Chances are if you’ve made a significant number of sports bets you’ve lost money. Sportsbooks are typically very efficient markets where few bettors are able to find an edge. Rather than lose your money to sportsbooks, you can now use the information from those sportsbooks to make money in DFS!
How Sportsbooks Operate
The first step in using sportsbooks as a research tool for daily fantasy sports is understanding how sportsbooks work. Sportsbooks take a Vig (‘Juice’, ‘Fee’, etc) on each bet that is made. Most Vegas sportsbooks opened Super Bowl 50 at Panthers -4 -110 / Broncos +4 -110. The first numbers are the spreads and the second numbers show the odds you are betting at (11:10). If you bet $11 on the broncos and won you would only get back $21, rather than doubling your money and receiving $22. The $1 (or 4.545%) kept by the sportsbook allows them to profit over time. The odds offered vary, but -110 is the most common odds offered on spread bets by Vegas sportsbooks.
Lines posted by sportsbooks have the intention of balancing their books where as close to 50% of the action is on each outcome. If an even amount of money is bet on each outcome they have no risk and just collect pure profit from the Vig taken from bets. If $1,100,000 worth of action was placed on both the Panthers and the Broncos, for a total of $2,200,000 worth of bets placed, the sportsbook would only have to pay out $2,100,000 to the 50% of bettors who bet the Broncos. The $100,000 difference between bets placed and profit paid out to winners is the sportsbook’s profit.
But what keeps the lines efficient?
Professional sports bettors make their money from finding inefficiencies in lines and betting them. If a poor line is posted by a sportsbook it will get hammered by professional sports betting sharps and the line will be adjusted. This keeps the lines quite accurate and allows them to be used as good projections.
This example was for spread bets, but the same idea holds true for the moneylines, totals, and all bets in general. Sportsbook lines create a great projection of outcomes for sports games.
Now that we know Vegas Lines are a good projection tool how can we use them for Daily Fantasy Sports?
We can use spreads to tell us how close a game projects to be. This information can give us a good idea of how the game is likely to play out.
If Week 6 of the NFL season the Steelers are 1 point favorites (-1) against the Bengals and week 12 they are 5.5 point favorites (-5.5), Le’Veon Bell is likely going to see more rush attempts in week 12. The reason for this is that in week 12 Vegas projects the Steelers to win the game by a wider margin and when teams are winning they run the ball more to use more clock. On the other hand the Bengals passing game may be worth consideration because they’re likely to be playing from behind and will be forced to pass more to try to catch up.
In the NBA spread can help us project player minutes. If the Clippers are playing the Lakers and are 15 point favorites (-15) Tuesday and they play the Warriors Friday and are 5 point dogs (+5) the Clippers starters are likely to see more minutes against the Warriors. The reason for this is that Vegas thinks the Clippers are heavy favorites against the Lakers which is likely to lead to starters being benched early if they’re blowing out the Lakers. Against the Warriors Vegas thinks it will be a closer game, which means it’s likely the Clippers starters will play more minutes late in the game.
Totals can be used to project how many points will be scored in a game or by a specific team. Sportsbooks often offer team totals which show the total for each team, but if they do not show this you can find it using the game total and spread. Formula: ((Total / 2) + or – (spread /2 )). In this formula if a team is the favorite add half the spread and if they’re a dog subtract half the spread.
*Baseball is typically bet at the money line so this formula often wont apply, but you should be able to find team run totals offered.
More points scored in a game will result in more fantasy points scored so targeting games and teams with high totals will generally lead to them scoring more fantasy points than if the total was lower. If teams are projecting to score more than they average this can leads to a good source of value, as the salaries attached to these players often do not account for the increase in points that are likely to be scored. When picking defenses in the NFL or pitchers in the MLB you want their opponents to have low totals as they benefit from the other team being less productive on offense.
Money lines like spreads can give us a good projection of who’s favored in a game. Money lines are the odds of a team winning or losing ‘straight up’ as opposed to betting a spread. An example of a money line would be Dodgers -135 / Giants +125. We can use a no vig calculator (google ‘no vig calculator’) to find the projected probability of each team winning. In this example the odds are telling us the Dodgers will win 56.38% of the time and the Giants will win 43.62% of the time. Money lines can be very useful in the MLB, particularly for projecting whether or not a pitcher will get a win. Look for pitchers on teams with strong odds in their teams favor.
Player Prop Bets
Player prop bets are bets that can be placed on specific player stats. These can be used to project how much of a particular stat a sportsbook thinks that a player should achieve. If there’s a points prop for James Harden at 27.5 points with an over of -145 and over over +115 we can project how likely it is James harden will score above or below 27.5 points. Using the no vig calculator again we can see these odds are saying that 56% of the time harden will score more than 27.5 points and 44% of the time he’ll score less than 27.5 points. If you don’t want continuously make calculations, as long as the odds are close you can use 27.5 as a reasonable projection of how many points Harden will score.
Props are not always available especially for weaker players, but when they are available they can give a great indication of sportsbooks thoughts on specific players.
Best Sportsbooks to Use for Information
Although in DFS you typically will hear lines referred to as ‘Vegas Lines’ the best resources are not actually Vegas sportsbooks.
Pinnacle Sports typically has the sharpest odds as they have the lowest Vig and even encourage professional sports bettors to bet there unlike many sportsbooks that will ban or limit the amount a winning bettor can wager at their book. The presence of winning bettors keeps Pinnacle’s lines the sharpest in the industry.
Bovada/Bodog is one of the few books that offers a wide range of player props regularly.
BetFront is a paid sports bet picks service that identifies which lines are weak if you’re into sportsbetting.