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Line Movement -- What's Going On?

   by Bryan Leonard - 01/05/2008

I’ve been on both sides of the betting counter when it comes to making numbers. I’ve been a professional bettor searching for bad lines for years, and I’ve made sides and totals for various sports books. Line movement is a fascinating part of the world of sports betting.

A lot of people think that line movement is primarily because some big bettor has inside information and loads up on a soft number, creating dramatic line movement on that game. What’s important to understand is that a lot of things are taking place when lines move.

Sometimes big bettors are hammering a game, most likely because they think it’s a poor number. Other times the public goes into a frenzy and far more money comes in on one side, creating significant line movement in one direction. Why does the public go into a frenzy on some games? There are many reasons, such as important information, injuries, revenge situations, weather, even rumors.

The line on the Indiana/Oklahoma State game went from the Cowboys as a 4-point favorite to 6 and even 6½. The betting public was on the Oklahoma State offense, which is very powerful, plus they are a team that is used to playing in bowls. Indiana, on the other hand, qualified for its first bowl game in 14 years. The betting public was correct as the Cowboys rolled.

OSU routed overmatched Indiana 49-33, scoring touchdowns on its first five possessions. OSU turned a 6-6 regular season into a winning season at 7-6 for the second straight year. In the first half, QB Zac Robinson completed 15 of 20 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 11 times for 64 yards and two TDs as OSU led 35-10 at halftime. OSU used more option than it had in the regular season and unveiled a new formation: shotgun with split backs, both Dantrell Savage and Kendall Hunter in the backfield with Robinson. The Cowboys put up 513 yards of offense, including 29 first downs.

It’s common for the betting public to come in on the better offensive teams, which is something to keep an eye on during the NFL playoffs, because the better defensive teams usually are playing in January. Just getting to a bowl game was huge for Indiana: As the Hoosiers ran off the field at game's end, they were greeted enthusiastically by the scores of IU fans who came to Sun Devil Stadium and remained until the end.

The most important thing to remember when you observe dramatic line movement is not to get emotional and jump on board. Novice bettors can think, “Someone must know something about this game.â€쳌 The fact is, most of the time, they don’t. There are also times when big bettors or syndicates will hammer a line early in the week to purposely move it a few points, and then come back the day of the game and bet the other way in an attempt to middle the game. What might appear to be a game where “someone knows something,â€쳌 turns out to be not that at all. So be cautious and react with great care when you observe significant line movement. In the world of sports wagering, many things are not as they first appear.

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