AAF odds: Here's how oddsmakers set lines for a new league that hasn't played a game yet
There's practically no data to use, so how does a line get set for an Alliance of American Football game before Week 1?
If you've paid attention to our AAF coverage this week, you've noticed Vegas has released earlyfor all eight teams, along with for Week 1. Considering there have literally been zero AAF games until now, a natural question would be: how in the world do oddsmakers set these numbers?
According to BetDSI, the process certainly isn't easy. "Just like any new market offerings there will be some learning curves, as well as soft lines, along the way," BetDSI's Brent Corobotuic said. "Oddsmaking has so much to do with precedent and public perception, and we mostly have neither here."
The starting point, though, is at least similar to how oddsmakers create lines, point totals and the like for other football leagues. They analyze the teams thoroughly, from coaching staffs to starters and reserves, creating a base rating from those factors. That's the one piece of information they do have, though they don't take prior stats from college or the NFL into consideration. Then, they look at the rules of the game -- for the AAF, this includes two-point conversions, a 35-second game clock, one overtime period and more ( ) -- followed by any outlying variables like weather, injuries or star players/coaches.
So, yes, big names make a difference. In Year 1, this would more frequently apply to coaches than players. (Frankly, if players' names were that big, they'd probably be in the NFL.)
"Some of the AAF coaches are more recognizable than the players," Corobotuic said. "Bettors in Florida may auto-bet Steve Spurrier simply because they believe in backing him no matter what level he's coaching."
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That's the process in a nutshell. Now, how about the numbers themselves?
They're soft, to say the least. That's not unexpected. The difference in the win totals between the projected top team, the Arizona Hotshots (6.5), and the last team, the Birmingham Iron (3.5), is a mere three games (in a 10-game regular season). The moneylines aren't much better.
Week 1 lines have common themes, too. Every home team is a favorite, but by no more than -5.5 (remember, there are no extra points in the AAF, only two-point conversions). Point totals are noticeably low, too. Multiple coaches around the league have indicated that their offenses could be a question mark for the mere fact that there's a lot to install and teach even though they're trying to keep things as efficient as possible.
Not having a pre-existing public perception certainly affects how low-key the numbers are, but that will change in earnest as soon as more information becomes available.
That's when Vegas thinks the bets will really start coming in. Until then, though, books are playing it safe.
"MGM likely will start with a $3,000 maximum on point spreads and $500 on totals and money lines," Jay Rood, MGM's Vice President, race and sports, told SportsLine. At BetDSI, don't expect wagers to get out of the hundreds of dollars -- at least right away.
"Until we get a handle on the league and teams, we won't want to expose ourselves to lofty limits that sharps might be able to take advantage of," BetDSI's Jacob Crossman told SportsLine.
Prop bets will be offered, but not everywhere. In-game wagering may be delayed, too, for much of the season -- if not all of it -- at least until the playoffs in April.
The AAF has made it clear that betting will be a part of the game that is thoroughly embraced. The championship game is being held in Las Vegas, fittingly. But if you noticed that the preseason lines were especially soft, there were reasons. Everyone is in a wait-and-see mode.
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