One of the most exciting ways to bet sports is with “interactive” (or “in-progress,” “in-running,” “in-game”) wagering.
This is a form of wagering that only a handful of sportsbooks offer, usually on only high profile games, and often with higher vigorish than standard offerings (because sportsbooks feel much more vulnerable to being beaten on these wagers if they don’t build in some extra precautions).
While in an extended sense one could consider any second half or quarter bets offered during halftime or quarter breaks to be “in-game” wagering, “interactive” wagering and its synonyms normally refer to wagers on the game as a whole that remain available after the game starts, with the spread or odds adjusting throughout.
For example, a World Series game might have the Yankees favored at -140 and the Dodgers at +120 at the start. The game-if it is interactive-then stays on the board. If the Dodgers get a runner on base in the first inning, the sportsbook might shift those lines to -138/+118. If he’s erased on a double play on the next pitch, they might go to -143/+123. If the Yankees take the lead in the next inning with a home run that makes it 2-0, the odds might go to -185/+165. If heading into the final inning the Yankees remain up 2-0, the odds might be -800/+700.
So throughout the game the odds fluctuate up and down, and bettors can jump in any time.
Here are some points to keep in mind with interactive wagering:
1. Beware of the fact that even “live” television is routinely delayed a certain number of seconds. If you’re watching a football game on satellite TV that’s on a seven second delay, realistically you shouldn’t be doing interactive betting. It’s not so much that you won’t have time to get your bets in-in most sports there are plenty of breaks of more than just a few seconds-but that any time the sportsbook puts up a line that’s even a little weak, so many people will jump on it in the first few seconds that by the time you are ready to make your bet the sportsbook will have adjusted the line to something less favorable.
You really have to be able to pounce immediately with this form of wagering.
2. Don’t get too enamored with “guaranteeing” a small victory. Many bettors simply place a bet at the start of the game on one side, and then follow the game until any point where their side is significantly in the lead, and then they bet the other side in an interactive wager at better odds.
For example, they might bet $420 to win $300 on the Yankees at the start of the game, then if the Yankees take the early lead and the interactive odds shift to -230/+200, they would bet $240 to win $480 on the underdog Dodgers. Then they just sit back and enjoy the rest of the game, knowing they’re going to win $60 regardless of whether the Yankees hold their lead or not.
It’s tempting to “lock in” a win like that, and people enjoy the strategy because the team they bet on at the outset need not even win, but just must be doing well enough at any point of the game for the odds to shift in their favor, even very temporarily.
But as I say, don’t get too tempted. It might be psychologically pleasing to replace your $420 to win $300 wager with a guaranteed $60, but it’s not always mathematically the correct play. Yes, you’re getting better odds on the other team than what they were at the start of the game, but are they better than what they should be? Often in this situation all you’re really doing is in effect letting your sportsbook buy its way out of a bad bet with a token payoff. Instead of very likely having to pay you $300 at the end of the game, they can just pay you the $60 now that you’re willing to settle for.
And while you’re watering down your wins, you’re paying full for your losses. You lose your full bet on that minority of games where your team is never in the lead and thus you never bet the other side.
Judge each interactive bet on its individual merits. Don’t look just at whether it constitutes a hedge with an earlier bet to lock in a small profit. In interactive wagering, sometimes you have an edge on a wager that will add to the side you’ve already bet, sometimes you have an edge on a wager that will offset the side you’ve already bet, and sometimes there isn’t currently an advantageous additional wager to make.
3. Interactive wagering is one of many forms of sportsbetting that really rewards research and preparation. One of the best interactive wagerers in the world is a fellow I know who crunched a massive amount of numbers from different sports and created charts for all different game situations. If you said to him “College football. Five minutes left in the third quarter. The game is tied. The 7 point favorite has the ball facing 3rd and 10 at its own 15. What percentage of the time in the history of the sport has a team in that position gone on to beat the spread and cover the 7 points,” he could look it up and tell you it was 18% or 22% or 31% or whatever.
Not that you wouldn’t then need to tinker slightly based on other game information, like if one of the starting quarterbacks has left the game with an injury, but think about what a position of advantage you would be in with interactive wagering if you had information like that at your fingertips.
You can. Sportsbetting is all about using brains and hard work to put yourself in that kind of position.