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How Do Sports Lines Move, and Should You Run After Them?

I previously discussed the nature of sports lines, including how the opportunities offered by "better" lines can benefit both the sportsbook and the bettor. But maybe you can effectively use the nature of sports betting lines to your advantage if you understand it more than the next bettor. So here I'll discuss about sports lines movement.

Again, try to think of sports lines as those metal weights you adjust when you're standing on a good old-fashioned weighing scale—you slide the weights across the bar to balance it and determine your exact weight. Similarly, sports lines move in something like a horizontal fashion, and sportsbooks adjust them to keep their exposure to risk minimal or zero. But how do sports lines move, and how can such movements benefit you?

Basically, the movement of sports lines is spurred in two ways. One, when a "sharp" bettor makes a substantial wager. In sports betting, we refer to those highly influential bettors as "sharp bettors." These are professional bettors that are highly respected by other fellow bettors and, more significantly, by online sports betting sites. Why? Because they win. And they win because, for some reason, their arcane methods of betting are such that their betting choices are almost always spot-on. So when a sharp bettor risks a big amount of money on a wager, all the rest of the betting public "sniff" that something's going on, and make a similar wager. This causes a massive amount of bets one side of the game, which thereby "moves" the sports lines.

On the other hand, sports lines may also move if the majority of the betting public—without following the choices of a sharp bettor—simply favors one side of the game.

To further illustrate, let's consider an example. Let's say the game is Pittsburgh versus Cleveland, with the opening sports line has Pittsburgh minus 6.5 points. The negative number simply means Pittsburgh is the favorite (with more people betting on it to win), and that if you bet on Pittsburgh, you will win only if they beat Cleveland by at least 7 points. On the other hand, if you bet on Cleveland, the underdog and therefore represented by a plus 6.5 points, you win if Cleveland wins. You still win even if Cleveland loses as long as they lose by six or less points. Now, the whole sports line moves if a sharp bettor comes in and places a big bet on Pittsburgh, thereby adding more "favorite" points on the team. The sportsbook may respond by moving the game to Pittsburgh minus 7 points—because by then there would be so much money on Pittsburgh and so little on Cleveland that it is to the sportsbook's best interest to "encourage" bettors to place more bets on the other side by moving the sports lines. And when the lines move, it is the best time to shop for sportsbooks offering better sports lines terms—anything that lets you bet less money for greater profit.

All this interplay of risks and advantages may be complex, but it is worth learning and understanding. After all, the games become more fun the more you know about the underlying principles of sports betting. Now that you know more about sports lines, I hope you can "shop" lines more effectively than ever. The whole point is being able to bet most advantageously—and you can only do this if you make well-informed decisions.