. Both spokesmen acknowledge that customers tend to take the over bet in soccer, with the exception of the Italian leagues.
Jorssen and Delgado agree that most of the action in soccer falls on the favorites, but they both have noticed that sharp bettors do ride underdogs. Sharp bettors focus on off numbers and back the outsider because they love the value on the moneyline for the underdog as most of the time it gets inflated due to the “public” money backing the favorites. Likewise, the sharp money tends to come on the unders as most of the public bets the over.
Like with any other sport, betting lines do change, but in order for the line to sway significantly, it will take an injury or something to take place before the game starts. Jorssen and Bodog mention several other reasons:
- A limit bet, so the book moves the line trying to balance the action.
- A syndicate betting a game, a moving line in all the sportsbooks.
- Last minute factors: injuries, suspensions, and bad weather.
Delgado explains line movement a bit differently. “It will work according to the money on the game. If they are taking the favorite, we will move down five or ten cents. If the underdog is taken we will move up 20 to 30 cents and same thing on the draw. Injuries will move the line variously, according on how it affects the team.”
The only difference when moving a moneyline in soccer is that the bookmaker must balance the action for three betting options (Home, Away, Draw) instead of two ways in other sports.
Totals lines are also moved according to where most of the action falls. Jorssen says Bodog moves lines in the same format as hockey totals. “If we receive a limit bet we will move, for example, in the over. We will move the money for total five to ten cents depending on the money you already have on that side.”
Delgado views totals lines as a good bet. “As far as I know, totals are very easy to win. There is a 95 percent possibility of the game to go over. We just use moneylines on the over/under, similar to the total on MLB and NFL situations.”
With all these factors surrounding the World Cup, can balanced action be achieved by linesmakers? Jorssen feels that the World Cup is similar to other sporting events. There will be some games that have a balanced book. In other cases, there will be big decisions to make.
“We try not to put our opinions into our lines. If we start to influence our lines with our opinion, we will be betting instead of booking. As we mentioned before, sometimes we may shade a line when we expect the customers will back heavily one of the times, but this shade will never be a significant one.”
Delgado feels differently for SportingbetUSA. “Any soccer game is hard. Most of our customers like to take the favorite. In this case, it would be hard to achieve balance, as the heavy favorites of the 2006 World Cup do not pay favorably. For a balanced book to be made, most of the time we need the dog to win 70 percent, the draw 20 percent, and the favorite 10 percent.”
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