Sports Betting Line Shopping

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Line shopping is finding the best line available between the various sportsbooks. You can not believe how much this has made/saved me over the years versus betting at the same sports book every game.

Lets look at how sportsbooks make money very quickly here. As you probably know, there is a vigorish or “juice” or whatever you want to call built into every bet you make. Most commonly, you have to wager 10% more to win the amount you want to win. For example, if you want to win $100 on the game, you have to wager $110. In this case, If you bet $100 on the game, you would only win 90.91. If you win, you get your full bet back plus your winnings. If you lose, you lose the entire bet plus the vig.

It is the goal of the sports books to try to set a line that will have equal money placed on both sides. If this happens, the sportsbook is guaranteed to make money with the built in juice.

Lines for sports events usually are set at some point day(s) before the game. As bets come in on each side, this line will move up and down to try to even out the bets. If a line moves up from -1 to -2, then more money is being placed on the favorite. If it moves down from -2 to -1, then more money is being placed on the underdog. Please also take note that some other factors can cause a line to move, including injuries to key players.

Here is where line shopping comes into play. Between the time that the line is released and the start of the game, there are plenty of opportunities where the line will be different at different sports books. Some of the sportsbooks use a Las Vegas casino to set their lines, and others set their own lines on their action. In any case, this line movement is not instantaneous between all books. It is quite common to find .5 to 1 point differences between them.

Instead of a line movement, sometimes you will see what I refer to as a “juice” movement. Lets say the sports book likes where their line is set and is getting a little bit more action on one side. Instead of charging 10% juice on both teams, they increase the juice to 15% on the team getting bet on more, and only charge 5% juice on the other team. So that bet that used to be $110 to win $100 is now $115 to win $100 on the favorite and 105 to win 100 on the other team. Again, changes like that are not made at all sportsbooks at the same time or even at all. It is very likely that you can get the same $115 bet for $110 someplace else, and often even better then that.

If you are playing a money line (ML) bet, in where there is no line and you are only betting to win the game, line shopping can be even more profitable. To give you an example, as I am writing this, it is 7 hours before a game between the Jazz and the Sonics.

Seattle    +400    +400    +350     +415    +400
Utah        -500     -550       -500    -525     -525    

These are lines from 5 different sports books. If you have never played a moneyline before, the Favorite is Utah in this case. The Number for Utah is how much you have to wager to win $100. Seattle’s number is how much you win per $100 bet. I can wager $100 to win $350 on Seattle at one sportsbook, or for the same $100 bet, I could win $415. That is a fairly large difference. If you like Utah to win, you would rather bet $500 to win $100 and not $550.

So to recap, use a couple of different sportsbooks and look for:

  • The best line on your game
  • The lowest juice on your game
  • The best money odds on your game

By getting the best lines, the best odds, and lower juice, you will make more when you win, lose less when you lose. You can win a game that would have been a loser elsewhere, and sometimes push a game you could have lost. Even when you lose, you will be making money by the money you save. This will add up and really help keep you profitable.

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