What is Line Movement in Sports Betting – How do Betting Lines Work?

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Ray BelkoraJune 1, 2022, 03:39 PM

One of the most effective strategies in sports betting today – used by many seasoned and sharp bettors – is monitoring line movement. Paying attention to how the money being bet influences betting line changes is truly one of the best tools one can have in their arsenal. Learning how to use line movements to your advantage is foundational to being a successful bettor and to come out with a profit in the long term. Use this as a guideline to get you the knowledge you need to analyze line movement and be on your way as a sharp bettor.

What is Line Movement in Sports Betting? 

Line movement refers to when the odds or the point spread for a bet changes leading up to the game. You will most likely hear people asking what the current line is or using phrases like “opening line” and “closing line.” Opening and closing lines are what the lines for games are when they first are available on books, and the last available line before the game starts, respectively. How the odds move from open to close is called line movement. 

Examples of Betting Line Movement

For example, let’s say that the Green Bay Packers are hosting the Chicago Bears. The opening line on Monday morning (first available line that can be bet on this game) is Packers -4.5. Throughout the week, the line fluctuates based on a variety of factors, and before kickoff on Sunday, the line closes at Packers -7.5. this means that the line movement was 3.5 points throughout the week. 

Why do Betting Lines Move?

There are many reasons that line movement occurs for every game. Some of the most common factors include: 

  1. Money movement – if more money is coming in on one team, the books will adjust the line to make the less popular side more tempting for bettors and even their exposure on both sides of a bet
  2. Injuries and/or specific players not playing in that game 
  3. External reasons (weather, travel conditions, breaking news, etc.)

Line Movement on Moneyline & Point Spread Bets

Line movement can occur for virtually every type of bet. You can see the moneyline for a team fluctuate throughout the week; however, unless very significant information comes in that would drastically change the outcome of the game, the favorite usually stays as the favorite. Totals and point spreads generally see a lot of movement, but you typically will only see that move by 0.5 to 1 at a time. 

Line Movement Betting Strategies

There are many ways to interpret and use line movement to your advantage. For starters, make sure you are paying attention to the 3 reasons above. As you start to understand and get a feel for how lines move and how they may move as game time nears, there are aa few tips and tricks you can take advantage of:

  1. Most of the time, a line moves against the favorite. So, if you are confident in the favorite, bet it earlier rather than later. 
  2. If you think the underdog is in a good spot with the opening line, it is typically better to wait, as the odds improve for them as you get closer to game time.
  3. Pay attention to lines (across multiple books) that present opportunities to:
    • Arbitrage – playing both sides of the line to ensure a profit. This is a great strategy that you should only be using with multiple books. Example: Packers are -100 moneyline on book 1, and Bears are +125 on book 2. There is instant opportunity to bet both lines and make a profit either way. If you put $225 on Packers (-100) and $200 on Bears (+125), you will be betting $425 to guarantee yourself $450 regardless of outcome. $25 in profit without any risk
    • Middling – watching lines movement to see if you can find value to sandwich opposite bets, with opportunity to hit both and double profits. Example: Point total for the Packers Bears game opens at 42.5. You bet the over, along with many other people. The books readjust their lines, and the point total is up to 45.5 before kickoff. If you bet the under on 45.5, you have a 3-point middle to work with to win both your bets (if the point total ends anywhere from 43-45), and if the point total is over 42.5 or under 45.5, you will hit at least one.

At the end of the day, paying attention to line movement is a great tool in your arsenal, and using the above strategies (along with your gut feeling) will help you be on your way to betting like the sharps.