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Betting college hoops totals forces books to play defense

Betting college hoops totals forces books to play defense

Betting college hoops totals forces books to play defense
By DAVID PAYNE

Sportsbooks are more vulnerable to college basketball totals than any other wager.

Early in the season, a lack of credible statistics leads to inaccurate lines.

In addition, gigantic Saturday cards can overwhelm book managers, making it very easy for money to quickly become lopsided on individual games.

When this happens, books are forced to bump the line significantly to sway action to the other side.

“College hoops represent by far the largest single day schedule,” says oddsmaker Pete Korner of the Las Vegas Sports Club. “Adding totals to each game doubles the amount of betting opportunities and it's almost impossible to keep track of all of the numbers at once.”

The combination of the inaccurate lines and overwhelming cards result in dramatic line moves, often by as much as seven points and sometimes more. That leaves the books vulnerable to an awfully big middle.

“Big moves to a line creates additional risks outside the standard risks sportsbooks will normally account for,” says Randy Scott, sportsbook manager at betED.com.

For years, professional handicappers took advantage of the inaccurate totals and drastic line moves. But now books are fighting back, making things much more difficult to do significant damage betting college totals.

First, sportsbooks began slashing betting limits. Pinnaclesports.com reportedly has a $250 max on college totals. The average online appears to be around $1,000.

As an additional line of defense, some books have begun staggering the release of their totals. This helps the manager keep better track of which games are getting hit hard.

“I think it's smart bookmaking to release totals as you go, so a manager can book with some grip on the games,” added Korner. “It can be overwhelming.”

At betED.com, Scott says he lets college totals “settle a bit” for posting.

“Our policy on early college hoop totals,” Scott explains, “is to try and post our college totals as soon as we feel the most accurate number becomes evident. We will always be one of the earlier sportsbooks for college basketball totals.”

The books’ tactics have worked. It has become more difficult for sharp action to get large amounts down on a college basketball total.

“We used to do a lot with college totals,” says professional handicapper and Covers Expert David Malinsky, “but unfortunately because (of lowered limits and late line releases), our market access has shrunk considerably. In fact, it has happened to the point at which we do not do nearly as much work on totals as we did in the past because the amount of effort put in when compared to the betting limits does not bring the proper return. Sad but true.”

From the oddsmaker’s perspective, Korner sees both sides of the new world of betting college basketball totals.

“I haven't heard too many complaints from my side of the counter on this new system,” he says, “but I can naturally see why some serious totals bettors don't like the new way. They can't tie up a lot of games together, if they start at opposite times of the day.”

While the profit margin might be good enough for a pro, Malinsky says there are still advantages betting college totals.

“There is absolutely an edge to be found in terms of making winning predictions against the total line,” Malinsky says. “But whether or not those edges can be turned into genuine profits via betting is another matter.”

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