Sports Betting Essentials: Shopping For Lines

Sports Betting Essentials: Part Three

We continue our series on sports betting essentials today with a look at the very important ability to play at the best possible line. Longtime bettors have always known that they're supposed to "shop" for the best number. In today's competitive world, it's not enough to shop. You also have to PREPARE to shop!

What do we mean by that?

What matters most right now for smart sports bettors isn't where you bet, it's WHEN you bet! If you make your decision, and look around for what's available in the market place, you might find a half-point difference here and there. You can take the favorite at -5.5, or the dog at +6. You can take the favorite at -8.5, or the dog at +9. We don't mean to underemphasize that part of it. Every half point counts when you're talking about a hundred or a thousand plays over a large sample size.

But, lines often move by as many as 2-3 points from open to close (sometimes even more). You want to get the best of it from the perspective of all possible numbers...not just the point where you made your decision. You want the favorite at the lowest possible point, or as close to it as you can get. You want the underdog at the highest possible point, or as close to it as you can get.

Shopping isn't location any more. Shopping in modern sports betting is about time.

Here are some keys to remember:

  • Lines generally go UP from their openers because the public likes betting favorites. If you like a favorite, try to bet as close to the opening as you can. If you like the dog, try to wait as long as possible until just before kickoff, tipoff, or first pitch. This is particularly true when "public" teams are involved. If your process suggests that a high profile media team is going to offer value, you absolutely must bet the opener. If your process is pointing to the underdog, let the public bet whatever they want to bet...then you come in at the last second at a great price.

  • Totals tend to go toward the dominant perception of the teams or pitchers. In basketball, high tempo teams will see their totals go up, while slow-it-down teams will see their totals drop. In football, a matchup of great quarterbacks will go up, while a matchup of great defenses will go down. In baseball, pitcher's duels go down, particularly in great pitching parks, while projected slugfests go up. Even though oddsmakers try to properly gauge these extremes...the market moves toward the dominant perceptions anyway. Bet accordingly. If you tend to go with the flow, bet the openers. If you like fading the flow, bet right before the game starts.

  • Injury news is bet quickly by sharps. If you believe that a key injury is going to have a dramatic effect on a game, you need to act right as the news breaks. Any delay, and most of the value will have been swallowed up by professional wagerers.

In the big picture, getting the best line involves advanced preparation so you already have your plans in pace when the openers go up...AND speed when breaking news will influence a line that's already been up for awhile. Shopping is brainwork regarding TIME, with secondary considerations for legwork making sure you're in THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME! You don't want to worry about half-point differences once lines have settled. You want to be in before or after a big move.


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