NFL Win Totals – Recap of 2018 Pinnacle Numbers

It’s schedule SZN! It is the time of the year when most bookmakers release their NFL win totals for the upcoming season. Predicting future records in sports is as hard as it gets. Teams may change drastically from one season to another. Regression to the mean, positively or negatively, plays a significant role, too. However, year in year out bettors across the world try to predict future wins by placing their hard earned money on season win totals.

Roughly two weeks before the 2018 NFL season, I posted the implied strength of schedule based on Pinnacle win totals. The published number by the bookmaker doesn’t always represent the exact win total. Due to the juice, the numbers usually shade towards either side. For instance, the Arizona Cardinals sat at 5.5 wins odds of -193 in favor of the over. This price tag equals 6.3 wins. It’s the normalized win total.

NFL Win Totals from Pinnacle and the corresponding results and SOS implication
2018 NFL RSW from Pinnacle (08/20) and corresponding results plus numbers

During the off-season, public opinions on NFL teams are widely positive. Every organization is better than the year before, addressed its weaknesses during free agency, and every veteran is in the shape of my life. Beat writers are supposed to be biased and to cover their teams in a positive manner.

The betting markets tend to judge NFL teams more positively than negatively, too. With 16 games on their schedule, NFL teams can win a collective 256 games per season. The sum of the normalized win totals from Pinnacle last year was 260.7. That’s 4.7 more wins than it’s mathematically possible. Twenty-two win totals shaded towards the over. However, the Over/Under was 13-17-2 last season. If you had bet the Over blindly 32 times for $100 as the base amount, your result would have netted -$820 on the year (-19.8% ROI). In contrast, if you had bet all 32 Unders blindly, your profit would have been +$620 (+17.7% ROI). Distribution-wise, you would expect the Over/Under to be around 50/50 over time. But with the heavy shade towards the over side, it’s not truly a winning proposition to bet overs blindly.

Last season, the difference between actual wins and Pinnacle’s normalized win totals was 2.1 per average. The betting markets predicted 13 win totals to be within 1.5 wins of the actual team record. Ten times they fell outside the range of 2.5 wins. The correlation between Pinnacle win totals and the real team wins was 0.27 (R^2).

Win Totals and Strength of Schedule

With the schedule release, many football fans and media outlets try to predict the future strength of schedule (SOS) based on team wins from the season before. Here’s a friendly reminder: don’t do this! There is no predictive nature. It doesn’t matter how many games a team wins in the season before. Predicting future SOS is hard. Based on our team projections we can calculate a rough estimate, but it cannot be perfect. If Deshaun Watson got hurt in week one in 2018, it would have changed the SOS landscape entirely. The SOS for teams like the Colts or Jaguars would change because the Texans were suddenly much weaker than predicted before the season.

As mentioned before, the correlation between Pinnacle win totals and actual team wins was 0.27 in 2018. However, the relationship between 2017 wins and 2018 wins was just 0.12. The calculated SOS based on 2017 wins correlated 0.02 with the actual 2018 SOS. It’s simply noise. Wins from the season before have no predictive value for the victories the next season.

How to Bet with Pinnacle via Asian Connect

Picture with the headline: How to Bet with Pinnacle via Asian Connect

First of all, the platform I am going to refer to doesn’t have any affiliate connections to me. Maybe they are going to contact me after reading this, but right now, there is not an affiliate deal in place. I write this for betting purposes only. In this article, I will explain how to bet with Pinnacle without actually using the original site.

Pinnacle is one of the largest off-shore bookmakers in the world. They are also known as the ‘sharpest’ book with the best odds and the lowest margins. Also, they do not ban ‘sharp’ players but instead use their money to balance their action. Getting the best of the line and saving a few cents can make a big difference in the long run.

But there’s a problem: Pinnacle prohibits bettors from several countries, such as essential markets like the United States of America or the United Kingdom. US-bettors who want to benefit from betting into spreads at -105 odds are not allowed to sign up and bet with Pinnacle. The website blocks users when they log in with an IP from the prohibited country. Withdrawing money is impossible with a residence in a prohibited country. Asian Connect prohibits US residents, too. However, residents from many countries like Germany or England are allowed to sign up.

