Why Shopping Around for Betting Lines is Very Important

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One of the major differences between amateur and professional sports bettors is shopping around for lines. Many amateurs will simply open one sportsbook account and bet the lines at whatever price is listed there. However, professionals will scour betting websites like Bovada to find the best price every single time they place a bet. They clearly understand the importance of this. 

 If this is something that’s new to you, we wanted to walk you through to highlight why it’s so important. Have a read below and you’ll get a better understanding both from a theoretical perspective and a mathematical perspective as to why it’s crucial to shop around. 

Are Sportsbooks Really That Different? 

 There’s a general perception that a line is just a betting line but that’s simply not the case. If you watch much of the mainstream coverage of football, for example, you might hear something along the lines of “This team was favored by 10 points in Vegas…”, but that’s such a broad generalization. While it’s true that you can place virtually the same bets and almost any sportsbook, it’s actually quite rare that sportsbooks have the same prices. 

sports book

A simple analogy of thinking about this is shopping for apples. Sure, Whole Foods has apples and so does Kroger, Publix and Wal Mart. And you can probably even find the exact same type of apple at all four grocery stores. However, they’re very likely to have different prices – even if it’s by the slimmest margins. The same applies to betting lines. That’s why it’s important to shop around.  

Just like grocery stores, sportsbooks have different “flavors”, per se. Some charge more for the same betting lines, maybe like a Whole Foods, and in return offer some other great features. Meanwhile, low juice sportsbooks are viewed as discount shops where you can get a better price. Understanding these nuances can save you a lot in the long run. 

In the next section, we’re going to do the math to illustrate exactly how much you can save. 

Why It’s Important To Find The Best Line? 

When you’re shopping around for the best odds, you’re going to encounter some situations like the following. We’ll start with the moneylines, which are bets solely focused on who wins the game outright. Those are main type of bets in sports like the NHL and MLB. Let’s take a look an example with Major League Baseball.  

Sportsbook No. 1 

Boston Red Sox +160 

New York Yankees -180 

Sportsbook No. 2 

Boston Red Sox +155 

New York Yankees -175 

Sportsbook No. 3 

Boston Red Sox +162 

New York Yankees -177 

boston red sox

As you can see, we have three different sportsbooks and three different lines on all three teams. If you want to get the best price on the Yankees, you’re best to bet at No. 2. If you want the best price on the Red Sox, you’re best to bet at No. 3.  

What the minus sign here indicates is how much you’d bet to win $100. So with sportsbook No. 1, you’d bet $180, with sportsbook No. 2 you’d bet $175 and with sportsbook No. 3 you’d bet $177. As you can see, it’s a $5 different from lowest to highest – and that’s if you’re only betting $100 per game.  

On the flip side, the Red Sox offer prices ranging from +155 to +162. The plus sign indicates how much you’d get paid if you bet $100. That means you’re looking at a $7 swing from lowest to highest – if you’re only betting $100.  

The key here is it doesn’t cost you anything to have accounts at multiple sportsbooks (it’s free), so you’re only hurting yourself by not shopping around. Now let’s take a look at an example with a point spread in football. 

Sportsbook No. 1 

Green Bay Packers +2.5 

New England Patriots -2.5 

Sportsbook No. 2 

Green Bay Packers +3 

New England Patriots -3 

Sportsbook No. 3 

Green Bay Packers +3.5 

New England Patriots -3.5 

patriots logo

A point spread is a margin of victory, so if a team has a minus sign in front of their odds, that means they have to win by that amount of points. As you can see here, New England is everywhere from -2.5 to -3.5, which means if they win by exactly three points, your outcome would be different in all three sportsbooks. In the first one, you’d win, in the second, you’d tie and in the third, you’d lose.  

In the baseball example, we were talking about a difference in payout but here we’re talking about the difference between winning and losing. This is another way of looking at it but it again highlights the importance of shopping for the best betting line every time you bet. 

Crunching The Numbers 

So, let’s say from our example above that you bet on baseball and you don’t ever shop around for the best lines. Someone might look at the example above and think “hey, it’s just $5 – what’s the big deal?”. Well, we wanted to show you what that could that cost you over time.  

Let’s say that you bet on four baseball games each day with the $100 model from above. And let’s say you are 50% right with your picks. In other words, there are two teams and you just happen to guess and you get 50% right. Well, as illustrated above, you’re losing about $5-$7 per bet if you don’t shop around. Let’s say it’s $6, to make the math easy. 

green-bay-packers-draft

Each day, you’re short $12 per game that you can either view as losing or as not gaining; same difference. Well, the baseball season runs from about April to the end of September, so if you’re losing $12 per day for six months, that’s $2,160 that you could have potentially had in your pocket.  

Sure, some bettors might not bet every day or some bettors might bet more than four games per day, but we wanted to use a very basic example. When you look at it that way – even if you bet more or less – you can see just how much money you are missing out on in the long run. 

How To Shop For The Best Lines 

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to shop for betting lines these days. Back in the day, when there was no online betting and you’d have to do it in-person in Las Vegas, you’d literally have to walk from casino to casino to check out the lines. Either that or you’d have to get someone on the phone. Nowadays, getting the best price is easy because it only takes a couple clicks of the mouse. 

To start, you can use all sorts of odds comparison tools, which work in real-time to show you the price differences at all of the major sportsbooks. On the other hand, you can also just surf from sportsbook to sportsbook to have a peak. While that takes a bit longer, if you have accounts at about five of them, you’ll get a feel for who has the best price on different events. 

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