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The online advantage — a pro’s view

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The proliferation of Internet gambing sites has revolutionized the art of sports betting by creating a competitive market where the sharps can profit by shopping for odds, serious players say.

One professional interviewed by, who agreed to an email exchange on the condition that he only be identified by his online handle, “Poker Joe,” said that expert sports bettors engage in two practices to give themselves the greatest possible advantage - “scalping” and “steam jumping.”

Scalping occurs when a player is able to take both sides on a game at odds guaranteed to produce a slight profit. Such opportunities occur when sportsbooks post sufficiently different lines on a game.

Steam jumping can prove profitable when players see lines moving in one direction because of an inordinate amount of wagering coming in on that side, then quickly place wagers at slower books that haven’t yet changed their odds. The practice resembles day trading on the stock market, where white collar gamblers track hourly fluctuations in individual stocks, hoping to time moves and reap a quick profit.

Online sportsbooks also have had an effect at corner bars throughout the United States by turning local bookies into “sports agents,” according to Poker Joe.

“This means no more office with multiple phone lines in empty apartments, taking calls and worrying about getting raided,” he wrote. “Now, bookies just give their customers an 800 number to call offshore and a PIN number. … Customers call, get the lines, bet. Later they settle the money up with the … sports agent, (who) in turn, pays the offshore office a price per call, a percentage of the handle or a percentage of the profit.

“It’s my observation that everybody is happier these days, I mean bookies and customers both.”