The Middleman

The solution? Last year I was looking for ways to bet at Pinnacle. My attention shifted towards Asian Connect when I read some excellent reviews. You can bet with Pinnacle via Asian Connect. It is an Asian broker that acts as a middleman between several bookmakers and bettors. They work together with books like Matchbook, SBObet and – Pinnacle.

Screenshot of the dashboard at Asian Connect
The dashboard at Asian Connect

After signing up, you can request an account for one of the several available bookmakers and deposit money via Skrill, Neteller, Bank Wire or Bitcoin. I haven’t tried out the other books, because I only wanted to bet with Pinnacle. After depositing, Asian Connect immediately creates an ‘anonymous’ account at PS3838.com, which is some manner of a farm or daughter site of Pinnacle. Your primary account is at Asian Connect.

The design of PS3838 differentiates quite a bit from Pinnacle’s original website, but it’s the same content. Asian Connect claims that PS3838 is the same as Pinnacle. I have never experienced any deviations during the last NFL season. As soon as a line changes at Pinnacle, it shifts at PS3838, too. It feels like a duplicate of the original site.

NBA odds table at PS3838
NBA odds table at PS383

There’s just one hurdle: Pinnacle still blocks access from banned countries. That’s why Asian Connect tells you to use VPN software before logging in to PS3838. I am using Tunnel Bear. It’s a smooth software that you can also use as an app on your mobile device. The free version has enough Megabyte traffic per month to place your bets. You need to open it before logging in to PS3838. It’s worth the effort to bet into Pinnacle lines.

Last step to bet with Pinnacle: Deposit via Bitcoin

Everything worked out smoothly. The significant advantage of Asian Connect that I’ve found out is its 24/7 live chat. As soon as I experienced a problem or had a question, I used the conversation, and my problem was solved immediately. You can even use it to speed up your deposit or verification process which I found to be very useful.

I deposited via Skrill and withdrew via Bitcoin after the NFL season. According to Asian Connect, there are no deposit limits with Skrill, but the Bitcoin limit per deposit is 50 BTC. I’m not a pro sports bettor, so I can’t test out potential limits. But I had no issues in the thousands range, depositing or withdrawing. It was a smooth process for the benefit of betting with Pinnacle.

Withdrawal and Verification

When you intend to withdraw your money, you need to verify your account. I sent photos of my ID card, the last TV/Internet bill and a screenshot of Skrill via email. It’s essential that you use the same email that you use at Asian Connect. I assume that you don’t need to send a screenshot of Skril when you deposit via Bitcoin.

One day after sending those documents, I got a code via text message that I got to communicate via email. I posted the code, and after a couple of days without a response, I contacted the chat. The verification processed immediately.

Asian Connect is a fantastic way to bet with Pinnacle. I cannot guarantee you that everything works out as smoothly as it did for me. But I highly recommend Asian Connect to bet at websites that ban your country. Check it out!

Closing Line Value on NFL Spreads and Totals

On Sundays, between 12 and 1 PM EST, I take a look at the SBR odds board to check where all the lines are heading. I am especially interested in the games I have already bet on because I want to check how good my line is against the closing line. A lot of bettors might know the feeling: you take a team at +3 on Tuesday, and by Sunday afternoon it’s suddenly +3.5. The negative shift makes me feel a little bit mad. But when I grab a -4 early and the line closes -5.5, it gives me a satisfying feeling. In this article, I want to explain how to calculate the closing line value.

Pricing matters

The key to handicapping is pricing teams more accurately than the market over the long run. A spread on any given game says: this is the point where the market believes that 50% of possible outcomes fall on either side of the number. Our job as handicappers – no matter how we do it – is to find discrepancies between our estimate and the market’s estimate for a spread, total or whatever.

