Middle Bet – Sports Betting Strategy
A middle bet is similar to a sports arbitrage but gives bettors the chance to win both wagers instead of locking in a percentage of their bets as a profit. The processing of betting a middle is also known as middling. Middles are not a difficult concept to understand but are not a tool of the average sports bettor.
This is likely because, in most cases, middling opportunities result in a small loss in the short term. However, since gamblers can “hit a middle” and win both bets some of the time, middling is a +EV strategy in many spots. Middles have great potential to be profitable for you. However, it’s necessary that you have a solid understanding of point spreads, and how totals betting works.
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Middle Betting Explained
Middle bets can be utilized in any point spread or totals market but they’re most common in NFL betting. In this example, we’re looking at a traditional NFL point spread market. One of the best ways to set yourself up for a middling opportunity is to bet on an early line. Middling aside, this is also an excellent strategy if you wish to beat the market moves later in the week, particularly if you think sharp action will move the line against you.
Let’s say the odds look like this for a Sunday afternoon game on Monday morning:
- Baltimore Ravens +3.5 (-110)
- Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5 (-110)
We decide to place a wager on Baltimore at +3.5.
Fast-forward to later on in the week, and the market has adjusted. The odds now look like this:
- Baltimore Ravens +2.5 (-110)
- Pittsburgh Steelers -2.5 (-110)
This is quite the line move, through the key number of 3, but this happens regularly. At this point, it makes sense for us to bet the opposite side from our original wager. So, we place a bet on the Steelers at -2.5, giving us a chance to win both bets if Steelers win by exactly 3 points.
1. The Steelers win the game by 4 points or more.
We lose our Ravens +3.5 bet but win our Steelers -2.5. This amounts to a small loss with the added vigorish.
2. The Ravens win the game outright or lose the game by one to three points.
We win our Ravens +3.5 bet but lose our Steelers -2.5. Again, this amounts to a small loss with the juice.
3. The Steelers win the game by exactly three points.
We hit our middle bet of 3 points and win both Ravens +3.5 and Steelers -2.5 which amounts to a big win. A middle here is always going to be profitable here (at the 3), assuming we have a -110 or better on both sides.
How To Middle A Bet
Middling is that simple, but players still need to keep in mind how much juice they are paying when they middle a game and what margins of victory they are targeting. Middle betting can be profitable, but similar to hedging, you need to look for +EV wagers in the right spots. Since 2002, the number of NFL games decided by three points is nearly 16 percent. The number of games decided 7 points is around 10 percent. That’s more than a quarter of all games decided by these two margins of victory.
In NFL football contests, there are several spots to look for middles based on these common margins of victory. Using our example above, any time a favorite is at -2.5 or less and we can get an underdog at +3.5 or more. This is usually a result of hitting a line early and then the market adjusting, but it is possible that two betting sites may have different lines at the same time. Although, this is relatively rare with numbers surrounding the three.
It also works with the favorite priced at -3 and an underdog at +3.5 or more. The underdog at +3 and the favorite at -2.5 or less also works. Bettors will find more of this scenario than the one in the previous paragraph. When it comes to the 7, bettors can take a favorite at -6.5 and any underdog that is +7.5 or higher. The seven isn’t quite as valuable as the three EV wise but is still profitable at -110 odds or better.
Middle Betting In NFL Football
As far as betting the middle in general, there may be an opportunity anytime there is a large difference between the odds. In NFL contests, one could make an argument that you may find a profitable middle if there are 2 or more points between the underdog and the favorite, regardless of the margins.
However, there is a danger of using this tactic in football and some other sports of what is sometimes called a “Polish middle” or a reverse middle. For instance, if we take a favorite priced at -4 and an underdog priced at +2, that might seem like a decent middle opportunity. If we take a closer look, though, we’re setting us up for potential disaster if the favorite wins by 3 points. In that scenario, which is the most common margin of victory for NFL contests, we lose both of our wagers.
Middles As Bet Hedging
Middles are essentially another form of hedging your bet, but with the upside to win both bets. Many bettors look to hedge too often, which will reduce variance, but not without sacrificing +EV. It is of vital importance that when you hedge or middle a bet, that you don’t make the mistake of placing two -EV wagers or get into a habit of reducing your positive expectation.
Remember, most of the time betting middles will result in small losses. However, when middles do hit, they more than make up for the small losses (usually 1-6% of the wager) by rewarding players with a two betting unit win. The goal of each bettor should be to bet as many middles as possible that have a long term +EV expectation.
Vig Considerations In Middle Bets
One of the biggest pitfalls of betting middles is paying too much in vigorish. This can take a middling opportunity that was profitable with regular -110 vig both sides and make it unprofitable. Ideally, we would like to reduce the vigorish even further than the traditional 10 percent. One of the ways to accomplish this is by betting at sportsbooks with reduced juice. If you use reduce juice odds for just one leg (go for both if you can!) of your middling opportunity, you’re going to increase your bottom-line profits by a large margin.
Best Sportsbooks For Betting Middles
Recreational sportsbooks often have a line shade on the main markets and provide better underdog odds than sportsbooks who are accepting larger wagers and more professional action. These betting sites an excellent spot to look for the underdog leg of your middle. We always recommend that players stick to trusted sportsbooks. Having an account at a high limit bookie like 5Dimes or Heritage (both offer reduced juice) and a recreational sportsbook like Bovada will provide players with plenty of opportunities for middles. All three sports betting sites are also among our highest rated.
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Local Bookies And Middling Betting
Many locals now use pay-per-head sites that utilize the same betting software as many offshore sportsbooks. However, some locals still manage their odds, which can lead to plenty of +EV spots. Locals bookies will typically receive lopsided action on local teams. This may cause their odds to change drastically compared to the rest of the market. For instance, an online sportsbook may have a team as small favorites, but a local might need to move his line drastically (several points) that may create an excellent middling opportunity.