Whether you bet on horses, professional or college sports, market movers are a big part of the betting landscape.
It doesn’t matter if you prefer wagering on favorites, underdogs or longshots. There are races, games and matchups in which the odds and betting lines are going to appreciably move in one direction. As a bettor, it is important to quickly spot these market-moving trends, determine why they are occurring, and know how to take advantage.
Paying attention to market movers, whether it be before a big race or on an NFL Sunday, allows bettors to gain more insight into a specific race or game and extract maximum value from their wagers.
What is an Odds Market Mover?
An odds market mover is a significant shift in betting odds in a particular race or sports event. Market movers are not anomalies. They occur on just about every racing card or slate of football or basketball games. Horses listed at 8-1 on the morning line are sent off the 2-1 betting favorite. Pro or college football teams that opened as a tepid two-point choice can be favored by a touchdown or more at kickoff.
The significant change in odds is based on the amount of money wagered on a specific horse, team or point total. Generally, there are logical reasons for these significant moves (several are outlined below). From a value standpoint, bettors gain their biggest advantage by spotting these market movers early and getting the best price. Of course, while deriving value is a key to betting success, it doesn’t guarantee victory.
Steamers, or steam, are horses or teams whose odds have dropped significantly since wagering opened on a specific race or game.
In horse racing betting, steamers show up in all kinds of races, especially maiden races (for non-winners), where several horses in the field are running for the first time and public information is limited. Significant early money wagered on a first-time starter can be an indication the horse has ability and a better chance to win than the initial odds implied.
In sports betting, steamers are teams that have received a surge of betting money from the public, causing a major shift in point spread or moneyline odds.
Drifters are the opposite of steamers. These are horses or teams whom the betting public has drifted away from for any number of reasons.
It can be tempting to wager on drifters because the odds have become more enticing and appear to offer good value. But there are reasons why bettors have turned away and it’s important to determine why. Perhaps there is information you are not aware of.
A sleeper is a betting entrant that is under-the-radar or not regarded highly by the betting public.
For example, the young and rebuilding Miami Marlins were considered a sleeper team in MLB betting to make the 2020 postseason, and managed to earn a wild-card berth.
Likewise, the lightly-regarded San Francisco 49ers were projected to win only eight games in the 2019 season in NFL futures odds but won 14 and reached the Super Bowl.
Sleeper selections are common in Daily Fantasy Sports leagues, where owners seek inexpensive, lesser-known players or rookies to provide better-than-expected production.
What Influences Market Moves?
Strength of the Market: Just how significant Is the wagering on a specific horse or team? Big wagers that lowered the starting price of a horse or spread in a Saturday college football game by several points are worthy of attention. Smaller moves can easily be reversed. While bettors don’t always need to wager on or against market movers, it’s helpful to know where the betting money is going.
Timing: Odds and lines can move at any time, but the biggest moves tend to be early in the betting cycle, when a large wager can have significantly more impact and set the betting tone for a game or race.
Form: Form is an obvious factor in determining a horse’s odds. Horses that consistently run first or second tend to be well regarded by the public and sent off at lower odds. But form may not be as applicable to horses stepping up in class, who simply aren’t fast enough to compete, no matter how impressive their recent form. The same applies to sports betting. A team that has won three consecutive games against sub-500 teams may appear in good form, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be competitive against a first-place team next time out.
Health: Perhaps the most common influence of market movers. Bettors are usually correct to steer away from horses coming off an injury or look dull or lathered up before a race, causing their odds to rise. Similarly, NFL odds and NBA odds can move drastically when bettors learn a team’s key player may be sidelined, benched or compromised by injury.
Betting Patterns: Some horses are consistently overbet, shrinking their odds far lower than they should be. In sports betting, public teams such as the New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys are often overvalued because fans like to bet on them. Oddsmakers are aware of this and may set their betting lines accordingly. Smart money takes this into account.
