Most casual sports bettors judge their performance by the financial results. However, there is actually a much better metric for measuring your skill in sports betting. In order to find out whether you can be profitable in the long run, you need to measure your performance based on the closing line odds.
While the closing odds aren’t perfect, they are somewhat accurate on average, and if you experience a lot of variance in your results, you can measure your performance by looking at this metric.
The closing odds
The closing odds are the final odds on the market before the game starts. For example, if a football game starts at 16.30, the closing odds will be what the market offers at 16.29.
In the days up to a game, the market isn’t very efficient. The bookmakers publish their odds, and they are rarely completely accurate in the beginning. However, with time, the lines get more accurate. The reason is that the market gets to place its bets. The majority of sharps, syndicates, and top players place their bets a few hours before the match starts – since this is the time where the limits are highest.
As we know, the odds are adjusted based on how the market bets. The bookmaker always tries to find a middle so that it wins regardless of what happens in the game. For that reason, we can confidently say that the closing line odds will be an accurate reflection of how the market sees the probabilities.
The closing odds don’t always give a clear representation. The market can be wrong about how the odds should be priced when looking at the singular game. So don’t beat yourself up over being on the wrong side every now and then. But over the long run, in general, the closing line odds are more accurate than the odds at any other time. The sharpest bettors generally know what they are doing, and when they place their money, the odds will adjust and represent the collective opinions of the strongest influences on the market.
If you beat the closing odds on average, it means that you are beating the market. This is a good sign. There is a clear correlation between beating the closing line odds and earning a profit from sports betting. In any case, if you are beating the market, it means that you have gotten the best odds possible more often than not, and that is highly beneficial.
To find the closing odds for the games you are looking for, you need to use an odds comparison site. OddsPortal is probably the best one for this purpose. Search for the game and find the pre-match odds – it will automatically show the final odds, which will be exactly what you are looking for. You should use the odds from Pinnacle since this is the bookmaker with the most precise lines (in general). Account for the margin of the bookmaker too, which will be 2-3% in the case of Pinnacle.
Use your spreadsheet
To find out if you are a talented bettor or not, you obviously need to check if you are beating the closing lines.
This will be difficult if you bet props, player bets, smaller markets. In this case, you can use results as your sole measurement.
But if you bet outright winners, moneylines, spreads, handicaps and totals in major sports leagues, you have to check the closing line odds and compare them to the odds that you are betting.
You do this by filling the closing odds into your spreadsheet. If you have your own tracking spreadsheet, simply make a space for the closing odds. If you use a tracking platform, like bettin.gs, there is actually a function for the closing odds and it will do all the work for you.
But assuming you do it manually – you need to subtract the closing odds from the odds that you have gotten. If the result is a plus, you have beaten the line, and if it is a minus, the market has beaten you. Make a function in your spreadsheets that measure all the times you have beaten the line (>0) and the times you have lost to it (<0). You should be beating the closing odds more than half the time. Pro bettors will typically beat the line a bit over 60% of the time.
Calculate your edge
The method above allows you to calculate your edge. For example, if you beat the closing odds 60% of the time, you are a skilled bettor and you can expect a long-term profit – even if you are experiencing hard variance and have a current minus in your actual results.
You can also calculate your overall edge. Find the average of all the odds you have been betting and the average of the closing odds of the same games. Compare the two, and if the closing odds are higher on average, you are doing well. Let’s say your average odds have been 1.90, but the average closing odds have been 1.92. That means you are beating the market by two clicks on average. If the margin of the bookmaker is already accounted for in the closing odds, then you are legitimately beating their odds by a few percentage points – which is great news.
On the contrary, if you are not beating the closing lines, it is a big danger signal. It means you are either placing your bets at the wrong time (best case scenario) or that you simply don’t have an edge. It is entirely possible that you can disagree with the market and still win, for instance, if you always place your bets at the last moments – in this case, you can’t use the closing lines for much since you are actually betting them. But it is something to be worried about because the market is believed to be quite accurate on average.
You probably need a sample size of around 200 bets to estimate if you are better than the market. That sounds like a lot, but it is a lot less than the sample size you need when analyzing outright results since there is way more variance involved here.
How to beat the closing odds
Now, the most important question – how do we beat the closing odds?
It isn’t easy. The answer is that we need to find value bets and that we need to find them before the market adjusts. This is what separates the winning players from the rest – being able to spot value, and being able to place our bets at the right time.
There are some general trends – big favorites in soccer/football tend to be more favored as time pass. It’s a common sight that clubs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid start out at 1.30 to win but close at 1.20. With large underdogs, it obviously goes the other way most often.
We can try to predict the market – this is highly relevant for traders. But as pure bettors, we simply want to profit, so we will just have to bet the value that we find whenever we find it. And if the market goes in the same direction, that is the best sign possible. If not, then we are likely on the wrong side. But then again – in a singular game, the market might not be accurate. But in general, over hundreds or even thousands of bets, the market will be right more often than not. So we need to spot value and try to win. Easily said – but hard to do. It requires knowledge and patience, possibly the help of a system as well.
Aside from being smart about the bets we place, we also need to find the best odds possible whenever we bet.
The best way to do that is by using a bet broker that gives you access to several of the best bookies from the same platform.
Sportmarket is the best one. You can bet with Pinnacle, SBO, ISN, BetDAQ, Matchbook and other sharp books and exchanges through Sportmarket. It will ensure that you get the top odds on the market whenever you place a bet. And that will improve your ROI big time – it will also increase your chances of beating the closing odds.
Sign up with Sportmarket here and try their Pro platform for free!
The closing line odds are great to use as a metric. If you only have a small sample size of bets (<1000), you will experience a lot of variance in your results, and it can be difficult to estimate your true edge. The closing odds will help you and it will give you the ability to compare your skill to the market’s overall skill.
We highly recommend tracking the closing odds for all of your bets. If you are beating the closing lines more often than not, you are doing things right, and you should continue. If you are not beating it, you need to look into your strategy. Perhaps you are not finding value, or perhaps you are betting at the wrong time.
Overall, analyzing our performance based on the closing lines can help us become better bettors. And that’s what it’s all about. If you have any inputs, feel free to speak out in the section below.