We hear the term “steam” thrown around loosely, and we’re going to take a closer look at what it is or what it could be. Steam is nothing more than a significant change in the market as a result of a lot of action on one side or the other. More often than not most all the sportsbooks are hit with action at the same time, causing the screen to light up.

More often than not that is indeed syndicate “sharp” money that is moving the line, but not always something you should be eager to follow. Often times syndicates will move a line in one direction, only to come back and bet the other side at a better number and for more money. It’s call a set-up move. Here is a great example of one.

As you can see, around 8:00 AM they “hit” the Phillies in this example and forced the line from Philadelphia -117 up to -124 fairly quickly. Less than an hour later they threw even more money at it, moving it up to -132.

But, very quickly they came back with Colorado money, pushing it back down below what it originated at. That would be a classic set-up move. Now, that does not mean the Rockies are going to win the game, but there are many people that would see that Phillies steam and follow it at what would ultimately be a bad number.

One other thing to remember is that the further into the betting cycle it is, the more money it will take to move a line. In this case it means that early on, it took more money to move the Phillies line back down than it did to move it up.

It is simple math, in that if the sports books are trying to balance actions (they are) then for every action there is a re-action. Look as it as if it were a see-saw. Someone sits on one end and not the other, so it falls to the ground. It is going to take someone that weighs MORE to make the other side go down. It’s that simple, only in our case the “more” is more money.

There are two points here I want to make. The first is that you have to be very patient with these things, and take into consideration the time of day, or the time in relation to the entire betting cycle. The second is that many pick-sellers will generate picks simply be following steam. You can learn to do that by yourself, the same as following reverse line movement as we talked about not long ago.

Dave Essler is a handicapper from Pregame, featured on ESPN, Fox Sports, CNN, & more.