Shop around, compare odds at different bookmakers!
Professional bettors dedicate many hours per week shopping for the best odds, and will often spend more time in this enterprise than handicapping. Given that the pros are betting high limits each week, it is time well spent even if it adds only 1% to their bottom line. But how can the average punter making $100 bets get the best price without turning odds searching into a full-time job?
Preparation is half the battle, so before starting to handicap, have your money ready. Ideally, you will take advantage of reduced price bookmakers which offer better value than other online sportsbooks. Plus you should also have one or two "recreational bookmakers", which use inflated lines on the favourites.
It is also a good idea to keep a decent amount of cash liquid in a NETeller account, where it can be put in play quickly. Most sports bookies instantly credit accounts with NETeller deposits. Even limiting odds comparison to only 10 minutes each week, this minimal amount of preparation still adds 1% to your expected return.
Another tactic punters can use to always get the best odds does not involve any additional effort, but instead emphasizes the significance of timing. Rather than handicapping during mid-week or Friday for weekend games, gamblers should begin analyzing next week's games immediately after the current weeks' matches have completed. Reviewing English football games Saturday night or Sunday morning and Italian league games on Sunday evening, gives punters one more money-making opportunity - betting into overnight lines.
Some sportsbooks will post overnight lines on all major sports. Soccer odds usually go up Sunday night, but can be volatile when the lines are first posted. These odds don't have to be very sharp since early betting quickly tightens prices against lower limits.
A popular anecdote among some linesmakers is that the first few bets taken on any overnight line are always sharp wagers. These bets are made by smaller punters who have already analyzed the matches and do not mind the lower betting limits. The early bettors are usually long-term winners, and are among the few that actually get the best odds every time. But it is worth giving up this edge to the early sharps because they provide an invaluable service by sharpening the odds, allowing bookmakers to raise limits to significant levels. Without these early "$100 geniuses", sportsbooks like Pinnacle Sports, for example, could not offer $30,000 limits on EPL matches.
I cannot stress powerfully enough that if your average bet-size is $500 or less, the best thing you can do to win more is bet into overnight lines. This is especially important with the smaller soccer leagues or markets like total goals. If betting into early odds seems somewhat intimidating, try this experiment: For four weeks, watch the opening lines. When making bets, keep a record of whether you would have got a better price on the opening odds, or against the closing line. Nearly all bettors will find that with the exception of important injury news or variable weather conditions, the odds moves during the week give them a worse price than if they had bet it earlier.
For those already doing handicapping early and using a reasonable sportsbook selection, there are other ways to be a better line shopper while still keeping your day job.
If you are willing to spend just a bit more time bargain-hunting, the best time to do it is when the odds are changing more quickly. For example, say the line at a top sportsbook is moving against you, try place your bet at a recreational bookmaker that changes its lines more slowly. Alternatively, if you like the direction of the odds change, wait for the market to even out, and take the best price. The key is to recognize when these movements happen. After the normal bouncing around of opening lines, there are two other factors that normally cause substantial moves: injury news and big bets before game time.
In the last 60 minutes before a match kicks off, there are frequently dramatic changes in the odds. This is often caused by large gambling syndicates, who wait until close to post time when the betting limits are highest at all bookies. If you are prepared to stare at a live odds screen for the 60 minutes before a round of matches kick off, you will find many line moves that are large enough to scalp. Waiting until this time to place your bets lets you either wager at the fast-moving sportsbook sites (like Pinnacle Sports Book, for example) or the slower moving recreational bookmakers, depending on which way the odds move.
Injury bets are another way to make a bundle, but bettors must be quick on the trigger. When a star player is announced as doubtful or out of his next game, there will be an enormous amount of betting action. The premier sports books may either take the game offline, circle the game and set lower limits, or considerably change the odds when the news comes out. Beating the bookmaker to the punch gives an almost certain opportunity to scalp by betting the other side after the odds movements. Even if you miss the early surge, many smaller sportsbooks will leave their old odds up.