How to Read Line Movements

Knowing how to read line movements is very important to betting success.

When betting lines are initially opened, the public reveals right away which side of the line they like better. In many cases, the betting public can move a line in either direction. These line moves are common, but what causes them and how should bettors interpret them?

As a bettor, you are simply trying to get the best line possible. That, of course, is why you are tracking line movements. In general, line movements are fairly predictable and their causes are normally associated with one of a few factors.

Sharp Line Moves

Line movements that happen quickly after current betting lines have been released are usually the result of smart money, i.e. money coming from sharp bettors. These sharps are professionals in the industry and their actions can easily influence a line change. 

You might have an NFL team say, the New Orleans Saints who open as a 3-point favorite at home. Within hours of the line opening at -3, it moves to -4 or -5. That is likely the result of sharp bettors backing the Saints.

Sportsbooks, of course, want to balance the action coming in on the Saints game. The line shift is to encourage more action on the underdog.

A line movement that seems odd or goes against everything bettors may have been thinking can sometimes be tracked to sharp bettors. This is often referred to as reverse line movement. Using the Saints again, let’s say the line shifts to -2 or -1.5. The shift seems odd because they are playing at home against a team that has a losing record.

The line shift is likely coming from smart money coming in on the underdog. Bettors should take note. Sharps are professionals and are very good judges of value on betting boards.

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Public Line Moves

The betting public, which is not as savvy as the sharps, can also influence line movements. Typically, these types of line shifts take more time than those caused by sharp bettors. 

The public loves favorites. Over the course of a given week, a favorite that opened at -4 may move to -4.5 and eventually may move again after another few days to -5. These types of moves are a reaction to the public money coming in heavy on the favorite.

The betting public and sharp bettors often have different ideas about value, but there are times when they may be backing the same side. Approach such line movements with caution and double down on your research to make a sound betting decision.

It is also important to know how betting lines are created.

Betting Tools to Help Read Line Movements

Tracking line movements is just one of many tools in the arsenal for a sports bettor. Use the strategy wisely and don’t forget other handicapping tools such as game analysis, betting trends, and your own gut instincts.

Remember, timing is everything too. When tracking line moves, be sure to get the number you want at the right time. Doing so can mean the difference between winning and the other alternative that bettors don’t enjoy as much.

As you can see there can be a lot to read line movements, but it is important to have a good grasp on why lines move and what information those moves can give you.

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