Thanks to the widespread adoption of online sportsbooks over the last decade, bettors are no longer limited to wagering on pregame action and season-long props. Today, you can place bets at any point during a game, match, round, or race using odds based on real-time stats and scores.
In-game betting, also known as live betting, is a relatively new addition to the world of sports betting, but it has already taken the industry by storm. Thanks to computer algorithms capable of keeping up with every play as it happens, sportsbooks are now able to offer thousands of unique wagering options during the course of a single contest. And as a bettor, you stand to benefit when you learn to spot edges and opportunities on the fly.
A Brief Tutorial on the Basics of In-Game Betting
Before diving into the details of how in-game betting can help you pad your bankroll, let’s run through a quick crash course on how the whole thing works.
Unlike traditional real money sports betting, in-game betting occurs after a contest has gotten underway. By using the closing point spreads, moneyline odds, over/under totals, and stat-based props, an online sportsbook’s in-game betting options immediately begin to change in light of real-time results.
As the game progresses, those aforementioned algorithms process every available data point to determine the most accurate odds given in-game scores, stats, situations, and scenarios.
For example, let’s say the Kansas City Chiefs began their Divisional Round playoff game against the Browns as (-10) home favorites against the Cleveland Browns. Against the defending Super Bowl champs, the Browns are (+400) underdogs on the moneyline, and the over/under total is set at 57.
On the game’s opening drive, Kansas City methodically marches down the field as the in-game betting algorithm goes to work. When the Chiefs reach midfield just over a minute into the game, the data updates automatically to make Patrick Mahomes and Co. even more of a favorite.
If you want to bet on them now, you’ll see odds like Chiefs (-11.5 / -475) with an over/under of 59.5, reflecting Kansas City’s increased likelihood of scoring points to end the drive.
By the time Mahomes runs it in for a 1-yard touchdown scamper, the algorithm spits out new in-game odds of Chiefs (-17.5 / -625) with an over/under of 67. And just a few seconds later, as kicker Harrison Butker’s extra point attempt sails wide, your in-game betting window will instantly revise those lines slightly to Chiefs (-16.5 / -600) and O/U 66.
In-game betting options are by no means limited to the basic types of betting like point spreads, moneylines, and totals either.
You can bet on anything under the sun while the game is going on, including individual and team stats like yards gained (NFL), total bases (MLB), assists + rebounds (NBA), and saves (NHL). The lineup of prop bets like this is almost limitless, so sharp bettors dive deep into the menu to hunt for targets such as quarter and half totals, finishing orders in NASCAR races, top-10 performances on the PGA Tour, and anything else the bookmakers can conjure up.
A word of warning to in-game betting rookies though, as most online sportsbooks set their algorithms to maximum overdrive. While you’re sifting through the stats and thinking of the best bet to make, your sportsbook screen will continually be updating its lines on the fly.
And unless you’re quick on the draw, your attempt to fire a well-timed wager will be rejected because those odds have already been updated to reflect current events.
Many amateur live bettors have been flummoxed by their inability to scan the screen, identify an opportune wager, and type the requisite info into the betting window before an update occurs. When this happens, you’ll see a message letting you know that the wager was not accepted.
Fortunately, most major online sportsbooks these days offer intuitive betting interfaces that users can quickly get the hang of. Before you know it, you’ll be tapping away at your laptop at high-speed to get favorable in-game bets in before the proverbial bell.
How Casual Sports Bettors Use In-Game Wagering
Now that you know how in-game sports betting works, let’s get on to the good stuff shall we?
Recreational bettors who frequent platforms like DraftKings, FanDuel, BetStars, and Bovada have an abundance of in-game wagering options at their disposal during any individual contest. I’m talking about hundreds of betting markets within a given game, each of which is updated every 20 seconds or so based on the real-time action.
Add it all up, and a single sporting event can offer bettors several thousand unique choices over the course of just a few hours.
The sheer variety of bets to be made might seem overwhelming at first glance, especially with the speed at which the odds are updated. But once you get the lay of the land, and identify the bet types that most suit your skill set, in-game betting can become a goldmine rich with profit waiting to be unearthed.
Traditionally, the best sports bettors in the world have never been necessarily concerned with sports themselves. These “wise-guys” and “sharps” don’t need to know a lick about tennis or European soccer, they simply rely on a firm grasp of statistical analysis. By sizing up each side’s posted odds relative to market movement, professional sports bettors can spot the slightest of edges by examining the numbers alone.
That’s all well and good, but the wise-guys of old wouldn’t know what to do when confronted with an in-game betting screen. To succeed while wagering on live action, the best bettors carefully monitor every shot, score, penalty, and injury before deciding on the next course of action.
By getting a feel for a game’s natural ebbs and flows, savvy in-game bettors parlay their status as fans of a sport into advantageous plays.
With that in mind, you should start your in-game betting journey by focusing on the sports, leagues, and players you already follow closely. Eventually, you can explore branching out into other markets. But in the sports betting game, it’s best to begin with your bread and butter.
Once you’ve chosen a sport to hone in on, take a crack at just one game to kick things off. I always prefer avoiding any pregame wagers on my in-game targets, backing a side beforehand makes it more difficult to take the other side live when circumstances warrant. But that choice is up to you.
When your target game gets going, be sure to have a TV or live stream nearby to keep up with the action in real-time. Most online sportsbooks have an in-game Score/Stats screen loaded for each game, but these tend to lag a few plays behind the live broadcast. As a result, bettors who follow the sportsbook’s feed aren’t always able to pounce on the best bets on the board.
Are There Any Drawbacks to In-Game Betting?
The main flaw associated with in-game sports betting concerns compulsive gambling and lack of self-control.
When you stick with pregame wagers, you can only bet so many dollars on a game before the ball is in the air. Sure, you can bet on other contests, but your liability on any one game remains limited to your pregame action.
But when you have an in-game betting screen staring back at you, the openings to place additional wagers come fast and furious. The odds feed is updated constantly, beckoning bettors who have trouble with discipline to keep themselves in the action.
Losses courtesy of a bad beat can be chased just a few moments later, and entire bankrolls can be drained in a rapid-fire succession of desperate in-game long shots.
On another note, the odds and lines posted by online sportsbook algorithms tend to favor the house much more than the market’s true nature would reflect. While human bookmakers take several competing factors into account while setting their pregame odds—even giving bettors a bit of an edge here to attract other bettors there—in-game betting algorithms are primarily programmed to boost the house’s profit margin at all costs.
That means the in-game spread you see flashing in bright text across your screen is almost always inferior relative to the real-time situation. It might not seem like much, but a half-point in the house’s favor or fading an extra (-50) in moneyline bets can add up to substantial negative expectation over the long run.
For that reason, the most successful in-game bettors eschew heavy volume in favor of a few expertly timed plays.
In-game betting is part of the sports betting industry’s rapid evolution during the digital age. By allowing fans to put a few bucks down based on real-time circumstances, the live betting market turns viewership into an interactive activity. And best of all, it’s a rare “win-win” for both sports bettors and bookmakers alike.
The players get to take advantage of their own knowledge and observations, soft lines posted by a computer, and a multitude of opportunities every minute. In turn, the sportsbooks keep the engine revving day and night, enabling their happy customers to place more bets than ever before.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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