If you hear someone mention the term “steam” or discuss a “steam move,” what they’re talking about is a large wager bet on a game that causes a seismic shift in the betting line.
Generally, these significantly-sized bets are placed by a betting syndicate or an experienced gambler (also known as “sharps”). These so-called sharps are well-respected players in the industry who gamble with huge bankrolls, so when they lay a massive wager on a specific event, it dramatically impacts the line on that event.
Betting syndicates place bets with a variety of sportsbooks, affecting lines in a number of places. The idea behind this strategy is that, by spreading these bets out, they won’t dramatically impact the odds at one particular sportsbook and tip off the betting public that something is going on.
Take, for example, the wagering on Super Bowl XIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. Pittsburgh opened as 3.5-point favorites, but huge early action on Dallas quickly dropped the line to the Steelers -4.5.
Anatomy of a Steam Move
- Team A opens as 5-point favorites
- Huge early action is played on Team B
- The line quickly drops to -3.5 on Team A
Should You Chase These Types of Bets?
When you witness a steam move occurring, a sudden and dramatic shift in a game’s betting line, your first instinct will be to hop on the train. Think of it like the stock market: If billionaire investor Warren Buffett suddenly purchased a million shares of a company, wouldn’t you consider it wise to also invest? After all, Buffett didn’t become a billionaire for nothing.
Sharps in sports betting are viewed with similar esteem. They are well-connected and well-sourced throughout the industry, so when they make a major play, it’s generally assumed that they are operating with insider information.
Maybe they know about a key injury that’s yet to be made public knowledge, or perhaps they’ve heard of some squabbling within a team’s ranks that could impact their performance on game day.
How Does Chasing Steam Work?
It’s simple, really. Keep your eye on your sportsbooks for a dramatic shift in a specific game’s odds. Then hurry to another sportsbook that’s been slow to react to this change and get your bet down at the original odds.
Unlike Buffett’s stock play, you’ll never know the identity of the sharp (or sharps) whose wagering led to this steam move. Should you place blind faith in their knowledge? Should you stay the original course?
If you choose the former, you’ll have to act fast: A steam move will cause a reaction at all sportsbooks often within minutes or seconds so you need to find the one book that’s slower than others and get your bet down before they shift the line.
Chasing steam is just one of many popular wagering strategies you should learn to utilize if you are serious about becoming a successful player in the sports betting world.
Is Chasing Steam Actually Worth It?
Chasing the steam can prove to be extremely profitable, but there’s another factor to keep in mind. Occasionally, sharps will create a steam move simply to cause the line to move so that they can then place a wager on the newly-created line.
In our original example, Pittsburgh opened as the 3.5-point chalk, but a huge steam move on Dallas dropped the line to Pittsburgh -4.5. Ultimately, the Steelers won the game 35-31.
In this instance, everyone who played Pittsburgh at original odds lost. At the same time, the people who chased the steam move and wagered on Dallas at +4.5 points were winners (but so was anyone who opted to go with Pittsburgh at the reduced juice of -4.5).
Could the steam move on Dallas merely have been a ploy by the sharps to create improved odds on Pittsburgh? We may never know.
But because of this fact of life, some bettors will opt to go in the opposite direction of the steam move. This strategy is referred to as fading the public bet.
Always Remember That Big Brother Is Watching
While chasing steam can prove to be great for your bank account, if you’re not careful, it can also put you out of business.
If the sportsbook realizes that the majority of your wagers are steam-chasing moves—and believe us when we say that they’re paying attention—sportsbooks will act quickly to place limits on our account.
This leaves you with two options: mix in enough regular wagers to throw a sportsbook off your scent or ignore the steam completely and go your own way.
It’s always advisable to read the fine print and know the rules of a sportsbook before signing up and joining that sportsbook.
If you’re new to sports betting, start with our guides to betting strategies to help you learn more about the process of wagering on sporting events. Happy betting!