Thursday, Sep 5th
Monday, Sep 9th

In-Game Betting 101

By: Eric Sherk
“The In-Gamer’s Advantage”

Each week, there are 168 hours between standard start times of an NFL game. That seems like plenty of time for pre-game bettors to study hard and bet comfortably. And yet, in-game bettors have only 40 seconds or less between each play to study real-time betting numbers before they change. This time imbalance is why pre-game has traditionally been the average bettor’s preference, but more time rarely translates to more opportunity.

In fact, the more time we have to handicap pre-game, the more time the books have to make better numbers. “Better” means, better for them, and worse for us. However, the less time we have to handicap in-game, the less time the books have to make those better numbers, and the tables are turned. Would you rather have 168 hours to handicap numbers that are harder to beat, or 40 seconds to handicap numbers that give you a better chance to win?

Before you answer, keep in mind that in-game handicappers still have access to the exact same 168 hours that pre-game handicappers do. The only difference is that in-gamers apply what they learned over that time period to real-time opportunities during the game when the sportsbooks are more vulnerable because of time constraints in gathering vital information from recent plays in order to accurately refresh each number.

Compare that to the more hypothetical and theoretical opportunities leading up to the game when books have all week to gather the vital information they need to make the tightest numbers, as well as the time to monitor those numbers, should any breaking news hit the wire. Not to mention that any potential pre-game opportunities are based mostly on past information and trends that often have little relevance to the current game once it starts.

This poses another important question. As a handicapper, would you rather have “less applicable information and MORE time to apply it,” or “MORE applicable information and less time to apply it”? If you chose the second option for both questions, then in-game handicapping may be a game changer for you, just as it was for me over a decade ago, and continues to be. And IN-GAME 101 is the only handicapping highway built exclusively for the journey.

situational betting

As we’ve already hinted at, real-time information is priceless if you know how to process it properly, even if you only have seconds to do so. Let’s say you’ve been handicapping a particular NFL game all week, and based on past stats & trends for both teams, you’re expecting Team A to be successfully run-heavy. You then place several pre-game prop bets and set multiple fantasy lineups in accordance with that assumption.

However, due to a laundry list of unlikely factors, Team A finds themselves down 21-0 after just one quarter in which they barely possessed the ball. A patient in-game handicapper with no prior action on the game, can then unbiasedly start looking for various applicable prop and fantasy angles to take advantage of in real-time. This is a stark contrast compared to the astronomical odds of trying to predict such a scenario pre-game. 

Handicapping “present games” as opposed to “past games” allows in-gamers the luxury of picking the puzzle pieces that they think will best fit the puzzle unfolding in front of them. In this case, because of the substantial deficit, Team A is obviously no longer likely to be as run-heavy as expected in their pre-game numbers, and this will be reflected in their current in-game rushing and fantasy props, which of course will be lowered drastically.

This opens up an incredible number of in-game betting options based on two basic trend possibilities. Either Team A enters into “Comeback Mode” playing faster and more pass-heavy, which if moderately successful, could keep the game close enough to warrant some buy lows in their run game props at far more winnable numbers than the ones that were pre-game; not to mention the obvious passing and receiving “over” props that will certainly be inflated, but still offer value if the deficit stays doable. 

If the deficit doesn’t stay doable, then “Blowout Rules” would apply at some point, meaning much of the fourth quarter could feature Team A backups on offense, which if spotted early enough, could offer late “under” prop value for most Team A starters. Both of these basic trend possibilities will also be affected by Team B’s pace, which may very well throttle down in the second half if their large lead stays intact.

These are just a few team-specific examples of what I call “Situational Betting” scenarios which are almost impossible to plan for pre-game, but can be extremely exploitable and profitable once presented in-game. You’re essentially “taking what the game gives you” and training yourself to watch and wait for such opportunities. The more you learn what to watch for each game, the more valuable the in-game opportunities become.

“That’s the Discipline”

Finally, to wrap up “The In-Gamers Advantage,” we’re using a poker example to drive home one last point of value for situational in-game handicapping and betting. In Texas Hold Em, it doesn’t get any better pre-flop than pocket Aces. However, if the flop comes out straight-heavy, flush-heavy, or both, then those heavily favored Aces drop significantly in value which provides new betting opportunities for other players involved in the hand.

In-game handicapping is full of these types of opportunities which are never available pre-game because the contributing factors haven’t occurred yet. Although watching & waiting patiently for those factors to occur in any given game is the best way to win long-term, the sportsbook industry has zero confidence that the betting public will ever have enough collective discipline to wait so long between bets.

Ironically, the average in-game bettor usually has the intention of waiting for the right plays to reveal themselves, but often places several impulse bets along the way, therefore counterfeiting the long-term value of their strategic in-game selections with far less strategic ones. In order to prey on these impulses, sportsbooks are always looking to multiply their in-game offerings, despite having far more house vulnerability in-game (excluding micro bets) than pre-game.

The best way to win the battle against our betting impulses is to recalibrate our overall mindset from betting mode to handicapping mode. Bettors are consumers, and consumers are always ready to spend money. However, the best handicappers are investors, looking to only spend money when the market is ready. In-game handicappers may often have to wait several games to find a betting market worthy of investment, but that patience is the difference between winning and losing long-term.

As Robert De Niro said to Al Pacino in the famous diner scene of the classic movie Heat, “That’s the discipline.” Just like casinos are designed to keep us gambling, sportsbooks are designed to keep us betting. The weekly countdown to every football game puts pressure on pre-game bettors to place their bets before each game starts. But in-gamers don’t feel that pressure. We’re not mesmerized by pre-flop pocket Aces. It’s all about the cards on the table.

🛣️ Life is a highway! Enjoy the ride in-gamers.