If you have bet on sports for any length of time, you’ll have come across some unexpected results where underdogs triumphed against the odds. On the face of it, the result made little sense as the winning team was decidedly weaker. Most of the time, we view such upsets as “one of those things.”
However, on occasion, savvy bettors receive clues before the event begins in the form of reverse line movement. They notice the market moving unusually and realize that expert gamblers are seemingly taking the contrarian betting stance. This means they are betting against the public. Taking note of this action and following the new line may give you an advantage over fellow bettors and bookmakers.
This article investigates the reverse line movement phenomenon, providing examples of when it occurs and helping you spot clues that let you know it is happening.
In sports betting, reverse line movement describes instances where a high percentage of bets are placed on one team only for the line to move in the other direction. For instance, suppose the opening line on the Kansas City Chiefs was -7.5 against the Chargers. Within a few days, approximately 70% of bets placed on the event were on the Chiefs beating the spread.
In this instance, one would expect the spread to INCREASE in the Chiefs’ favor. With reverse line movement, however, the opposite happens, and by the time the match begins, the spread falls to -5.5.
It is important to note that betting percentages relate to the percentageof bets on a line and NOT the volume of money. The fact that relatively few bets have moved the line back against the team with the high % of bets indicates that a lot of money was wagered in those few bets.
Often, the activities of sharp bettors cause the market to move differently from what one might anticipate. For the record, a ‘sharp’ is a professional gambler with a long track record of success. Sportsbooks widely respect their opinion. Sharps tend to bet significant sums on events, and their involvement in a market could cause the price to change.
In our Chiefs versus Chargers example, most of the bets on the Chiefs side of the spread involved small sums of money, perhaps $10 and $20 wagers. In contrast, a small percentage of sharps might lay down wagers worth $10,000 on the Chargers with a +7.5 handicap.
Therefore, while 70% of bets are on the Chiefs with the -7.5-point handicap, perhaps 65% of the money is on the Chargers with the +7.5 spread. Consequently, bookmakers must balance their books by dropping the spread on the Chiefs’ side of the line to encourage bettors to get involved.
Sharps use their skills to determine when the public overbets on one team, an action that causes the opening line to shift. At a certain point, the team backed by the public becomes poor value, and the team on the other side of the line becomes a value wager. At this stage, the sharp bettors strike with massive bets, causing the line to move back.
Of course, it isn’t simply a case of the bookmakers reacting to sharp money. They may have uncovered new information about injuries or weather conditions, for instance. Perhaps they found the same crucial piece of information that made sharps get involved in the first place!
It is exceedingly difficult to catch RLM in progress, so I decided to stick to a couple of hypothetical examples. It happens in various markets, including the Moneyline and over/under, but as it is mostly associated with the spread, I used that particular market for the examples.
In this screenshot taken from the Sports Betting Dime website, you can see that on a couple of fiat-accepting bookmakers, 87% of bets are on the Cleveland Cavaliers to beat the -5 spread against the Memphis Grizzlies at odds of -112 (which is 1.89 in decimal form). On the other side of the line, the Grizzlies are available at odds of -109 (1.92 in decimals), with the +5 spread.
With this in mind, you would expect the line to hit -6 or even -7 if the volume of money placed on the Cavs matches the percentage of bets. However, if the spread on the Cavs falls to -4, for instance, before the game starts, sharps have likely become involved.
The NBA match-up between the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets is a prime example of bookmakers clearly shifting the line. The Warriors were available at +9.5 on the opening line. However, plenty of money went on the Nuggets with the -9.5 handicap.
This action moved the line to +12.5, and now, 69% of bets are going on the Warriors with a more generous spread. If this trend continues, the line should move back toward the +9.5 mark. Even so, if the spread goes to +13 or +13.5, it is potentially a sign of sharp bettors continuing to side with the Nuggets.
Knowing the answer to this question involves knowing how far the lines have moved compared to when they opened. You also need to know the percentage of bets AND the percentage of money wagered on each line. Unfortunately, most sites force you to register and pay a fee to access this information. However, it is a worthy investment if you want to profit from RLM.
In example #1, the odds on the Cavaliers versus Grizzlies were 1.89 for -5 and 1.92 for +5. Imagine they changed to 1.85 on the Cavs -5 and 1.95 on the Grizzlies +5. This is a sign that money went on the Cavs’ side of the line, so the bookies made the odds on the Grizzlies better to attract punters.
After spotting this move, you find that 65% of bets are on the Grizzlies at the new line. You might expect the odds line to move toward where it was. However, it continues to go in the opposite direction to the stage where you can bet on the Grizzlies with a +6-point head start at odds of 1.95. This is a sign there could be reverse line movement. If you pay the premium and find that 70% of the money wagered is on the Cavs at -5, it is further evidence of RLM.
Regarding using reverse line movement betting, it is essential to have accounts with several crypto gambling sites. Sometimes, at least one bookmaker is slow to change the odds, so if you act quickly enough, you could grab the sharp wager before the window closes.
Although reverse line movement can be pretty “useful”, it is not necessarily a surefire way to win money. Here are a few issues associated with RLM.
Don’t assume that because the ‘sharps’ are involved in reverse line movement, this means a guaranteed win. Remember that most professionals have a relatively small ROI of 3% to 5%. They earn significant returns because they wager huge sums of money. Are you prepared to risk $10,000+ per bet? Sharp bettors are!
A pro might stick with bets at odds of around the 1.90 mark, meaning they need to win 52.63% of the time to break even. An extremely skilled player might manage a 58-60% win rate, so even in the best-case scenario, they lose 40% of the time when betting at typical spread line odds.
Also, reverse line movement in sports betting doesn’t always mean the sharps are involved. Sometimes, the line can shift without any bets due to factors such as team news or weather conditions.
Tracking, finding, and acting upon reverse line movement isn’t straightforward, nor is it a rapid process. You will probably need to pay a fee to discover information on the amount of money wagered on a certain event. Once you’re satisfied that the RLM is down to sharp action and not external factors, you have to act fast and use one of your several crypto sportsbook accounts to place the bet.
Information on betting percentages is widely available for free online. You can find out when reverse line movement betting proved a successful tactic. This means when the line moved in favor of the ultimate winner, even though most bets went on the opposing team.
However, finding data on the precise sums of money bet on events usually comes at a premium. You can buy it from so-called “expert” tipsters, but the information could be inaccurate. Even if the data is legitimate, the cost eats into your returns.
If you spot it after the movement, it could be too late to act, as your edge is potentially gone. After all, RLM is only apparent once the line has moved. Your best option is to scramble for a crypto sportsbook that has yet to react to the price change.
Once the line moves, there’s no reason to think the sharps believe the new figure offers value. For example, if the line on the Cavs moved from -5 to -6 with only 28% of bets, the sharps likely acted on the Cavs at -5. Yet there’s no guarantee that they will like the Cavs with the -6 spread. Therefore, if you place a wager at -6, you might not be making the same wager as sharp bettors.
It could prove profitable if you have the time and skill. However, it is worth paper trading (not risking money) first to see if you get it right more often than not. Track your results to see if you can join the sharp bettors who win with RLM.
However, while the sharps win more often than the public, they still endure losing streaks. Therefore, being on the right side of reverse line movement may increase the likelihood of victory, but it doesn’t guarantee it. You must get on the sharps’ side regularly to earn substantial benefits.
Also, you need to dedicate a lot of time and effort to use RLM effectively, so decide whether you’re willing to do what it takes to achieve long-term profit before committing to this strategy. If you are, register with crypto American football betting sites if you haven’t already done so. While you can try reverse line movement with other sports, American football is the best option.
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