The Importance of Line Shopping Before You Make a Sports Bet
At its core, line shopping is a simple concept. Assuming a sports bettor has access to multiple sportsbooks, looking at your odds screen or logging on and checking each line is an obvious starting point. You’ve heard the phrase, “every point matters” and nowhere is that more true than sports betting. Imagine making 1,000 bets over the course of a year. Of those 1,000 bets, if you had the ability to get a half point better, say, 100 times by line shopping, showing patience, and/or good timing, depending on how much you bet, it can make hundreds and even thousands of dollars worth of difference!
Where line shopping gets complicated is when you have different amounts of juice attached to different point spreads or totals. For example, in the NFL, a traditional -3 -110 is the equivalent of -2.5 -135. So if you were to come across -2.5 -130, because -3 is such a key number, that would be a better wager than -3 -110. In college football, going from -3 -110 to -2.5 is worth roughly 16 cents rather than the 25 cents in the NFL thus the -3 -110 remains the better wager.
Drop down menus are another aspect of line shopping. A typical -110 sportsbook charges 10 cents per point in the NBA. So if Golden State is -4.5 -110, bettors taking -4 will be forced to pay -120. The value of that -4 however is not -120 but closer to -118. This is where having a “reduced juice” shop helps. Often times that -4 may have only -117 attached to it which is obviously better than -118. In the end, “buying points” can be an addictive practice and one that not properly executed can really hurt your bottom line. There is a reason sportsbooks offer drop down menus and it’s not because they want to help bettors out. Case in point is that some books will eliminate the drop down menu on key numbers (see: on and off 3 in the NFL) because the edge they normally have isn’t as strong. I generally stay away from using the drop down menu unless it’s an ultra-key number and/or the price vs. implied value is similar. Years ago, I played at a sportsbook that charged only 10 cents for playing on and off of 7 in college football. If I liked an underdog and it was +6.5 -110, I was charged only -120 to “buy” +7. The implied value of that +7 is around -123 thus I was able to create a rare edge.
The last key to line shopping is being able to read the market. Say an NFL team opened -3.5 -110. You check your odds screen and notice a few sportsbooks took bets on +3.5 and moved to line to -3.5 +100. And sitting “lone wolf” is a “leading indicator” shop like CRIS or Pinnacle with -3 -125. With a vast majority of sportsbooks “moving on air” (i.e. adjusting a point spread despite not taking an actual bet on the game) and copying lines, if a CRIS or Pinnacle offers an off-market number, others will inevitably follow suit. Patience is the key and sportsbooks will test yours by offering the drop down menu. They know you want -3 and you want it NOW. And you can have it but you’ll be paying a tax. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but even something as trivial as betting -3 -135 vs. -3 -125 makes a difference. Take two bettors with identical abilities but one line shops and the other just “fires”, and over the long term, the bottom line results will be significantly different.