Why Betting Lines Move

Bettors must understand why betting lines move.

Key Points

– Understanding why betting lines move can help the average bettor.

– Bettors can use line movements as part of their overall betting strategy.

Why Betting Lines Move

For the average bettor, it is likely that they are unaware as to why betting lines change. Take an NFL game as an example. The line opens with Minnesota – 3. Two days later, the Vikings are a 6-point favorite. How did that happen?

There are a number of reasons why betting lines – including first half NFL lines – move once they have opened. Sportsbooks may change their lines and/or odds for any one of the following reasons.

  • Heavy action on one side of a bet
  • A sportsbook follows the action of a sharp bettor
  • Breaking news about individuals or teams, including injuries or lineup changes
  • Changes in the weather forecast
  • Seeing other sportsbooks’ lines shift (“moving on air”)

The Level of Interest

Sportsbooks are more likely to adjust their lines when there is more interest in and betting activity surrounding an event. Think Red Sox-Yankees in MLB or Lakers-Warriors in the NBA. A Chiefs-Bills game in the NFL generates a ton of interest simply because the teams are so popular.

These events will see more line changes making it more likely that multiple lines will be available at various sportsbooks. This increases the chance for line hunters to profit from the various lines. 

Because there are so many opportunities owing to the general interest from the betting public, popular sports with considerable betting activity are frequently the sharp bettor’s preferred games to wager.

Middlemen and scalpers in high-volume sports like the NFL behave similarly to financial market arbitragers by taking advantage of price differences across sportsbooks. A variance of even a half-point can make a huge difference in winning a bet. Sharps that bet in large amounts stand to profit greatly by finding advantageous line movements.

Looking to win more NFL bets? Read this: Using Handicapper Picks to Win More NFL Props

Betting Lines in Nevada

In Nevada for example, sportsbooks are only permitted to accept wagers. They cannot place them. Offshore sportsbooks are often able to lay off their action at other sportsbooks. 

Because they are not able to place bets elsewhere, Nevada sportsbooks must reposition themselves by moving their lines. They are only able to react. Nevada books are unable to take any preemptive measures. Sportsbooks in other states and around the world may not have the same restrictions. Be careful and stay away from shady sportsbooks.

The betting line movements in Nevada can often trigger line movements elsewhere in certain betting markets. Remember, one of the reasons why betting lines move is because they have shifted at other sportsbooks.

When Lines Move

Betting lines can shift at any time, but they move most often early and late in accordance with when the game is played. For example, in the NFL betting lines are released on Monday for games to be played the following weekend. 

NFL lines will adjust early – Monday or Tuesday – in the cycle and/or they will move late as the game gets closer. It’s not uncommon for a line to shift on Saturday or even Sunday morning before a game that day.

If lines are poor and smart bettors are pounding them, lines will fluctuate pretty quickly. When sportsbooks are taking large bets on one side of a wager, they will shift lines to draw action on the other side of the bet. Line movements in this case happen more slowly.

With the advent of live betting, markets will open right back up once a game has started. The market really doesn’t close until the game or event officially ends. With in-game betting, betting lines will shift constantly due to the progress of the game.

Why Betting Lines Move

How to Use Line Movement

Once a bettor understands why betting lines move, that knowledge can be leveraged as part of a larger betting strategy. The strategy may be to win more football bets, for example. One of the easiest ways to use line movement to your advantage is just by knowing when to wait for a line to shift. 

It’s also possible to use line movement to look at how odds change to give you an idea of where the best value is on a particular bet. 

Let’s look first at a situation where you have already identified who you want to bet on. You know which team you will back. You just need to worry about getting the best price or line.

A general rule of thumb is to bet early when you like the favorite. Say you see Buffalo -2 in an NFL game. By the end of the week, the line has shifted all the way to Buffalo -10. You would much rather have the Bills -2 covering the key numbers of 3, 4, 6, and 7 than have them in a situation where they have to win by at least 11 points.

Keep in mind, favorites are more popular with the betting public. Lines tend to move against them once the market has opened. Most casual bettors do not consider the odds or even the point spread. They simply bet the favorite because the team is favored to win.

With that in mind, it makes sense to wait for a line movement if you like an underdog. Using the same example, you might like the Bills opponent but +2 is just not favorable. However, +10 covers those same key numbers and makes the underdog a much more attractive bet. 

It’s also possible to choose a price that works for you on a certain bet. You wait to see if the line moves and you can capture the price you want. When it does, you pull the trigger on the bet. If the line doesn’t shift, you simply don’t bet.