Chasing Steam

Chasing steam is a betting tactic that will generally increase your returns. However, it will also undoubtedly put your sports betting account at risk of getting limited or flat out shut down. We’re going to quickly define what “chasing steam” is, give an example, and run through the pros and cons of utilizing it as part of your betting strategy.

What is Chasing Steam?

“Steam” is a sudden line movement on a game across most sportsbooks. It is generally the result of a wave of money coming on a single side of a game from a betting syndicate or large sharp bettors.

“Chasing Steam” is a strategy where a bettor can move quickly to get down on a wager at a slower sportsbook that has yet to change their line with the rest of the market.

For example, let’s say there is a sudden line movement in an NFL game from +3.5 to +2.5. Crossing the 3 (rather than moving a half point onto the 3) is a very significant line move in the NFL. With the absence of any new information, we can assume it was the result of big money coming in on the dog. As sportsbooks around the world quickly update their line to the new market consensus (+2.5), some books undoubtedly will move more slowly than others. As a bettor, if you can still get +3.5 at a slower book while the market is clearly moving to +2.5, it generally behooves you to pounce on that +3.5. That is chasing steam.

What About Breaking News?

The strict definition of “chasing steam” generally revolves around a large movement in the absence of new information. If new information causes a sharp line movement, the same strategy and mechanics apply. For simplicity, there’s no need to distinguish between the two and we’ll just use a single term“chasing steam”.

Benefits of Chasing Steam

The benefits of chasing steam should be clear: you are able to get a better number than market consensus. Unless you’re a firm a believer in the efficient market hypothesis, chasing steam as your sole strategy might not turn yourself into a long-term winner, but it will definitely help you get the best number you can. And that certainly should be one of your core objectives as a sports bettor.

Drawbacks of Chasing Steam

The biggest drawback of chasing steam is that it could lead to your sports betting account being limited or banned. It’s no secret that sportsbooks hate when people chase steam. They (fairly or unfairly) feel that you are taking advantage of their slow movements and have little tolerance for someone whose sole action is chasing steam.

The second drawback of chasing steam is that despite you getting a good number (for the time being) you’re flying blind for the most part. You have no idea who moved the line or why they moved it. It’s well known that some of the larger betting syndicates in the world will intentionally move a line so that they could hammer the other side with more favorable odds. When you’re blindly chasing steam, it’s nearly impossible to tell who moved the line and why.

How to Use It

Don’t get me wrong. Chasing steam is certainly useful for getting the best line. My opinion, however, is that it’s best used as part of a trading strategy that compliments your underlying prediction model. If you already see value on a side and see that value evaporating with a steam move, you might as well hit the straggler to lock in that favorable number.

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