Let’s say the Miami Dolphins are favored by three points over the Raiders. If your handicapping process comes up with an estimated line of -6 in favor of the home team, your edge will be three points. You would think that the Dolphins win by 3 or more points in more than 50% of the possible outcomes. You apply a higher probability by your estimated line. That’s what handicapping is about. A very important aspect of sports betting, which goes hand in hand with pricing teams more accurately than the market, is beating the closing line. When bettors combine the latter with sound money management, they are on the right path.

Why beating the closing line is important

Sports betting is not about results; it’s about the process. You cannot control the outcome of games, but you can manage your handicapping/betting process. Our goal is to make +EV (plus expected value) decisions that lead to profitable outcomes long-term. The probabilities we apply in our handicapping process are estimated probabilities, we don’t know what the real chances for winning a particular bet are.

Beating the closing line means that you take a better number or price than what the market closes at, therefore holding a ticket with a higher probability of winning than if you made it at a later (or earlier) time. By beating the closing line, we add a share of possibility in our favor against the market. That’s why getting ahead of the closing line is such an integral part of betting. In theory, the closing lines represent the most efficient market conditions, because, at this point, all participants in the market had the best information available.

According to the efficient market hypothesis the closing odds are on average more accurate than the opening odds in predicting the probability of how a fixture will play out.

As Pinnacle explains in that article, opening lines, don’t reflect all the information available in the market, and therefore “inefficiencies exist”.  As bettors, we want to bet into inefficient markets, to exploit discrepancies when we think our pricing is more accurate than the market. By beating the closing line consistently, you can prove that you do just that. Because Pinnacle is known as the sharpest bookmaker in the world, using their closing lines makes a lot of sense, because you expect their markets to be the most efficient when closing. 

A consistent track record of beating the closing odds is, therefore, an indicator of consistent profits in the long run.

Calculation of Closing Line Value

But how to calculate how well you are beating the market? By tracking the closing line value (CLV). It is the difference in break-even percentage between the line you bet into and the closing line. Each price has a scientific break-even point (BEP). For +100 (2.00 in EU odds) it is 50%. You need to win 50% of your bets on prices of +100 to break even. For -120 it is 54.54%, you need to win 55 bets out of 100 to generate a profit. Here is how to calculate the break-even point:

Odds lower than EVEN: (1 / (odds / -100)) + 1

Odds higher than EVEN: (odds / 100) + 1

In an Excel spreadsheet, you type in the odds in one cell (A1) and another you type:  =1/(IF(A1<0;1/(A1/-100)+1;A1/100+1))

In sports like Baseball or NHL, it’s relatively easy to calculate the closing line value. It’s simply the BEP from your line minus the BEP from the closing line. This gets divided by the original BEP. The last step is important because you want to measure the price difference relative to the original price. If you bet into -110 and the line closes -132, you will have managed a CLV of +8.63% ((56.90% – 52.38%) / 52.38%). But on the spread and total betting, it’s a little bit more complicated. The reason is that there aren’t just changes in the odds, but also for the lines.

Push Probabilities

Here comes the push probability into play. The push probability is the rate at which a certain spread pushes. For instance, 3 is the most common scoring margin in the NFL. The push frequency is around 9.6%, depending on which database you use. For instance, you bet into +3.5, and the line closes at +2.5. You would have added the whole push probability of the 3 to the range of your possible outcomes. At 3, the market would have bet into a line that pushes 9.6% of the time. When the line moves half a point, half the push frequency is applied.

You have two options: either you track the true closing price for the number you bet into, or you calculate an estimate. Now you could do a lot of work and calculate a lot of push frequencies. Or you are lazy and use a free calculator from the website SBRodds. Let’s say you bet into a favorite of -5 at -105 at Pinnacle and the line closes at -6.5 -110 with the dog closing at +6.5 +100. You type the closing line and prices into the tool:

Half Point Calculator from sbrodds.com

Get the estimated closing price

Now the tool calculates the proper odds for the other lines around that number, based on the historical push probabilities. Because you bet into -5, you are interested in the current value of the -5 after the line moved to -6.5:

Half Point Prices from sbrodds.com

The current price of the -5 would be -132. This means you beat the closing line by 22 cents and managed to get a CLV of +8.6% – that’s it. In your spreadsheet, you type in your price and the closing price. You calculate both BEPs and subtract the second from the first, then divide it by the first BEP. The result is the closing line value. You are now able to track the closing line value of all your bets.

