Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 9:35 PM
I haven’t had a chance yet to talk this season about the importance of properly evaluating what’s called “steam” out here in Las Vegas. The word refers to a strong line move in a certain direction. It means different things at different times of the week. Properly understanding what’s causing line moves is an important part of the Advanced Handicapping approach.
Here are the three types of steam you need to be aware of:
*EARLY WEEK STEAM
Whenever a line moves dramatically early in the week, particularly right away off an opening number, that’s considered a “sharp” move. If you’re relatively new to football gambling (most of you are experienced bettors but there’s always a few newcomers popping in each week), “sharp” is the term used in Las Vegas for professional wagerers or “Wise Guys.” These are men who make their livings betting football. The public typically bets only on game days through a football season. So, any early-week move is therefore sharp.
This is team that you MUST respect. Informed bettors are telling you very clearly that they’re either in strong support of one side, or strongly against the other. You need to constantly be aware of who the smartest people like or don’t like so you can play your own bets accordingly. You don’t want to buck the Wise Guys as a general rule.
Now…if they’ve moved a favorite from -4 all the way up to -7 and then STOPPED betting, you can think about taking the dog at +7 if your own strategies are pointing to the puppy. Even then, you’re probably only looking at a “value” play rather than a big bet. With your biggest bets, you want to be aligned with the Wise Guys.
*GAME DAY “SQUARE” STEAM
Sometimes the public will jump all over a team Saturday morning in the colleges or a Sunday morning in the NFL. This is typically a high profile nationally ranked college team in a blowout situation, or one of the top playoff contenders at what strikes “squares” as a cheap price. When a superpower is on TV as a favorite, the public will lay whatever the price is because they want to root for a blowout. Sometimes it will be a dog in a big TV game if somebody like Notre Dame or New Orleans is getting points. Do NOT respect steam caused by the public. The smart way to play this for value as an Advanced Handicapper is to wait for the line to settle at the new number and then bet the opponent with the free points.
It’s important to remember that our focus on PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS will often have us on powerful teams in games that happened to be televised. This doesn’t mean that WE are square. It means that we’ve found an edge that we can bet before the line moves on game day. If your analysis has you on a high profile team, bet them as early as you can. You want to get in before the public goes crazy and takes some or most of your value away.
*GAME DAY “SHARP” STEAM
Often the Wise Guys will step in aggressively on game day based on news about a key player. Maybe a starting quarterback was questionable all week…but now it’s been confirmed whether he’s going to play or not. Maybe weather conditions have developed that will favor one team over another. Whatever. You DO want to respect game day steam from sharps. If they’re in agreement with you, bump up the size of your Las Vegas wager. If they’re lining up against you, double check your handicapping and decide if you want to cut back or back off your play entirely.
How can you tell the difference between “sharp” steam and “square” steam on game day? That can get tricky. It helps to be out here on site talking to people in the marketplace! The general rules are:
Square steam is on TV favorites, or highly regarded college and pro favorites
Sharp steam is connected to public injury news
Steam on underdogs is almost always sharp steam
Steam on non-TV games not involving ranked college teams is almost always sharp steam
As the season progresses, you’ll develop a very good sense of who respected big money bettors are most focused on for betting or fading. This will only make you smarter. I strongly encourage you to monitor line moves every day through the season so you become more savvy about the nuances of the marketplace.
I’m running this particular lecture on a Friday so you can sit down right now and log all the line moves from this week’s opening numbers…and then focus Saturday and Sunday on game day steam. This homework will be well worth your time.
I’ll be back with you on Tuesday for our next class here in my College of Advanced Handicapping. Remember that game day guidance is always available right here at this very website as I post my top personal selections for credit card purchase. Hopefully you’ve been having great success with your own picks this year thanks to our coursework. Additional assistance is always just a few clicks away. See you again next time.