Becoming an expert handicapper and breaking down games is essential to becoming a profitable bettor, but it pales in comparison to line shopping.
The sports betting industry, and more specifically pay-per-pick services, have long touted high winning percentages as the mark of a great sports bettor. Touts will often brag about their winning percentages (which can be misleading or outright lies) to lure potential customers into buying their picks.
Of course, it’s obvious that winning more of your wagers is going to make you more money, but winning 60 percent of your bets is highly unlikely and something that players shouldn’t aspire to do.
Keeping records and analyzing your results is a must for keeping track of your wins and losses, but your handicapping strategy for each sport will evolve over time. If you’re betting a market, the result will be determined by the coaches and players, and in some cases the officials.
Bettors can’t influence the results on the field, but they can make sure they get the best possible price on their chosen side. Getting the best line is not the only thing that matters, but it’s the thing that matters most.
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Break the Mold
When we say “break the mold” we mean distance yourself from the average sports bettor – that is, a losing bettor. The vast majority of sports gamblers log into their sportsbook account and take whatever line is given to them. They already have money at their shop, so that’s where they’re going to bet.
Some might not even consider line shopping while others will pass on a better line at another sportsbook simply because they don’t have money there. This is a massive mistake especially for small stakes bettors, where getting the best line can be the difference between winning and losing.
Consider a line of -4 (+110) at one book, but the identical spread of -4(-100) at another. Bettors will have to wager an extra five dollars for the same line. The better price is clearly -4(+110).
Those who don’t line shop will resign themselves to paying the extra $10. They often think “Hey, ten bucks doesn’t make a difference.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let’s say you’re betting $100 a game, and made the above wager with -110 odds instead of +110 odds because you haven’t bothered to learn line shopping. You’re going to lose $10 per bet, regardless of the outcome of your wager.
$10 might not seem like much to lose on a single bet, but that’s incorrect thinking, as you’re not looking at the big picture.
Let’s say you make that wager 100 times that year, forgoing line shopping and betting the worse line. This is an unlikely real-life scenario but is crucial to understanding the value of line shopping.
This would cost you $1,000 in profits in each year (100*10=$1,000). The player who chose to line shop is going to be gaining $1,000 in extra bankroll each year.
It’s not because he’s an expert handicapper or because he put in hours of more research, it’s simply because he had money at multiple sportsbooks and checked the odds before placing his bet. Yes, it’s that simple.
Remember, our calculation there is just for a mere 100 bets, wagering $100 per bet at -110 compared to +110. 100 wagers are a tiny number for those betting more sports than the NFL per year.
If we use the same example, but instead calculate it for 500 bets where the player who isn’t line shopping loses $10 – the amount due to not line shopping is a whopping $5,000 (500*10=5,000).
Proper line shopping also decreases the breakeven percentage we need to win at sports betting. If every wager we place is at -110 odds, our breakeven percentage is 52.38 percent. However, this drops to 51.22 percent when we place all of our wagers at -105.
Even if you’re betting with reduced juice, you’re not going to get all of your wagers in with -105 pricing. Still, our goal is to beat the standard -110 pricing (or get better point spread or moneyline number) as much as possible.
Edges are small in sports betting, and the oddsmakers won’t do you any favors to make it easier to become profitable.
Make It Second Nature
There’s no rational excuse for not taking the time to line shop. Neglecting this facet of betting is a result of downright laziness or pure ignorance.
Shopping for the best line is no different than purchasing a new television or car. No one accepts the first price they see when making a purchase, so why should it be any different when betting sports?
Some tend to get tunnel vision and focus only on the odds of the sportsbook(s) where they hold a balance. It should be second nature to look around at other books and find the best available number for your prospective wager.
That’s essentially why we use advocate using, at least, two different sportsbooks when betting online. This will allow you to compare odds and have more than one shop with funds ready to fire. The more sportsbooks, the better, if your bankroll allows it.
If your bankroll is so small that it doesn’t allow you the flexibility to line shop, then you are under-rolled. Adding more funds to your bankroll or decreasing your bet size so you can have money at several sportsbooks should be highly considered.
One recreational sportsbook and one geared towards professionals is the perfect combination if you’re planning to use just two sportsbooks. Bovada and 5Dimes work perfectly for this purpose.
Bovada often shades their lines toward the betting public while 5Dimes offers reduced juice and is more in line with international betting markets. Both are top-rated sportsbooks and offer fast payouts.
Even in the less than optimal US online sports betting market, depositing by credit, debit, or gift card can be done instantly. As long as the book is reputable, grabbing a better price not only makes sense, but it’s the optimal play for maximizing your long-term profit potential.
Expert Line Shopper
Winning at sports betting is tough. It certainly can be done, but not without adequate line shopping. Few expert handicappers can overcome the edge without at least a semi-competitive price.
Becoming an expert handicapper takes years of experience, heavy research, and even then, success isn’t guaranteed. However, becoming an expert line shopper is simple.
As your handicapping skills improve, your insistence on getting the best price on your bets will become a powerful combination.