There are lots of different sports betting strategies that let you leverage your knowledge of line movement.

One of the simplest ways is just knowing when to wait for the line to change in your favor.

Another strategy for using line movement is to observe how the odds change to give you an idea of where the best value is.

First, we’ll think about how the line movement affects our bets when we already know who we want to bet on. If you are sure which side you want to back, all you need to worry about is getting the best price or point spread.

Waiting for the Line to Move

One good rule of thumb is that if you want to bet on the favorite you should bet early.

Line movement can be erratic, but generally, favorites are more popular with the public, and so the line tends to move against them after the betting line is opened. Remember that a lot of casual bettors don’t even consider odds or the point spread too strongly. They simply bet on the favorite as soon as the line is released. Over time, the line tends to move against the favorite, making them a less attractive bet.

Conversely, if you like the road underdog it is often worth waiting a few days after the line is released. Generally, the public bets on favorites which leads to line movement in favor of the underdog. This is known as betting against the favorite, and you can read our guide here.

Line movement is also very important for hedging. If you get in early and the line moves so that your side of the bet comes down in odds or points, chances are you can bet on the other side to reduce your risk. This is only possible when the line moves in your favor.

One more technique to use if you know which side you like: decide on a price that works for you and wait to see if the line moves onto your price. If it doesn’t, don’t bet.

Different Kinds of Betting Lines that Move

So, we know that sometimes line movement is orchestrated by sportsbooks to entice people to bet on a specific side of the bet, generally to balance the house’s action.

Depending on the kind of bet, line movement will look different. In this section we’ll walk you through some of the most common forms of line movement you’ll see in sports betting.

Point Spread Line Movement

Point spread betting is one way that sportsbooks can level the playing field in a bet.

Basically, the sportsbook decides on the most likely margin of victory and gives each side a points handicap accordingly. The odds are generally -110, meaning you need to bet $110 to win $100.

A typical point spread line will look like this:

  • Indianapolis Colts – 3.5 (-110)
  • Dallas Cowboys + 3.5 (-110)

If you bet on the Colts, they need to win by four points or more for you to win. If you bet on the Cowboys, you will win provided they either win the game outright or don’t lose by four points or more.

After this line is released and some betting has taken place, it could look like this:

  • Indianapolis Colts – 4.5 (-110)
  • Dallas Cowboys + 4.5 (-110)

Here, the line has moved so that the Colts are even bigger favorites. Now, if you bet on them they will need to win by 5 points or more for you to win your bet.

Line movement in point spread betting is all about sportsbooks making the suggested margin of victory more attractive or less attractive.

If you notice the numbers in a point spread bet getting higher over time (ie, more points between the teams), it means the majority of money is being placed on the favorite. If the numbers are getting lower, the majority of the money is going on the underdog.

Key numbers are significant for moving point spreads. You can read our more comprehensive guide to key numbers here. For now, just be aware that sportsbooks will be reluctant to move the lines onto key numbers, such as +3 in the NFL. If you see a spread moving on or off a key number, it is worth considering how this could affect a bet.

Moneyline Line Movement

Moneyline bets are probably the simplest form of betting. You are betting on whether a team or player wins or loses, that’s it.

In this case, the sportsbook makes up for the difference in quality between the two teams not with points, but with odds. Betting on the underdog will win more than betting on the favorite.

A typical moneyline might look like this:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs -135
  • Boston Bruins +125

Here, the Maple Leafs are the favorite – you need to bet $135 on them to win $100. The Bruins are dogs – if you bet $100 on them you stand to win $125.

If the values get larger then the majority of money is being placed on the favorite. If they get smaller, then the majority is going on the underdog.

Point Totals Line Movement

Point total bets involve betting on the total number of points scored in a game. The sportsbook sets a number on which they suggest there is a fifty-fifty shot of the total points being either over or under. The line might look like this:

San Antonio Spurs vs Toronto Raptors

  • Total Points Over (+226.5) -110
  • Total Points Under (+226.5) -110

In this case, if you bet the over you will win if there is a total of 227 points or more scored in the game. If you bet the under, you will win if there is a total of 226 or fewer points scored. In each case, you need to bet $110 to win $100.

If a lot of bets came in on the Over in this case, the points total might rise to entice more bets on the Under. That could look like this:

  • Total Points Over (+228.5) -110
  • Total Points Under (+228.5) -110

In this case, if you liked the Over, you would have been better to bet early before the line moved. However, if you liked the Under, you will have gotten a better price by waiting.

Of the three types of movement here, totals are the most affected by factors like weather and injuries to creative players, since these can have a major effect on the number of points scored.

All of the above examples are different forms of the same activity from sportsbooks. The books move the lines because they want to make one side of the bet more attractive, whether that is through points, odds or totals. Watching how these numbers change gives you information which you can use to time your bets effectively.

Famous Example of Betting the Middle

A famous middle bet occurred on Super Bowl XIII, what became known as Black Sunday in betting circles. In that game, the Pittsburgh Steelers opened up as 3.5 favorites over the Dallas Cowboys. Before the game, the spread shifted to 4.5. Anyone who bet early on the Steelers at -3.5 and later on the Cowboys at +4.5 were now desperately hoping for a 4 point Steelers win.

When the game finished 35-31 to the Steelers many sportsbooks had one of the worst days in history as bettors won big on both sides.

Line Movement in Major Sports

The basic idea of the line moving depending on the money placed on either side of the bet is the same regardless of sport. However, the way that the line changes does vary somewhat depending on the sport.

  • NFL
  • NBA
  • MLB
  • NHL

Put New Line Movement Strategies to Work

Understanding line movement will make you a more well-rounded sports bettor. The more experience you have in the world of betting, the more you will develop a feel for how lines move.

Truly great sports bettors can smell when something is not right with a betting line, and will get in at just the right time before the line jumps.

Line movement most commonly occurs when the large majority of the money in a bet is on one side. Deepening on the patterns of change, line movement can tell you a lot about how the general public is leaning, and how the sharp money is leaning.

As a rule of thumb: dramatic changes in a short time indicates sharp money. Gradual change in one direction over time suggests casual bettors.

Line movement can also be caused by external factors such as injuries or team selection, so make sure you consider this possibility before you draw any conclusions about why the line has moved.

Remember, in general:

Heavy favorites tend to attract bets which worsens their odds, so back them early. Underdog odds tend to improve over time, so consider waiting to back them if you don’t like the price These are different forms of line movement, and they behave differently in each sport. However, the basic idea is always the same. Using your understanding of line movement effectively is all about timing your bet to maximize profit.

As you become more comfortable with line movement you will start finding more spots to bet the middle, or hedge your bets using live betting.

If sports betting is currently legal in your state, check the lines on the next round of games when they open, and keep an eye on them for a few days. See how the spread and the odds change and think about why they do so, given the information on this page. Soon you will start seeing value.

If you live somewhere without legal sports betting, don’t worry. Sports betting is growing across the US thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision, and more states are moving towards legalization every day.

It won’t be long until you can put your new line movement knowledge into profitable practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.