How to beat it

Beating the closing line requires handicapping skills and market knowledge. As I explained in the first paragraph, your goal is to price teams and totals more accurately than the market. By that, you can exploit an inefficiency in the markets. A big advantage is looking ahead. Before Sunday, take a look at the next week and handicap those games already. Make notes and write down which market reactions you expect depending on possible results during the current week. Try to anticipate where influential money will be going.

If you want to bet a line you expect money was coming in on, you grab the line as early as possible. You are prepared when the opening lines come out and have a much better market overview. Some services advertise things like sharp action reports to bait you to bet on so-called “steam moves.” But you want to bet those numbers as early as possible, not after the whole world recognizes the move. There lies the best closing line value.

NFL Betting Tips to Help You Pick More Winners

Sports betting is hard work. You can get lucky and be on the bright side of variance for extended periods. But picking winners consistently demands a lot of focus, knowledge, and patience. Approaching sound money management and building the skill to beat the closing line will help any sports bettor in any given sports. When it comes to pro football, there are a few NFL betting tips one should consider when distributing his hard-earned money in one of the biggest betting markets in the world.

NFL Betting Tips Part One

At the beginning of the football week, preferably earlier, you should already know at which price you would bet the Sunday Night Football game. Your betting results from the afternoon don’t change your pricing on the night game. As the week advances, you should get a pretty clear picture for the Sunday slates. Don’t let losses get in your mind, don’t chase!

Recency bias is one of the biggest enemies for sports bettors. In a football game, a lot of things can happen. Teams can have a pretty good week where everything works out their way. They can also have an awful week where everything works against them. In conclusion, sports teams don’t perform to their standard week in week out. Separating outlier performances and applying them to the mean is one of the most important skills for sports bettors. Therefore, it’s the easiest NFL betting tip I can tell anyone.

Be Aware of Steam Moves

When you open the NFL odds board at Sportsbook Review prior to the Sunday kickoff, you realize a lot of different colors. It’s when spreads and totals move the most. A lot of bettors come in late in the week and there’s also a lot of influential money moving the markets late. 90 minutes prior to kickoff, NFL teams have to hand out their final inactive report. There are reasons to bet late, but those moves shouldn’t dictate your own betting behavior. Don’t follow big late moves just for the sake of it. There is no correlation between steam moves and the outcomes of NFL games.

Sports betting is math, and many bookmakers are good at their job. They wouldn’t offer you options to buy points if they didn’t profit off that action. Buying points will increase your chances of winning a bet. However, most of the time the cost of buying (the difference in price) negates your advantage which leads to a -EV (Expected Value) bet. You will hurt your Return on Investment long-term. Buying or selling points merely is a math thing. It is barely an NFL betting tip, but an important nugget in general.

Beware of the Hype

ESPN headlines – or the ones of any other big sports media outlet – can dictate opinions. How many times did the media fool us with the narrative that the Patriots have nothing left in the tank? Most recently in 2018. I wasn’t high on them either, but that’s a different story. Draw your conclusions on your own and don’t get fooled by public opinions.

First of all, I don’t know of a reliable tracking system which proves that reverse line movement holds any value. It indicates a shift in the market opinion, nothing more. Big websites sell this concept to make money. Secondly, as soon you bet into reverse line movement, you bet into a worse number. Therefore, we need to try to anticipate line movement and create a system that helps you betting into good numbers instead.

This one is one of my favorite NFL betting tips. Because of the significant impact of fantasy sports, many bettors overvalue injuries to skill position players and tend to ignore other significant injuries. For instance, there are a few middle linebackers who can genuinely make a difference. Cornerback is one of the most critical positions. This position group can negate a lot of what the front-four does on a per-play basis. In other words, the best pass rush can get devalued with an awful secondary.

Betting Tip: Sports Betting is Math

The difference between odds of -110 and +100 is 2.38% in break-even percentage. However, the push frequency of the 4 is somewhere around 2.25%. By selling from -3.5 to -4, you only add half of the push frequency which results in an advantage of 1.13%. These are the kind of calculations every sports bettor must have in his arsenal.

