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Sharp Bettors Take Advantage Of Weak Early Lines
by Trevor Whenham - 09/10/2008

Most casual football bettors don't look at the lines for the coming weekend's games until the middle of the week. They may not even know ow soon they are available. Hardcore bettors know, though, that the lines for the coming weekend are available before the current weekend is even over. As soon as they come out they are usually bet heavily by sharp bettors, and as a result the first lines that casual bettors see often bear little resemblance to those first lines. Most bettors don't have the desire, patience, time or inclination to be looking at lines a week in advance. If you are serious about winning, though, then looking at early lines, and occasionally betting them is a very good idea.

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Looking at the lines early

Looking at the lines as soon as they come out is a very good habit to get into. Here are four good reasons:

1. See what the oddsmakers think - By seeing the lines as soon as they come out you can get a sense of what the people who set the line think. Sometimes it's an actual reflection of what they think will happen in the game, and other times it will be more of a reflection of what the public is expected to think. Either way, the more time you spend looking at opening lines, the better you will get at understanding what is behind the setting of them. That, in turn, will allow you to spot lines that are different than you expect them to be. Once you have figured out why that is, you may have found a good betting opportunity.

2. See what the smart money thinks - If you catch the lines as soon as they come out you can catch the first moves they make, and that will tell you where the smart money is going. Those bettors who throw enough money around when the lines come out to move them are expert at spotting value. By the time the lines have moved that value has likely been bet out of the line, so it's not as simple as seeing what the smart money is betting and doing the same. Still, if you see the line movement you can spend some time looking to see if you can figure out why the line is moving that way, and you can learn to spot what is going to happen sooner and take advantage of it.

3. Compare your assumptions to reality - If you have had a chance to look at next week's games already and set a basic line in your mind, then you can use the early lines to test your early assumptions. You can compare your lines to the posted lines to see if any are notably different. Occasionally, you will find a game in which the posted line is several points different from what you thought it would be. That means that you have some work to do to figure out if you trust your assumption, or if you made a mistake. That can help you identify betting opportunities you like.

4. Anticipate public movement - In a lot of games you will have a clear idea of how you think that the public is going to react to a line and move it as soon as you look at the line. If you make note of those ideas you can then look at how the line actually moves. If the line doesn't move like you expect it to then you might have identified a betting opportunity.

Betting the lines early

For the most part, bettors don't want to bet a line earlier than they have to. If you bet early then you are exposing yourself to potential problems that could change the attractiveness of your bet - a key injury, for example. There are a few cases, though, where you might want to bet a line as soon as you can. Here's a couple of those cases:

1. To avoid losing value - In some cases you will be fairly certain of the team you want to back, you will like the first line that is posted, and you know that the public is going to move the line against you. By making your bet early, then, you can save yourself a couple of points on the spread, and give yourself a better chance of winning. That's especially key when a line is near or at a key number, and the public is likely to move the line through that number to your disadvantage. The risk is fairly low here - if worse comes to worse and you want to change your mind later on, you can just bet the other side, and all it will cost you is the juice.

Are you enjoying this column? Check out Doc's Super Bowl team ranking page. When it comes to betting NFL our betting on futures feature is a must for any NFL fan. Our NFL Strength of Schedule page is also a valuable tool for your NFL research. Is there and NFL betting or handicapping topic you would like to see covered? Email service@docsports with your recommendations.

2. To try to middle a game - If you anticipate that a line is fairly accurate and that the public is going to move the line significantly then you might want to make a bet early so you can make the opposite bet later on and attempt to middle the game - winning both bets and making a handsome profit with little risk. An attractive middling opportunity doesn't come along often, but they are attractive enough to some bettors when they do that it is worth spending the time looking for them.