Who Sets the Odds for Sports Betting?

If you’ve ever found yourself cursing the game line or completely dumbfounded at how a basketball total from the Russian basketball league lands right on the “over/under” number, I can assure you that you are not alone. Setting the right number is the heartbeat of any sportsbook, which is why they hire the sharpest minds in the betting game and task them with calculating the lines. It’s not often you come across a line that is far off from what actually happens in the game. Sportsbooks have the utmost trust in their linemakers so that when they post their lines to the betting public, they aren’t vulnerable to big losses.

What is a Linemaker?


When someone is referred to as a “linemaker, it means they are responsible for creating lines and totals for sportsbooks. A linemaker can also be referred to as an oddsmaker, and they typically create lines and totals on their own. However, sometimes an individual linemaker can be part of a larger group of people, depending on the magnitude of the event that needs a betting line.

A linemaker has a huge responsibility to put out solid lines and/or totals. A linemaker typically starts from scratch in games between two teams and must figure out which team should be labeled as the favorite and by how many points. If the lines are sharp and the book makes a lot of money, the linemaker(s) will be given a pat on the back. If the lines or totals are off, the result could end up costing the sportsbook a ton of money on that specific event.

How Do Odds Get Set?


Much like an artist, each linemaker has its own unique approaching when setting their odds. They also put in a ton of time with each line to ensure both sides get action. They are also very secretive about their approach. However, one thing we do know for sure — they have access to the latest and most advanced technology that allows them to run their numbers, statistical data, historical trends, and all that fun stuff to help them come up with the best line possible. Linemakers create their line with the sole focus on how people are likely to bet on a game. The outcome of the game does not matter prior to making these lines. The only thing that matters is setting a line that is able to split the action between both sides, thus allowing the sportsbooks to profit without any risk. The next time you look at a line, remember that it is not a representative of how the linemaker thinks a game will turn out but instead how they think the betting public will bet it.

Understanding the Three Different Set of Odds


Depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on, how you view odds could differ. In the UK, the preferred method of viewing odds is in factions. Don’t get me wrong, the odds are the exact same, they are just displayed differently. Fractional odds are also used in horse racing across the world.

Fractional odds


Fractional odds essentially quote the net total that will be paid out to the bettor – should they win – relative to their stake.

Let’s look at an EPL game as an example.

If Crystal Palace is taking on Tottenham in the EPL the odds could look something like this:

Crystal Palace 5/1, Tottenham 1/5

This means that Crystal Palace’s odds would give you five times your wager if you back them.

A $20 bet would yield winnings of $100 ($20 x 5 = $100)

You would also get your stake back ($20) for a total payout of $120.

If you fancy Tottenham to win at odds of 1/5, you would be paid out one dollar for every five dollars you bet.

American Odds


American odds are what I’m sure many of you reading this are accustomed to. It is highly popular in the U.S. (hence the name) but could also be referred to as ‘money line odds’.

American odds for betting on a favorite work by showing you how much money you would have to risk in order to win $100.

For example, if you were to bet on a football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins, and the Bills are -110 favorites, you would then have to risk $110 to profit $100.

If you were to bet on the Dolphins who are +105 to win the game, you would profit that amount for every $100 you wagered.

Decimal Odds


Decimal odds are another extremely popular way to view the odds around the world. Many think they are the easiest format to understand, which is why many sportsbooks offer the option of displaying their odds in this fashion.

With decimal odds, the figure quoted is the exact amount that will be paid out if the bet is a winner.

For example; You are betting an NHL hockey game between the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames and the odds are as follows:

Dallas 2.50 vs Calgary 1.65

A successful bet on Dallas would result in a win of $250. This is 2.5 x your original wager.

A successful bet on Calgary would result in a win of $165. This is 1.65 x your original wager.

Can You Beat the Odds?


Linemakers generally have enough time to put out a solid number, as most lines are out well in advance of the games. For example, the NFL has their games lined week by week starting in June. Sportsbooks do this to gauge the thought process of the betting public and then they can adjust their lines when the time comes. However, sometimes the linemakers are under the gun and tight for time, which is when soft lines are posted.

Take a college football Saturday for instance – most of the games (a lot of them) reach the halftime break at around the same time, which gives the oddsmaker a very short turn around to produce a solid halftime line. These halftime lines are usually thought up in advance of the game reaching halftime and then adjusted to compensate for how the first half actually played out. Because of the number of games, some games (usually lesser schools/conferences) slip under the radar and sportsbooks hope that sharp bettors or the betting public miss the opportunity to jump on a soft line. Books can usually get away with this since the betting public tend to stick to betting games on national TV or on teams they’ve actually heard of.

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