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Big Line Moves in Sports Betting

All you need to know about big line moves in sports betting.

Key Points

– Understanding what causes big line moves benefits sports bettors.

– The ability to predict changes in betting lines is a skill worth honing.

Big Line Moves in Sports Betting

When you first begin betting on sports, you might believe that the spread for a football game is set at the start of the week and never changes. When the media talks about the spread, they usually portray it as a number that doesn’t change. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Point spreads are far from being fixed. They respond to certain factors and change to reflect them. Sometimes these adjustments are minor, but other times we can observe the lines moving by a number of points, sometimes very quickly. Bettors should have a quality online betting portal to check these line moves.

Here, we examine some factors that lead to big line moves. We also look at why sports bettors find line movement intriguing and why bettors should consider line moves when placing bets.


Early Errors Cause Big Line Moves

Before the books release the lines, sharp bettors - those that bet large sums of money frequently - have already decided what a line should be.

If a betting line is significantly different from what they believe it should be, those sharp bettors will make aggressive bets as soon as they are out. This aggressive betting will cause lines to move quickly to correct the error and slow down any more heavy betting action.

In the NFL for example, big line moves like this occur before most bettors awaken on a Monday morning. The line shifts can be substantial.

Consistent Money on One Side

Theoretically, sportsbooks try to get a balanced amount of betting action on both sides of a bet. The books are guaranteed to make money no matter what happens in the game if the same amount of money has been wagered on both sides. Half of the money is on the winner. The other half is on the loser, which pays out to the winners. The books get to keep the juice on the losing bets.

Speaking of books, make sure you have a trusted sportsbook that allows you to wager anytime, anywhere, on any sport.

Books are sometimes okay with unbalanced action if they are willing to gamble on the possibility of greater financial gain. However, they generally want the action to be as close as possible.

The books make big line moves to make one side of a bet more desirable when a significant portion of the money comes in on the other side. The potential line move increases with the degree of imbalance in the action.

Injuries & Personnel Issues

It happens from time to time. A critical injury can cause a line to shift significantly. Consider the scenario where Peyton Manning was hurt during a practice on Tuesday before an Indianapolis Colts game on Sunday.

With Manning’s ability to play in question, the line moved accordingly. When backup Curtis Painter was announced as the starter, the line adjusted even more.

Big line moves can be caused by serious injuries, lengthy suspensions, trades, and other significant personnel changes.

Weather Can Cause Big Line Moves

Weather is another factor that affects betting lines. If the weather forecast changes significantly after the lines have been set, the line may need to be adjusted. This affects how you bet on football.

For instance, a team that relies heavily on the passing game might not be as appealing in a game where bitter cold, high winds, and snow is expected. In NFL games played outdoors, the most significant weather element is wind.

Wind seriously affects NFL games because the league does rely on the passing game so much. The wind speed also affects special teams and big line moves happen in conjunction with changes in the forecast.

Just a few years ago, Buffalo and New England played a game in which winds speeds were over 30 miles per hour. The game total had opened in the low 40s. By kickoff, the line had dropped under 40. The final score was 14-10.

In particularly severe situations like that one, sportsbooks may move the lines significantly on their own before being forced to do so by betting activity.


Public Action

If you keep an eye on the public betting action, you may notice a line move that doesn't make sense. Remember, the public loves favorites. In high-profile games, oddsmakers know that the public will bet on the favorite no matter what. They build that into their opening line and the line will adjust as more money comes in on the favorite.

There are times, however, when very large plays are made on the underdog. This causes a line shift opposite of what is expected. This “reverse line movement” happens because of sharp money (professional bettors) going all-in on an underdog.

Smart bettors who can spot this type of line move can piggy-back on what sharp bettors are doing and capitalize as a result.

Pay Attention to Key Numbers

Books detest moving lines through important numbers. In the NFL, one of the numbers is 3. Books don’t like it because they are more likely to be middled. Bettors can get on either side of a number and win both bets. Check out this article on middling in sports betting to learn more.

When they do, sportsbooks can lose a lot of money. That’s why they avoid adjusting through key numbers. If there is a big line move through a key number, you can bet there is a very good reason.

Remember, sportsbooks are in the business of making money.

Handling Big Line Moves

If you develop a knack for predicting big line moves, you will have a lot of success as a bettor. There are times when a line move is a surprise. Often, bettors can anticipate a line adjustment. When you can predict a move, you can use that to your advantage before placing a wager. It might be an instance where you adjust your betting unit size.

In those situations, you should place your bet on a favorite as soon as you can take advantage of the best odds. With underdogs, you have to be patient. Numbers typically become more appealing on underdogs the closer you get to game time.

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