The betting lines (spread) can move back and forth and rarely does a line remain static and is preserved in the same way as when it was published.

To better appreciate the concept, let’s see an example of how the lines of the last Super Bowl moved.

Initial lines

Kansas City Chiefs
Spread -1.5 (-110) Total 54.5

San Francisco 49ers
Spread +1.5 (-110) Total 54.5

Lines 3 days later

Kansas City Chiefs
Spread -3.5 (-110) Total 56.5

San Francisco 49ers
Spread +3.5 (-110) Total 56.5

Why Do Lines Change?

As we can see in the above example, the lines changed, that is, they moved three days later. It happens because the Sportbook needs to attract more bets to a particular side of the line to preserve the balance. If the Sportbook does not make these adjustments, they may run the risk of losing a lot of money and even not having enough capital to pay the winners.

In our example, the Chiefs went from -1.5 to -3.5; this means that they were attracting more bets than the 49ers side of the line. The Sportsbook starts moving the line from -1.5 to -2, as this is not enough to generate the desired balance; they move it to -3 until it reaches -3.5. In the same way, the total moves up 2 points because the Over was monopolizing the action, increasing 2 points in the total the Under becomes more attractive for bettors.

Bettors have to be very aware of line movements. If, for example, they want to bet on a team they like, let’s say the Chiefs, they had to place their bet at the beginning before the line moved to -3.5 because the -1.5 line is better for the bettor. For the Sportsbook, the ideal scenario would be a 50/50 balance of bets on both sides of the line since if they achieve this balance, they would not have losses. On the one hand, they collect from the losing players, and on the other, they pay the winners less their 10% juice. But as this rarely happens, the Sportbooks must control their exposure.

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In some cases, they even try to push gamblers to go to the wrong side of the line so that the Sportbook can make a high profit due to a large number of losing players. Sportbooks should also deal with high profile players, who, with one or two bets can break the balance of a line due to the massive amounts of money they can put on one side of the line. This case is more common in low profile games. In big games like in the Super Bowl, casual and novice players are the ones who break the balance in the lines due to the massive amount of bets they made.

The movements in the lines are usually not very large since a very high jump in a line can open the opportunity for online bettors to hit The Middle. The Sportbooks try to avoid this at all costs, mainly in the big leagues like the NBA and NFL. To do it they move the lines preventing the lines from falling into critical numbers, that is numbers that are more likely to end up as the final margin of victory.

In most cases, when the lines move, they do not cause damage to the bettor who already placed a bet before the move. However, bettors should always remember the following rule: the more a line moves, the higher a chance it will affect the outcome. Small movements of half a point or a point are not likely to affect the result much, but shifts higher than one point can have a significant impact on the outcome.

nfl lines

What To Do When The Lines Move?

When the lines move after the bettor has already placed his bet, he must analyze the possible scenarios and the impact of that movement. For example, if the movement was up. Like the Chiefs went from -1.5 to -3.5, this will not affect the bettor. But if the move is down and the Chiefs went from -3.5 to -1.5, this can affect the bettor’s winnings. There is no right strategy to take when a line moves down. The bettor must rely on his instincts and experience to decide whether to withdraw his bet or risk continuing.

External factors such as injuries to key players can cause a line to move. For example, if in a game between Rockets vs. Warriors the totals are 230.5 and James Harden suffers an injury the day before the game, this will cause the total drop to 227.5 or even less.

Although this movement is related to an external factor, the real reason behind it is because the Sportsbook wants to maintain the balance on both sides of the line. The best way is to prevent too many bets on the underside of the line.

Understanding how and why the lines move will help punters make better decisions when placing their bets.