Betting Advice

What You Need To Know About Reverse Line Movement

Reverse line movement is something that’s frequently referenced in sports betting. Let’s take a closer look at what it is and how it works.

Identifying, tracking and then betting on reverse line movement situations is a trendy but underutilized aspect of online sports betting that has been mostly left to the professionals. After all, tracking line movements takes time. While the casual bettors might not be willing to invest an extended amount of period following numbers that might not actually lead to them making substantial profits every time out, the professional handicapper understands the value of tracking the changes and playing reverse line movement wagers. Here is a closer look at everything you need to know about reverse line movement.

Understanding Betting Lines And Sportsbook Goals

The simplest approach to gaining a better understanding of what reverse line movement is all about is to first understand how sportsbooks make money in the first place. The sportsbooks will set the lines for each game and then assign them a specified odds value at which they offer those lines to those betting on the games. Those assigned odds are known as “juice”. For example, here is a look at what an NFL point spread might look like on any given Sunday.

Pittsburgh Steelers +2.5 -110
New England Patriots -2.5 -110

In this situation, the Patriots are a 2.5-point favorite while the Steelers are a 2.5-point underdog. If you were to bet on either side on the point spread then you would have to risk $110 to win $100. In terms of the sportsbooks targeting profits, the -110 lines on both sides makes this very easy to understand. Let’s say that $55,000 is risked on Pittsburgh and $55,000 is risked on New England. Regardless of the outcome of the game, as long as $55,000 is wagered on both sides then the sportsbook is guaranteed to payout $55,000 in winnings while taking in $5,000 in profit. While this would be the ideal situation for the sportsbooks, it doesn’t always happen. However, it’s the simplest way to understand the ideal situation that the sportsbooks target when they set their sports betting lines.

Tracking Line Movements

It’s very difficult for the sportsbooks to hit that perfect 50-50 split for every single line that they release. In fact, it can be very difficult for the sportsbooks to end up in situations where they are locked in to guaranteed profits based on even distribution of wagers. However, the sportsbooks are constantly trying to hit that even distribution mark. Sports betting odds are like stock prices. When the demand for a stock is high and people are buying it, then the price will go up. When people don’t buy the stock and they start dumping it, the price of the stock will go down. Let’s repeat the same example that we used above in order to take a closer look at when the sportsbooks will theoretically move the lines.

Pittsburgh Steelers +2.5 -110
New England Patriots -2.5 -110

In this situation, let’s suppose that there is $110,000 worth of wagers on the Patriots and exactly $0 bet on the Steelers. This situation would be a total liability for the sportsbooks since a New England win would completely expose them. So what would the sportsbooks do to alter the situation and better protect themselves against too much money being on one side? In this situation, they could decide to move the Pittsburgh line from +2.5 to +3 or +3.5. By shifting the line, the sportsbooks want to intrigue people to bet on the Steelers so that all of the action isn’t on the same side. However, the sportsbooks also need to be careful not to shift the lines too much and expose themselves even more. If you are tracking reverse line movements for sports betting purposes, then you could stay ahead of the sportsbooks and exploit their mistakes in order to hit on some profitable wagers.

Square Money vs. Sharp Money

Another key factor that needs to be considered by the sportsbooks is who is putting money down on which side. Why is this important? Let’s say that there is $10,000 on each side of a wager. $10,000 has been placed on the visiting team and $10,000 has been placed on the home team. However, the money that has been put on the visiting team are ten wagers of $1,000 each from a handful of sharp bettors. Meanwhile, the $10,000 in wagers on the home team is entirely from public bettors just looking to make small splashes over thousands of different wagers. How would this change the sportsbooks approach to moving the lines?

Since sharp bettors wagers on sports for a living and tend to produce more winning wagers, the sportsbooks will tend to trust their predictions more than they do with the betting public. Let’s apply these concepts to that Steelers-Patriots matchup one more time.

Pittsburgh Steelers +2.5 -110
New England Patriots -2.5 -110

Lets’ say that 60% of the total wagered money is placed on New England and only 40% of the money wagered is on Pittsburgh. At first glance, the sportsbook might be tempted to shift the line in order to get more action on the Patriots. However, what happens if a respected sharp handicapper has placed a substantial wager as part of the 40% that has been bet on New England? If the sportsbook shifts the line more in favor of the Patriots then what would that lead to? Would the sharp handicappers notice the line move and double down on the wager? Or would the sportsbooks just prefer to keep the line where it is knowing that they and the sharp handicapper are both on the same side thinking that New England will cover and Pittsburgh will not.

Understanding Reverse Line Movement Targets

Now that you have a pretty good understanding of how the sportsbooks approach line movement you can use it to your advantage in order to target reverse line movement with your wagers. A reverse line movement wager actually refers to any instance when bettors see a lot of action on one side but instead of the sportsbooks moving the line in the obvious direction they are in fact moving the line in the opposite direction. The easiest way to illustrate this type of situation is with the example that we already used above.

Pittsburgh Steelers +2.5 -110
New England Patriots -2.5 -110

In this situation, bettors can use the tools at their disposal in order to see the percentage of bets on each side. So in this case, let’s pretend that 80% of the wagers are on the Patriots. Based on what we know, the sportsbooks should move the line to New England -3 or -3.5 in order to make Pittsburgh a more attractive pick at +3 or +3.5 We know this because they are chasing the 50/50 split. However, a reverse line movement would contradict the obvious direction and actually move the line in the opposite direction. Therefore, even with 80% of the wagered money on the Patriots the line would still move in the other direction. New England would then become -2 or -1.5.

What would such a move tell us about the sportsbooks situation? This type of change would illustrate that even though a substantial portion of money is on the Patriots the sportsbook isn’t afraid that Pittsburgh won’t cover. After all, they aren’t making any attempt at all to shift the line in order to influence more wagers on the Steelers. They are doing the exact opposite. By pushing for even more money to be bet on New England, it appears as though the sportsbooks have complete confidence in Pittsburgh winning. It seems like a risky move on the surface. However, if the sportsbooks feel confident enough to make this type of reverse line movement then there is a good chance they strongly believe they are doing the right thing for their bottom line.

Caution When It Comes To Reverse Line Movements

While tracking and betting these reverse line movements could be an excellent strategy for making money, it’s important not to get too carried away with any one type of wager. After all, even if everything happened exactly according to the detail that we provided above, there is still no guarantee that the team the sportsbook and professional handicappers are banking on will come through. Also, even with the ability to see the amount of money wagered on both sides it could sometimes be difficult to get an absolute assurance of who is placing money on each team. We can do our best to track movements that appear to be professional handicappers making wagers but unless we get confirmation from an actual source it’s impossible to know for sure. Finally, there will always be last minute changes to the outlook for specific sports events that can completely alter the outlook for how they will play out. Whether it’s a key injury, weather or some other factor that wouldn’t have been acknowledged well ahead of time when these advanced bets were being made, it’s important to understand how quickly things can change. In some circumstances, the best approach is one of caution. If you track reverse line movements as a betting tool, you do your due diligence and you handicap these events extensively, then you should end up on the right side of more winning bets than losing bets over time.

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