Getting the Best Line

By | October 11, 2012

It is one thing to be able to handicap a game it is another to try and get the best possible price/line on that game.  There are a few ways to deal with this. 

1.  Get down on the first line you see

–  Odds are if you are not adept at reading line moves then this is your best strategy.  Put the games in right at the opening number, or close to it.  Over time you will have games move against you and games move in your favor.  That should even out.  You will of course only remember the ones that move against you, that seems to be human nature.

2. Bet the line you think will be the best.

This is the equivalent of a trader buying at the lows or selling at the highs.  It is optimally what you are trying to do but it is easier said than done.  Some people are very good at knowing which way lines will move and others are not.  The more experience you have the better you can become.  Of course, like stocks, having the most information is the key and most of us are not privy to all of the information insiders may know.  Some things you want to know when trying to get the best possible line. 

It is very hard to get a line to move across key numbers in the NFL.  Games land on 3, 15% of the time, 7, 7% of the time and 6, 6% of the time. If a line is -3.5 it will be a lot tougher to get the line to move to -2.5 than it would be for a game at -5.5 to get to -4.5.  But as a general rule it won’t kill you to wait for it to go to -3 because historically games do not land on 4 often.  It is a risk worth taking in most cases.  Now if you know the public will be all over the favorite then you may want to lock in -3.5.

There are many websites that give numbers on where money is being bet.  Generally the public will be on favorites.  Also certain teams are big bets by the public.  New England, Green Bay etc.  Try and gather as much info on the game as possible and make an educated guess as to where the money will go.  If you are betting against New England and the line looks like the public will love New England you may want to wait. 

There is great risk of course in waiting.  Sometimes you get the best line and other times the line moves against you.  It is a tough game to play and one that can be stressful and time consuming.

3.  Cost Average

If you have ever traded you may be familiar with cost averaging.  This is the practice of buying an asset in increments over time.  That time frame may be an hour or days or years.  Essentially this ensures the trader that they are not going to get in at the worst possible price.  It also ensures they will not get the best possible price.  So for example lets say I want to buy $3000 worth of stock xyz.  At 10:00 AM every first trading day of the month I will buy $1000 worth for 3 months.  So the first month it is trading at 20.  I make a purchase of 50 shares.  The second month it trades at 25 so I buy 40 shares.  The third month it drops to 15 and I buy 67 shares.  So I now own 157 shares, I spent aprox $3,000 and my average share price is now 19.11.  So as you see I did not get the best price which was 15 but I also did not buy at the high which was 25

When betting on sports we can use the same strategy.  Instead of trying to figure out every line move, cost average.  So you like the underdog who is +8 -110.  You are not sure if you should wait for a better line.  So you decide you will split your bet up into 4 equal parts.  Being a  $100 bettor you bet $25 at +8 -110.  You then wait until the next day at the same time and see the line is now +7.5 -110.  Again you bet $25 on the dog.  The next day you bet $25 at +7.5 100.  Right before kickoff you put in your last $25 bet and the line is now +8.5 -110.  What you have now done is cost average.  You did not get stuck with the worst line of the week but you did not get the best either.  If the game lands on 8 you will lose $27.50.  If they lose by 10 you lose  107.50 and save $2.5.  Now the downside is when that game lands on 8 if you waited you could have gotten 8.5 and you would have won.  But you also could have gotten 7.5 and lost everything.  Cost averaging takes some thinking out of the equation.  You will beat yourself up less.

These are three different ideas on how to get the best lines you can.  No one way is best, it really depends on your experience and knowledge.  All three can work well for you as long as you are honest with yourself and your abilities.  As an exercise write down the lines when you first look at them (not the opening line),  the line(s) you bet on, and the closing lines.  This is the only way to truly know how you are doing with getting in at the best price you can.
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