A new game in the UK called ‘Head-Fakes’ has been designed to fool the betting market. The game is played by placing a bet on one of two teams, and then switching their support after a few seconds. This causes the odds to shift, creating an opportunity for sharp bettors to make money.
The minty bets are a bet that is placed on the outcome of a sporting event. Bettors will place their bet and then cancel it before the game starts, making the odds for this particular bet higher than normal.
In the ruthless world of high-stakes sports betting, they’re known as head fakes, and one syndicate launched an all-timer on an ordinary Wednesday in July.
For days, a group of gamblers from all across the nation had been anticipating the publication of the over/under on the total points scored in the WNBA All-Star Game. There was a possibility that an oddsmaker might make a mistake, according to the betting syndicate.
A bet made on the opposite side of a bettor’s actual position is known as a head fake. They are intended to shift the line to a more favorable number on the favored side, allowing the gambler to make bigger bets on the side they like at a better figure. A betting syndicate is a group of bettors who collaborate on handicapping and profit sharing from the team’s wagers. Chalk it up to ESPN.
The game pitted the best players from the WNBA against the US women’s national team, which was preparing for the Olympics. In contrast to previous wide-open All-Star Games, the syndicate anticipated that more defense would be played, resulting in lower score.
The syndicate dispatched one of its members to New Jersey ahead of time and kept a careful eye on the odds screen on game day (July 14), waiting for the first bookmaker to publish the total. The syndicate got their wish at 10:29 a.m. ET. There had been a blunder. Circa Sports, a Las Vegas bookmaker, set the total at 248, which is more akin to a normal defense-optional All-Star Game than an intense, competitive match involving a team vying for a gold medal at the Olympics.
Everything had gone off without a hitch. The syndicate was in a position to profit from the error by pounding the under, but the uninitiated may be surprised by what it did next.
“Let’s see what happens if you bet over,” a proposal was given to the syndicate member in Vegas charged with placing the initial wager.
That’s correct, the syndicate decided to bet on the over after determining that the total was 30-plus points too high. The approach wasn’t so much intended to deceive Circa as it was to create a smokescreen and keep other bookmakers from seeing the number was wrong.
The head impersonation worked.
The syndicate partner who placed the initial wager is a sharpshooter who frequently moves lines after making a stake. Circa oddsmakers changed the number to 252 after the account made a limit bet on over 248.5. Circa was quickly repeated by bookmakers from Costa Rica to Colorado to New Jersey to Nevada, who put the total at approximately 250.
The syndicate got to work, this time wagering on the under at as many bookmakers as possible. The total dropped to 191 before settling at 197. The WNBA All-Stars triumphed 93-85, keeping the total under 19 points. The syndicate performed well.
“That was a one-of-a-kind situation, not an usual one. It typically doesn’t work that way “On the condition of anonymity, a member of the betting syndicate told ESPN. “It just so happened to be the ideal storm.”
And, maybe, the ideal head faking.
The head phony is unveiled.
Bets made on the other side of a bettor’s real favored position on a game are known as head fakes. They’re utilized to hide a bettor’s real intentions while also moving the point spread to a more favorable figure. They’re more common in smaller, less liquid markets, such as college basketball and NBA or WNBA second-half over/under totals, although some bookies claim they’ve even occurred on the Super Bowl.
When done correctly, the most effective head fakes may cause sportsbooks all over the globe to change the line in the incorrect direction.
This is how it works: A well-known bettor favors Duke +3 over North Carolina. The gambler makes a $1,000 head-fake bet on the Tar Heels -3 when the initial line emerges at a major bookmaker. The bettor anticipates the head fake on North Carolina to force the line to jump to -3.5 at the major sportsbook, as well as others, since they are aware of their impact on the market. If the bettor is successful, he or she will wager $40,000 on Duke with bookmakers that have inflated the line to +3.5. The bettor may make his bigger bets on the favored side with a superior line for $1,000.
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In Las Vegas, bettors have been causing bookies problems with head fakes for decades. William T. “Billy” Walters, a well-known sports betting, became famous for his head fakes in the 1990s, which left everyone wondering about “Which side is Billy on?” Art Manteris, who managed Las Vegas sportsbooks for more than 40 years, recalls smart people head-faking on the Super Bowl XXXII opening line between the Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos. Head fakes are now performed in real time on odds displays that light up as point spreads and totals change.
Shane Sigsbee, the leader of the high-volume betting syndicate ImawhaleSports, says, “We’re not a group that performs head fakes — it’s not our business model.” “However, seeing other ensembles do these head fakes is like watching art. The way they do it is lovely.”
The false master’s head
Walters has the most powerful head fake of all the clever smart people in the world.
“You may be caught with your pants down,” says Gadoon, a long-time professional gambler. When it came to deciphering head fakes, “Spanky” Kyrollos remarked, “and the one who was renowned for it was Billy Walters.”
Walters came to Las Vegas in the early 1980s after growing up in hardscrabble rural Kentucky, joined up with the legendary syndicate the Computer Group, and climbed to the top of the sports betting food chain. Walters has had more impact on American sports betting than anybody else over the last 40 years. On the market, he has a mystical presence that causes anxiety among bettors and bookmakers who are always trying to figure out which of Walters’ bets are genuine and which are head fakes.
