To be successful as a bettor there is no question that you need to regularly get the best of the number. This makes line shopping an absolute fundamental to any bettor, be it an aspiring professional or a novice just hoping to earn some profit.
Line shopping is, quite simply, looking for the best number or price available for a spread, total or prop. With the difference between profit and loss so thin, the difference between getting the best price and getting the average price is often critical. Anecdotally it can impact the result of a single bet, while in a larger sample size it can determine overall profitability.
Let’s use the Chiefs hosting the Chargers as an example. Say most books have Kansas City listed as 3-point favorites; two have them at -2.5, one with -110 juice and the other with -120 juice; and one has them at -3.5.
Now say the Chiefs win by three points. Those who snapped up the -2.5 would win their bet. Those who bet into the -3 would push. Those who took the bottom of the market and laid the 3.5 points would lose. Although bettors who took -2.5 at either book would have won, those who paid the higher vig nonetheless reduced their long-term profitability by not taking the best price.
This makes it essential to have betting accounts with as many sportsbooks as possible to ensure ease at getting the best available line and price at any given time. Betting blindly with just one bookmaker is a surefire formula for defeat.
Something else to bear in mind when line shopping is that it’s also important to understand the difference between sharp books and square books, as this can be an important tool for bettors to have in their kits.
If a sharp book is hanging a line notably different than the rest of the market, it suggests they have taken significant smart money on one side. This is a strong indicator that the market is likely to move in that direction, and soon. Shrewd line shoppers can take advantage of square books — particularly slow-moving ones — by betting the sharp side and thereby establishing a position at better than the likely closing number.
Finding bookmakers that are slow to move and leave up stale lines is extremely helpful in boosting profitability. If the market has moved notably but you can still get the old price, that creates a significant advantage. Through astute line shopping bettors can even find opportunities to essentially become the bookmaker, potentially taking both sides of a game with market movement, and thus locking in a profit.
Sharp books are also far more likely to take bigger bets, so this needs to be considered when looking at which bookmakers to open accounts with. This is an important factor for bettors with large bankrolls.
Looking for the best price is not the most glamorous part of betting. It requires significant investment of time and requires bettors to be at the ready and well organized. However, it is absolutely critical if making a profit as a bettor is the goal.