Wizards of Odds: The Science and Hard Work of Trading Teams

In order for sportsbooks to function properly, they require dedicated teams of traders to constantly tinker with, analyze and produce the best possible odds. It’s a tough job, one that requires critical thinking, a knack for numbers and most of all, a love for the game.

Wizards of Odds: The Science and Hard Work of Trading Teams

The sports betting whirlwind spirals inevitably to new and established markets alike, bringing with it a storm of wagering activity. In the eye of the cyclone sit trading teams—dedicated groups of professionals pulling the strings to keep sportsbook operations afloat amidst the high winds of tentpole events and niche competitions alike.

Behind the Curtain

Pull back the veil on a trading team, and you’re likely to see a metaphorical array of bells and whistles, buttons and levers, all being pulled, pushed and triggered at various intervals. It’s a complex orchestra with numerous conductors waving their batons in rhythmic synchronization.

Any given sports bettor won’t notice much of a trader’s work, and that’s by design. Traders are the wizards working their magic—which, in fact, is just technology and applied knowledge—to make betting possible.

Georgios Ioakeimidis, senior trading operations manager at OpenBet, says: “We have traders with various focuses. Some handle our Managed Trading Services (MTS) customers, while others perform in-play duties or risk management. There isn’t one specific role; rather, there are different aspects across different departments.”

A typical day for a trader, Ioakeimidis continues, involves “checking prices, events, and markets. We closely monitor information that may affect these aspects and adjust accordingly. Utilizing tools to monitor risk is crucial as each event is unique, with every day presenting new challenges.”

Chase Thomson, account executive at Simplebet, says minor adjustments and quick tweaks keep most of the secret sauce of trading invisible to bettors, and that’s a good thing.

“In an ideal world, [trading] is very under the radar,” he says. “There will be the occasional price adjustment, but we don’t have to adjust too frequently because our modeling is very accurate, and ultimately, we want to allow as much time as possible for the players to place bets without getting rejected.”

Simplebet traders begin their day by looking over the results of the previous day, logging any discrepancies and noting observations to apply in the future.

“Following this,” Thomson says, “the team goes straight into researching the upcoming fixtures for that day or evening. For Simplebet, that means looking at team tendencies, as well as bettor trends for the teams that are playing that day. This includes looking into if bettors bet on positive outcomes or negative outcomes for those teams and reviewing team’s general trends and approaches, such as 4th down aggression, run vs pass tendencies, and more.”

While games are in progress, traders then monitor the action and check all the data for accuracy throughout the day. They can also move or suspend lines if needed.

All of this behind-the-scenes work translates to a seamless and simple experience for the user. Malte Hegelr, VP of product at BtoBet, says: “Bettors, through our customers, have access to over 75 sports selections, including a wide range of niche sports and 2,000 unique betting markets. Our work ensures a wide spectrum of choices.”

No Place Like Home

Trading is a high-octane and high-pressure job. It’s no surprise, then, that most traders are passionate about their work.

“Traders possess an in-depth knowledge of the leagues, teams, players, and market dynamics,” says OpenBet’s Ioakeimidis. “They can make informed decisions about adjusting odds.”

In other words, traders are fans. They like sports, and they have a deep wealth of expertise to draw from. Market analysis tools and monitoring software help fill the gaps.

The passion and knowledge required is a good foundation, but traders need more to succeed. Their job blends heart, brains and courage to make quick decisions. Communication is key.

“Our team of traders maintains constant communication with each other through various channels,” says BtoBet’s Hegelr. They also communicate with our clients through various channels to maintain transparency and address their needs promptly.”

Careful planning can also prepare traders for chaotic days or particular events. Thomson of Simplebet says: “Most communication actually happens before the event starts. Traders are well-trained and are directed on what to do in every situation before the games commence. Once things start moving, everyone on the trading floor is in constant communication.”

Not in Kansas Anymore

With the building blocks of a solid trading team in place, the challenge then becomes bringing trading services into legal markets. It’s hard enough to manage one market, let alone a smattering of global markets with distinct regulations and policies.

“The main focus around regulation is to not offer a market with the outcome already determined,” says Thomson. “We offer over 1,000 markets in most of our games, and making sure that none of those markets are up with a determined outcome is extremely important.”

Geography obviously comes into play for traders, such as in the U.S. market, where college sports are both highly popular and highly regulated. College sports regulations vary widely. As of writing, Ohio prohibits player props on NCAA sports, Illinois bars any bets on in-state schools and other states have their own minutiae for traders to parse.

“In the U.S., this is further compounded by ensuring that no markets are offered on certain college teams and jurisdictions, so we need to be extremely vigilant with what we do,” says Thomson.”

Regulations also encompass external factors. Ioakeimidis says: “Age limits, permissible sports and markets, responsible gambling practices, and consumer protection” are all top considerations for a trading team.

Collaboration, too, is a defining factor in trading success. “We work closely with our legal and compliance teams to ensure full adherence to regulatory requirements while optimizing our offerings to meet customer demand,” says Hegelr.

The Yellow Brick Road

Communication? Check. Passion and expertise? Check. Regulations and compliance? Check. What’s next?

This is where the trading journey begins. Games start, whistles are blown, and step-by-step (or brick-by-brick) trading kicks off in earnest—it really is step-by-step, as the experts interviewed noted that movements in odds are usually gradual.

“Common types of odds movements occur regularly in response to global betting markets, with gradual adjustments being the norm,” says Hegelr.

Challenges can arise along the way, but they’re horses of a different color.

Hegelr continues: “Drastic movements are rare but can occur due to factors such as injury reports, unexpected weather conditions, or significant changes in team dynamics, such as a new coach.”

Gradual movements can be handled by computers, provided the right data is input ahead of time. But traders still must maintain a steady hand. Simplebet’s microbetting odds markets are particularly dynamic, requiring a combination of man and machine to manage.

“Most odds that are changed directly by the trader are relatively small,” Thomson says. “Odds changes are determined by action on the market and research done before the game. If unbalanced action is coming in on a market, then odds are adjusted towards that action.”

Ioakeimidis says: “Odds movements are an inherent aspect of the trading process. While significant fluctuations in odds are less common in prominent leagues like the Premier League, they can be more prevalent in lower-profile events or niche markets.

“Ultimately, the acceptability of odds changes is determined by a combination of factors, including market demand, risk exposure, and maintaining competitive pricing. Striking the right balance between responsive pricing adjustments and preserving profit margins is a delicate yet essential aspect of effective sportsbook trading.”