How to Read Line Movements in Sports Betting

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If you’re a sports bettor, line moves are something you’ll notice happen for each and every game. Totals, spreads, moneylines; it is more likely than not that you’ll see a certain amount of movement between the opening line (the opener) and the closing line (the closer).

So What Causes Big Line Movements? This is important to know, as an understanding of what causes line movements will allow you to predict them, and give you an advantage over the rest of the betting market.

The lines for “spread sports” like basketball and football usually move only one or two points. Then there are those big line movements of maybe even 5-6 points that raise suspicion to the general public. Many people assume that these games are “fixed”.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. What has happened is rather simple. Sometimes oddsmakers make mistakes with their opening lines while other times they just want to cast alluring lines to draw the public to one side. Also, big bets make the lines move.

If you want to learn more deeply what causes big line movements and an answer to beating them, then this article will interest you.

Cause and Effect

The Injury Report – Most bookies will refrain from releasing their line until they are absolutely certain they have gathered all the information they need in regard to injuries. Unfortunately, injuries can occur to key players at unpredictable times.

Let’s take a look at the Green Bay Packers. They have what is considered to be a high-caliber offense…with Aaron Rodgers. Should Aaron Rodgers suffer an unforeseen injury on Saturday’s walk-through practice and is unable to play the next day, then the line is going to drastically move since the Packers’ offense has been known to struggle immensely without him on the field.

Keep in mind, there are also trades, suspensions, and other last-minute changes to personnel that will cause a line to drastically move.

What’s the weather forecast? – Mother nature can take its toll. Weather can have a huge impact on outdoor
sports. When football games are played in the snow and rain, they are almost always low-scoring
defensive battles.

If snow or rain is expected in a game’s weather forecast, then you can expect to see a drastic drop in the points total for that game or a change in the point spread for a team with a strong rushing attack and defense.

Baseball is not necessarily affected by the snow or rain but by the wind. Expect to see drastic movement in a baseball total for a game if a strong wind is expected to be blowing inwards to home plate or outwards to the grandstands. One ballpark to keep an extra eye on is Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field, where the total can fluctuate more than full run depending on the wind and overnight lines for totals are almost never released for Cubs’ home games.

Early Bird Gets the Worm – The most experienced handicappers and bettors will always have a predetermined line prior to the books releasing theirs. They will put as many bets down as they can on their favored sides when there is a significant difference between their line and the books.

Now, when many bettors happen to disagree with the line, then there will be a lot of early action. This will cause the bookmakers to have to adjust the line. This typically happens before the public even has time to see the adjustment because they wake up too late on Monday mornings.

Anywhere but the Middle – Most books want even action on both sides. The juice will guarantee them
profit if equal amounts have been put down on both sides.

Sometimes, bold oddsmakers take a gamble by letting the majority of the action roll on one side. If they become nervous about a line they had previously set because everyone is big on one side, then it is common for them to move the line a few points in an attempt to even it out.

One thing the books never want is to get “middled”. To avoid having this happen, sometimes they just keep letting the action flow in.

Moves to Pay Attention to

Right side of the Line Movement – You should make yourself familiar with the term “reverse line movement”. This happens when the majority of bets have been placed on one side but somehow the line is moving the other way. So, how is this possible?

First of all, it is most likely a public (popular) team involved as the regular Joe just love to bet on his favorite team. The oddsmakers then receive information that several distinguished, highly respected bettors have put down large on the other side.

They are more concerned about the action from these bettors than the majority on the public team. If a reverse line move has occurred then several big bets have been placed on the other side by these respected bettors.  Here you definitely don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the track. You want to be with the pros, not the Joes.

Move through Key Numbers –  In football betting, this is extremely important to pay attention to. Lines almost never move to the other side of a key number (3, 7 etc.). As mentioned before, books don’t want to risk getting “middled”.

Often times football games end with a game-winning field goal or a touchdown. When the books move a line from +3.5 (+7.5) to +2.5 (+6.5) or vice versa, then you should pay close attention.

Again, sometimes oddsmakers simply make mistakes and set poor original lines, and that could lead to them moving the line through a key number. It is the bookmakers way of saying “If I don’t move this line, then I could potentially lose more than I would if I get “middled”.

The Big Move – Lines will fluctuate between one and two points on a daily basis. When a line moves more than four points, well that is uncommon and something to pay attention to. These types of line movements are more ordinary at the collegiate level, in particularly football.

It is safe to assume something really peculiar is happening or has taken place for a line to have moved more than 4 points. Finding out what caused this movement may be your key to winning big.

The End of the Line

You can learn so much from big line moves, and if you do, it’s almost guaranteed to make you a better handicapper. Sure, there are times when the line moves will be unpredictable; however, most times there will be an underlying cause. Your job as a handicapper is to find out what that underlying cause is and exploit it.

In particular, big line moves tend to always happen when an unpopular team is playing an established popular team. If you know a public team is going to be playing an unpopular team, determine ahead of time what side you want to ride. You can jump on it early by riding the public choice or wait for the line to move in favor of the unpopular team before pulling the trigger.

Be sure to always finish your handicapping before the lines are released so you are more prepared to beat these big line moves.

Check out our Sports Betting Guide for similar articles.

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