Line movement refers to when the odds or the point spread for a bet changes leading up to the game and it’s worth paying attention to. It can help get the best possible price on your wagers and it can also give you valuable information on how to bet.
We’ll get into all the reasons betting lines move in more detail in this guide but most commonly, it happens when more money is being bet on one side of the bet compared to the other.
Line Movement and Betting at a Glance
Line movement matters. Knowing the best time to place your bet can be the difference between a modest win and a big profit. As you become more confident and experienced in sports betting, considering line movement will become second nature.
You will get a feel for how lines are likely to move and learn when the best time to place your bets is. Using line movement to your advantage is a great way to maximize betting profits.
Depending on which side of the bet you want to take, you may be better off waiting until the line has moved in your favor. Alternatively, it is possible you should get in on the action as early as possible if you think the line will move against you.
As you will see, there are ways to predict which way the line will move, and when you should place your bet.
What is Line Movement ?
The term “lines” is used a lot in sports betting and it can refer to odds on a bet, or specific lines like the point spread or the over/under total.
These lines can change drastically between the time they are initially set by the sportsbook up until when the game actually begins. There are lots of reasons betting lines can move but let’s start with the most common.
In general, sportsbooks like to have as close to an even amount of action on each side of a bet. This means that regardless of who wins, they will make a profit on the commission they charge, which is the cut the sportsbook takes of every bet before it is paid out.
If there is way more action on one side of the bet, the sportsbook risks losing money when that side of the bet ends up winning. The way that the sportsbook can encourage an even amount of money being bet on both sides is by making the less popular side more attractive. This is done by changing the payout odds or shifting the point spread or total.
Line movement can take different forms:
- More valuable odds, such as a higher positive value on the money line
- A change in the number of points given or taken away from a team.
- A change in the predicted points total of a game.
- Basically, any time you notice that the odds, points or totals in a bet have changed, that means the line has been moved.
Line movement can occur at any time, and it occurs as a reaction – usually to a majority of money being placed on one side of the bet, but also to external factors such as injuries or suspensions.
Example of Line Movement in Sports Betting
Generally, once the betting lines are opened there is a flurry of bets from the public which indicates which side of the bet most people like. After that initial flurry, it is common that the lines will be moved.
Here is an example of how a typical line might move:
- Kansas City Chiefs -3.5 (-110)
- Baltimore Ravens +3.5 (-110)
The same line, three days later:
- Kansas City Chiefs -5 (-110)
- Baltimore Ravens +5 (-110)
In this case, the line movement has come in the form of a change in the point spread.
The Chiefs started out as favorites, with -3.5 points. When the line moved they became even greater favorites, moving to -5 points. Conversely, the Ravens became an even bigger dog.
In this case, it is likely that a lot of people bet on the Chiefs when the line opened. This leads the sportsbook to give more points to the Ravens, to entice people to bet on them and balance the action.
In this bet, the odds have remained the same (-110) and only the point spread has changed.
Another way the line could move is that the odds change on the money line, without the point spread being considered. That could look like this:
- Kansas City Chiefs -135
- Baltimore Ravens +225
The same bet three days later:
- Kansas City Chiefs -150
- Baltimore Ravens +250
In this example, a $100 bet on the Ravens would pay an extra $25 if you had waited until the line moved.
By making one side of the bet more appealing, the sportsbook can entice more people to bet on it. In the next section, we’ll explain why sportsbooks change the odds.
Why Do Betting Lines Move?
As we have seen, generally lines move because a large majority of money has been placed on one side of a single bet. The sportsbooks don’t like this because if all those bets win, they will lose money.
When the sportsbook wants to “balance the books” it will move the line to make that side of the bet more attractive.
In the example above, the Chiefs started out as favorites and attracted a lot of bets. This would have made the sportsbook concerned that they would lose money if the Chiefs won. In response, they gave the Ravens even more points so that more people would bet on them.
The most common reason for line movement is that the vast majority of public bettors are betting in one direction. Generally, the highest number of people betting on one side means that that side has the highest amount of money.
Other Reasons Betting Lines Move
Another possibility, particularly when the line moves erratically or unexpectedly, is that a lot of money has been placed by a small number of bettors. This tends to take the form of reverse line movement.
Reverse line movement is when the line moves in contradiction to the public betting percentage. That is, even though most people are betting on one side, the line moves to make that side more attractive. This tends to indicate sharp money.
Lines can also move based on external factors separate from the betting. For example, if three key players from one team are suddenly injured a couple of days out from an important game, that is likely to be reflected in the betting lines. Other factors like this include suspensions, team selection, tactical announcements or weather.
Remember, sportsbooks are not always trying to set lines that they think are fair or even. It’s all about making the most money. A lot of the time, this means balancing the action since they can’t lose when there is even money on each side of the bet.
The bottom line is that with the exception of player and team factors, sportsbooks move betting lines because they think it gives them the best chance of making money.