Bookie Manipulation: Nearly all horse race betting in the U.S. is pari-mutuel wagering, meaning bettors set the odds, not an individual bookmaker or the house. However, there are several big-money syndicates that use algorithms to try and exploit horse racing odds discrepancies on specific horses in the last minute before post time. That’s why a horse you bet at 5-1 odds with 2 minutes to post sometimes goes off at odds several points lower (or higher) than that.
Is it Possible to Predict a Market Mover?
It’s possible with research and knowledge. In horse racing, you may have noticed a horse who was bumped or broke slowly during his most recent race, an incident that doesn’t show up in the form comments but compromised the horse’s chances. In sports betting, you may think a key player who hobbled off the field the previous game may not be 100%, even though the team says the injury is not serious. Or an inclement weather forecast is likely to limit the number of points scored in a totals wager.
Another way to spot market movers is to compile your own power rankings. If you’ve done your research and believe the odds on your horse or team are not accurate, so might other “sharp: bettors, whose money will move the market. The linemakers at the sportsbooks are good, but they’re human and make mistakes.
CHECK OUT: Our Sports Betting Guides Can Help You Improve Your Chances At Profit
How to Stay on Top of Market Movers
The best way is to be attentive and constantly seek out information and clues. When the betting pools open for a specific horse race, check where the early money was wagered. Jot down each horse’s odds 15 minutes to post, then again 10 minutes later to discern potential drifters.
In sports wagering, take notice of betting lines when they are released and hours afterward, when the biggest moves often occur. Monitor injury reports. You can also find or subscribe to services that will alert you to significant line or odds movement, and also bookmark this page. If a line has moved significantly, find out why.
Betting on Market Movers
If the sharps were right all the time, pari-mutuel and sports betting would be easy. Just follow the smart money.
But that’s not the case. Horses bet down below even money and football underdogs that become betting favorites often lose. So how do you know when to follow the crowd?
This is why knowledge and research matter. If a line has moved significantly and you can’t identify (or disagree with) the reasons why, that’s a market mover to avoid or consider taking the other side. If the reasons for the line movement are valid, then following the sharps may make more sense. You might have missed the early line move, but a winner is still a winner and any profit is better than a loss.
One potential advantage of following and anticipating significant line moves is the potential to “middle” a sports bet. For example, you place a wager on the New England Patriots when they open as 10-point favorites over the Miami Dolphins. By late in the week, the line has jumped to 13. By then placing an equal bet on the Dolphins, the bettor has both sides.
The most likely outcome is the bettor splits the two bets and drops only the vig on the losing ticket. But the three-point spread between both bets gives the bettor a realistic chance to cash both tickets.
In the end, blindly backing market movers, or always betting against them, is not sound strategy. But being aware of steam plays and drifters gives bettors important insight and helps maximize betting value.
Market Movers FAQs
When are market movers updated?
In sports betting, market movers are updated not long after the betting line comes out. If you notice significant line movement in a game, that team may be an early market mover. If the trend continues in that direction, the move is confirmed. Horse racing market movers will sometimes occur just before a race. At Bookies.com, you will see market movers appear on this page once the line or odds have shifted.
Why do positive market moves occur?
Positive market movers occur because sharp bettors have spotted a weakness in the pari-mutuel odds or in a sports betting line, or due to injury, pre-game coaching decision or weather forecast.
How important are market moves?
Market moves are important because they provide insight into a particular game or race. There must be a reason why there are significant moves in odds. That doesn’t mean the move is right but alerts you how the sharp money is being wagered.
When does a market move occur?
When the odds move significantly down on a horse or specific player or team. If a horse is 6-1 morning line and is being sent off the 1-1 betting favorite, that’s a big market move. Similarly, if a 3-point NFL underdog becomes a 3-point favorite, a market move has clearly occurred.
Is betting on a steamer a good idea?
There are no guarantees in sports or pari-mutuel betting. Steamers are generally backed by sharp bettors for specific reasons. If you believe those reasons have merit and agree with the selection, then consider placing a wager and following the sharps. If not, then take a pass or bet the other side, which will offer added value.