The importance of line shopping to find the best odds available is under-estimated by many bettors. We’ll go over why it’s so valuable for sports betting as well as my favorite resources to help with the process.
Although line shopping may sound like an advanced term, it is actually an easy concept to grasp. As much as I wish I had minions to do this (big syndicates certainly do), it’s not a difficult task. Line shopping is simply searching for the best odds among different sportsbooks before placing your wager. The best way to explain this is with an example:
Let’s say you want to bet the spread on the Clippers vs. Celtics game tonight. The Clippers listed as 5.5-point favorites at most sportsbooks. However, one book has the Clippers favored by just 5 points. If you like the favorite in this match-up you really want to have access to the sportsbook with the Clippers at -5. However, if you like the Celtics than you want to make sure you take the +5.5.
Obviously, you should do this with other kinds of bets including Totals and Money Line bets as well. If you want to bet the Over on a game, you will try to find the lowest total listed – and the opposite for an Under bet. The same can be said for Money Lines. Betting these are most common for baseball and hockey, and are commonly referenced in dollars and cents.
For example, a two-dollar favorite has a -200 Money Line, while an underdog moving from +150 to +140 is said to have moved ten cents. This ten-cent difference probably seems insignificant, especially if you’re betting small amounts ($10 wins $14 instead of $15), but that is a 6.7% difference! Line shopping for Money Line wagers is just as important, and can easily be the difference between a profitable and losing bettor in the long run.
Consistently getting an extra 0.5 to 1.0 point every time you bet will increase your win percentage by 1-3%. How many times can you remember losing a bet by a half point? Well, over time that can be the difference between a winning and losing season, and is why I strive to always get the best football, basketball and baseball odds.
When you combine getting the best lines available with beating the closing line on a consistent basis, your edge will grow immensely and likely turn you into a successful sports bettor.
So now that we understand what line shopping is, how do we do it? First off, you need to have access to multiple sportsbooks. For the large majority of you, that means having accounts with several online books. My most important advice in this regard is to vet each sportsbook before joining. In general read reviews, ask for recommendations, and most importantly, read the fine print especially when it comes to turnover requirements for bonuses.
Another key item to consider when choosing a sportsbook is whether they cater to professionals or not. Books like Pinnacle and CRIS are considered very sharp because they welcome large bettors, and thus have more efficient lines.
Conversely, sites like Bovada are much more geared towards average Joes that want to bet $10-100 on a game for entertainment. This can cause notable differences in odds, especially for prime time TV games.
It may not seem like it, but there are advantages to using both kinds of books if you’re not worried about bet limits. The average bettor would rather bet favorites and overs, while professionals (i.e. sharps) invest in underdogs and unders more frequently. Knowing this, you can typically get better odds on underdogs at public books since they will have more money on the favorite. Sharper books like Pinnacle are typically more attractive for underdogs and Unders.
Here is an example as you’ll see the the Buckeyes are 13.5-point favorites at Bovada, and just 12.5-point favorites at Pinnacle and even lower at CRIS (12 points).
This is a perfect example for showing how and why lines can vary among sportsbooks. As a sports bettor serious about winning you need multiple options at your disposal if you are going to shop for the best odds available.
Constantly searching your sportsbook accounts for the best odds sounds pretty damn tedious, right? Luckily, we have plenty of smart people in this industry that have developed some great tools to help us out. Here are my favorites, and they’re all free!
Sports Insights has a great odds screen to help you compare betting lines at all the major online sportsbooks, which I use daily. If you are able to check it routinely, this will be a huge help for not only finding the best lines but also to see which way lines might move in the future. If you cannot invest the time to do this, you can subscribe to their Sportsbook Insider tool. You will receive notifications for line moves, where the sharp money is going, injury updates, and more.
Another nice feature for their free odds screen is the betting percentage data they show on the left side of the table. It’s important to remember that these percentage simply represent the percentage of overall bets, regardless of size. If you subscribe to Sportsbook Insider, you can also see the money percentages – which is more valuable to know. However, if you watch line movement enough you can typically pick out when sharp money is on a certain side.
They also have a sleek app, highly recommended as you can look up odds, set alerts for when a line drops to a desired price, receive score updates, and much more.
This site is great for exactly what it’s named for – reviews of sportsbooks! They have in-depth write-ups and grades for just about every online book, and for the most part does a good job separating the best from the rest. Additionally, an under-rated feature of their site is their own odds screen, which is why I’m mentioning this here. I mentioned the benefits of Sports Insights’ version, but I actually prefer SBR’s for three main reasons. First, it is customizable. In Sports Insights, you are stuck viewing the books they list (for their free version, which I’m referencing). SBR allows you to customize the order, which is perfect for sorting the books you have accounts at to line shop! The odds screen used as an example above was from Sportsbook Review.
Another added benefit is that you can view lines by half and quarter. As someone that has a first half NBA model, this is vital for me. You can simply adjust by half or quarter with the dropdown menu at the top. They also have many more sport and league options compared to Sports Insights. Lastly, the overall design is much cleaner in my opinion. The color scheme is easier to browse through, sorting by time or rotation number works better, and simply has a cleaner look.