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What Is Courtsiding and Is It Ilegal?

David Golokhov

by David Golokhov

Updated Feb 23, 2020 · 5:38 PM PST

Courtsiding might sound like something Jack Nicholson does at Los Angeles Lakers home games. But to sports bettors and bookies, the term has a completely different meaning.

Depending on who you ask, courtsiding can be viewed as a great strategy to gain an edge (by a certain breed of bettor) or completely unethical (by all sportsbooks).

So, what is courtsiding and why is it viewed so differently by folks on either side of the betting line? Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Courtsiding?

Courtsiding is a dubious method used to take advantage of sportsbooks offering live betting. For the most part, the strategy is used for tennis betting, but it’s possible to employ across many sports.

Courtsiding requires bettors to attend the event you plan to bet on. For example, let’s say you’re at a tennis tournament:

As you watch the match unfold, you try to place a live bet – or tell someone else to place a live bet – as soon as a point is completed. At this juncture, courtsiding is a race between you and the sportsbook. You want to get your live wager in before they update the odds.

Of course, in tennis, a single point can swing the match one way or another. When these crucial moments occur, the live betting odds must change accordingly. If you can place the bet before the sportsbooks make the adjustment, you have an edge.

How Does Courtsiding Work?

Courtsiding is made possible by access to and reliance on technology.

Sportsbooks rely on the umpire at the match to update the scores they use to set live betting lines.

Let’s say Roger Federer wins a point against Novak Djokovic. After he wins the point, the umpire manually updates the score at the event venue. From there, it’s sent electronically to sports data companies.  Sportsbooks everywhere use that data to adjust the lines as responsively as possible.

Despite how far technology has come and the speed with which it usually works, we have to expect at least some delay here.

This delay allows courtsiders to get ahead of the odds update. If a bettor can place a bet after a point ends but before the information is input, transmitted, and used to update the line, that clearly gives the bettor an edge.

How People Use Courtsiding to Their Advantage

Courtsiders clearly need to get bets in before the oddsmakers shift or pull the lines off the board. Oddsmakers have to act very quickly to pull live betting lines once the point is in play and adjust them after the point is over.

Of course, even organized betting syndicates struggle to maintain the huge bankroll and intense focus needed to wager on every point of a tennis match.  That’s why courtsiders typically focus on points that are crucial to the larger match and are likely to result in large swings on the betting line.

We will use tennis again as an example. A bettor may decide to zero in on break points or set points, which tend to turn the tide in a match. Say Rafael Nadal and Djokovic are on-serve early in their match but now Djokovic has reached a break point on Nadal’s service and it’s 30-40.

If Djokovic wins this point, he win the game. As such, the odds for him to win both the set and the match should change drastically. However, if Nadal comes back and ties the match at deuce, then there won’t be such a big change.

If someone at the match sees Djokovic win the point on a big service return and bets on him before the data gets to the oddsmakers and they adjust the line, they’ve garnered a huge edge.

The same approach theoretically works for hockey or soccer, but in practice things are more challenging. Typically, leagues have ensured that sports data technology works extremely quickly, and the faster speed of transmission works against potential courtsiders. With tennis, the umpire still enters the score manually, hence the small window for courtsiding opportunities.

Is Courtsiding Illegal?

The big question! There is nothing technically illegal about courtsiding, but it is heavily discouraged. Generally, courtsiders aren’t breaking any laws, so long as they’re still welcome at the event venue.  Stadiums do their best to crack down on courtsiding, however. If they notice you doing it, they’ll kick you out and they might not be nice about it.

Will you get arrested and go to jail? It’s highly unlikely unless you violate a trespass order or happen to live in Australia.

On the sportsbook side, this behavior is definitely not welcome. If your book notices a pattern that suggests you have access to inside info via courtsiding, they always reserve the right to simply ban you from further wagering.

The Story Of Courtsiding

Now that you know all about courtsiding, you’re ready to move on to some other subjects. Have a read through our comprehensive strategy section to learn more about advanced strategies in sports betting.


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