NFL teams might show you some of their tendencies during pre-season, but their game plans are mostly vanilla. As a result, only a few NFL coaches that put any relevance to pre-season scores. Teams who dominate in the pre-season can very well lose their first four regular-season matchups. Don’t get blinded by pre-season performances. If all, you should track the drives when teams let their starters play.

I couldn’t find any correlation between the pace of play and the scoring outputs of teams on the season level. As a result, the speed of the game has no impact on totals. An offense could make full use of the snap clock between plays. However, if they get a lot out of their snaps and are efficient, they will score anyway. Find exploitable matchups.S

2018 SoS Ranking by Pinnacle Win Totals

Pinnacle Sports is touted as the sharpest off-shore bookmaker in the industry. They don’t boost their sharp bettors, they use their action to balance their handle. They offer the season win total markets for all 32 NFL teams. When you derive those current numbers and prices, you can calculate the strength of schedule (SOS) for each team. You find the results in the following table:

2018 NFL Win Totals and SOS by Pinnacle

Return on Risk (RoR) – Why is it Important for Sports Bettors?

Everyone who invests in stocks, bets on sports, plays Fantasy or whatever, has to deal with one crucial thing: measuring the process, or return on investment. No matter what you invest in, you spend time and money, and your goal is to get a profitable performance in the long run. In the sports betting community, e.g., Gambling Twitter or betting forums, sports bettors mostly measure success. That’s the first step. Bettors generally measure success by win/loss records and the resulting winning percentage. Some more add the number of units they won or lost. Those can be good indicators of how good or bad someone is betting. But those are also absolute numbers and can be misleading. A high win percentage over 60% or “+600 units this year” don’t necessarily mean a lot without context. You also cannot compare two different handicappers by those numbers.

The problem with “units”

Winning percentage and units won/lost don’t tell you anything about efficiency. In this context, efficiency means the profit relative to what you are investing in. It depends on how many bets you make, what prices you play on and how much you spend per bet. You might have a high winning percentage when betting big MLB favorites, but you could still end up on the losing side despite hitting 60% or more. Someone who risks 5,000 units per season and is up 500 units, achieves the same return relative to the risk as someone who risks 500 units and is up 50. It just depends on how much you are investing and what the odds are. Here is a table about winning percentages required to break even depending on the average odds:

Break-Even-Win-Rates

When you play only spreads (NFL, e.g.) and your average odds are -110, you need to win 52.38% of the time to break even. That means your record over 100 games needs to be 53-47 to generate a profit. Someone who bets on an average of -120, will create a loss off a 53-47 record. Applying one unit per play, the -110 guy ends up with +1.3 units whereas the -120 guy ends up with -3.4 units. That’s a difference of 4.7 units just because the average line is ten cents lower. That also shows you how essential odds/price management is when it comes to sports betting. It even doesn’t matter whether one guy bets ten units per game or just one. The profit relative to the risk is the same.

An easy solution for everyone

What is the solution? Calculating Return on Risk (RoR). It measures the efficiency of your betting process. You divide your profit by the amount you have risked:

Return on Risk = profit / total risk

By measuring Return on Risk, or Return on Investment, you can effectively measure the efficiency of your betting process. RoR is independent of the number of units risked, the winning percentage and the average odds. Profit and total risk already process the average odds, so that the result is just the profit relative to what you are risking. Coming back to the examples above, the -110 guy achieves an RoR of +1.18% (1.3 / 110), the -120 guy ends up with an RoR of -2.83% (-3.4 / 120). Both have the same winning percentage, but the results are different just because one guy had lower odds on average.

Winning percentage and units won/lost are fine, but they are success-based and not efficiency-based. I don’t condemn anyone who quotes winning percentage and units – I do it myself. It looks good for advertising purposes, it gives you a good feeling, and most of the people are familiar with winning percentage and units. But in the end, both are just a measurement system for tracking success. Adding Return on Risk gives everyone a clue about true efficiency.