Even when Walters was spending time in federal prison for insider trading, the sports betting world was abuzz with speculations about whose side he was on. (President Donald Trump commuted Walters’ sentence in January.)
Walters has a running joke among professional bookmakers that he has never lost a wager.
“If a game won, Billy was on that side,” claimed “Fats,” a sports bettor who worked with Walters in Las Vegas for a year. “Well, it was a Billy head-fake game if it lost.”
Fake history in the head
For a long time, people have been playing the head-fake game.
The Stardust casino and resort in Las Vegas was home to some of the most prominent point spreads, totals, and odds in the country in the mid-1980s. When Stardust sportsbook director Scotty Schettler and his team put up a number, it drew the attention of everyone in Las Vegas, including rival bookies.
Bettors would queue every morning to have a chance at the Stardust’s opening spreads, even employing stand-ins to wait for them overnight. The sportsbook erected stanchions to keep the crowd of bettors in check, but they were quickly removed. Schettler eventually devised a morning lottery, in which a deck of cards was used to decide which gamblers would have first access to the betting windows.
The payphones outside the sportsbook were said to be the busiest in the country, with bookmakers from all over the country phoning their superiors to report the Stardust lines. Some Las Vegas bookmakers would wait until after the Stardust’s first wave of betting to watch how the lines changed. They then duplicated the revised figures and displayed them in their own stores.
In a recent phone interview with ESPN, Schettler said, “Back in our day, individuals really handicapped their own games, did their own work, and bet their own views.” “We were the ones who created the line for the whole nation. We’d set up our line at 8 a.m., and the whole nation would be watching. Everybody.”
The astute men soon worked out how to profit from the situation. They were able to essentially construct the line they wanted at every sportsbook in the country by betting a few thousand dollars at the Stardust. The potential to change the line throughout the market, not just at one sportsbook, is the real power of the head fake.
“It only works if you’re persuaded that other people will imitate it,” remarked Roxy Roxborough, a legendary Vegas oddsmaker. “And then others imitate it.”
A bookmaker’s headache is a fictitious one.
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Head fakes play mental games with bookmakers, putting their faith in their numbers to the test, something some veterans believe is missing nowadays.
Manteris worked for 40 years at some of Las Vegas’ most prestigious sportsbooks before retiring earlier this year. Few things irritated him more than head fakes, such as the one he claims occurred during Super Bowl XXXIII.
The Packers started as 11-point favorites against the Broncos, who are headed by John Elway. Manteris recalls a burst of early activity against Green Bay that brought the score to -14. Then, as Super Bowl Sunday neared and betting limits were raised, more money poured in on the Broncos, the underdogs. The point spread had reverted to Green Bay -11 at kickoff.
During a recent phone conversation, Manteris remembered, “It was smart people betting the favored.” “It wasn’t the general people that drove it up 3, 3.5 points in the first 24 hours; it was the smart money. The line fell all the way back to 11 the weekend before the game. ‘I can’t believe we simply let it happen,’ I recall thinking to myself.”
In the end, the Broncos won outright, so the point spread didn’t matter, but Manteris believes that such up-and-down activity reduces the bookies’ advantage in the long run.
“You end up putting all your money on the favorite at the lowest price and all your money on the underdog at the higher price,” Manteris said. “You try to book at a decent number, but it’s impossible.” With individuals purposefully manipulating the pricing, you can’t book the way you want.
“The truth is that you can rule out [head fakes] if the bookmaker has complete faith in his own number. But you don’t have that now, and I no longer have that sort of faith in the statistics. There’s a lot of uncertainty here. In today’s environment, having complete trust in statistics is very difficult.”
And excellent numbers don’t endure long these days.
It’s all part of the fun.
Today’s virtual head fakes take place on the Don Best odds screen.
The Screen, as it’s known in the betting industry, displays point spreads, totals, and odds from hundreds of different sportsbooks across the globe. The Don Best screen may be seen on computer displays in any professional bookmaking business.
Do you want to know the price of the most recent Russian table tennis match at a Costa Rican sportsbook? It belongs to Don Best. Want to keep an eye on the latest line movement for the WNBA All-Star Game next year? Keep an eye on the Don Best screen, which illuminates as the numbers begin to move. Everyone is keeping an eye on it.
Estimates differ on how many betting syndicates presently have the clout to carry out head fakes, but it’s unlikely to be more than a dozen or two. Trying to detect head fakes is a gamble in and of itself. A point spread will begin to move in one way at one major sportsbook; other sportsbooks will follow the move, often without even taking a bet, and then the line will abruptly reverse course.
“You just have a few seconds,” Sigsbee remarked. “This isn’t going to be anything that lasts seven or eight minutes.” You have 45 seconds to put everything into motion. We’re trying to figure out what’s going on and get down for ourselves. To be honest, we get fooled out from time to time as well. It’s simply that we’re on the wrong side of it.
“A big part of the game is head fakes.”
And they always will be as long as bookies choose to replicate lines on events like the WNBA All-Star Game.
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