The terms chasing steam and steam move are sometimes heard to be uttered by experienced sports betting players, but what are they getting all steamed up about?
In simple words, a steam move occurs when a significant wager or number of hefty wagers are all placed on one side of a betting line. These large-scale bets are generally laid by sharps, or betting syndicates of professional gamblers, so they hold extra merit than wagers made by the general public. They almost always will create a seismic shift in the betting line.
One of the most famous steam moves in NFL betting occurred during Super Bowl XIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. Pittsburgh opened as 4.5-point favorites in that game. However, very quickly, there were a number of significant bets placed on the underdog Cowboys. That huge early action on Dallas served to drop the betting line to Steelers -3.5.
Sometimes, these large early wagers are designed to do exactly that, make the line move so that the major bettors can get a better line on the favorite. When the corresponding large wagers were later placed on the Steelers, it caused another shift in the line to Pittsburgh -4.
The key to betting during this steam move was to get action on the Steelers when they were the -3.5-point chalk. That’s why it’s important to have accounts with multiple sportsbooks. They won’t all move the line simultaneously, so if you’re signed up at say FanDuel, BetMGM and PointsBet, you can track all three and be certain you get action on the price you seek.
This is also the reason why it’s called steam because chasing steam can lead to a bettor getting burned.
An inexperienced player might have seen that early action on Dallas as a sign to bet on the Cowboys, believing that the smart money was going on Dallas. In reality, it was a ploy to get the odds shortened on Pittsburgh, so that’s the team people should’ve been wagering all along.
In fact, the steam move worked for those who capitalized and got their bet down on Pittsburgh -3.5. The Steelers won that Super Bowl game 35-31. Thus, betting Pittsburgh at -4.5 would have been a losing proposition.
However, the bettors who wagered on Dallas at +4.5 and then again on Pittsburgh at -3.5 would’ve cashed on both ends of their play – a steam move that would’ve left the bookmakers steaming with anger.