Taking Advantage of Line Movement When Betting on Sports

Hunter Renfrow #13 of the Las Vegas Raiders. Michael Hickey/Getty Images/AFP

Sports betting is more complex than simply placing a wager on a team to win the game or cover the spread. If you want to do it right then it takes all the due diligence you can muster. Below we discuss how to get an edge on your sports picks and what it all means in the long run.

Follow the Lines

Point spreads, money lines, and totals can move for a wide variety of reasons but before we discuss those line-changing circumstances, let’s talk about how the oddsmakers arrive at a point spread. Remember, oddsmakers have to be good at their jobs but they are not fortune tellers nor do they gaze into any crystal balls.

Even though we are often stunned when a side or total falls directly on the number, we must also be aware that this does not happen very often, even though we convince ourselves that it does. The “Vegas knows” conspiracy theory makes for interesting conversation around the barroom but the truth is that oddsmakers do not set a line based on their perception of the matchup, although that does have some bearing, it is primarily predicated on what they believe the public’s perception will be when the line is revealed.

The oddsmakers’ job is to set a line that will attract equal amounts of money on each side, thereby allowing the sportsbooks to collect the commission on each losing wager, also known as the vigorish or vig. Let’s use a real-life example.

A Real-Life Example

The NFL odds on the Monday night matchup between the Raiders and Browns in Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season opened with the Browns as 1 ½ point home favorites. However, that line would flip to where the best online sportsbooks were dealing Las Vegas as 2 to 3 ½ point road chalk (favorites) near kickoff.

It turned out to be a defensive battle as the Raiders defeated the Browns, 16-14, which caused all kinds of pain for the books. Those who bet the Raiders +1 ½ when it first opened obviously covered their bets and even those who bet Las Vegas -1 and -1 ½ also won.

The line kept moving and even the steam-chasers (bettors who follow what they believe are wise guys moving the line with big bets) got the Raiders -2 pushed (tied) and got their investment back. But as the line continued to move because of the volume of money being bet on the Raiders, opportunists were waiting to strike.

Once the line went to 3 and then 3 ½ in some spots, the sharp bettors found what they considered value and bet the Browns +3 and +3 ½. They won their bets as well. Therefore, the bookies got crushed from all sides except those who bet Las Vegas -3 or -3 ½ and didn’t care that they were getting a bad number.

The squares (average, low information bettors) who bet the Browns right from jump street at -1 ½, -1, pick, +1, and +1 ½ also lost. But those public wagers did little to mitigate the damage done to the books by the sharps betting the Raiders at the very beginning and the sharps who got a few golden numbers on the Browns at the end.

How Can You Exploit the Line Moves?

Let’s stick with football. First, do your homework at the beginning of the week when the lines are fresh. You know they will all move to some degree or another but you can never be sure which way it will go and you don’t want to get down early to take a bad number.

However, if you do your homework on the matchups, study the injury reports, and set your own lines on each game before looking at the oddsmakers’ lines, so you don’t get influenced, then you have a clean base to start. If you see any games in which there is more than a two-point difference then that would be an opportunity to pounce.

Moreover, if you are serious about making money over the long grind of the NFL (or any other) season, then you MUST have accounts at three or more sportsbooks so that you can get the best line possible. If you do business with only one sportsbook then you are at their mercy because you have to use their lines.

Why not have three, four, or more top-rated books where you can compare and get the very best line. It can mean the difference between winning and losing your wager. Make sure to check out all the very best U.S. licensed sportsbooks right here at OddsTrader.

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