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Line Movement in Sports Betting: Everything You Need to Know

  • In sports betting, line movement means the change of odds between the opening of bets and start of the game
  • We collect how to understand, use and take advantage of it
  • Were you confused? Now is the time to learn everything about line movement in sports betting
line movement in sports betting

A full guide is here to explain everything you need to know about line movement in sports betting. How does it work? Why do the lines move? Can we predict them and use them for your betting advantage? Most certainly, yes! 

In sports betting, line movement describes when the odds or point spread for a game changes from the time the bet opens to the time the game starts. For those who enjoy online sportsbooks in the US, this is probably a familiar phenomenon. But do you really understand what happens? More importantly, did you know that you can actually use line movement as a strategy and for your full advantage? With the help of Bovada sportsbook, our goal is to explain to you everything you need to know about line movement in sports betting. With this simple breakdown, you won’t have a difficult job. Read on, to get the gist!

What is line movement in sports betting – for real

When checking odds on Bovada for a football game, you probably noticed that after the opening lines are released, the odds might actually change as the game gets closer. Understanding why this happens is really important in sports betting and it can reveal valuable betting opportunities if you know what to look for. You’ll see lines move in all major sports but it’s by far the most common in the NFL. Since there is usually a pause between games, a lot can happen in the meantime. As a result, sportsbooks adjust their lines frequently. Before getting into the reasons why line moves, let us explain what happens when you cash in on line movement in sportsbooks!

line movement in sports betting
Learn about line movement!

Generally speaking, when lines move, they move in favour of the underdog. To give you an example, we take the Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings on Bovada sportsbook. If the opening point spread for the game had the Green Bay Packers -135 and Minnesota Vikings at +225, it’s more likely that Vikings will receive more points in their favour as the week goes on. Therefore, if you like the opening numbers on the favourite, it is usually a good idea to lock in your bet early. If you want to bet on the underdog, it is better to wait a few days before cashing in, and see how the line moves. In this case, patience will pay off in better odds. It could like something like this:

Opening line:

  • Green Bay Packers -135
  • Minnesota Vikings +225

The same bet three days later:

  • Green Bay Packers -150
  • Minnesota Vikings +250

In this example, a $100 bet on the Vikings 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. Moving forwards, we explain why sportsbooks change the odds as the game gets closer.

Why do betting lines move?

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 off 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 movements that typically take time to move are often because of public money.

If a line, for example, opens -4, and then takes a bit of some time to move -4.5, and then eventually -5 or -5.5 a couple of days later; that’s often a sign of public money coming in heavy on the favourite. Going back to our NFL example on Bovada, the betting public knows that the Green Bay Packers are a lock and everyone puts their money on them to win. In this case, the sportsbook has a problem. If they don’t get the same amount of betting action on the Vikings, they will face a big loss if the Packers win. Therefore, the way to get more people to bet on the Vikings is by moving the line to offer better odds. As we have pointed out above, the underdog is likely to become more appealing as the date of the game gets closer.

Why does line movement in sports betting matter for experts?

Those who understand line movement, and also potentially know when it is coming, will really enjoy the best sports betting can offer. In a previous guide, we wrote an article specifically about when to place bets. As a general suggestion, betting on the favourite early is always a good idea. By this, you will not allow the market to get a chance and stabilize. There is so much money coming in, so the market can become very efficient. Moreover, stories, injuries can happen. Therefore, keeping up with the news is also very important when reading the lines. Also, line movement is fluid. So the real question is when will they move and not will they move. When the line movement is dramatic, we can expect that there is sharp money coming in on the other side. What does that mean?

line movement in sports betting
Let’s bet!

It is important to understand the difference between sharp betting and public bets. IN sports betting, a sharp refers to an individual or a group of bettors who take sportsbooks very seriously. They wager large sums of money as a form of investment instead of earning some extra cash casually. Sharp money is usually the side of the betting line with experts on it. They can give valuable insight into where the lines are moving. Casual bettors, on the other hand, will do the predictable move. To conclude, figuring out where the sharps are is a great way to predict outcomes. For that, looking at betting percentages is a great way.

How to use it for your advantage

One of the coolest tricks for taking advantage of moving lines is called betting the middle and it actually lets you put action on both teams to win the same game. Betting the middle works has to do with point spread bets and it’s most commonly used for betting on the NFL.  The key is finding different point spreads for the same game. You can find different spreads by searching different online gambling sites in the US, but most often you’ll find one sportsbook that adjusts its betting lines over time. If Bovada gets too much action on one side of a bet their risk goes up. They will try to balance the books by making the other side of the bet more appealing. One way they do that is by adjusting the spread.

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If the difference between the spreads is big enough you can use it to set up a situation where you can win bets on both teams in a single game. The two bets are placed at different lines or totals, in such a way that there’s a chance that the final score will fall in the middle of the two numbers, meaning both bets will win. We recommend middling only to very experienced and confident bettors, who have in-depth knowledge of sports and are familiar with several different sports betting techniques.

You can discover more about Bovada Sportbook here.

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