How Line Shopping Works in Sports Betting

Key points

  • Line shopping describes the practice of seeking out the best possible odds and lines before placing bets.
  • You can improve your potential returns and possibly find spreads and totals that you are more comfortable with.
  • As legal online sports betting continues to expand, line shopping is simpler than ever.

If you’re thinking of wagering on sports, you have several variables to consider prior to placing your bets, including the odds and lines. By line shopping, you look for the best possible numbers for any bets you want to place. Read on for a complete look at shopping for sports betting lines, how to go about it, and the benefits that it can ultimately provide.

What is line shopping in sports betting?  

Line shopping refers to checking multiple sportsbooks to find the best odds prior to placing your bets. This can put you in a position for a greater potential return. To demonstrate, consider the profit at the following odds on a winning $100 bet:

  • -115: You’d win $87
  • -110: You’d win $90.90
  • -105: You’d win $95.20
  • +100: You’d win $100

While seemingly small differences may not seem like much, they can add up in the end. As a result, seasoned bettors view line shopping as a critical part of their routine.  

How to line shop

You can shop around for odds individually by visiting each sportsbook one at a time or by checking out an aggregator, such as our various customizable live odds feeds.

For example, let’s take a look at the odds for an upcoming MLB game at a few sportsbooks. Here’s the line at the DraftKings Sportsbook app:

And here’s what the numbers look like at FanDuel Sportsbook:

An example of comparing the sportsbook lines at both FanDuel and DraftKings for the same matchup.

Starting with the moneyline, we could get a slightly better return at FanDuel for either choice. DraftKings is offering a slightly better number on the under for total runs and the St. Louis Cardinals run line, while New York Mets run line bettors have the chance for better profits at FanDuel. Let’s continue shopping by viewing the same game at BetMGM Sportsbook:

And here’s what the numbers look like at Caesars Sportsbook:

Among the notable differences, the over/under is a half-run higher at both BetMGM and Caesars. Under bettors who would like a little more cushion would want to consider taking their action there, while over bettors can get favorable odds as well.

If we compare all four books on the moneyline, FanDuel is the best option. For the run line, Cardinals backers should head to Caesars, while Mets bettors have the most potential at BetMGM.

By viewing multiple sites, we know where our best options are for the main bets on this contest. Armed with this information, we can allocate our action accordingly when it’s time to place bets.

What can you gain from line shopping?

Line shopping isn’t difficult to implement once you have the basics down and most sucessful bettors choose to do it. For those who do take the time to do so, here are some of the potential benefits:

  • More profit potential on winning bets and the chance to improve your overall bottom line.
  • The possibility of finding spreads and totals that align better with how you want to bet on a game.
  • A better overall understanding of the sports betting marketplace, the impact of line moves, and what may be causing them.

The most obvious challenge to this is the time investment, but it really doesn’t take all that long once you know where to shop and what you’re looking for. Line shopping may not be mandatory, but it’s an excellent addition to any sports betting strategy.

Line shopping by bet 

Line shopping can cover different things when it comes to various common bets. Here’s what you should be looking for:

  • Point spread line shopping: You’ll want to compare the spread number as well as the actual odds for placing the bet. Spreads that include a half-point, such as 6.5 for an NFL game, will settle, while the possibility of a push exists with a whole number like 7. In addition, you can try to find spreads that align closer to your preference, as in a bigger or smaller margin.
  • Over/under line shopping: Shopping for totals is similar to scouting out the spread numbers. You’ll be comparing the line as well as the actual odds. Once again, the half-point “hook” can make a difference. Beyond looking for the most favorable potential returns, you can also try to scout out totals that are more within your comfort zone, such as over/under 9.5 runs in an upcoming MLB game versus 10, or vice versa.
  • Line shopping for the moneyline: Outside of the occasional pick’em or toss-up games, you’ll find that moneyline favorites and underdogs will align across the industry. However, there will be differences in the actual odds. For regular moneyline bettors, line shopping can be absolutely crucial.

Line shopping for other bets

Line shopping can also be useful elsewhere, including the following bets:

  • Props: Comparing the listed numbers for over/unders and the odds for your choices.
  • Futures: You can scout out the best possible odds for all of your season-long selections.
  • Parlays and same-game parlays: Review the potential returns on the combo bets that you want to place at various books.      

What to shop for in major sports 

When line shopping, the story is similar for all of the major sports, but there are some specifics to dig into. Here’s where you can focus:

  • NFL line shopping
    • Spreads: Search for the best possible odds on your choice along with the spread that aligns closest to your thinking.
    • Totals: Begin with the over/under that’s closest to what you want, then move to finding the best possible odds among the available options.
    • Moneyline: It’s all about the odds. While you may not have control over the final outcome, you do get a say in the profit potential for winning bets.
  • NBA line shopping
    • Spreads: Find the spread that you like best, consider whether you want it to have a half-point, and seek out the most favorable odds for your choices.
    • Totals: Review the totals across the industry to find the numbers that are closest to your preference, followed by finding the best possible odds.
    • Moneyline: If you’re sticking to straight winners and losers, then it’s imperative to review the odds.
  • MLB line shopping
    • Moneyline: The moneyline is a big focus for MLB bettors, so you’re likely to find differences in the odds due to market action.
    • Totals: Just like other sports, the extra 0.5 on the total can end up being crucial.
    • Run line: The run line may stand still at 1.5, but there can be big variances in the odds for either side.
  • NHL line shopping
    • Moneyline: Similar to MLB, there’s a lot of action on NHL moneylines. Before you place your bets, make sure you’re in line for the best possible return.
    • Totals: The over/under tends to stay in a very tight range for the NHL, but you can still find differences, particularly in the odds.
    • Puck line: The main pregame puck line is 1.5, but you’ll find variances in the odds.

Is line shopping worth it?   

In a word, yes. Line shopping can have a direct impact on your profit potential for individual bets, as well as on your long-term bottom line. It’s not too time-consuming once you get the hang of it, and it can help to improve your overall understanding of sports betting markets.

While there’s nothing wrong with having a preferred sportsbook or two, there’s a lot to be said for keeping your options open. Beyond the various promotions that you may be able to benefit from, you can also be ready to shop around if there’s a bet you want to place.

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