The Importance of Line Shopping

The 2+2 Sports Betting Forum, which I moderate under the user name PropPlayer, has a Sports Betting FAQ. While I’ve made the bulk of the recent additions, some of the questions and responses were there well before I began moderating that forum. One of those in particular asks whether sports betting can be beaten consistently for a profit. The answer provided is:

“Yes. You simply have to find lines that are far enough away from the “true” line for the bet to be profitable. This requires good line shopping and/or good handicapping. Personally I know far more winning line shoppers than winning handicappers. Line shopping really cannot be stressed enough. Generally the difference between a losing sports bettor and winning sports bettor is line shopping.”

This is essentially what it comes down to. If you can find the best odds possible and then bet based on Kelly Criterion for sports betting you will be become wealthy. This is because the Kelly stake on a –EV bet is $0, and on +EV bets it is an amount that will help you maximize expected bankroll growth, thus limiting risk of ruin. If you are a professional bettor and this over your head, it shouldn’t be. Read the article I just linked. and everything else linked on our Sports Betting tab. For recreational players, please keep reading as this article is written with you in mind.

The Quick of: What is Line Shopping?

Line shopping is no different than price shopping for anything else. If you live in the US and are buying a new television, smart consumers don’t just head to Walmart and pick one up. They instead browse and compare prices at Amazon, eBay, NewEgg, TigerDirect and other websites. Upon discovering a potential choice, before committing, they enter the model number into Google Products to compare the price further. Professional sports bettors, and savvy recreation punters do the same thing when placing sports bets.

At Online Betting our homepage starts off with a comparison of odds at a select few sites making it easy to shop. For serious players, or really anyone dedicated to losing the least / winning the most, arbitrage betting is an article I wrote that contains listings and sort of mini personal reviews of various odds comparison sites. These can be used to compare odds at dozens of online bookmakers on the fly.

The Odds Vary Greatly
The important point to understand is that odds vary greatly between sportsbooks. If you’re about to bet the Milwaukee Bucks +6.5 -110 at Bovada, and never take a moment to notice +7 -105 is available at 5Dimes, you are leaving a lot of money on the table. If you are a $100 bettor you would have bet $110 to win $100 at Bovada. At 5Dimes the same $110 staked would return $104.76 as the odds are -105. Furthermore:

As 5Dimes is the sharper book chances are such that their line is most accurate. So, if the true odds are 50/50 on +7, using the info covered in my article on buying half points I can calculate +6.5 is going to win only about 48% of the time. So what is the damage here?

    • If 100 times you bet $110 to win $100 at Bodog +6.5, 48 times you win $100 for +$4,800 and 52 times you lose $110 for -$5720. That’s an overall expected loss of $920.00. On a per bet basis that is $9.20 lost per $110 staked. As a percentage this is an expected loss of 8.36% the amount staked.
    • If 100 times you bet $110 to win $104.76 at 5Dimes, 50 times you lose $110 = -$5500 and 50 times you win $104.76 = +$5238. That’s an overall expected loss of $262.00. $2.62 per $110 staked means this is a -2.38% expected loss on the amount staked.

Can you see how staggering the difference is? Really though so many bettors think along the lines of “eh 5Dimes has -107 but I already have money in Bookmaker who has -110. I’m only betting $110 instead of $107, that’s $3.00 which is hardly worth my time worrying about. I make up the difference spent in time not depositing”. This is SUCH A VERY HARD point to drill home!

The reality is sports betting cannot be beaten by just watching games and being a fan. There are lots of people that run hot over the short term, but winning sports betting does not work that way. The reason why is because betting markets are mostly efficient.

There is however a brain-dead anyone can follow strategy to beat sports betting ONLY by line shopping. The page with Online Betting’s Remove Vig Calculator explains just that. The point I need to attempt to stress is this: on main markets the best bettors in the world only have a couple percent advantage! So that idea of “I am going to bet $110 instead of $107 for same return because it is only $3.00”, means even if you are the best bettor there is at picking winners, you are likely giving up all of your edge.

From a Loser to Winner and Vice Versa
Failure to line shop can very easily turn talented winners into losers. The goal for a $100 bettor betting main markets is probably to average $2.00 profit per bet. 3 bets per day is 1095 per year for +$2190.00. However, if you really had an edge, with taking no more of your bankroll out of your pocket you could rather quickly become a multi-millionaire, by using Kelly Criterion. This will also be compounded much quicker if you take advantage of sports betting bonuses, and perhaps also make arb bets. You will be shocked at how quickly it compounds (but: warning most don’t have that $2.00 per $100 +EV!).

For recreational bettors who are simply just looking to get lucky, line shopping is as important as well. Earlier the example of betting +6.5 -110 when 5Dimes had +7 -105. With the first we expect to lose roughly 8.36% per bet, but only 2.38% per bet with 5Dimes. That’s a huge 6% of your stake in losses difference. But let’s look at the extra few dollars betting -110 instead of -107 on the same spread example. Saving the math, I will just tell you, in this case the difference is 1.28%.

How much do you bet per game? How many bets do you make per year? Multiple those two and then times it by 0.0128. That is the additional amount you are losing, or the amount of winnings you are potentially leaving on the table, per year by betting -110 when -107 is available!

To conclude I want to make two points. First to tell you that is often the place to find the best odds. If you are a casual bettor who refuses to line shop then this is the site to use. But this only true if don’t make a mistake. They offer a choice of bonus or reduced juice. By default players get reduced juice -105 pricing, but will lose it if they change to a bonus package. All though it should be obvious, the link I just provided further explains how much better value the reduced juice option is.

The final point to make is the same way smart consumers buying a product do their bests to price shop, they also read reviews as well. By this I don’t mean reviews written by people paid to market websites, those are not trustworthy. I rather mean peer to peer reviews. Not all online sportsbooks are reputable, so it is important to do your research.

A serious bettor will line shop and use over a dozen betting sites (this is easy with the help of odds feeds). Getting the best price possible between all reputable betting sources is key. Passing up on -110 at a legit site to get -107 at one that probably won’t pay if you win is not a smart idea. If you have questions or are looking for feedback regarding a sportsbook perhaps ask in this 2+2 thread.

Author: Jim Griffin