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NFL: Five Questions for the Oddsmaker

MJ Kasprzak@BayAreaCheezhedSenior Writer IISeptember 12, 2009

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 12:  Gambling chips are pictured at a photo call at the Hotel CBD on July 12, 2007 in Sydney, Australia. The photo call was held to announce Shannon Noll as the new face of the Australian Poker League's new advertising campaign which will launch this Sunday,   (Photo by Gaye Gerard/Getty Images)

As a follow-up to my last article on Packers odds and which I considered good and bad bets, I have asked five questions of Richard Gardner, the Bodog Sportsbook Manager who is a key part of the process in determining odds...

1. I know that odds and point spreads are determined to get an even number of bettors on both sides. In your estimation, how much does the fan fervor for teams like the Packers and Steelers skew odds against the payouts on those teams and what team does it affect the most?

Fan fervor obviously plays in to opening lines, but generally the adjustments will happen later in the season as teams really get on a roll. The best example of this would have been two years ago when the Patriots went 17-0 and steamrolled everyone.

As bookmakers, we kept the spread creeping up, but no matter how big the spread (typically 14-17 points that year) became, bettors could not get enough of the Patriots.


2. When setting the initial odds-before betting on either side sways them, what are the most important factors in predicting a team's success, and how much do you project betting biases into said odds?

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First of all, we analyze all aspects of the game whether it be personnel and injuries, weather, and typical home-field advantage as well as how the two styles of play will match up on both sides of the ball.

Once we get that feel, we will look at the two teams individually from the fan perspective and make some adjustments based on how perception is going in to a game.

For this week for example with the Chicago-Green Bay game, there was no need to make any additional adjustments as both teams have positive hype going in to the season. Green Bay has the buzz after a excellent pre-season, and the Bears because of the Cutler signing.

Where you will see a bit of adjustment is on a line like the Vikings-Browns where the Vikings getting Favre is a positive and the mystery QB tour in Cleveland has added to the negative perception of the team.

This is where we will move a bit off where the research says we should be. Generally, biggest adjustments are for home dogs, which historically have been solid for the book.

3. What is the most dramatic shift you have seen in odds, either from one week to another or from the beginning of the season to say post-week nine, when all the byes are done and teams are pretty much known quantities?

Last season, the best example of this would have been the Atlanta Falcons, who were expected to do nothing in the first year of Matt Ryan starting, but past the halfway point he had become the golden child to bettors.

4. How often has a team that begins the season with 20:1 odds on winning the Super Bowl achieved that feat? Has anyone other than the 1999 Rams been able to do that?

Not often, and in the last dozen years that is the only example that I can think of. Bookmakers are always going to be a little conservative with dogs knowing that there is a lot of parity in football.

Of course, a lot of long shots have made it to the big game, like the Arizona Cardinals, who were 60-1 to start the season.

5. How much does the potential for injuries of certain key players get factored in? For instance, does knowing Brett Favre is virtually a lock to start every game while Tom Brady's injury may make him more susceptible to another make enough of a difference to be considered in odds and point spreads?

Injuries play a key role in determining the weekly line and odds to win after they happen. For some players like Bob Sanders who are always hurt and have a big impact for their team, we do take them in to consideration.

For a player like Tom Brady we expect him to come back healthy and if bettors tell us differently by avoiding a team's futures odds then we will make the adjustments, but with Tom Brady bettors have told us differently as the Patriots have dropped from 11/2 to 7/2 to win the Super Bowl and have generated a lot of handle for the book.

I originally wrote this article for SportsScribes.net.

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